All That Stuff That Comes from the Ground

| 9/29/2011 12:43:34 PM

 By Cam Mather

When I spoke at the Queen’s University Commerce and Engineering Environmental Conference last spring I sat in on a talk by another speaker, who represented the mining industry. I believe his approach was to suggest that no one likes mining, but if you have a cell phone in your pocket, you are part of the problem. Of course he is right. I sit here at my computer surrounded by “stuff” that came out of the earth. Plastics made from oil, copper wires everywhere, aluminum in my laptop case, dozens of unpronounceable metals and things that make up the guts of the computer, glass in my windows and the nails that were used in the construction of this building that started as iron ore mined from the ground. The list is endless.

Even the pine that my office is paneled in came from the earth, but at least it came from the top few inches of the earth. The soil that it grew in is still there and if it’s anything like the soil around my place, when I cut a tree down there is always a bunch more ready to take its place.

I find I am getting increasingly uninterested in “things” that come from deep in the ground or are mined. That’s just about every product you see advertised. Maybe uninterested is too refined a word. I think grossed out is better. I’m really sick of being bombarded by ads for “stuff” that have been sucked out of the ground. Electronics in an endless and ever changing barrage, consumer goods from handbags to shoes, chemical hair colors, right up to cars. Ah cars. The ultimate consumer product made from tons of things dragged from the ground. I own a car, but I am so sick of the ads, the endless ads, the tire spinning, best fuel economy in its class, twisty highway driving ads. And really, that car skidding sideways through the city streets with no cars? Come on. When was the last time you drove around a city without another car in sight?

I am evolving and have come to love things that come from the soil. They are increasingly the only things that interest me. The bounty of our garden this summer was a work of art. I wish I’d taken the camera to take a photograph of the table at the vegetable stall last weekend. It was beautiful. The red tomatoes, the green peppers, the orange carrots, and the eggplant. Oh the eggplant! It was unbelievable, and everyone said so. Some people call eggplants “aubergines” because that is their deep rich purple color and without having in one in your hand it’s tough to describe. But everyone seemed to agree that everything looked fantastic. Whether I’m sorting and storing potatoes, or digging carrots for the root cellar, I’m at that stage where I just want to spend time around things that come from the soil. These are what give me joy.

This was confirmed again recently when I got a load of hay. My fantastic neighbor Alyce found an ad on Kijiji for some 10-year-old hay in a barn that was being offered for free. The person who placed the ad had recently bought a farm and wanted the old hay cleaned out of his barn. I borrowed Alyce and Ken’s big trailer and arranged to pick up a load. The owner of the hay had just moved here from Richmond Hill, which is a suburb of Toronto, a rapidly growing, auto centric, shopping mall bedroom community. It was great to meet him because he had that “just moved from the city enthusiasm” for his farmhouse and barn and rural property that is hard to contain.

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