Grass                 By Carl Sandburg in Cornhuskers, 1918

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Consider those last two lines – “I am the grass.  Let me work.”  A request so straight forward.  And there is no doubt the grass is capable.  In some sense one may be forgiven imagining the grass can accomplish its end with no assistance.  I’ll not begrudge such a sentiment at the moment.

So last Wednesday, the 22nd of April, was Earth Day.  A fine moment set aside annually to think of our dear old planet and reflect on issues we face with respect to her.  I missed having this post ready for the moment, and I’m sorry for that.

Earlier in April – on the first actually (no foolin) – I had a chance to attend a Cover Crop Workshop here in Central Ohio.  It was well organized and we benefited from fine weather (a wonder for this particular point in the season).  The event was covered in the local Ag. press (here*) and the coverage is pretty good to my mind (though I reckon the attendance may have come up a bit shy of the 300 suggested by the reporter).  Anyway, the evidence in favor of planting cover crops seems to be mounting on a weekly basis.  We may even have an opportunity to get a closer look at the technology this summer as one of our farmer cooperators seeded cereal rye to a corn field last fall that we’ll plant a soybean research plot into in the next few weeks.  So firsthand knowledge of a few aspects of cover crops should follow.

If you’re curious about cover crops and what they might offer in the way of helping agriculture in general and Mother Earth in particular you might do worse than have a peek at a presentation made by Ray Archuleta, who is an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA.

Ray was the featured speaker at the April 1 workshop I attended.  I couldn’t write fast enough to get all the notes I wanted.  Fortunately the recorded presentation (linked here) is fairly close to what he shared with us.  Ray is a very passionate advocate.  If he were a plant, I might suggest he would be some sort of grass – perhaps the sort Mr. Sandburg introduced us to.




* I have a copy of the press piece – if you find the link is broken, let me know.



  1. I have always loved this poem. But it is the first time I have thought about in terms of cover crops. I guess a good stand of grass can cover a multitude of sins, eh?


  2. Yes, sins indeed. Greening of the fields in the Springtime is among my favorite sights. The promise of a new season, salve for the wounds of the past. What was it the King of Brobdingnag said?
    …whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before…


  3. […] than spend any further effort gazing at a navel I thought I’d revisit a story from last spring concerning cover crops.  There was a piece in the New York Times recently on cover crops – I […]


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