Our family just got back from a drive deep into the midwest — from western Massachusetts to Rapid City, South Dakota. That’s the equivalent of driving from Rome to Tehran (but with more corn). Driving that kind of distance in silence tends to make you think about stuff. Here are some neuron firings:
Why do we use huge farm equipment that destroys our soil?
When planting crops in normal soil, plants will grow best when the earth is disturbed very little — less than an inch. That’s what seeds expect in nature, and that’s what they are ideally suited for. Any more than that, and the soil is disturbed in unhealthy ways.
For some reason, American farming developed gas powered farm machinery that carves up the soil six to 12 inches deep. According to organic farmers I know, that kind of turning is unnecessary and harms the soil. Unhealthy soil encourages weed growth and plant disease. Why do we do that?
The prairies of Minnesota and South Dakota existed for over 10,000 years before they were systematically destroyed by Europeans. Prairie grass, which comes in several varieties, tends to perpetuate itself by keeping other kinds of plants from growing. Prairie sod is a mass of knotted roots and strands of dead grass, which strangles and smothers any other seedlings. It also makes pretty good building material; sod houses were a common sight in the poorer areas of the Midwest until the 1920s.
Imagine trying to break that up with a hoe, or even a horse-drawn plow. Farming the Prairie with the European agricultural techniques is like trying to use a baby spoon to serve spaghetti garnished with Elmer’s glue. The pioneers did it — they didn’t have any option — but it was backbreaking work.
It may be that our ruinous farm equipment is a holdover from trying to carve up that soil.
For the record, most modern Midwestern farming hardly disturbs the soil at all. The earth is so depleted of nutrients and so hardpacked from excessive use of heavy farm machinery that it’s not worth it to turn anything. The land is simply sprayed with chemical fertilizers, and the seeds are dropped onto it.
Think of that before you feed yourself and your family non-organic corn.
Children and Television over the Long Haul
Some folks have DVD players in their minivans, swearing that their children would go crazy without them. Of course, we don’t have that. We also don’t hold with recorded music or voices, so we drive in blessed silence.
Well, it would be silent, except for my wife and I having deep conversations in low tones, and the children singing and telling stories in the back.
Our oldest child is almost 8; we also have a near-6-year-old and a near-4-year-old and a two-year-old. They didn’t go crazy from lack of television. Since they never have television at home, it never even occurred to them that they might get television in a minivan. They are experts at entertaining themselves, even when strapped down. I think we got a grand total of three “are-we-there-yet”‘s during the whole trip. The rest of the time, they sang a lot of songs (many of which they made up themselves), told a lot of stories, told a lot of jokes, played with their toys and pillows, read books, and asked questions about what we were passing.
Oh yeah, and they argued some. Humans seem to be good at that.
On the last day of the trip, when everyone was most sleep-deprived and frazzled and ready to be home, we stopped at a restaurant for a late dinner. The waitress’s eyes widened in surprise as the children, who had been sitting quietly and politely throughout the meal, all thanked her nicely for clearing away their plates.
Children do have a lot of energy, and they have a lot of growing to do, and it is hard on them to be tied down a lot. But…television shortens children’s attention spans, overexcites them, and removes their ability to entertain themselves. Without television, children can focus their minds, remain calm, and keep themselves engaged in their own activities for hours.
Last night I complimented our children on how well they had behaved during a trip, even though they had to sit down so much. My eight-year-old asked, “When did we have to sit down?”
“In the car,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” she said.
- The Tao of Leadership
- Winter Solstice 2007
- On the Druid Path to Alban Elued, the Autumn Equinox
- Avoiding Colds and Flu (Druid Herbal Wisdom)
- Children in Paganism
- Don’t You Go to Church?
- Moss, Mire
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