"A people without children would face a hopeless future, a country without trees is almost as hopeless."
-Theodore Roosevelt, Arbor Day 1907
One of the rites of spring that I remember from the days of farming is the testing of the soil. Each spring my husband purchased soil test kits from the Cooperative Extension to submit samples of the soil for testing. Pending the results of the soil tests, he ordered lime and fertilizer.
Dick would go out into the fields to gather samples from an assortment of spots. When he brought it in it was often wet and clumped together. Before it could be dropped into the mail, it had to be dried out and packaged in small bags.
I kept some old pans to dry out the dirt. If the furnace was still running, my husband set the pans on the registers. If we no longer needed the furnace I heated up the oven, then, turned it off. The soil dried in there. No matter how it dried out, there was always the smell of drying mud in the air. After all, we had mud out here until nearly June! Often when I went to town I wore my boots, but carried my shoes in the car so that I would not look like a farmer who had just come to town. The children learned to do the same thing. There was no doubt about it, we definitely needed boots to get to the car!
It was an exciting day when the lime truck arrived. The heavy truck rode over the field spreading the powdery white stuff. We always hoped that it was not a windy day when the truck arrived or the lime would end up on another field other than the intended one. A couple weeks ago when we walked the dogs through the fields we came upon a spot where the lime truck got stuck last year. The deep ruts were still water filled.
Dick often rode with the guy who spread the lime. Once or twice I think he took the children along so they could see how it was done. When he began the switch to only harvesting hay, lime was the only type of fertilizer that was used other than manure. Every winter he spread the manure from the barn on the fields. Between the snow and rain it soaked in to fertilize the soil.
Now my son does the soil testing to make sure that his animals have a healthy crop of grass to eat during grazing season as well as through the winter. I have also tested the fields that I still own so that they stay filled with good hay. They had been neglected for several years so we had to add quite a bit of lime to get them where they needed to be.
People ride in the country and see empty fields and figure that nothing is being done with them. That is not true. If the fields appear empty, something is being done with them. Left on their own fields go back to nature. First, the berry briers move in. They are followed by bushes. Trees are the last phase of regrowth.
When we first moved to Hickory Heights we had a lot of blackberries. Now, those are gone. Trees stand in their place.
The pine trees on the west side of the house were planted. We purchased trees from the conservation department and planted them one by one. The trees were planted before we ever moved up here. Uncle Norm, Grandpa Melvin, and my husband planted every single one. The lower trees were planted first. The second year we planted trees above those planted the previous year. I think the guys enjoyed those days out in the early spring weather. Each planting session was followed by a home cooked meal around Grandma's table. I cooked the food in the trailer, but served it there because it was more comfortable for all of us.
When Arbor Day rolls around, I always remember that we have done our part to reforest this little section of the world. I have to think that our children learned a lot by watching their father and grandfather. They love to grow things. Farmers are wonderful stewards of the land. It is their livelihood.
This year Earth Day nearly coincided with Easter. That was not a bad thing since Easter really is the celebration of the resurrection of life. Everyone thinks of the environment as Earth Day rolls around, but should we not celebrate every day by learning to respect this planet that we call home?
We are getting buried in waste. More and more landfills are needed to get rid of all of the manmade things that clutter our lives. Many of things that must be disposed of pollute the environment.
We definitely need to do more recycling. There are untapped resources in the recycling process. We need to figure out how to do it more efficiently. There needs to be an incentive for businesses to recycle their own waste.
Take that can to the recycling facility. Make sure your home is energy efficient. Think about the amount of resources that you personally consume. Every single one of us needs to become aware of how we impact our planet.
"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
-Rachel Carson, American biologist (1907 1964)
Have you ever read "Silent Spring"? Maybe you need to. Rachel was ahead of her time.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org