Dirt, From the Ground Up

For most of us, winter has officially taken hold of the garden.  If you are like me, you occasionally sit by the window on frosty mornings peering out at seemingly empty spaces. Thoughts and daydreams fill the mind: sprawling vines, towering sunflowers, baskets of fresh picked fruits and veggies, waves of colorful flowers enhanced by fluttering butterflies, birds and bees. You comb over seed catalogs, draft planning designs,
determined to make a showing that would leave Martha Stewart without words.  Now just for a moment, let’s put those catalogs and plans aside.  Go back to the window and look.  What do you see?  A blanket of snow?  Remaining mulch from the year that has gone by?  Or just bare dirt?  If you gaze upon the latter, this article is especially for you.

A lot of people see dirt as just that: “dirt”. In my fifteen years of working as a professional gardener, I’ve found the least understood aspect of my clients’ gardens to be the ground below their feet. The earthen ground seems benign and indestructible to many people.   If you’re looking out the window at cleanly raked, bare soil this winter, then you are likely doing the land a disservice.  If you want to make those dreams of garden grandeur come true, then this year: start from the ground up.
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“Ralph Borsodi’s Principles for Homesteaders” by Mildred J. Loomis

This piece was originally published in Land & Liberty, November-December 1978.

RALPH BORSODI (1886-1977) was the author of 13 books and 10 research studies. He was also physically active, a productive homesteader and a real doer who practiced what he preached. He experimented and implemented on many levels-from good nutrition, through building his own home and garden; weaving his clothes and furnishings; organizing experimental small communities, a School of Living for a new adult education, and developing new social institutions-the Community Land Trust and a non-inflationary currency, which he called Constants.

No one of today’s specialty-labels encompass Ralph Borsodi. I am pushed to use more general and abstract terms-decentralist, liberator and human benefactor. This article will concentrate on his efforts to implement the community-use of socially-created values in land as part of his plan to encourage people to leave cities for more rural living.
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