Earth Day, an event born in 1970, is a day that encourages us to take stock of the way we live. This year the Earth Day organizers have named the theme Restore Our Earth. “Workshops, panel discussions, and special performances will all focus on Restore Our Earth™ — we’ll cover natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.” This is a brief description of what will be discussed.
In addition, Greta Thunberg, one of our youngest youth climate activists, along with Alexandria Villaseñor, and Licypriya Kangujam will be speaking. The health of our climate is certainly vital to our young people who will have to live (we hope and plan for) a healthy world.
Those of us who are older, have to look for our own ways to Restore Our Earth. I spent part of my young life on a Vermont dairy farm in the 1940s. I was familiar with cows and manure, chickens and manure, plowing, seeding and harvesting. A plow was used.
It was not long after that first Earth Day that I was read a poem about Louis Bromfield’s book Malabar Farm that was written by E.B. White. That is when I learned about no-till farming. I grant you this poem is an odd way to learn about such things, but there are wonderful way we can learn things. The poem is much longer than this snippet.
“Malabar Farm is the farm for me,
It’s the proving ground of vivacity.
A soil that’s worn out, poor, or lazy
Drives L. Bromfield almost crazy;
Whether it’s raining or whether it’s pouring,
Bromfield’s busy with soil restoring;
However the the moldboard plow is still with us, but there are many farmers who have moved on to no-till farming. A couple of years ago my husband and I were traveling across Iowa in the spring and we could see green shoots of some crop coming up through the stubbleleft from the previous year’s harvest.
I have been a gardener for almost 50 years. As my new garden has taken shape over six years I have learned more about working with my soil. Because our backyard area becomes a swamp during heavy rains we have created raised beds. We did this laying down cardboard and then covering it with yards and yards of rich soil from our local Martin’s Compost Farm.
It is wonderful to be able to plant in good soil, but that soil needs regular enrichment. We do not rake up many leaves in the fall. There are creatures that may shelter under those leaves all winter. Neither are we quick to rake up all the leaves in the spring. We let leaves continue resting under large shrubs. If the leaves are wet and rotting be leave them alone and plants will grow up right through them, letting the leaves rot and enrich the soil.
We have two black compost bins that allow one full bin to decompose and rot, while we start putting our garbage and leaves in the second bin. We have three big leaf bins. We try to stir up those bins with an aerater tool that helps break up the materials more quickly. This compost gets added to our soil when we are putting in new plants, or top-dressing the soil with our compost. Compost is sequestering carbon dioxide. Our garden includes trees and shrubs because they absorb more carbon dioxide with their trunks and branches than smaller plants. We need to improve our atmosphere by lowering the amount of carbon dioxide.
I have chosen mostly native trees, shrubs and flowers that will welcome and feed pollinators like bees, and birds, especially baby birds, who will eat caterpillars and insects. All these creatures are in decline.
I am in my ‘golden years’ and there is only so much I can do to Restore Our Earth. We can each do something. What are your interests and capabilities? What can you do? Will you act?