I’ve been digging. Wayyyyy back when U.S. President Johnson sent his boys into Cambodia, my school teacher told me that I’d better study hard or I’d wind up spending my life with a shovel, digging ditches. I have since learned that there are worse things. Here’s where I’ve been spending my days. This garden plot you will see below was a garden back in the 1970s and 1980s, but then it was modernized. What on earth is that? Modernized? Aha, it is a very clever thing. There I was late in the morning dealing with all that modernity and … well, walk (or shall I say, dig?) with me for awhile, and you may see what I saw too. Here’s the garden plot…
The Reclaimed Garden
Complete with peat moss, manure, rusty wheelbarrow and shovel. 80% of the earth you see here was covered with landscape cloth a year ago. On top of that was, in various places, either ground up bark chips or pea gravel. Tons of pea gravel. The bare soil was covered in a kind of plasticized mulch that comes from throwing anything plant-based into a plastic ‘com poster’ and creating a kind of organic plastic, impervious to both water and decay. I dealt with that, too.
Yesterday I removed the last of the gravel from the darker, foreground section of the photograph above, tore up the shade cloth, and then dug out all the roots from a nearby pine tree that was exploiting the situation. What I created was soil, which looks like this now:
The Dirt on Dirt
Last summer I managed to shovel a strip bare enough to plant some tiny green-shooted raspberry canes. They’ve been cheering me on ever since. I’ll be digging that peat moss in one more time.
So, that’s my dream: a place in which plants can anchor, draw water up from the soil, mix it with sunlight, and make life, which I can share. In the course of re-creating this dream out of another man’s dream of creating a zero-weed, low maintenance garden of rocks and bark, I uncovered an amazing piece of technology. Here it is…
Plastic, Every Pine Tree’s Best Friend
There were three layers of plastic and shade cloth on top of this soil. Between them each was a layer of bark chips which was turned into a solid mat of dry felt by a web of pine roots. What had started out as a weed elimination trick had become a kind of water extraction wafer.
Here’s the edge of one of those high-tech wafers…
Go Pine Tree, Go
Try sticking your shovel through that, eh.
Yeah, I know, it’s not the normal WordPress thing to look at pictures of dirt, but think: computers are built around silicon sandwiches, solar cells are built around silicon sandwiches, and this device was built around a silicon (soil) and carbon (chopped up logging waste) sandwich, that gathered water, trapped it, and allowed it to be extracted. The result, though, sadly, was the death of the rowan tree that was trying to grow there. It needed deep water, and this method eliminated it all.
Sacred Rowan Firewood
Hardly a compensation, but, still, you know, something.
So, here we have a system that is capable of mining water, every bit of it, and processing it organically, not as plants would normally do it, but in a manner that uses a plant (in this case a pine tree) as a machine. It is a way of harvesting all the available water in an area and delivering it to one single individual, without pipes, tubes, pumps, valves, wires, or any intervention whatsoever. I prefer living plant communities, rather than this kind of engineering-plant partnership, but I do, still, see the potential for managing and harvesting water with the efficiency of machinery, without any machinery at all. Shame about the rowan, though. Still, there are compensations, such as my apricot day celebrating this day of sun…
Apricot Tree Enjoying This Day
I had to wait my turn. The bees were here first.
Tomorrow, I’m off to do some grafting, to marry a Sierra pear twig with its new home on a Comice tree. I feel like a bee. With a knife, some masking tape, a brush, and a jar of green goop. Just like the monks of old who got us started on all this. Thanks, guys. I owe ya.