A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Cover Crop Conditions Soil, turning clay into black soil with Leon at Earthaven Ecovillage

Transcript from Video:

Starting with Clay, Working with Cover Crop

Courtney Brooke:  Okay Leon what’s happening?

Leon: We’re gonna just show you what this is doing to the soil. What this cover crop method is…..Yeah, think of it as a massage. This is massaging the soil and all of the organisms in it and here….you have to see it when it comes out. You have to see all of the crumbly texture of the soil.

This is a clay soil but you could never tell. This was red clay. There you can see well that’s actually off my shovel, but there are little bits of clay way down here that is the mother soil but it is not sandy soil. I just want to see here. See if I can go deeper here. Look at how deep we can go. This is what we’re creating here. Here’s the clay base. See the clay mixed in the soil? Yes and it can go down 18 inches of black top soil and it has been all been  created in about well….20 years it’s been done about 20 years. See here, see when are we going to get down to that black place or to that clay soil here we’re gonna get down to it.

Courtney Brooke:  It was all clay when you started farming here?

Leon: Yes this was clay soil. Totally clay. Matter of fact we’re gonna take you…. Oh there’s some. Yeah a little bit. Look how far down that goes. Now this has not been grazed or had any manure put on it. This is all from this kind of method of growing of cover crop letting it grow up really long to maturity after synapsing. You let it grow and do a lot to the soil and then cut it down when it has lots of carbon in its body and it takes a long time to fall apart. It has a lot of cellulose.

Courtney Brooke:  Come on kitty. The kitty love top soil.

Leon: Yeah look at this, I’m still digging. I want…I’m gonna take you down to what it was. Do you want to go take a film, a picture of?

Courtney Brooke:  Yeah of course.

Leon: Oh we’re just gonna go to a road cut. See I haven’t even gotten down to the clay yet!  Geez. I know it’s crazy.

Courtney Brooke:  I could get in that hole that’s a big hole.

Leon: Here there you go. Okay. I think it’s… you see the clay down here here’s some clay pieces and it’s really sticky clay, really sticky. Here it is down there.

Micro Heart, Mychorizal Community

Courtney Brooke:  20 years of farming. Vegan farming huh?

Leon: No, no I wouldn’t call it that.

Courtney Brooke:  There’s no animals though right?

Leon: No, this is all animals, this is called the micro heart. The micro heart. Absolutely yeah this is all animals. Matter of fact animals are mostly, it would be the opposite. Thinking opposite because animals are mostly bacteria and they’re just little vessels to hold and hold the bacteria you know and all the microorganisms and that’s what the soil does. It’s also a vessel to hold the bacteria and microorganisms and all yeasts and all that kind of different stuff.

Now let’s go do a road cut.

Courtney Brooke:  Okay here we go. let’s do the road cut.

Leon: Actually we could just dig up a hole right here. All right. But a road cut is easier.

Geni: Good morning.

Courtney Brooke:  Good morning Geni.

Leon:  Actually, I should have brought my shovel but…..This is a road cut. This is very close. Of course, it’s got bamboo on it. I want to go to a really clear road cut. Right over here. Let’s just go….. Ok, here we go.  And I wish I brought my shovel again. Maybe I’ll go, just let me go get it.
Ok this is what that was. Right here. Although this has got bamboo on it. But basically right to the surface it’s all red clay. Although this is bamboo. But this is not as defined as you can go. No, it’s good or here you can see it here. It doesn’t make any top soil really. That’s it. That was this thin. It was just a duff layer of laurels.

Courtney Brooke:  Up there it was mostly laurels in the garden, where we just went?

Leon: Uh-huh and it was just red clay like that sticky red clay.

Courtney Brooke:  Wow

Leon: And it’s very specific, the community that is growing there. The community of microorganisms and the plants that are feeding them, it’s very specific. These obviously grows but does not sequester carbon like that. There’s a specific mycorrhizals and it’s not like I’m the one having to create that community I have to kind of just spin the wheel and get it going.

Courtney Brooke:  Right. Thanks for doing that.

Leon: Yeah the grass is the winter feeding of the soil. It’s kind of like that. The winter feeding so that cover crop grew all through the winter and sequestered sunlight and co2 and sugars all through the winter. It’s sort of kind of speeding up the cycle, but it’s also making a place for lots of mycorrhizals.
Cool and it’s different. Different than large animal livestock because that’s really warm, so I’m sure that that makes lots of microorganisms but it’s not the same as sequestering the carbon in there. Whereas mycorrhizals have glomulates and they actually sequester carbon into this black form. Into a more indestructible humus long-lasting. However if I left that black soil uncovered for a long enough time it actually starts retaining the red redness and it and that means that the carbon that’s in there the black graphites and graphenes and all the carbon chains going into the air., oxidizing. So that that’s a system that has to be has to be put in motion and kept in motion.

Courtney Brooke:  Right. Thanks Leon.

cover crop, Leon, soil fertility


Courtney Brooke

Courtney Brooke (she/her) is a Social Ecologist, Regenerative Designer, and educator whose work aims to reconnect people with a sense of belonging to place. Her work in the world aims to address the root cause of today’s overwhelming ecological challenges – that humans are starved of a sense of belonging to the places they live. Courtney Brooke was raised on a small farm in North Georgia, and has been guided by a lifetime of living close to the land. Her greatest teachers have been the Appalachian Mountains, the land of Aotearoa, and Selu, the Corn Mother. She holds a degree in Ecology from the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, and has 10 years of experience facilitating earth-based education, ecological landscape design, women’s rites of passage, and cultural healing. Courtney Brooke has taught and facilitated environmental education curriculum, Deep Ecology, Permaculture Design Courses, hands-on craft and farming workshops, and Holistic Management to a wide range of audiences in nine countries from toddlers to adults and everyone in between. Deeply committed to spreading the healing that comes from belonging to the places we live, Courtney Brooke is passionate about designing learning opportunities that celebrate life. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage where she tends the land, raises food, participates in communal ritual agriculture, swims in wild water, enjoys the mysterious blessing of being alive, and tends her own wild Hearth. She loves cooking home-grown and wild foraged foods, playing her flute to the sunrise, running on mountain trails, making compost piles, crafting from natural materials, and bringing people together to create beauty that feeds the holy.

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