With a name like Kibler, I learned early on that I was not related to anyone who lives in a tree and bakes cookies and crackers. I did learn many years ago that “elves are an imaginary creatures, living in mountainous areas, given to capricious influences in human affairs and creatures in diminutive human form”. That was of course until J.R.R. Tolkien penned The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy and presented them as tall, slender and noble beings. Gardening in Appalachia has taught me something else about these sub terrarium critters. Last year a portion of my front yard was plowed for the first time to prepare my garden plot. Now I knew that the soil throughout the mountains can be rocky. This yard however was gently sloping and far from any outcrops and exposed boulders. Yes, we built a small wall with the solidified minerals we pulled from the soil. Each time we tilled, the wall grew a little higher. By the end of the season, I knew all it would take was a quick once over in the spring and transplants and seeds could be sewn with ease.
What I have learned is that these earth burrowing creatures are hollowing out the center of the earth and every rock and boulder they displace, they push up under my garden plot. But they went too far this time. Earlier this week it took two hours to break apart and remove just one rock which I hit the first time I ran the tiller over this portion of the garden. I had made many passes last year without having the tines make contact, but the resulting reaction this nearly flipping me off the ground, for this year, just inches below the surface I hit the displaced boulder. With shovel in hand I began to unearth the blob. With all my weight and the shovel under the beast I pried and pried. Not being one to let a little sandstone out do me, I began uncovering more and more of the rock. Soon it was apparent that this was no simple pebble. The void it had created was now the living room for some gnome. Not to be deterred however, I won. Did I mention that it took just over two hours with a backhoe?
Yes, we all have to deal with the residue of these ancient mountains. Formed eons ago by the uplifting of the oceans, we were blessed and cursed with the coal which has employed and held back our people. As the peaks have eroded, they have fed our ground with goodness and yet at the same time robbed us of the nutrients and soil we need as the flooding rains wash this precious commodity into the valleys, creeks and rivers. Some of our ancestors were forced to sew the same small hillside plots year after year, depleting the soil. One of the gifts of Grow Appalachia is helping us to understand that the ground can become sustainable with a little care and work. While we reap from the ground, we need also to do all we can to renew the earth not just for those who come after us, but because “it is good and right so to do.” We can either fight the planet or live in unity with it, gnomes and trolls and elves and all.