Several mornings during the month I search for a quote, an excerpt, that I can post; an excerpt that illustrates humanity’s vital relationship to nature. This morning I glanced through — and will use later — works of Gregory Bateson, New Mexico trail guides, historical scrapbooks of the Old West, my old family photographs and the W.P.A. guide to Texas. The farrier, Dale Lyon, is coming at 9:30 a.m., an hour from now, so I’ve made a selection from Louis Bromfield, Pleasant Valley (1943). Bromfield’s writing about Malabar, his Ohio farm, is in the tradition of Walden.
A good farmer must be many things — a horticulturist, a mechanic, a botanist, an ecologist, a veterinary, a biologist and any number of other things — but knowledge alone is not enough. There must be too that feel of all with which nature concerns herself….A farmer knows from day to day, even from hour to hour the state of the weather, of his crops, of his animals….He is the man who learns by farming, to whom the very blades of grass and stalks of corn tell stories. He is the man to whom good crops sing a song and poor ones convey a painful reproach. He is the man who knows that out of the soil comes everything, that out of the soil come the answers to the questions that torment him.
…With all the research we have made there still remain many mysteries, not beyond explanation but which have not yet been explained or understood. In this borderland the “live” farmer finds his place — the man who sees and feels what is going on in the soil beneath his feet and on the earth around him, the man whose footsteps are the best fertilizer for the farm.
Louis Bromfield, Pleasant Valley, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1943, pp. 147-148.
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