If a person puts a shovel in the ground almost anywhere in the South, like as not, they will bring up red clay soil. In East Tennessee it is a bright, redish orange and it supports a thriving brick making industry in my hometown. Show it to a professional grower and you’ll get a strong negative reaction. Clay is no good, they’ll say. You’re better off digging it up and buying topsoil, whatever that might cost. Our soil is dense, easily compacted, often waterlogged and quite acidic. In the spring, it is cold and boggy. In the summer, it can bake so hard that roots have no chance to grow through it.
Transforming the native soil into something more friable takes a lot of patience, hard work and respect for natural processes. It is often worth the effort, as improved clay soil will hold nutrients and moisture far better than its sandy counterpart. I don’t mean for this blog post to be about the technical aspects of improving soil—I just want you to know more about the ground we are standing on here.
As is the tradition, many folks like to use the beginning of the year to reflect on the past year, and also to look forward, to set, if you will, their Grand Aspirations for the year ahead. As a 2013 program leader with the Iowa City Summer of Solutions program, I am just too excited to keep my Grand Aspirations for the program from the rest of the world.
I stumbled into Summer of Solutions in June of 2012- rather, I came across a Facebook post soliciting “solutionaries,” and subsequently walked over to a church basement in downtown Iowa City in June of 2012- and at first had no idea what to think. There was one really excited person who greeted me at the door, one person who I later discovered was also in high school, several people who attended the University of Iowa, several people who were studying engineering, and enough chairs and pumpkin muffins for the whole lot of us. By the end of our training week I knew I had found a home but it wasn’t until early August that I became truly invested in the work.