Thursday, June 9, 2011

Solace from Holy Scriptures

It has be a while since I have quoted from the Holy Scriptures of woody perennial agriculture, a.k.a. Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture by J. Russell Smith.

I recently decided to branch out and read beyond the "The Oaks As A Forage Crop" and "The Acorns As Human Food" chapters and brush up on persimmon.

I came across two passages that gave me great comfort, for completely different reasons.

Here's the first (keep in mind that Tree Crops was originally published in 1929 and was revised in 1950):  "These trees have been subject to all the botanic and entomologic barbarities and fungus attacks of a long, hot humid summer of southeastern Asia.  Thus far, my trees have been attacked by no fungus and no insect save the Japanese beetle (to some extent), which fortunately we know how to handle (with DDT)."

Yes, a little squirt of that magic elixer will clear that right up.  Although personally I prefer a 2,4,5-T / 2,4-D cocktail instead.

Why does this give me solace?  Here's a man I consider to be a towering genius of our age, a man who was so far ahead of his time that by the time his ideas are heeded (out of dire necessity rather than out of wisdom and forethought) he will sadly have been forgotten, advocating the use of a chemical that is the Mr. Yuck poster child of the entire environmental movement.

Smith lived until 1966, the year in which I was born.  Silent Spring was published in 1962, and of course there was discussion about the safety of DDT before that.  Where would Smith have come down on the issue?  Obviously a man of his curiosity and intellect could process new facts and reach new conclusions.  However he was also a man who kept an eye on the greater good - or perhaps in the case the greater evil; the damage being done to our land by the farming of cereal row crops.  He was also a man who didn't seem to think in black and white absolutes (other than his bedrock belief that destroying or wasting our soil - the true wealth of our nation - was tantamount to treason) and probably would have been comfortable taking the position that the judicious use of DDT to fight periodic insect infestations of tree crops is better environmentally than annually dumping millions of tons of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides needed to grow grains.

In other words, he might easily have ended up on the "wrong" side of the issue, from the standpoint of the politically correct environmental doctrine.

His advocacy of planting exotics - like the Asian persimmon - or cross breeding exotic species with their American cousins would also be anathema to many in today's environtal movement from whom "native only" has become a mantra.

Increasingly my own thoughts are leading me astray from the current environmental orthodoxy.  And that is why I find some comfort - and perhaps a kindred spirit (although a kindred spirit with 100x the brain power and perhaps only by projecting my own inner struggles onto him) - in JR Smith.

The solace I derive from the second passage is not nearly as convoluted.  Again, here he's talking about Asian persimmons growing on his Virginia farm:  "My trees have been through the hot and cold waves of the three devilish spring seasons, 1945, 1946, and 1947.  They suffered less than did apples, peaches, and cherries, alongside.  Only highbush blueberries did better.  I should be quite satisfied to plant an orchard in Virginia or in Maryland, of the best varieties I have, if only I had the luck to be forty-five years old."

I will turn forty-five later this year.  It's comforting to know that a man who, at age 76 in 1950 had accomplished more in any given year than I will in my lifetime, would have considered himself to be lucky to be my age - felt like being 45 would have given him enough time to establish an orchard of a new tree crop and select the best varieties.

So it's time to get started.  Luckily oaks grow so fast I'll learn a lot in the 60 years I have remaining on this Earth.

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