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Being a Caretaker

I am a Mom.  And one thing that is inherent with being a Mom (or at least being a good Mom) is the ability to be a caretaker; to put your needs below the needs of what or whom you are caring for.

This is not always an easy thing.

There are many times that I want to put my needs above my children’s needs. Sometimes I do.  And sometimes I don’t.

But on the whole, I mainly put their needs above my own.  One of the reasons I do this is because I take a long-term view.  I know that the children will only be in my home and under my immediate care for a relatively short time period.  So that makes it easier to sacrifice my desires because I know that I am investing in them and their future.

I was reminded that most people don’t always take the role of being a good caretaker seriously while I was reading the book, The Worst Hard Times, The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl* by Timothy Egan.

Being a gardener, homesteader, and goat farmer, I am keenly aware and interested in the health of the soil.  I consider myself a caretaker of the soil and all the living things that reside in it.  So to read about how the soil was abused and the end result of that abuse was very sad and disturbing.

But what is even more awful is that we are doing the same exact thing today.  We haven’t learned from the past at all.  Once again, our country is destroying the soil.  We’re doing it differently than the farmers did before the Dust Bowl.  Back then, they simply plowed up too much land (and then abandoned it) in an area that had too high winds and too little rainfall to leave the land uncovered.

Today conventional farmers are destroying the soil by spraying it with an abundance of pesticides and herbicides – chemicals that are destroying the organisms that live in the soil and keep it healthy.  Big Agriculture is also destroying the land by monocropping and only adding back the basic nutrients – NPK – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  The soil is more complex than that and by robbing it for decades of the minerals and soil microbes that keep it healthy, we are damaging not only the soil, but the foods that are grown in that soil.

Monocropping with Pesticides and Herbicides

The Worst Hard Times* did touch on the soil, but it mainly covered the lives that were affected or destroyed during the Dust Bowl.  The loss of life, hopes, and dreams as a result of the (often unintentional) abuse of the land should be a wake-up call.

If more people can wake-up to the destruction that is being caused by conventional farming, we can still turn things around.  We can be caretakers of the soil and caretakers of the health of our families.

The book periodically mentions Hugh Bennett who implemented soil conservation plans during the latter half of the Dust Bowl:

“Hugh Bennett was a son of the soil, growing up on a 1,200-acre plantation in North Carolina that had been planted in cotton since before the Civil War. He spent part of every day on the family land east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, helping his father on steep terrain.  He learned early on that the land would not wash away as long as they kept it terraced.  His father also taught him that the soil of their farm was not simply a medium through which passed a fibrous commodity but also a living thing.  His interest in the complexities of soil led him to the University of North Carolina and graduate school, where he studied and wrote about how different societies treated land.”

He had a lot of knowledge that was worth listening to (both then and now):

“‘Of all the countries in the world, we Americans have been the greatest destroyers of land of any race of people barbaric or civilized,’ Bennett said in a speech at the start of the dust storms.  What was happening, he said, was ‘sinister,’ a symptom of ‘our stupendous ignorance.'”

I don’t want to be a part of a system that is destructive.  I desire to be a caretaker of my children, my animals, my food supply, and my soil.

Spread Manure over Hay Fields

Do you have a garden?  Are you taking care of your soil as much as you are taking care of the plants?  If not, you can start now.

If you don’t/can’t garden, are you purchasing your food from sources that are taking care of the soil?  Organic produce is a start, but you can be an organic farmer without caring for the soil.  Try to find out how and where some of your food is actually grown.

It often takes more money and effort to be a caretaker.  But you know what?  It is definitely worth it.

Teach yourself about why healthy soil is important.  And teach your children.  Don’t let yourself or them be guilty of “stupendous ignorance”.  It’s not too late to stop the 21st century equivalent of the Dust Bowl.




*Amazon Affiliate Link to the book that is mentioned.  I read the entire book and can definitely recommend it.  I do warn you that it is not a particularly happy book, but I found it fascinating to learn more about a time period in our history that I primarily understood from reading the American classic, The Grapes of Wrath* by John Steinbeck.  Steinbeck’s book focuses on a family that leaves their home due to the Dust Bowl; The Worst Hard Time discusses the lives of those who stayed.