Thursday, September 2, 2010

Notes From Mother Nature

Black Dirt
Mother Nature enjoys her black dirt and I really don't get to look at a cross section of it very often. It took me a few million years to create it and Iowa used to have a lot of it. I designed it so that it could hold a lot of water and be very fluid when saturated; then dry out and be extremely hard in only a few days. This allows my native plants to send out deep routes when the soil is viscous and then makes it hard for the invasives to do well when the soil dries out. It also made it good for traditional farming to feed humans.

This year, Mother Nature decided it was time to really saturate the soil. I used to do that every decade or two. Now, I am forced to do it more often because people are putting too much crap in the air and warming it up. Warm air holds more water, so you get heavier rains. Your fault on that one, don't blame me.

Anyway, the train guys were too dumb to take the warning in 2008 about how much water the soil could hold and what happens when I drop more rain on saturated soil.
They ran a field tile into the house tile to save a few bucks. The field tile moved in the viscous black dirt and got plugged up. So water goes where the pressure is least and that would be in the tiles around the house and then between the wall and floor slab in the basement filling the basement with water several times. More dumbness points for them.

However, they were nice enough not to blame Mother Nature for the problem. They know they screwed up. They are probably the only people in Iowa who are not blaming Mother Nature for the weather impacts this year. They dug out the tiles; separated them; and will run them out far enough so that they should not have a problem in the future.

All this digging got me thinking about how to make more good healthy black dirt. On the train farm, there are several acres that have not been disturbed significantly, some with just pasture land for grazing over the last century. There are some very nice spots where the black dirt is more than five feet deep, some of my deepest concentrations of spectacular soil anywhere on the planet. The picture in this blog isn't the best, but the tile was under at least five feet of some of the finest soil on earth and they still could not find the clay under the soil.

Iowa at one time was part of Pangaea about 250 million years ago. My memory is a little hazy on the exact dates back then. Anyway, Iowa was at about the equator which made it nice and hot. I also created an inland lake of several hundred thousand square miles (maybe you could call that an ocean?). So I put lots of life as well as decaying materials together with heat and water and over a few million years, I created lots of black dirt. I am very happy when I see my work that is undisturbed and pretty much in original condition and I thank the train guys for being careful while digging out their tiles. Remember, it is good to keep Mother Nature happy.

Mother Nature was thinking how long it took me to make the dirt and how quickly humans have stripped it from the land and sent it to the Gulf of Mexico. They earn many "stupid points" for that travesty. Let me think: a few million years to make it; less than 150 years to destroy it. Who is going to take the blame on that one?
And how is mankind going to redeem those "stupid points" they have earned?

Fortunately, the train guys have had a prairie re-creation for just about 20 years now on the crop land that had been stripped to clay. Lots of native material to decompose; any occassional burn; some invasive control; and no grazing or tilling. After 20 years, there are spots that now have about 1/4" of black dirt. In another 100 years, they should have close to one inch of good dirt again across the prairie. Mother Nature approves of anything that will restore my assets, especially on my century by century timetable.

Well, Mother Nature has to get back to her work, which is keeping all my components in flux as they try to balance each other. Hope you can do something useful this month that helps me out.

Talk to you later,
Mother Nature