Where the Wild Things Are- This Thing Called a Forest

Lets get to the bottom of this. This thing called a forest. And at the bottom of it all is the very earth on which it grows. As organic/biodynamic farmers, Camphill is already way ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding what dirt is. The modern agricultural model treats soil like, well, dirt. It is considered just a medium for growing things. It holds the fertilizer and chemicals that they use to promote growth of the plants they want, and to kill the plants they don't want. And it works, as they get large crops, which is the bottom line for them. And plants largely cooperate, willing to even grow in water, with appropriate supplements. So why look closer at dirt?

The answer lies deep under the forest, under prairies that have never been tilled. Soil. Real soil. Not just so composted organic matter.Did you know that there are more lifeforms in a hand full of forest soil than there are people on the planet. Living beings who form a complete ecosystem. Of course most of them can't be seen with the naked eye, but it would be a pretty awkward planet if the soil contained that many beings that you could see moving around. Sounds like a good premise for a horror story! But it is far from a bad scenerio. They all add to the health of the soil, each doing a specific job, relying on each other for the survival of the whole forest. 

In just a teaspoon of soil there are miles of fungal filaments. Wait...what? Miles? That mushroom you see on the surface of the ground is just the temporary fruit of a much larger organism. Imagine an apple tree that grows only under ground. Once a year it produces apples that just appear on the floor of the forest, they quickly do their job of producing spores/ seeds to continue the survival of the species, then goes back to life under ground. That is what a mushroom/fungi do. What you see is just a tiny part of it. The microscopic filaments don't just sit under ground doing nothing. They are not capable of getting their own food, so they tap into the tree roots for nourishment. In exchange, the trees get nutrients from the soil that they can't break down and absorb on their own. Many of these fungi are species specific, meaning that they can't live without their trees. The trees go , they die. So what about a tree that is just planted somewhere. A tree can live with out the fungi. People can add supplements to the soil to add their growth. But it will not live as long. It will not be as healthy. But most importantly it will be alone.

What??? I can plant more that one. They will have buddies! It turns out that those micro filaments do far more than feed and get fed. The trees actually communicate with the other trees through them. They can pass on information on predators, such as insects that can harm the trees. They can pass nutrients to trees that don't have the same source as another tree. Surrounding trees can keep a stump alive even though it can not produce leaves itself and feed itself through photosynthesis. The trees care for each other. They take care of each other. If you plant them where they don't have the soil that has developed over thousands of years to be a home for the other beings who support and help them, they are blind and deaf to the world around them. They are at the mercy of insects, disease. They have no one to "talk" to. The same goes for the other plants that grow in the wild. On wild soil. Every time we destroy and acre of the land that has taken thousands of years to become the ecosystem it is, we cannot "replant" it. 

If this interests you and you want to know more I highly recommend the book "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohllenben. The library system has it. After I take it back...