Personal Reflection: A recurring obsession for Gerald was the study of better ways to grow food. When he discovered Dr. Elaine Ingham’s material on soil microbes, he became more excited than usual.
One fall afternoon he came to my house unannounced–which he did often–and insisted I listen to a tape of one of Dr. Ingham’s lectures.
The following fictional letter from Karl to his friend George demonstrates Gerald’s enthusiasm for what he was learning.
Met a man who is passionate about knowledge he is receiving from a doctor. Dr Elaine Ingham. She is an expert, hands on type, on soil microbiology.
“She has taught me how our health and lives are dependent on little creatures we never see. They are so tiny that a teaspoon of good soil contains more of them than there are people in the world,” he told me.
“To hear her talk, these soil biota are persons. She speaks of them like that. She said she was going to tell her audience “who” they were, not what they are.”
He went on. “Once she referred to them and herself as ‘we.’”
George, is this a survival issue or not? I mean, if this man is right, if his Elaine, as he calls her, is right, shouldn’t we learn as much as we can about soil biota and how to multiply it? Then we could douse our soil, and spray our plants with these “folks” she is so passionate about. Then they will feed our plants and the plants will feed us.
As he described her messages, our soil is dying as a viable way to support us. She said we should be more concerned about the death of soil microbes than about the fate of pandas.
Guy said he tried to get on an Australian website that featured her and was knocked off the site and the internet. There are people who hate her guts.
He said the battle between organics people and chemical people is fierce. People who promote natural solutions to food and nutrition problems have been fired from their university posts.
“Killing all soil creatures with methyl bromide is out now, that is a positive step,” he said. “Composting is a way that we can restore soil microbes.
Dr Ingham is a believer in that. But she goes beyond composting by brewing compost tea which multiplies these wonderful creatures many fold. Instead of waiting years to restore the soil, you get results the first season you grow.”
This man was so passionate about the lady, he has me interested. Be neat to make a compost tea brewer, don’t you think?
“How do I know which ones I am brewing?” I asked him. “I know there are some bad ones in the soil too.” He said to take a sample of your soil and send it to a lab.
She (Elaine) developed a diagnostic system that tells you, quantitatively, who lives in your soil. She can tell you what your soil has in it and what you need for the plants you want to raise. Her motto is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
He wanted to buy her brewing manual, said it’s in its fifth edition. “Amazon has it, but I’m broke right now.”
I saw how passionate he was about this lady and kidded him. “I hope your love for Elaine is strictly Platonic”. “Well,” he said, “I’d say it was Aristotelian, more practical, you know.”