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February 2018
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A Revolution We Don’t Need

I think the old adage is correct.  Photos are worth a thousand words.  But the quality of those words should always be questioned.  For words alone have much more meaning.  Some words are cheap and photos allow people who can’t think to understand what someone wants you to understand or think or do.  Photos without context are essentially mind control.

The photo above is a good example.  This is a quite famous photo.  If Helen of Troy was the face that launched ten thousand ships, this photo is the photo that launched ten thousand fertilizer companies.  The photo is from 1942 – taken during a TVA experiment.  This photo more than anything is indicative of the type of president that Roosevelt turned out to be.  Well meaning but seeing only the short term.  Eventually somewhat helpful in the short term but indescribably damaging in the long.

If you look closely at the photo you’ll see that the bare side is essential sand.  Its not soil.  It might as well be playground sand or aquaponic growing medium.  Of course nothing will grow in it!  Of course given a growing medium and fertilizer things will grow.  But the dirt will never be soil as long as its treated like dirt, its just growing medium.

Now don’t get me wrong.  By this point in history the plow and fossil fuel had already turned the land in many places into sand.  But one dose of fertilizer that was not really needed but could be reasonably justified.  But fertilizer is like crack.  I’ve got family members hooked on it.  Its so damned easy.  You don’t have to mulch, cut anything, lift anything, turn anything.  Just dump a cup near the plants a few times a year and sit back and enjoy.  And it works til it don’t.

But what happens to a crack addict when you take away his crack?  He goes into withdrawals and can even perish.  Of course he could just not go on crack to begin with.

Or we could put him on the gardening equivalent of methadone – organic fertilizer.  YAY! we’ve removed the stuff that harms you but we replaced it with something you are nearly equally dependent upon.

I laugh when I read in garden literature that you should apply chemical fertilizer to hungry crops like pumpkins, corn or watermelons.  Then three chapters later they tell you to make sure you age your manure before using it.  How much sense does that make?  But won’t it burn your plants?  NO it won’t if you use it right and allow the manure to be diluted with wood chips so it slow releases.  Or you could put it a dozen feet uphill and allow the soil and rain to dilute it down a bit. 

But crack addicts only think about their next high.  They’re too busy for creative solutions!

7 comments to A Revolution We Don’t Need

  • Great article – Speaking of fertilizer uphill .. we started noticing that the area behind our chicken coop is green and lush, even after a harsh summer and lack of rainfall.  Of course, the answer is the fertilizer and water from washing out the coop.. so what are our plans for next year?  A garden behind the coop..  🙂

  • Do you have any good resource links about composting manure? We compost our horse manure from the barn the lazy way… just dumping it in our HUGE compost bins and leaving it sit… but we’d like to get much more educated about it. It’s a winter reading goal 🙂 We also have a flock of chickens and would also like to better utilize that manure resource as well. 

  • goneWithTheWind

    Do you think it is possible to feed 7 billion people fertilizing with manure and of course not planting on soil that is less then desirable?  Do you really think the world would not face serious famines without commercial fertilizers? 

  • Jason


    If you search on my blog for composting one of the first things that comes up is the audio of my presentation on composting at the Mother Earth News Fair.  I almost never brag on myself but its the most comprehensive breakdown on composting possible in one hour.

    Love you site and your message by the way.

  • Jason


    I can’t add any more to what you’ve said.  Exactly!

  • Jason

    Well I’m going to write a follow up post where I will address this.  But to answer your question you can’t really take an addict off a severe crack addiction if its going to kill them.  But no, I don’t think the world would face serious famines if it were done right and ramped up.

  • Jason, will do. And thank you!