Monday, September 14, 2009

Prairie Clover: Roots In The Ground

This truly is a case of “Can’t learn less,” because I don’t know nuthin’.

The photograph is a baby prairie clover. Barbara and I had been nursing this one and ten others in pots, out of reach of the bunnies.

“What do you want to do with them over the winter?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do with them over the winter?”

“We should decide where we want them. What do you think?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?”

And so on.

Finally I decided to put them in the weed patch/rain garden, the swale that I’d dug and mulched with cardboard and wood chips. I put them there in spite of not knowing how prairie clover likes getting its roots wet intermittently. Something needed to go in that spot, but it’s pretty close to the bottom of Barbara’s and my personal watershed, so we might want the clovers’ nitrogen-fixing benefit in some other place. This raises the issues of how easy are they to move, and how readily they propagate.

Other permaculture questions are, how many prairie clovers do I need, and what can I do to make life better for them. Herbaceous perennials are part of my campaign to turn my urban lawn into a bonsai ecology.

I planted, thinking about a Wendell Berry essay I wanted to review. It’s in the September issue of the Progressive. Berry is in his mid-seventies, a prolific writer about place and ecology, an emeritus university professor, and a farmer who works his northeastern Kentucky land with horses. The Progressive essay was “Inverting the Economic Order.” He writes, “In ordering the economy of a household or community or nation, I would put nature first, the economies of land use second, the manufacturing economy third, and the consumer economy fourth.”

I kept balking as I read the essay, thinking “Nobody’s going to understand this. It’s too strange.” It’s not that it’s illogical -- it’s very logical -- but it is foreign to us, and that’s disturbing.

I may write about Berry’s essay, or I may decide it’s too tough to tackle, but here’s an idea: Every human eneterprise occur somewhere on a continuum from “degrading to humans in the short term and guaranteed to impoverish us in the long run,” through “necessary to short-term welfare, but ultimately degrading to human welfare,” to “vital to both short- and long-term welfare.” Berry says human wealth derives from our environment and human virtue; the bulk of our enterprise reduces our real wealth.


GooseBreeder said...

How true! Once we look to abundance of good air,water and enough ethically produced food then we are wealthy.

Tom Roark said...

Hi, GooseBreeder. It's nice to have somebody knowledgeable commenting. The problem is we're used to having hot dogs, smog, and flat-screen teevees. For me it's yogurt from the west coast, smog finesssed with petroleum capital, and this computer. We'll get there.