The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Cardboard Bonanza Yields New Mulching Opportunities.
Butterfly Garden Covered

Cardboard is weighted down with various objects
until leaves allow the area to be covered and more natural looking.

Two great developments - pine needles and leaves falling - were trumped by my discovery on a walk with Sassy, on Alicia Street - a Hog dumpster topped with giant boxes of new cardboard.

I have been walking by several houses that were being gutted and fixed up for sale or rent. I ask what is going on, get details, and sometimes a tour of the refurbished home. We were lucky to stumble on one just like that on Letha. The paint was still fresh inside when we signed the lease.

This particular home was no longer being emptied of trash but going through new roofing and other projects. The Hog dumpster is dropped off and picked up much later. For remodeling homes, the size of the dumpster is enough to fill most of the driveway. Looking up, I saw lots of cardboard boxes, obviously used to ship remodeling materials.

Our helper came by with a token amount of cardboard from work. "Your dreams are too small. We are taking the limo to Alicia." The latest morning walk confirmed the treasure was still there.

We arrived and our helper was unusually reluctant to capitalize on the find. "Are you sure?" I said, "I know the guys." Next he quailed at putting so much in the gigantic trunk. "Your dreams are too small. Use the back seat."

"But they are wet."

"Yes, with rain. That will hurt nothing." Although a normal dumpster gave us one carload, this one was providing two cars worth, jammed full.

"Don't worry. You can walk back." Grumping followed, but we rode together, tossed off the first load and went back.

We took down every new, clean box and filled the Town Car again, trunk and back seat.

These boxes were so large that one, unrolled, covered most of the old raspberry patch - designated the future Butterfly Garden. This meant the eager grass weeds would not get a foothold this month, after being mowed previously, and the organic matter would decompose under the heavy layer of cardboard.



No Need To Till the Soil
Jeff Lowenfels, the guru of soil fungi made it clear in Teaming with Microbes that soil fungi should be left alone and encouraged to do their work. His new book on fungi will be out in January of 2017 - Teaming with Fungi.

The idea is to maximize the organic material in the soil to let the microbes grow in population and tie up the nutrition they share among themselves. Nitrogen fertilizer from the factory helps a little, but stuns the living creatures and passes down into to water table. Usable nitrogen compounds are swapped among the soil microbes and kept in place to be used, over and over. Earthworms captures bacteria, which digest the food for the earthworms, each one benefiting the other. The result of earthworm activity is not only movement and refining of soil, but also tunnels for water and castings (manure) that increase the fertility of the soil.

Teaming is a good pun to use. A reader, who happily finds my typos before the public does, asked, "Teeming?"

I wrote back, "Teaming - an intentional word-play." My earlier reading about soil seemed to be about how each creature did something, but it was almost as if the earthworm did it all. At that time, in the 1980s, the work of fungi in the soil was little known. Lowenfels and others have shown the complex relationships of all the soil creatures and what they accomplish together, whether we appreciate it not.

Man-made miracle cures can do a lot of damage, but the soil creatures, plants, and weeds will try to heal the damage over time.

The complex soil relationships remind me of our recent reunion, but the accomplishments in soil take place through divine management and never miss His goal. To gather alumni from all over, communications have to be sent out. I did not get the first one and others also missed theirs. A group had to plan when and where it was, measuring the cost. Every person had to make plans, large and small, to get there. One asked his friends, "Are you going too?" and missed because his grandchild was born that weekend. (Yay George.) Others live in town so it is no big deal and never has been. The organizers had to gather the money and pay the vendors. Some of us found the locations through our GPS, the same miracle toy that sent my car down toward I-55 instead of over to I-80 the next day. Our son consoled us once by saying, "Garmins take the shortest route, even if it means side roads at dark that double the time. Use a way point to fool it."

Compare our feeble human efforts to Creation, engineering, and management by God. Every single soil citizen does it works superbly, so that neither fungi, nor bacteria, nor protozoa take over completely and spoil the game. Everything happens on time, and each participant is engineered to execute many precise operations to accomplish its role. For example, the earthworm must:

  1. Pull and swallow its way through soil and organic matter,
  2. Muscle its gut contents through a grinder and let the bacteria digest it,
  3. Sweeten the soil with Caltrate glands of calcium carbonate,
  4. Fertilize the soil with its tiny kidneys,
  5. Deposit casts that improve the soil, 
  6. Procreate earthworm capsules that hatch into tiny worms, and
  7. Do all this without ceasing or complaining.


At the reunion I laughed when 10 people used 10 smartphones to take 10 individual photos of their group. One could have taken the photo (or had it done) and posted it on one of a dozen websites, including the geezer favorite, Facebook.

If God's creatures were that efficient, we would starve to death.


I got the idea of using cardboard as a base for mulch from Jessica Walliser, the beneficial bug expert. Thanks to her, when I see Goldenrod in bloom in Moline, I walk over closely to see which bugs are enjoying the blooms. I told her on Facebook that I have been Wallisered, always looking for ways to increase the beneficial bug count in the gardens, looking closely at flowers instead of batting insects away.

Walliser planned her tomato garden with cardboard in the fall, as I am doing now. In the spring she simply opens a place in the cardboard for the tomatoes to grow with few weeds.

The fall carpeting of cardboard allows the boxes to settle on top of the soil, soggy with rain, and facilitate the decomposition of the lawn or weeds. Newspapers can be added to fill in gaps where seams or holes appear. Weeds are like swimmers in the deep, aiming for the sunlight. They will find it and burst through if possible. They are divine guardians of the soil, always ready to reclaim a plot of land devoid of plants. Fertile, watered soil leverages the power and health of weeds.

The spreading red bee balm is not my favorite,
so I will use the purple bunching one among the roses.