Dirt

You may have read about the plants and animals at Camp Salmen Nature Park, so what about the ground upon which all their activities take place? This fundamental aspect of the park contains just a little bit of concrete and a lot of dirt.

The concrete here is mostly left over from old Boy Scout structures. Concrete is, as a matter of fact, man-made limestone. The Romans figured out how to use this mineral’s transformative ability. It can be ground into a fine power then wetted, formed and the dried to resume being hard as a rock. In modern times people have vastly increased its strength and usefulness by reinforcing it with iron rods, allowing mankind to advance from viaducts and small pagan temples to interstates and soaring skyscrapers.

But, what about dirt; what is this mysterious substance that is the foundation of all the things growing in the park? It is made of just two basic components.

Minerals – In other parts of the country, rocks from deep within the Earth are exposed at the surface and are broken down by water and weathered into clay, silt, sand and gravel. Since there are no native rocks on the Earth’s surface anywhere near here, most of this material is imported to Louisiana by the Mississippi River. Also, in the recent geologic past, mass movement of these materials into the South came from the rushing melt water from rock-grinding Ice Age glaciers.

Organic material – The surface of the Earth is crawling with life forms frantically stealing parcels of energy and carbon from each other or manufacturing it out of sunlight. Most of these die and rot, or more politely, break down through biologic activity and the magic of chemistry; otherwise there’d be great piles of the stuff all over the place. Even the bottom of the deep ocean accumulates a steady rain of dead material drifting down from above. A certain percentage of this dead material holds onto its stolen carbon and energy, is covered up and magically turned into hydrocarbon items like coal, gas and petroleum.

This rind of dead stuff mixed with rocks clinging to the surface of the planet is elegantly referred to as soil and includes minor amounts of water and gasses. From this mixture sprout things growing from it and living in it like Camp Salmen’s trees, earthworms, doodle bugs, moles, ants and armadillos.

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 August 2018 16:10

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