African ( and Brazilian) deserts

eric + michiko emstorm at
Tue Jul 13 11:28:32 EDT 1999

Marsha wrote:
> ( although I have a personal aversion to machines
> tearing the soil, it seems somehow to "hurt"). 

A few years ago I had an experience of this sort.  We had a contractor with
some large machinery grade our driveway, dig out a pond and put in a leach
field / septic system.  The soil removed from the pond site and the road
grading went to the leach field which had to have a foot of fill over the
entire area.  We also used the pond to satisfy our fire water holding
requirement.  At the time this all seemed like a good idea.  And all this
before running into Permaculture, I might add.

When I came to the site after the tractors had begun to be used I had a
very strong physical reaction to seeing the land torn up.  I got very
anxious, my stomach was in knots and I generally felt bad.  All I could
think was, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"  The land had been disked for years as
an orchard before we bought it, so tractors had been used annually on the
land.  But this was different.  This was tearing deeper into the land and
the tractors were heavier and causing a lot of compaction; the compaction
is still noticeable three and a half years later.  It was also at my
direction.  I felt responsible for this injury to the land and had to keep
telling myself that over time this will all look even more beautiful that
it was before the tractor work.  I have since done virtually all of the
work on our property by hand.

I am not suggesting that all tractor work leads to horrific results.  Our
property is healing and the pond is a great asset to the wildlife in the
area (coastal northern california - 6 month drought).  I just had an
intuitive / physical reaction to what happened that leads me to think that
what _I_ did was not right.  I'm sure I would have felt silly as neighbor
watched me dig the pond with a shovel, but I wonder if that wouldn't have
been better in my case.  Perhaps all that would have been necessary is a
better understanding about how to, and how not to, use tractors on the
land, and perhaps more sensitive machinery operators.  More questions than
answers, as usual.

Anyway, this is the context for my comments against the use of large
machinery.  There are times when, despite the labor involved, it is better
to do it by hand, and in groups if possible.  The experience of working the
land by hand, and working side by side without the machinery noises, is a
very valuable one.  This may often outweigh the advantages of the
machinery.  Of course my experience with large machinery was a very
valuable lesson for me.

Eric Storm

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