[I'm letting the foregoing stand as I wrote it, although I mistrusted my memory, and with good reason, as it turns out. Malabar Farm was already in operation when Faulkner's book came out. There was, however, a connection, as you can read here, and Bromfield did think highly of Faulkner's recommendations and practices.]
Compression was the principle upon which the marker worked. [This was a roller he invented for marking rows and spacing to tell him where to put his vegetable transplants.] Where the idea originated, I do not know. Perhaps it was the result of an illustration we used to see in one of our soil texts. The illustration was intended to show the student how a well prepared seedbed should look. The light color of the surface soil indicated that this loose, “well prepared” surface soil had been dried out by wind and sunshine—as is always true—even though the area presented was supposedly ideal for seed growth. Included in the picture was a heel print. The moist condition of this compressed spot, darker in color, proved that capillary water climbed the vertical column of soil immediately under it. The comparatively dry condition of the rest of the soil showed that, in the loose soil, the capillary connection with the deep underground water supply had been broken. Thirty years ago, the picture meant nothing more than a clean-cut photo of an exceptionally well prepared soil in good tilth (according to established standards). Fitted into the new scheme of soil management, it becomes a significant guide to better methods of planting seeds and transplanting plants. [The italics are my added emphasis.]
Many farmers bought into no-till methods as a way to “save money.” What the abandonment of tillage saves in the beginning, though, can be offset by declining fertility. Long-term use of no-till methods, especially when heavy machinery wheels are used at planting and harvest times, can lead to a state of brick-like compaction. It is unlike anything anything in nature, except perhaps as a result of certain catastrophes such as meteorite strikes [emphasis added].
Salts, whether naturally present in the soil or added as part of the fertilizer regime, provide an active bonding agent to stick the soil together. This, you see, is the age-old formula for making mortar. – Jeffery Goss, “Tillage Under Attack?”
But first a couple of reminders --
Reminder: A book that makes clear the relationship of soil health to every human being's health, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, by Daphne Miller, M.D., is still being featured at Dog Ears Books.
Reminder: Poets Night Out in Traverse City is Sunday, April 27. And this is National Poetry Month, so I'll be getting to poetry with my next blog post.