By Bruce Stambaugh
I stood and talked with the farmer as he rested his team of horses beneath a tree along the road. For the end of May, the morning was muggy. Both he and the horses needed a break from their bucolic labor.
The horses stamped and snorted and swished their tails to discourage any bothersome insects. The conversation with the Amish gentlemen turned toward appreciation and care for the environment.
Across the weedy fencerow, we lapsed into a philosophical discussion on how we all are rooted in the soil regardless of where we live. The setting was perfect for such a stirring chat.
The musky smell of the sweated horses, the pungent fragrance of fresh earth turned, the sprouting leaves of the black walnut tree that served as our shady shelter together fueled our ideas and ideals. We were of one mind.
We concurred that it was too easy to ignore such a simple concept as caring for the good earth. We wondered if society’s reliance on modern technology and our fast-paced global order have dulled us into forgetting our roots.
He pointed out all the construction in our local area, the continued depletion of farmland and wildlife habitat. Little by little, our pastoral landscape was transitioning.
He wondered if people today understood where their food originated. Did they know all of the effort or any of the processes needed to put food on their table? Was the younger generation becoming so fixated on electronic screens to even care?
We both shook our heads in wonderment of what lay ahead, not so much for us, but for future generations. Will they get to enjoy the beauty of the natural world the way we do?
And with that, my friend encouraged his workhorses to giddy up. Soon a squadron of winged insect eaters swooped overhead, exacting an instinctive aerial harvest.
As I continued my morning walk, I mulled over the conversation. A scene from 35 years ago popped into my head. My family and I were at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts. The place is a living museum where folks can go to see how rural life used to be long before the industrial revolution. Another option would be to visit Holmes County, Ohio.
We stood outside the dairy barn near a group of school children and their teacher, who pointed to the Holsteins.
“That’s where milk comes from,” he said.
His students were in disbelief. One even countered that milk came from the store. We walked away quietly.
The sweet-sour aroma of fermenting silage stirred my senses and brought me back to reality. That earthy smell represented the soil, the seeds, harvesting, the manpower and machinery needed to feed the cows to provide milk or meat.
That’s what being rooted to the earth does. It makes you take note and absorb and appreciate all that is around you.
The creeks and ponds, the marshes, and the mudflats are of equal import as much as the grain fields and pastures. Together they provide habitat and balance to earth’s fullness.
Rooting yourself to the soil is critical in caring for the earth no matter where we live or what our occupation. Yes, we need industry and growth to feed, clothe and house the planet’s population. We also need the earth to be healthy and respected to accomplish that goal.
If you want to feel rooted to the earth, you are welcome to walk by my neighbor’s barnyard. I’m sure neither he nor his herd will mind.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2015
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