I learned about the riches of the soil from my great-grandmother, Nanny. She teaches me all about the soil from the beautiful flowers, trees, and gardens she grows. Every spring Nanny brings in the sludge to keep her soil and plants healthy. She is always mixing and working her soil.
She has taught me about flowers-the different types and seasons they grow in. Like tulips and daffodils grow from bulbs the soil cares for during the winter months. Pansies are planted in the spring as well. In the summer Nanny has lots of different flowers: roses, lilies, daisies, and my very favorite is the snapdragon because it really snaps.
Nanny has yummy fruit trees that grow in her back yard. The apple tree has red apples that taste good-if there are not wormholes. When picking from the cherry tree, I have to stand on a chair to pick the cherries. I like to put them on my ice cream. Her walnut tree every fall has lots of nuts and I pick them up off the ground to help her. We make stuff with the nuts, cracking them, and making them talk is funny to me.
My mom says that Nanny used to grow a big garden with tomatoes, spinach, squash, pumpkins, and lots of other veggies. Grape vines grew along her back fence,. When my mom was little she would go every October and pick the grapes and they would make grape juice. Now we are growing grapes just like my Nanny. My mom says when I was a baby I loved the grape juice.
Because of my Nanny I have learned about plants and how they grow. All these things are special to me and to my Nanny so they are treasures from the soil that make me happy and rich!
"Oh I wish it would stop raining," said Jamie, standing at the large glass window. Jamie was a little girl. She had gone to visit her Grandma's and Grandpa's house in Virginia. They promised her that they would put up a swing in the front yard.
"Hey, it stopped raining," exclaimed Jamie coming out of a daydream.
"Come look at this Grandpa," Jamie said.
"What is it?" asked Grandpa. "That is a rainbow," he said. He then went on to tell her about the legend of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
"I want to find it. Let's go. Can we, can we please?" exclaimed Jamie.
Grandpa looked at Grandma and she said, "Oh I guess we can. On one condition, if I can go too." They pulled their coats on and set out on their adventure.
"Hey," Grandpa said, "look at that cow. Did you know cows need soil? Cows need soil because grass, hay, and even corn comes from soil. If we didn't have soil, cows couldn't live. We get a lot of things from cows, like shoes, for example. Your shoes are leather aren't they Jamie?"
"I think so," said Jamie. "If we didn't have soil I wouldn't have my shoes. If we didn't have soil, cows would die because plants can't grow. Then I wouldn't have my shoes."
"Yep," said Grandma before Grandpa could even say anything.
They continued walking and looking for the pot of gold.
Grandpa asked, "Where do you think we get clean air from?"
"I don't know," said Jamie, "maybe from the clouds."
Grandpa chuckled, "No."
"You see that plant over there Jamie?" Grandma asked.
"Yes Grandma," said Jamie.
"We get our fresh air from plants like that," Grandpa said. "Plants take in carbon dioxide and give out fresh air. So you have to have soil to do that. You have to have soil to grow the plants."
"I think I got it," said Jamie, "we even have to have soil to breathe."
"You got it!" exclaimed Grandma.
They kept walking and came up on an ant hill. "Grandpa, what do ants have to do with soil?" asked Jamie.
"Well they dig in the ground and that helps to get air in the soil, and then they use the air to store their food," said Grandpa.
"So they let air into the dirt Grandpa?" asked Jamie. "They live with a lot of other ants that also help with digging and eat a lot of food. All foods come from soil. Right, Grandpa?"
"Right," said Grandpa.
"Trees also come from soil," said Grandma.
"Trees hold the soil together," said Grandpa. "So soil doesn't move. There are all different kinds of trees. The one we have at our house is a maple tree. We get a lot of food from trees. If we didn't have soil, plants couldn't live, and a tree is just a big plant. Plants give us so many good things. They also help clean the air."
"Sheep also live on plants," said Grandma. "Sheep give us wool and meat. We also need sheep for their wool to make blankets, coats, or even mittens. So we need sheep sometimes, too."
"Hey Grandpa," exclaimed Jamie, "the rainbow is gone."
"I guess we're not going to find the gold after all," said Grandpa.
"But Grandpa, I've already found the gold," said Jamie. "The soil is the gold, we couldn't live without it."
"Good," said Grandpa, "you've learned a lot."
Every time Jamie visited her grandparents after that, they would take a walk and look for the gold (soil).
Wow! Riches you can get from the soil. Does that mean if I plant a tree, it will grow green money, or if I plant a bush it will grow silver and gold coins, or plants will grow red and green gems? To answer my own question, No. I am just being a tad silly. Our soil does produce riches but not exactly in that fashion.
Soil ain't dirt. We know less about the soil under our feet than we do about outer space. Every plant and animal depends on this vast ecosystem. Soil has varying amounts of organic matter, both living and dead organisms, minerals, and nutrients. Soil is formed from rocks and decaying plants and animals.
Soil does grow trees, like fruit and shade trees. We can eat the great tasting apples, peaches, or cherries while enjoying sitting under the shade trees. Our trees provide us with a root system that helps the soil from washing away in our mountains. No trees, no soil, no water, so end result...desert. The carbon monoxide the trees and plants absorb helps to provide our environment with much needed oxygen. So plant, plant, plant!
Farmers, whether they farm a lot of acres or the backyard farmer who plants small gardens all need rich soil. This soil can produce hay and alfalfa for cows or horses and vegetables or fruits for humans. Each shovel of soil holds more living things than all the people in the world. A farmer must and should know what the value of soil is to their production of crops. Each seed planted, nurtured by sun and water, must have the nutrients of the soil to bring it to harvest.
The plants we grow in our soil provide us with vegetables above and below the ground. Some vegetables below the ground are potatoes, carrots, radishes and etc. and vegetables above the ground are lettuce, tomatoes, peas, and etc. What occurs below the ground, unseen, determines what we see above the ground. The basic knowledge of soil conditions are essential to properly enhance plant root growth and the plants vigor. Healthy soil grows healthy plants. We grow plants for decoration in the form of flowers that produce nectar for bees and birds, bushes that provide beautiful fall colors, and grass that provides a soft cushion to walk on in our bare feet.
Soil provides shelter for our small animals. Prairie dogs, moles, mice, worms and etc. dig burrows through the soil that helps aerate the soil, they leave deposits to help fertilize the soil and to stay safe from larger predators. So when you come across those holes in the ground, don't be tempted to scuff your feet and fill them with dirt.
Yes, we do get gems from our soil in the form of minerals like diamonds, quartz, and even coal. What girl doesn't like a big diamond in the rough or a cozy fire to snuggle up on a cold winters night. The diamond or quartz makes beautiful jewelry and coal is used for home heating or helps our power plants produce electricity.
Last but maybe not the best thing that our rich soil can produce is weeds. Oh, how we hate those pesky weeds, but try to remember somewhere or somehow they must be useful.
It's raining---again! Stop! Please stop, I thought a few days ago as I looked out my kitchen window into the dreary gray afternoon sky. Is it just me or does every farm wife feel that once the fall mud starts, we're blessed with an abundant supply for months? That means sweeping and more sweeping the dried clumps of straw, dirt and manure from the floor and mopping those spots that were just too wet to clump and left those water smears. It's a good thing my husband isn't much of a mind reader. I can't think he would think happy thoughts about me complaining about moisture in any form.
The next morning I had a little time for retrospection. The night had been awfully cold for October. My first morning look out the window revealed what looked like a beautiful field of tiny diamonds spread across the front lawn. That little bit of night rain had frozen slightly and now gave off the appearance of "riches" right before my eyes.
I had promised to help the grandkids with their chores. On with the hats, coats, gloves and boots. Time has a way of erasing from my foggy old mind how much easier and quicker it would have been just to do the chores myself. Finally all bundled up, we trudged out to the pens. Even the 3 year old was quick to show me that her bummer lamb was now a "big girl" and that she had "big hair" to keep her warm for the winter. Nothing could quite match the giggle of the nearly 2 year old as she got licked on the forehead by her calf, Cinderella. Isn't that farm kids for you? Loving the animals enough to think that calves possess the same beauty as famous fairy princesses. Every critter has a name and is loved just as much as if it possessed human characteristics. Riches! That is what you call being able to watch kids know what to feed and how much to feed each animal and realizing that it is a responsibility they recognize as their very own.
Just a short week later, two little girls came running as fast as their short legs would carry them. "Grandma, grandma, Dusty has baby puppies." Sure enough, the old cow dog had brought forth seven little black and white baby puppies---another few things to add to our chore list. Of course they needed a bigger and better house and some warm soft bedding. More riches from the soil---teaching compassion and the natural cycle of birth and death.
Not too long ago, I heard that "Gratitude is an attitude" and I realized just how lucky I am to have the rural lifestyle I have. I realize that although my life is much, much different from so many of my friends, I have so much to be grateful for. I am grateful that I can walk easily in knee high chore boots and probably more gracefully than I ever could in four inch heels. I'm grateful that my wardrobe staple, denim, is a wash and wear fabric, that my hair is often styled by the wind and rain and I'm grateful for the common sense that comes with farming (and my learned competence and creativity with twine and tie wire) that helps me to solve other problems that arise in my life.
Having now adult children who were raised on the farm gives me the assurance that they all know the value and the benefit of hard work and they know how to accomplish it. The memories of working together as a family helping them achieve 4-H and FFA goals and usually having the house full of good kids just like them are riches and something to be grateful for. Never was there a time they weren't willing to help each other with chores if a need arose. No time (or place) to hang out at the mall, wondering what to do next for entertainment; but there was always plenty of work, then fences to sit atop at the corrals or makeshift chairs in the farm shop as they solved the world's problems. Making true friends and the things they learned and did together were one of the riches of the soil.
It's a good thing the "diamonds" on the lawn weren't real. The value of that water into the soil means far more to a farm family than bushels of showy stones. That water is the lifeblood of our livelihood. As soon as the sun came up and warmed the earth a little, the "diamonds" disappeared just as do so many of the transient things in our lives today. But the lessons of patience, work, and perseverance are riches from the soil and are equally as lasting as any precious gem.
The riches from the soil make my world bright. I love the fall season with the rich and beautiful colors of the changing leaves. The colors of fall relate to some of the world's most expensive riches---rubies, garnets, emeralds and topaz. This season sets my "squirrel syndrome" into action as I hurry to bottle up those last few apples and make sure the squash is put in the cellar.
Back into the house, it was easy snuggling up to the little ones, wrapped in a wool blanket (compliments of our friends, the sheep). Looking around, it was fun to think of all the food, fiber, toys, household items and drugs that we aging folk depend upon that have had an origin in agriculture. The soil has made us a rich nation indeed.
Oh, let it rain! I think I'll use the riches from my summer garden, put on a pot of savory stew, make a loaf of wheat bread, mop that floor one more time and make mine an attitude of gratitude for my riches from the soil.