Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Deeper into the Soil

When I started writing this, I realized that it would be my fifth post about soil.  (I added a label called “Soil" so that my posts about soil and soil science can be found more easily.   My last post on this was The Soul of Soil,  written back in December of 2015.)  I think about soil a bunch and I’ve written about soil a bunch.   In this post I will try to dig a little deeper, so to speak.

What does soil have to do with social change?  At the most basic level, if you want to create a sustainable society,  you need to take care of the soil.  Soil is what sustains us.  And, because I am interested in communities as a tool for building a new society, and communities (and societies) consist of people and I want to see healthy people, they need to eat well and that requires good soil.  There will be no social change without taking care of the soil.  We literally, as well as metaphorically, stand on the soil.

I’ve talked several times about soil science being a combination of chemistry,  geology, and biology.   So, when I decided to start re-learning about soil, the first thing I did was do a bunch of background reading on geology.  Then I started reading about soil, both in books like Teaming with Microbes (see my post on Soil Science where I talk a little about this book) and a textbook called Fundamental Soil Science (by Mark Coyne and James Thompson) and in other science books, like the book that started it all, Biology, by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece (that's the one I refer to in my post on Biology 101: An Introduction) and a book that I acquired last year, called Environment by Peter Raven and Linda Berg, that have chapters focusing on soil.

Interestingly enough, both the Biology and Fundamental Soil Science textbooks talk about biogeochemical cycles.  Yes, biology, geology, and chemistry.

What they are talking about is the cycling of elements (at the least, carbon and nitrogen and phosphorus--but the Soil Science book also covers sulfur and even iron and manganese and “heavy metals”) through the soil and the atmosphere and the water.  Ions of these elements (or compounds that contain them, like phosphates and sulfates) cycle through all of these, plus rocks and living creatures. Thus biogeochemical.

I’m also learning a lot more about weathering (how the rocks turn into soil), soil profiles (and the different horizons involved with that), and the various types of soil.   There are still chapters to read on soil management, the hydrologic (water) cycle, watersheds, and soil fertility--so much to learn.  I find myself reading and rereading chapters and getting out even more books from the library. And soon it will be spring and I will be actually working with the soil and creating more soil by composting. Maybe I will never be done with soil science.

In the meantime, speaking of science, I currently have four science heroes--and they are all women.   And I don't think that is an accident.   I will talk more about that in my next post.

Quote of the Day: “Real soil is active, alive, moving!” - Elaine Ingham

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Back Once More

It's been a while. I’ve been busy with another blog as well as starting a new community.

And suddenly, for complicated reasons, I am done with the other blog.

And, honestly, I didn't start right back on this one.  Part of what was going on is feeling a bit burnt from the pace that I had set for myself on the other blog.   I was cranking out posts, many of which I was soliciting rather than writing, three times a week.   I kept hearing from people that we should have been posting less often.   But for me the hard part wasn't the frequency, it was that I was mostly doing it by myself.

Still, in many ways I'm sorry to see it go.  But this does give me time to return to this blog.

The community I’m in has a bit of a focus on urban agriculture.   And right now, February, there isn't much happening in that respect.  We did have a wild day earlier this week when the temperature was suddenly in the mid-seventies.   Global weirding at work, but we took advantage of it to get some needed work done outdoors.

Otherwise I am doing a lot of reading.   Science stuff mostly.   Soil science, geology, mycology, and nutrition are big for me right now, as I wait for the growing season to arrive. Soil science is particularly interesting to me because it combines chemistry, biology, and geology, is closely connected to my love of compost and composting, and the soil is the absolute foundation for plant life.

So, as I return to this blog, I plan to do a bunch of writing about what I am reading as well as what I am thinking about.  And these days much of it is about science.  Science and social change and, of course, community.   So get ready for some posts about science, starting with soil science.

Quote of the day: “Math and science originally come from the goddess traditions of ancient Egypt.  … Ma’at was the Goddess of truth, justice and divine wisdom who brought the universe into order from chaos at the beginning of creation.  Her name is the root of the word ‘mathematics’.” - Mara Penfil and Fern Katz