It's everywhere. We walk on it, push it around, pave it over with nary a thought. We live our
lives in total and complete ignorance of dirt. Even in the advanced scientific age we live in, very
little is known about dirt, though that is changing bit by bit.
For example, we now know that there are more life forms in a shovelful of dirt than there are
humans on the planet. Think of that for a minute. Billions of people live their lives on this planet
without giving thought to the unbelievably complex and beautiful world beneath their feet,
which outnumbers us by a staggering order of magnitude.
This unseen and unheralded world, continues to do its thing, seemingly unconscious of the
major issues afflicting the life forms above it. It's ecosystem remains functional though not
always optimally, no matter what goes on upon it's surface.
The world of dirt is a world of continual and constant change. Breaking down complex
structures into simple ones. Providing a free market exchange of minerals, moisture, vitamins,
oxygen, carbon etc, for the life forms in it's domain. Even winter, doesn't stop this free activity
of exchange and trade. Snow provides an insulating blanket, and the 'marketplace' continues.
What's interesting is that much of this activity occurs in the top 8 - 16 inches of dirt, what is
One would think that if the top 16 inches of soil houses so much activity, perhaps we should
pay more attention to our treatment of it. Perhaps dumping toxic substances into it isn't such a
good idea after all. It wouldn't be unreasonable to state that human life as we know it depends
upon this thin 16 inch covering across the entire earth.
Soil reacts to stimuli and environmental conditions as do you, both positively and negatively.
Therefore it is a resource that is meant to be stewarded and carefully managed by caretakers
who love the task. Soil is actually a renewable resource. It can be rapidly built and made
healthy and productive if it is tended with care and wisdom. Nature wants to be healthy and
vibrant, giving of its bounty in profuse abundance. It does this without complaint. The only
thing it asks is to be tended and stewarded with care and compassion.
How do we tend this wonderful world beneath our feet in care and compassion? How do we
encourage this renewable resource into health and vibrancy? What is wisdom when it comes to
Thankfully, we have a template for this, by observing nature back before the advent of
mechanical modern agriculture. Huge herds of buffalo would wander across the plains, grazing
as they went. Birds would follow the buffalo herds, scratching through the manure droppings
to find tiny bugs, worms etc. This scratching would scatter the manure droppings in a small
radius around the site, speeding up the decomposition process. The manure would
decompose into the landscape benefiting the millions of microorganisms in the soil. As the
microorganisms benefited from the nutrition, they in turn made nutrition available to plants.
How else does nature bring abundance to the landscape, long before the advent of chemical
Grass is, in a way, a miracle plant. First of all, its a perennial. Nature, left to itself, will tend
towards perennials and bi-annuals, and steer away from annuals. The perennials and bi-annuals,
are the grasses, and legumes like clover. This doesn't even mention the herbs that
grow wild in well managed pastures in North America. Chicory, Plantain, Dandelion etc. Healthy
pastures can have up to 40 different varieties of vegetation in it.
This is good.
Because multi-speciation is nature's way of planning for resilience and abundance; creating
built in buffers to keep total production failure at bay. Multi-speciation occurs naturally, and in
different levels. This occurs in the plant world, and in the animal world, usually simultaneously.
This mixture of species helps to broaden the foundation upon which productivity and
Grass goes through three stages of growth. It begins with young, tender shoots, then lively fast
growing plants putting on size and nutrition; and finally senescence, when it bears seed, and
turns brown. Grass that is regularly mowed, grows much better than grass that is left to go to
seed. By utilizing herbivores, humans can 'mow' large amounts of grass and fertilize the
ground in the process; which in turn causes grass to grow even better.
Grass, through the miracle of photosynthesis, can turn sunlight into sugar and takes carbon
out of the atmosphere, sequestering it into the ground. Sequestered carbon is the major source
and cause of soil nutrition. This is another reason then why perennials are better than annuals.
Annuals are net extractive from the soil, using soil nutrition to grow large seed pods or plant
structures. Perennials are net contributors to the soil, sequestering carbon into the soil via the
When cattle graze on grass, they prune the grass back to the highly productive, fast growth
stage. What cattle actually are living on is 'liquid sunshine'. There is one molecule that
sunshine cannot degrade, and it is chlorophyll. This is the result of