Soil in the Garden of Eden

Jan Breughel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens - The garden of Eden
Jan Breughel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens – The garden of Eden

In the beginning was the Garden of Eden and then we blew it. God said, “Yep, I gave you guys free choice, so have at it in the real world. But, you know, because of your pride it’s gonna be kind of a pain to grow things the way I did for you–and you’re welcome, Adam. Women’s bodies are pretty great. Beauty is my thing.”

So Adam looked around. He waited for someone to tell him how to grow those awesome eggplants God used for his baba ganoush, but the elephants blew water in his face and Eve just moaned about morning sickness.

Adam wiped the sweat from his brow. “Okay, no need to panic. God gave me these heirloom seeds–don’t know what that means, but it’s all I got.”

A goat stood nearby.

“Hey, goat, any words of wisdom?” Adam asked. “I didn’t think so.”


As Adam sowed the seed, “some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.  And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.  And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.”

Adam and Eve had some children and Adam, still kinda thinking he might one day master the Master’s techniques, staked out all the fertile land on earth. He kept wondering why if the whales he and his children killed for blubber and light were so damned smart why didn’t they speak up? Yeah, some of his friends heard recordings of whale songs and stuff, but none of them wrote novels or anything. His friends began to clamor on the internet–humans suck! They need to be done away with for wrecking the soil, but Adam remembered how horrible he felt when one of his own was murdered by another.

cain abelAdam turned off his coffee maker, considering the electricity it used. He felt guilty about whale oil . He remembered how excited and happy people were when the first manufactured gas plants were built as a clean and efficient way of lighting the dreary streets (for God’s light still had not been fully understood and harnessed). He read Wikipedia:

“The manufacturing process for “synthetic fuel gases” (also known as “manufactured fuel gas”, “manufactured gas” or simply “gas”) typically consisted of the gasification of combustible materials, almost always coal, but also wood and oil. The coal was gasified by heating the coal in enclosed ovens with an oxygen-poor atmosphere. The fuel gases generated were mixtures of many chemical substances, including hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and ethylene, and could be burnt for heating and lighting purposes. Coal gas, for example, also contains significant quantities of unwanted sulfur and ammonia compounds, as well as heavy hydrocarbons, and so the manufactured fuel gases needed to be purified before they could be used.”

London, Pall Mall and Saint James Street by John Atkinson Grimshaw
London, Pall Mall and Saint James Street by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Adam hung his head in shame. Why had he not known that the clay soil he thought would protect the earth from the unwanted hydrocarbons was not sufficient and that Superfund clean-up crews would be needed  years after the last gaslights were extinguished? Maybe it was humans who needed to be purified before being used, he thought, but his pride had never been conquered and once again he set out to grow things on his own terms.

He’d find a way. He’d invent pesticides and fertilizers. He’d organize mass movements against pollution even as he used the technology that created the pollution. Things were getting out of hand, so he popped a few more pills to quell his growing anxiety at the state of the soil before heading to the beach.

Adam cried out on the edge of the dying sea near Fukishima. “Whales! Whales! Come close and tell me the secret of the soils and the fishes! If I worship you will nature come back?”

A Swell of the Ocean by Winslow Homer
A Swell of the Ocean by Winslow Homer

A whale surfaced. Its big, soulful eye expressed the groaning of all creation. Adam sat in the sand and wept. A small still voice came then. This voice was familiar though nearly forgotten. “I love every swallow, every lily, every whale. Adam, you search and search for fertile soil. You deplete everything you touch. You’re not in Eden anymore and no amount of clicking your heals together is going to change that.”

“But why? Why didn’t the gas manufacturing work?” Adam asked. “Or the organic certification? Why won’t designer babies work? Anyone has to be better than Cain was. Why can’t I just grow those damn eggplants without bugs and bad weather? I added plenty of manure and compost!”

The voice said, “PRIDE.”


“In the Garden–remember? You wanted to be gods.”

“Yes,” Adam said ruefully.

“The opposite of pride is ENOUGH,” the voice said. “The opposite of pride is gratitude and generosity and love and with love there’s God.”

Adam jumped to his feet. “I waited for the trees to speak to me, but it’s you, isn’t it? God?”

“Yes. And with God all things are possible. Love the soil I made for you and love even the people who despise the soil. Gently plant seeds in them. It’s not too late to save the soil.”



Lori Fontanes at What The Ducks invited me to meditate on how we can save the stuff our food grows in. Any ideas or thoughts?

Blogger Action Day: Save the Soils

Another informative post about dirt!


When the simple life isn’t simple–it never is.

Note the ants set on destroying my peonies that I've waited years for to bloom.
Note the ants set on destroying my peonies that I’ve waited years for to bloom.

Debt free! Sustainable! Vegan! Sinless! It’s what the eco-friendly people say about rural living. It’s what utopian idealists have always said and on a pretty late spring evening when the goat kids are murmuring secret things in their pen and the chickens are perched outside their coop preening themselves one last time before sundown I almost believe it.

But then there’s reality. You’ve all seen the deep wrinkles in the leathery faces of the farmers pictured in Ford commercials–they’re not just from smoking.

The ducks are easy keepers and we get to have a cute little house for them (not quite finished).
The ducks are easy keepers and we get to have a cute little house for them (not quite finished).

Debt-free: Always buy used cars and trucks and things that go. Sounds great until the truck’s brakes give out on the highway, the minivan’s wheel bearings go all crazy and the Jetta’s timing belt, windows, brakes and air conditioning all threaten to go on the fritz.

Sustainably independent and self-sufficient: Hmm, what about shoes? We have clay soil so maybe I should check to see if hemp grows in these parts but I think it’s illegal. I don’t want to kill the deer that leave the dear ticks that kill the goats but not before a painful death . . . Okay, maybe I can make shoes out of tree bark. But you know, I really like writing and when will I ever have time for it if I’m felling trees and making shoes and underwear (after raising sheep and spinning wool and weaving cloth). I’m allergic to wool.

So maybe I’ll just be a vegan–low carbon footprint and all that. Again–clay soil. We need to truck in tons of manure since six goats hardly change the soil composition.  What grows in clay? Buckwheat maybe if you can turn over the soil. Did you know buckwheat is a protein?

Well, maybe it’s just best not to think of it all. Maybe it’s just fun having cute little animals . . . and milk. Milking is therapeutic, right? Until mastitis hits and you feel like the scum of the earth for missing some cleanliness issue. Now you bring buckets of bleach water for each goat, you wash up over and over, you massage udders–every few hours . . .  and then the next doe goes into labor. It goes on a bit long and you worry, wait and wonder if at 3 am you should get the vet over. Things turn critical fast when you see two kid heads bursting out and one is terribly stuck.You glance out at the mountains and the way the moon is lit for romance, before slipping your hand and then your arm deep inside the very upset mother goat. You feel a tiny chest with a tiny heartbeat and for a moment think, “This kid has no front legs!” Then you feel some more and realize the front legs are in the wrong position. You find a tiny armpit and just like that the kid slips out onto the floor.

While I love my life I find that it’s not so simple. But it can be cute. Here’s the two little darlings who made life a bit crazy this week:

Phoebe Kate
Phoebe Kate
Unsinkable Molly (she was the stuck one)
Unsinkable Molly (she was the stuck one)

A Few Too Many Beautiful Animals


There were a few days this summer when we should have been paying more attention. If you check your chicks on the first day they’re hatched you can sex them. I refuse to kill animals on the first day of life. I just can’t do it. I won’t do it, but having nine roosters with only sixteen or so hens is a recipe for disaster, too. We should have sexed the chicks and separated them.


During the summer it’s easy to find homes for roosters, but now in winter not so easy. They gang up on the girls and Tommy our head rooster is fed up with the others.


Right now we’re paying for a lot of pets. Winter will keep the boys from being too sex-crazed (I hope since the young ones are very rough partners). I’ll keep looking for homes and kicking myself for letting things get out of hand.

I’ll never be a real farmer because I think chickens are too cute.


farm kid and hen