In Gene's Weekly Posts on November 18, 2015 at 9:36 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Although the song “How Can You Keep Them Down The Farm, Now That They’ve Seen Paree?” is nearly a hundred years old (1919) and just as stupid then as now, it still lingers around the edges of popular music. The notion was that when American soldiers were shipped to Europe to fight WW 1, the glitter of the big city would sweep the dumb yokels off their feet and they’d never be content to go back to forking manure and providing the food for all those terribly intelligent, educated people for whom actual physical work was beneath their dignity. The song was meant at least partially as humor but like all things humorous, its roots were fed by the rich loam of cultural prejudice. It might not exactly be racism in the biological sense but it is very much so in the division of labor sense. Those who have to do the “niggah work” are just not smart enough for the challenges of intellectual pursuits. I tend to overreact to this bias ever since a cultural historian advised me to stick to writing about corn and leave important decisions about human progress to people better equipped for it, like of course him. He did not even know that I had as much accreditation in human cultural studies as he did. But that is not the point. He was exhibiting what in my opinion is the most destructive kind of cultural bias, as if sitting in an office cubicle all day staring out the window and waiting for your computer to tell you what to do next is a higher calling than the window cleaner who keeps the windows clear enough to see through.
From the most ancient times, the division of labor has reeked with bias against physical work. Smart people don’t dig ditches even though it takes brains and skill to dig ditches properly. More…
In Gene's Weekly Posts on November 11, 2015 at 9:31 am
From GENE LOGSDON
On my way back from the mailbox recently, what should I see under the big sweetgum tree at the edge of the lawn but a red clover plant blooming there all by its lonesome. Red clover happens to be one of my Heroes of the Plant World so I took special note. It is rare to find just one red clover growing alone anywhere much less in rather deep shade amidst a jumble of big tree roots. How had it gotten there? I can’t recall planting any red clover around the house, yard and garden, but always in the pastures on the other side of the woods. The corn and soybean farmers around me quit planting red clover years ago. And if some wandering seed did manage against all odds to get into our yard, why didn’t it choose a spot more acclimated to its nature, like out in the middle of the sunny yard?
I like to think that the plant was preaching a little sermon to me about nature’s resilience. Red clover is resilient if it is anything. It is first of all a world traveler, native to Asia and Europe and brought to America by early farmers who thought as highly of it as I do. It is the national flower of Denmark and the state flower of Vermont. Seeds of it will remain viable for years, even centuries some books say. It is often used in traditional medicine, especially as a tea, but most authorities deny its effectiveness. (Naturally.) I don’t care if it is good medicine or not. I just love to pluck tufts of flowerets out of a blooming head and suck the sweet nectar you can squeeze out of the whitish blossom ends, a childish pastime we used to spend hours at. Another childhood pastime was chasing butterflies across the clover fields with homemade nets, in the full bloom of August. The air just pulsated with life. More…
In Gene's Weekly Posts on November 4, 2015 at 10:19 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Some 19,000 people die in traffic accidents every year and another two million are seriously injured. If death rates like this happened in any other sphere of activity, society would be rising up in holy wrath but travel is the most sacred part of our culture and any effort to diminish it significantly is not about to happen. Nor is it just a problem of modern technology. Take away cars and planes and the roadways would pulsate again with the thundering hooves of horses and runaway stagecoaches. Hi ho Sillllllver.
But small scale farming provides a way of life that decreases traffic automatically. If you own animals, you must stay home most of the time whether you want to or not. When crops need planting or harvesting, you had better be there. Nature waits on no man, and very few women. I suspect that most small, caretaker farmers have chosen their way of life because they don’t really like to travel anyway and can use their farms as a legitimate excuse for their sinfulness. I know there are thousands of people out there traveling to make a living who dream and plan for the day they can get a piece of land of their own and stay home. It would really be interesting to know how many traffic deaths and injuries would be avoided if they all could realize their dream.
Farmers who can’t or won’t cruise the highways in search of happiness learn the art of travelling at home, as Wendell Berry puts it in a poem by that name. When your focus on the world is honed down to your own piece of land, every walk across it reveals something new or different. You don’t miss not travelling. Your homeland is far more exciting than visiting the Grand Canyon. As your observations and knowledge of your land deepen, the more there is to see and be astonished by. More…