Sunday, July 5, 2015

Buckwheat Abuzzing

From afar on this mellow morning, the field of flowering buckwheat is a single mass. Getting up close, concentrating the mind, attuning the ears, and focusing the eyes, the plants are lush, their flowers intricate and colourful, imbued with yellow and pink. And they are thrumming with insect activity. Butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, gnats - all wild and busy - are gathering a food that is transitory, delectable, and nourishing. There are no honey bees to speak of, just their less glamorous wild cousins who have been around the planet for eons, hummingly going about their business of collecting what nature offers. They do not stray too much into the mega-fields of corn and soy, which are drenched in danger for their digestive system. They survive on wild food; annual plantings of organic buckwheat are but a tasty supplement to their regular diet, as are clover, peas and vetch.

When I pause for a few minutes to listen, watch and smell, it is akin to soaking up the desert at dawn on a dewy morning, when miniscule flowers materialize for a short time before the heat of the day takes hold and shrinks them away. These are worlds which normally remain hidden, with nature going about its business of flowering, feeding, providing, and reproducing, as it ever was.
As William Blake mused in Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

This buckwheat was planted not only as food for live creatures above ground, but also for the subterranean microbiota. In the coming days I will hitch up the plow to the tractor and turn under the juicy stems and flowering tops, just before they go to seed. This green manure will ameliorate the soil and suppress at least some weeds, but the process also cheats the bees from further foraging as they desperately collect their last feed of it.

Industrial agriculture has truck-transported honey bees all over the continent to mass-pollinate our cherished fruits like almonds, apples, cherries, oranges, lemons for our mass consumption. In domesticating them so, they have been opened up to ingestion of a number of lethal toxins, and now their numbers are plummeting, their health terminally compromised. Is it hubris that prevents some from believing that human health is not likewise affected? To offset the biocide that is occurring in industrial and agricultural systems in our time, we need to make sustained effort to protect the complex and rich diversity of life in the wild by setting aside sanctuary wherever we can - in our backyards, in our gardens, on our farms, across the landscape, in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Survivors of the onslaught  so far, an untold multitude of wild birds, insects, fish and amphibians still depend on us for their very survival. Once forests are cleared, land is paved over and soils, air and waterways poisoned and depopulated, we just have to go back and start over by rewilding swathes of land and sea, trusting that some animal and plant life remains to re-populate them after the shameful decimation we have perpetrated. Nature has proven to be resilient in the past and will be so again, long after we’re gone.