Sunday, January 25, 2009
Winter Sunday Evening
Just put a few more logs into the woodstove before heading upstairs to bed. So many books and seed catalogues on my bedside stand that if I roll over too far and hit the stand, the carefully balanced stack crashes to the floor. On the top of that stack is a fascinating book which I am now reading entitled Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington. Montgomery spends much time discussing early working landscapes and how cultures often disappeared because of soil depletion or climate change. I have scanned forward into the book a bit to see that he discusses land reform and how land has affected this country and legislation. I am now reading about how the Chinese addressed land issues in earlier millenia. For instance, according to Montgomery, "the Yao dynasty (2357-2261 B.C.) based taxation on a soil survey that recognized nine distinct types of dirt." When one considers how land is taxed in Vermont - views, location, and criteria other than dirt, I wonder if taxes might rise significantly for all those corn spreads in those beautiful river bottom lands.
Over the past thirty or so years, I have sadly watched beautiful farmland slowly fall into decline and either grow up to puckerbrush or slowly be sliced, graded and traded into some form of tract housing because the land "perced." So often the land between the homes becomes a mowed landscape, often without a vegetable garden cut somewhere into the turf.
As we sat at lunch today, I thought about the number of people in the village who still had a summer garden and there were very few who still planted one. As I tried to remember driving out on the back roads in Town, I recalled far fewer vegetable gardens than there once were thirty, forty years ago. Considering our present economy and how far worse it might devolve, I wonder what it's going to take to motivate people to again have a garden to produce food for not only the summer but to hedge in some small way for the winter.
The decline of the village center, the questionable convenience of the automobile, availability of out-of-season food in markets which has been shipped in from who knows (cares) where...
How far can education deliver us from this weakened state of non-productive consumerism?
Anyway, back to Dirt.