Cool Gardening Ideas – Save the Pieces

By Betty Harris

My dad had a wicked sense of humor that intrigued us as children and when we talk about dad now we talk about the funny things he said and wish that we could remember them all now.

In our home there was always a bit of conflict over who did what jobs and once we got a TV it was harder than ever to get the dishes done. One night when it was my job to wash I couldn’t get anyone to dry and put them away. At one point I piled them too high and a metal pan fell off on the floor making a horrid racket and dad’s response was, “Save the pieces.” It got a good laugh but he had to threaten punishment to get the others to come dry dishes. Being a fast learner, in the future, when I couldn’t get anyone to dry them I would purposely drop a nonbreakable pan which made a lot of noise. I never had to say anything again.

I think about dad (because he was a farmer gathering a living from the earth) when I think about the earth because I see it as made up of so many pieces rather than just dirt, water, wind and weather with a bit of sunlight thrown in for good measure. As I’ve retired and gone back to my roots, growing flowers and food I’m thinking about it more, especially in our Colorado soils. There is so much to learn about how life fits together and works together and it more entertaining and interesting than TV which we stopped watching in 1998.

Personally I’ve always considered wild life as part of the earth the way Native Americans believe that we belong to the earth rather than the other way around. Later in life I spent a month with my elderly widowed mother and she saw something on TV (yes, she was still watching) about saving the wolves and her response was, “what are they good for? Since she was deaf and in depth conversation were complicated I didn’t try to go into it as much as I should have.

I think of this response a lot when there is news of one species or another going extinct or being threatened because of loss of habitat. I have to admit to myself that I don’t feel the same concern for rats or Japanese Beetles or mosquitoes and have a really creepy feeling about snakes. But mainly, now that I have more time I study and think about all the masses of critters that live in the soil and thus give plants and us life. And it worries me no end when the tendency of profit as the only goal asks the question “what’s it good for?” as if each piece must fit in a slot that ultimately leads the way to more money for some.

I was just reading about an IRS loop hole that allows farmers to write off the water they use as a tax incentive…which lowers their taxes (always desirable) but encourages more use. Studies show that were incentives are placed there is more growth or use. It applies to oil and gas, water, renewable energies, etc. Based on the result from these incentives we’ve run out of the easy to get at fossil fuels.
Based on agribusiness practices of using commercial fertilizers made from oil or gas and mining phosphorus from the earth decreases these natural resources (as in taken from nature) and pushes the price up.

What are the consequences of human actions? That goes back to understanding cause and effect which most humans seem not to have a great grasp on. So if we use the fossil fuels for energy only what happens when it runs out. If we use oil for making plastics then what do we make plastic out of in the future? If, or when, we mine all the phosphorus from the earth where do we get more? What will its impact be on farming and food? What if we kill off all the predators that keep at bay the insects and animals that end up consuming our food? What happens when pests are moved inadvertently to other parts of the earth such as Japanese Beetles which have predators in Japan but not here? Should we worry about saving the beetles or saving our plants?

What are bees good for? Ask farmers that need them for pollination – we’ve seen statistics that say about 30-40% of what we eat needs to be pollinated. So if we manage to kill off a massive number of bees what impact will that food for us? If we are afraid of bees or allergic to them then we might just decide that they are not worth protecting. If we produce poisons that kill many kinds of insects how does that impact the rest of life on earth, not just us? What are bees and other insects good for? Are these pieces we should try to save and what are the consequences if we do not?

We think that grapevines are more important than Japanese Beetles and we could be right but what else is effected if we do or don’t kill the beetles? I think we need to look at all life and consider how to save the pieces that matter. Those pieces must all fit together to make up our plant home and make it work for all life on it. Shouldn’t we actually start thinking about saving the pieces even if we don’t know how they all fit? If we toss some into the dumpster what impact will this have on the rest of life?

Next edition let’s talk about fungi as one of those vital pieces we should keep.

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