Thursday, February 08, 2007

Erosion Control

Flower Pot on Grass n Leaves

My friend Charity finally got me reading Wendell Berry. I've been meaning to read him for a very long time.

In The Gift of Good Land, he talks about the mountain farming of Peru. Erosion is a serious issue to consider.

Says Berry, "I had begun to be impressed with the way erosion control is built into the patterns of this farming, as one of the dominant themes. I started a list of the various means... smallness of scale, terracing, fallowing, proper timing, polyculture, downhill rows to let water out quickly, weeding after crops are established...the return of organic wastes to the soil."

As I read this, I was fascinated by the ingenuity of the peasants. I was fascinated, too, by their intimate knowledge of their own conditions, which fostered appropriate solutions.

Then, I thought, ...Do I do this in my life, in my heart and relationships and ways of living? Do I have a good sense of how to exercise erosion control? Or is everything just pouring down the mountainside...

Photo by L.L. Barkat. (Nope, this is not the same pic as on my Green Inventions Central blog.)

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Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wow, L.L. Excellent analogy and thought here. We do need to become more and more expertise at understanding how we can be the best fruit bearers for God, in Christ. Thanks.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Ah, yes, the discipline of confession--our "erosion control".

Love Wendall Berry--reading a book now.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

I love Wendell Berry. And I have to echo Ted. Great analogy.

For me it raises a complicated question though. What does it mean to have erosion in my life? And what tends to cause erosion?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...


Great analogy! I think one way "erosion control" works in my life is by cultivating the kind of biblical friendships where I can receive encouragement, correction and advice

11:26 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ted... thank you. I like how you extend the analogy with the image of "fruit"!

Andrea... confession... that's a good one. What Berry book are you reading?

Mark... perhaps the opposite of all of Berry's observations (I feel a post series coming on!)

Andre... friends as personal farmers. The challenge is finding ones who are both nurturing and unafraid to "prune."

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray! You've finally met Wendell. I am still making my way through The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture.

Such a wonderful metaphor, as the others have said. Having "self awareness" seems to me a sign of having wisdom from God. When we recognize our weaknesses and the habits we have that distance us from others, we can begin to implement the terracing and fallowing of accountability and discipline and scripture memory, etc. Wisdom and self awareness also helps us discern when to run from temptations (which lead us toward sin) but to stay put under trials (which lead us toward Jesus).

5:26 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Great comments here. I appreciate every one of them. This is the kind of conversation in blogging I love to see. Very thought-provoking and potentially life-changing. Thanks.

7:07 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

on a personal level, i used to struggle with depression a lot from my early teen years on. but through good christian counsel and self-examination, i learned to recognize the "triggers", and learned skills to help turn myself in the other direction before everything started
"pouring down the mountainside", as you said. it's hard to bear fruit when you are curled up into yourself in the midst of depression. and i guess everyone has their personal and different erosion starters in their lives.

9:44 AM  
Blogger spaghettipie said...

LL, I love the way that you draw some much spiritual insight from seemingly every day observations. I love the word picture that you create here. For me, it proves to be very accurate. Rarely do I completely fall off the side of the mountain. Rather, the edges of my walk begin to slowly erode. Sometimes inperceptably at first, but as it continues, it gains momentum.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Martin Stickland said...

Another nice pic!

I like that thought about comparing erosion of the planet compared to erosion of our own self.

I must go and water myself.......more beer!

5:51 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Charity... yes, and you are the one who finally got me there. Clever one that you are! It would be fun to do some back and forth posts on this topic. I think your ideas would be wonderful. (how about we do "smallness of scale," for starters?)

Ted... yes, I was thinking last night that I have actually made changes in my life based on all these conversations. Couldn't ask for more than that!

Blue... this is a poignant application of the metaphor. Thank you so much for sharing

Spaghetti... I hadn't even thought of it that way. Love it.

Martin... so, is the beer erosion, or erosion control? :)

EVERYBODY: the invitation to Charity goes out to all... anyone who wants to do something on "Erosion Control," beginning with the topic of "smallness of scale," feel free. I'll link to your posts, and we can have one big conversation.

4:38 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...


An explanation of "smallness of scale," based on Berry's Peru farm observations:

"For those fields hold their soil on those slopes, first of all, by being little. By being little they protect themselves against erosion, but their smallness also permits attention to be focused accurately and competently on the details." (p 26)

"The fields have to be the right size; to make them too big would be to destroy them....What I was thinking, then, looking down at the little fields of the Andes, was that the most interesting, crucial, difficult questions of agriculture are questions of propriety. What is the proper size for a farm for one family in a given place? What is the proper size for a field, given a particular slope, climate, soil type, and drainage?...What is the appropriate kind and scale of technology?" (p43)

4:57 PM  

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