Rachel Garber

We’ve been busy lately. The stack of dirty dishes is impressive, higher than it is wide. This morning we have to tackle it, but first let me meditate on how well we have organized it.
We humans are organizational geniuses. A case in point is our forests. Especially in our neck of the woods, we are good at exploiting them. We see trees as a collection of individual commodities, even if they are surrounded by other trees and vegetation.
We cut them down—we’ve been doing this for generations and generations—and in the place of a natural forest, we plant a monoculture “farm” of trees. Christmas trees, for example. Black pines for lumber. Hybrid poplars for paper. We create long straight rows of trees, all the same size, the same age; organized orphanages.
I say “orphanages” advisedly; ecologist Suzanne Simard has noted the seedlings have no mother trees near them. In her book, Finding the Mother Tree, she describes three decades of research that demonstrates trees communicate with each other, and even recognize their own kin.
Mother trees connect their offspring with bigger underground mycorrhizal networks of vast, branching fungi. “They send them more carbon below ground,” she said in a TED Talk. “They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.”
Using isotope tracing, Simard traced carbon moving from an injured mother tree down her trunk, through the mychorrhizal network, and into her nearby seedlings. “Not only carbon, but also defense signals. And these two compounds have increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses. So trees talk.”
She’s compared orphaned seedlings with seedlings not separated from their mother tree. Guess which grow better?
(Simard is a professor in British Columbia; Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhall are making a film based on her book, telling the story of her research.)
This is a relatively new realization of our collective deafness. The thing is, we are not creating order out of disorder; we are destroying the natural order created by cooperative beings that we view only as commodities. What other ways have we diminished our natural world by “organizing” it? Looking at how we have “terraformed” Earth, what confidence can we have in humans’ capacity to create a living world on Mars?
On a smaller scale, look at our lawns. tells us clover was traditionally among any mix of lawn seed. About 60 years ago, new weed killers eliminated it, along with dandelions. But now, we’re back into clover, with good reason, either on its own or mixed with fescues and bluegrass.
Here are some of the reasons. Clover is hardy to -37 degrees C, and stays green year-round. It’s drought-resistant. It’s cheap. It does not require fertilizer; in fact, it can grow in poor soil, and actually enriches it by pulling nitrogen from the environment. Nor does it require herbicides or pesticides. It resists blight and mildew. It’s easy—it rarely needs to be mowed.
Plus, it’s pretty. If you have a dog that urinates on the lawn, clover will not develop urine spots as can happen with grass. Clover blossoms are good for our mental health and good for bees and other pollenizers. Clover easily spreads through the lawn via rhizomes, or underground stems, choking out weeds.
And then there are the rabbits. They love clover. Let them mow your lawn, and they might be less interested in your garden.
The long vanished village of Victoria, on the road between Bury and Scotstown: The story of its rise and fall by Louise Abbott is in the March issue of The Townships Sun magazine. This week is your last chance to get your copy on the newspaper rack at the Cookshire IGA. Just saying.
An art exhibit at the Cookshire-Eaton Art Gallery presents three very different visions of nature by three contemporary Quebec painters: Pauline Boudreault, Michel Gagné, and Paul Morrissette. It’s called La trilogie du printemps. The show is open Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 p.m., until April 24, at the gallery, 125 Principale West, Cookshire-Eaton.
This week, Bishop’s University invites all of us to join in their Spring Arts Festival, March 27 to April 3, showcasing the arts communities of BU, Sherbrooke, and the entire Eastern Townships. The theme is rebirth after isolation, “celebrating the healing powers of arts and community,” says their online brochure.
The Festival offers a plethora of activities, such as these on March 30: Films—The Wicker Man; Midsommer, at 8 p.m. Performances—Earth Pigment Painting, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Crafts—Aztec bracelet-making activity combined with storytelling, 2 to 4 p.m. Workshop—Japanese Shibori Indigo Tie-dyeing, 4 to 6 p.m.
There’s more. Music; dance; Game of Life, from the math department; a dance party with a drag show; a piano recital celebrating the Year of the Tiger; poetry readings; stargazing and storytelling on the Astronomy Patio. Some activities, such as the Golden Egg Hunt across campus, are free. Others are covered by a Festival Pass ($17 for students and seniors; $27 for other visitors). Full details are at
Baptist. Regular in-persons services are in French at 9 a.m., in English at 11 a.m., respecting Covid protocols, including masks and hand sanitizing. For information, please contact Pastor Michel Houle at 819-239-8818.
Anglican. Bishop Bruce Myers offers Home Prayers at a new time—4 p.m.—on Sundays via Facebook, and at (Worship Videos). Info: 819-887-6802, or
United. For service information, please check the United Eaton Valley Pastoral Charge answering machine at 819-889-2838. For pastoral emergencies, contact Rev. Mead Baldwin at 819-837-1112.
Do you have news to share? Call 819-640-1340 or email by April 4 for publication April 13, and by April 18 for April 27.

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