Mulch Track

The farm is bustling with activity, mimicking the natural abundant growth period of spring.

Moving silos, planting, mulching, building a trencher and tractor, finding and fixing an old rototiller, adopting a cat, raising ducklings, milking, watering, grafting, and waiting for well parts. Those have been the prominent activities on the farm for the last few weeks.

Most recently, we had a long weekend full of guests, four from Columbia, MO and two from Kansas City. They shook off their city shackles for some serenity at the farm. Thanks to them, our trees are all happily mulched. The mulch will serve multiple purposes:

1.Keeps water from evaporating from the soil, which keeps the roots moist during the dry days of summer.
2.Plants are discouraged from growing under the tree; precious water and nutrients do not need to be shared.
3.The mulch (wood chips and straw) will decay into humus, which will have good nutrients for the trees.

In the not so distant future, we will have fresh fruit to indulge in after a hard day’s work. 12 baby apricots are clinging to one tree, several cherry trees have small fruits forming and the grapes are starting to set fruit.

Amidst the farm activities, I manage to find a few moments to broaden my perspective through the written word. I picked up two pieces at the Library of very different character: an old “Business Week” (August 8, 2005) whose main article discusses “The State of Surveillance”; and Tom Brown, Jr.’s “The Science and Art of Tracking”.

Believe it or not, they both cover a similar topic: observation. The Business Week article discusses how ever evolving technologies can enhance our ability to observe and find perpetrators; in Brown’s book, tracking and awareness are seen as inseparable activities. Tracking is being observant to the highest degree.

I wonder if you will find the following contrast just as startling:

Companies spend a decade or more researching and refining cameras, bomb sniffers, odor sensors, iris scanners. A final product will costs tens of thousands of dollars or more. “Brijot Imaging Systems Inc, recently unveiled a $60,000 system that, Brijot claims, can distinguish between the heat coming from a human body and that from a metal or plastic object– and can pull this off from distances up to 45 feet” (58).

No doubt that these are amazing feats. But at what price? Let’s Ignore for the moment, any debates about privacy or accuracy. Pretend that the final product is completely accurate and is still able to respect the privacy of the public completely. If this were so, would pursuit of these technologies be worthwhile? Would they be worth the tax dollars that are inevitably geared toward such industries in the name of security? And more importantly, is it worth the human hours spent at an unenlightening 9 to 5? Are the people that work in these companies happy? Are they gaining spiritual satisfaction from their job?

That may seem like an outlandish question. Who gains spiritual satisfaction from a job? And what does that mean anyway?

But I ask that because of what I read in Brown’s book. Let me expand and see if that brings clarity to this discussion.

Brown learned the art of tracking from an American Indian whom he called Grandfather. He didn’t just learn how to follow tracks; he learned to answer two crucial questions: “What happened here?” and “What is this telling me?”

For example, on a walk, Grandfather picks up a cigarette and asks Brown: “Did a man or woman put out this cigarette? … Were they right or left handed? What emotional state were they in when they put it out? How strong were they?” (16)

Brown learned to answer these questions and more through his intense studies with Grandfather.

To the rest of us, just finding the cigarette would be a challenge enough. Yet, according to Brown, anyone can learn to answer Grandfather’s questions.

Imagine if we were all that observant. If along with reading, writing and ‘rythmatic was “Awareness Class”.

If we were all trained as such, wouldn’t the general public, let alone professionals, notice if something wasn’t right in the airport or subway? Why rely on ethically questionable machinery when people can be trained to observe situations more spontaneously and flexibly than any machine ever could? Even the “Business Week” article says that a canine’s nose surpasses any technological attempt at deciphering odors.

But back to my original question: Do the people working in these technological development companies gain spiritual insight from their job?

I ask this because, I believe that if a person were trained to be aware, that they would gain a level of spiritual insight from this training. Brown writes, “Grandfather often stated that awareness is the doorway to the spirit… “(13). This doesn’t mean that having awareness gives you understanding of the spiritual realm, but it does mean that it is a necessary precursor to full spiritual understanding.

Maybe, there is some real benefit of a machine over trained humans (but don’t ask me to name one).

Whatever that benefit might be, I cannot think that it outweighs the benefit of people leading meaningful lives.


  1. Patrick Anderson

    Congratulations in your agricultural success which has more “use value” potential than results from the $300-billion Farm Bill I’ve been reading about.

    “If we were all trained as such, wouldn’t the general public, let alone professionals, notice if something wasn’t right in the airport or subway?”

    In my opinion the “general public” would be more attentive and reactive if they had real property ownership in the facilities they visit.

    Ownership is so often derided, and certainly there are big problems that associated with the CONCENTRATION of ownership, but if or when that ownership could be somehow distributed (not as a handout, but as a result of a different approach to organization), I believe the individuals comprising that organization would be far more physically and spiritually aware out of there own self-interests.

    But as it is, we walk through so-called ‘public’ areas without any real say or control of what is around us. We are foreigners in all places except our own private, personal areas because we refuse to organize and cooperate for our own “use value” purposes, but instead wait for those that will organize for the purpose of “exchange value” – and “exchange value” requires the consumers/users NOT have real ownership – for that would give them access to “at cost” product.

    Sorry to sound so preachy; I was trying to ask your opinion about my claim. Any thoughts?


  2. Lucas

    Hi, the folks at have plans for their machine components but I don’t know if they are useable (opensource) or not.

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