So I was bracing myself to rebut some of the recent Covid-shutdown-slapdown on social media because I’m tired of being pilloried for things I didn’t say. In the end, though, I couldn’t stomach any more aggro. Fear brings out the worst in people and everyone is afraid just now: afraid of getting sick, afraid of becoming destitute, afraid of the new world (dis)order. So I’ve decided to show you the other part of my morning instead. Much more gemutlich.
It began with mist, slung in heavy wisps around the fat thighs and gullies of these high-up hills, but also a light and sparkling frost. Together, now, that means perfect blue sky, up high and open to the gods – today’s being soil gods and wombat gods.
The soil part came in the guise of a phone convo with Chris Main, a farmer from Cootamundra, three hours northwest of here. He was heading out to shift some cattle but the conversation was about soil. Soil and grass, and how to regenerate same.
Chris is part of a new organisation called Land to Market. Set up under the auspices of ecologist Allan Savory’s Savory Institute in the US, it’s part of a global push for regenerative farming practice. Regenerative, that is, of soil. Soil is key. Soil brings water-holding, microbes, insect life, food, us. Grass is the sacrament. Soil is the magic.
So that was fun. He was moving cattle, as holistic management requires, and I was gazing out at mine, vaguely wondering how to make fences (with no money) so that I can begin the same practice. He said a few interesting things. One is that, if you join up (the organisation is a co-op but joining is still expensive; everything in farming is geared to big farms with money). But if you do join they’ll come and do base-line soil testing, with help from scientists from Southern Cross uni, and annual check-ups. This is exactly what I’ve been hoping for but yeah, it’s a saving up thing now. Cool though, huh?
I came across Savory years ago, and even interviewed him from the US. But new stuff is happening all the time – like the book For the Love of Soil by Kiwi soil nut, or agroecologist, Nicole Masters, who runs Integrity Soils. Very readable it is too. She’s a good writer and, by the sounds, a complete obsessive. So I’m reading that, on instant Kindle-version, as a break from an equally compelling but more depressing read from USyd academic John Keane, The New Despotism, who charts this century’s decline of Western democracy. Also a good read, but the kind of tough love from which it’s good to have an occasional green and growing break.
No sooner had we devoured our brekkie, though, with fresh figs and coyo, than an alarm went up. Our friendly wombat Teddy was back. “I think he’s dying,” said E. And maybe he is. (No, you’re right, I don’t know his gender and maybe he’s pronoun free. But honestly, I don’t think he cares.) Teddy has been hanging around for several weeks, unnaturally close to the shed and the cabin, unnaturally static and unafraid, even in the daytime. This is weird for a start, given that wombats are mostly nocturnal. Plus he looks pretty mangy. His ears and skin are cracked, which can lead to secondary skin infections and death. So I need to do some research about how to combat this, of which more later. (My neighbours, normally so helpful, just say “shoot them.” Then they say, “if they get under the house they can do terrible damage.” So when Teddy moved from being crouched in the sun, where we tried to give him water, to wobbling away under the cabin, my heart sank. Did I have to shoot him? Would he die there anyway, and I’d have to find a way of dealing with the corpse? How do you do that? Or do you just hope the foxes will come and scavenge?
I was about to sign up for online training with ACT Wildlife but it’s a pay thing, $65. Normally I’d sign up but, in these straitened times, I have a long list of higher priorities. If ACT Wildlife doesn’t care enough to make online training free, that’s gonna have to wait. Again, tough love.
Still, an hour later, Teddy was gone – so not dead, anyway, and not digging out our foundations. Who knows – maybe he’s gone to aerate some soil, one god to another.