"Liquid Sunshine" by Allan Martin


Dirt.

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

called topsoil.


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

soil?


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

fertilizers?


One word.


Grass.


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.


Why?


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

abundance rests.


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

roots.


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