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Emma Marris’ Rambunctious Garden argues our modern environmental movement’s raison d’etre, nature’s preservation in a pristine, prehuman state, is misguided. We Homo sapiens have been mucking about this planet for some 250,000 years now, leaving few spaces without our footprints. Science is accumulating evidence that suggests South America’s “wild” Amazon Basin has been sculpted by human management for well beyond 1,000 years. Mayan and some Asian tropical rainforests also prove to be long- ago human agricultural polycultures gone feral, further challenging a “myth of the pristine”. Where misguided preservationists won an upper hand, our own benignly neglected Sierra Nevada slopes, brush choked and densely forested, suffer monumental conflagrations. [Read more…]
Emma Marris’ Rambunctious Garden argues our modern environmental movement’s raison d’etre, nature’s preservation in a pristine, prehuman state, is misguided. We Homo sapiens have been mucking about this planet for some 250,000 years now, leaving few spaces without our footprints. Science is accumulating evidence that suggests South America’s “wild” Amazon Basin has been sculpted by human management for well beyond 1,000 years. Mayan and some Asian tropical rainforests also prove to be longago human agricultural polycultures gone feral, further challenging a “myth of the pristine”. Where misguided preservationists won an upper hand, our own benignly neglected Sierra Nevada slopes, brush choked and densely forested, suffer monumental conflagrations. [Read more…]
Bewildered over how to farm twenty sandy, rented acres east of Fresno’s Gallo winery in 1981, I recalled my former Newhall Land and Farming Co. superintendent Les “El Pescuezon” Travis’s experience. “I drove the neighborhood each morning, spying on farmers who appeared to know what they were doing”, recounted Les, who sought refuge as a tiller of soil following WWII military service. Providentially, where my Olive Ave. dead-ended into Fancher Creek, I discovered a pair of long-experienced market gardeners on opposite corners. On the north side, Japanese-American George Yagi meticulously tended vegetables on five acres of benched land, while across the way, African American Leon Poe cultivated fifteen creekside acres of same. [Read more…]
We appreciate the hand-written notes from members expressing the deep impact of eating fresh, local and organic. The farm really reminds us of the seasonality of food now. We have so many plantings of tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers that it is almost a chore waiting for summer. But, once the weather heats up for good, we’ll be missing those delicious greens and roots. We have a few more weeks to savor sautéed spinach, potato pancakes and fresh carrots shredded into our salads. – denesse
Back in 1979, Denesse and I married and purchased our first home in Dos Palos, a sleepy, off the beaten path little farm town. It didn’t appear much transformed on a return visit last Saturday in company of author Mark Arax and photographer Ernest Lowe after long absence. Black gumbo clay soils characterize the vicinity and a shallow water table can turn “floating” homes into fun house rides. Our back yard’s ground cracked wide enough to swallow Chihuahuas. Thirty-five years ago, successfully farmed crops were two, cotton and rice. I field-managed Rinks Sano’s thousand-acre Westland Water District farm some miles south over unpaved Fairfax Ave. and further west of Firebaugh. [Read more…]
If you had a 1972 yearbook from Fresno’s Ahwahnee Jr. High, you might find a picture of the “Ecology Club” planting some trees around what was then, a brand new campus. Of those pictured, one became a high school English teacher, another a masseuse at Whole Foods Market, a third became a lawyer for Enron, another came to write a weekly vegetable newsletter and the star of our club became an engineer for California ￼Department of Water Resources, later with the Regional Water Board, where she supervised the Compliance and Enforcement Unit in the Board’s Fresno office. JoAnne remained the truest to our “Ecology” roots and I’m so proud to have known her all these years after she, once again, shined the light on some local dirty doings.
– denesse read story: bit.ly/19UP2W9
What sort of inquiry might defuse controversy over whether compost-loving organic farmers like the Kaisers and Willeys are indeed “worst nitrate polluters” or responsible soil nutrient managers? Conclusive proof is only evidenced by employing a lysimeter. What’s that? Think underground, open-topped terrarium, buried beneath a farm soil’s growing crop. Researchers install lysimeters as catchment systems to intercept rain or irrigation water percolating through plant root zones towards an aquifer. That liquid is easily drawn off and accurately analyzed for nitrate and other soluble nutrients threatening water quality. So, has anyone utilized lysimeters to compare composted crop systems to those chemically fertilized? [Read more…]
Only a few days ago, our winter kale and beets yielded their ground to the seedlings of summer; tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash and melons will soon prosper in that same ground. The generosity of living soil is unfathomable, it is eager to grow anything and seems indiscriminate in offering a chance at life for both food crops and weeds. – denesse
Nitrogen is one exceedingly mysterious constituent of our big bang universe. Earth’s most abundant pure element, life-essential backbone of DNA / RNA blueprints, amino acids and proteins, paradoxically makes itself scarce. Air we breathe is 78% nitrogen, but an inert gaseous form that cannot be woven into life’s lattice work. Only after an immensely powerful attraction between twin nitrogen atoms is cloven at great energy expense does this element become reactive with unlike chemical elements for blending into life’s soup. Since time immemorial, until just a century ago, such molecule splitting was the exclusive domain of lightning and specialized soil bacteria. Over those eons, stingy nature ordered its dynamic duo to convert or ‘fix’ into life-available form barely one percent of Earth’s atmospheric nitrogen. [Read more…]
My friend, Cecilia Sheeter, once described a moment of evening light when one feels as if its “thick golden sheen could be scooped out of the air.” To me, the spring air has that same feel, it is dense with all the promise of a new year. Bud break in grapes is my favorite week of this, my favorite season. A field of nascent green is suspended over the earth on a squat army of gnarled trunks. Years of past mistakes, misgivings, and missed opportunities are the wood of the vine, nourishing the tender young shoots. Their vigor holds so much enthusiasm; even our human losses seem diminished. This is Mr. Willey’s most stressful time of year. To him, all that spring potential is fraught with tension, danger and toil. With literally hundreds of tasks, for dozens of crops, to be completed in an ever-narrowing window of time and temperature, deciding each day’s priorities seems perilous. “Silty, sandy, muddy Earth, we savor God’s ardent endowment in you. Make us worthy stewards of your robust gifts, in wonderment and fright we witness life renew.” -denesse