In April, it rained, rained, rained. In May, it rained, rained, rained. Then, in an abrupt about-face, we finished up May with several scorchingly hot, humid days. The morning of June 1st began as another hot day, and while the temperature remained high, around noon the wind swept in from the west and blew hard all afternoon. The resulting dust storm lifted so much soil from the neighbouring field that the horizon was obscured and grit blew into my eyes as I worked outside.
The flat landscape in this area lends itself to agriculture on a large scale. Many fields are huge, devoid of windbreaks or fences. Drainage systems have been installed to move moisture from the soil and improve access to the fields for heavy machinery. Fertilizer laced with heavy metals is delivered and applied with Industrial equipment that compacts the soil. And when the wind blows, open soil is lifted off the unprotected fields and carried away.
I don’t doubt that someone is making money here. It’s said that old-fashioned family farms are dead and no longer viable. Still, living next door to an industrial agricultural site has been eye-opening. It’s hard to believe that these methods respect the very soil on which our lives depend.
William Bryant Logan refers to dirt as the “ecstatic skin of the earth”. Fresh water is the very fountain of life. Yet we treat water and soil as so much waste, to be discarded in our rush for money, economic ‘growth’, more of everything…except what really matters.