The Good Earth

So, about 3 weeks ago now, we brought home TWELVE goats.  Four does, and each had a set of twin boys, so that’s 4 mommies and 8 babies!  For the most part, you can sum up the breed as a mixture of African Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, and Mini-Nubian.  What that all means is that they are small, some are better for meat (Pygmy) and some are better for milk (Nigerians/Nubians).  Anyway, they have been a real joy to behold!  I can’t get past the way they look somehow like tiny deer, and the way that they NEVER stop eating fresh leaves and grasses.  They have done quite a number on the brush around the house; all the while fertilizing it with their ever present ‘goat poo’ or ‘nanny berries’, if you want to get cute with it!

Goats are considered browsers, which means that they prefer to take nibbles of EVERYTHING (plantwise) and keep on walking.  Unlike horses and cattle, they would much rather be munching on some sweet gum leaves rather than grass.  They do, however, enjoy munching off the tops of tall grasses.  I can tell you that if you ever want to naturally defoliate some of your property without using chemicals, GET SOME GOATS.  On the other plus side, you can milk them (which we do plan to do later), or eat them, if you so wish!  We don’t plan to eat them, but I will not tell you that I would never eat them.  After all, meat is meat, right?  ;0)  Anyway, for now we are just happy for them to do the arduous task of clearing the land.

Yesterday, I went to one of my favorite places (Goodwill), and after buying a mountain of awesome clothes for a song, I also picked up the classic book “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Ever read it?  I could not put it down and read it cover to cover in about half a day or less.  It is the story of the Chinese farmer Wang Lung and his wife, O-lan.  The time period is pre-Revolutionary China, and Wang Lung and his family must endure the hardships that all farmers must endure eventually; loss of crops, drought, flooding, and in this case, severe famine.  So severe that it was rumored that some of the villagers ate their own children to survive.  But this book is not all about hardships; Wang Lung also enjoys times of prosperity and good fortune.  He is an honest man who is one with his land.  Because of his hard-working nature and unwavering love and adoration for his land, it provides for his family and eventually Wang Lung becomes quite rich.

It’s a funny thing that 200 people can read one book and come away from that one book and have 200 different meanings that we take away from that book.  For myself, I took away many things from this book.  I feel that, first and foremost, the further that we get away from our own Good Earth, the worse off we eventually become.  In this book, if you were not rich by inheritance, you either worked your land or you would starve.  Those who were fortunate (?) enough not to have to work for their food found themselves with too much idle time.  And you know what is said of idle hands!  (“Idle hands are the Devil’s tools”) So it is in The Good Earth, where those idle hands always manage to find trouble, whether it is with opium or prostitutes or just plain laziness.   If you are working hard, you do not have time to worry with such things!  You are too busy planting, watering, or reaping your harvest. 

 I try to relate this story to today, where we can get all that we could ever want with the push of a button, literally.  I’m not saying that we do not have to work (although there are so many who do not, and still rely on we hard workers to take care of them(!) ) but, for example,  I thought about how easy it is just to drive up to a fast food place, pay my cash and get food in return.  Wang Lung had to work for every single grain of rice that he or his family ever consumed.  He didn’t have a Taco Bell or McDonald’s or God forbid, a WalMart.  When his crop didn’t survive, they starved.  They ate sticks and grass and leaves and even the earth itself.  I can get up at any time and grab something to eat out of my pantry, and the thought of having to serve my kids dirt water somehow makes my own food taste as bitter as vinegar.  It’s a very humbling feeling, knowing that there are still people to this day who die waiting for a meal.  So, in that way, this book opened my mind.

Wang Lung cherished his piece of earth.  He nurtured it, fertilized it, planted it, watered it, harvested it, and in turn, it provided for his family.  It reminded me of MY earth.  MY Good Earth.  This piece of earth on where I sit today, writing to you.  Where we have tilled our soil and planted our plants and we raise our livestock and where I eventually want my ashes to be scattered.  When I throw my hands into the soil and pull from it a harvest for my family, I have nothing but a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I do love and nuture my land, and in exchange it nutures me; not just from eating food that I harvest here, but it nutures me physically, mentally, and spiritually.  I don’t wish to be anywhere else but here.

 I think that if we all loved our Good Earth as Wang Lung loved his, this world would be a much, much better place.