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Talking real dirty about soil

If you into the habit of throwing stuff at the soil there is no better antidote to what may be your obsession than a new book by Judith Swartz --Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.

The N:P:K paradigm  we are  usually encouraged  to accept  is really a recipe for manufacturing dirt. What Swartz does instead, in her journalistic fashion, is draw our attention to a very different way to relate to the ground  at our feet -- one that isn't about adding ingredients (fertiliser) or hardware (irrigation) but in respecting and working with soil as a living thing -- even as a community of living things.

Swartz's presentation is up beat and optimistic. She pulls this perspective off by talking to a community of seemingly very practical people who in pursuit of a sustainable income from the land, go about their dirt farming very differently from the norm

Variously called 'Carbon Farming' and 'Holistic Mangement'  their approach is quite a mind shift. Not only is it about  a different means to work (with) the soil but its consequences contribute significantly to ameliorating the impact of climate change.

So we're talking win/win. 

The significance of that option Swartz asserts in the book's title with the phrase 'Cows Save the Planet'.  Like some whodunnit, how cows go about 'saving' the rest of us is something I won't spoil for you. 

While I didn't appreciate Swartz's journalese the core argument gets delivered through a succession of different voices who give us the real dirt on soil. 

And it's a game changer.

When you are talking up hydrology, fungi, grasses, manures and hoof prints it comes as a bit of surprise to discover that you aren't chasing a bum steer.  

While the book tries to tackle the big ecological picture your everyday backyard gardener, such as I, still gets  lot to  take away.  Despite what may be your sustainability preferences -- organic, permaculture or whatever -- it will be hard to look at a weed with the usual disdain ever again. 

I find 'Permaculture' a tad full of itself and over reliant on 'design' -- almost for its own sake as though that's the package. And 'organic' seems to me to be input obsessed in the sense of what you proscribe from your vegetable path. 

They're like shibboleths. 

But what really matters is the soil. That has to be our god. While many roads may lead to loam  I know that I can be a ready victim of schematism such that I usually miss, what may be, the main game.

Cows Save the Planet  serves as an important adjustment to our collecive thinking about the Earth.



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