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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'The Drowned Lands'

Black Dirt, Looking North. Oil on stretched canvas, 10x20. sold

I did a stupid amount of work yesterday. My neighbor, Darryl, came over early, and we tore out carpeting and padding and loaded it into his truck. We pulled up staples, and we cleaned and swept and vacuumed. I finished the gardening, and spread wood chips and pulled an acre of weeds.

My reward was to go to the Black Dirt region to paint. I found an ideal spot, and made one painting looking south and another looking north. The views were simply breathtaking.

I talked to Darryl when I got back to our house.

"Where'd you go paint?" he asked.

"The Black Dirt," I answered, a little sheepishly, for I knew what was coming.

He shook his head and laughed a little. "You love that Black Dirt, don't you?"

Yup, I do. I'd paint there every day for the rest of my life if I could.

For those of you who don't live in Orange County, New York, the Black Dirt region is an agricultural mecca near Pine Island and Florida, NY.

Originally, it was called "the drowned lands." Eons ago, when the glaciers melted, they left an enormous, shallow lake here. The water receded gradually, and plants grew and grew and grew. German, Dutch and Polish immigrants eventually drained the soil, and found it incredibly rich with nutrients.

When we lived in Idaho, we'd see farmers burn the fields in the fall, to add nitrogen to the soil. The first time I drove through the Black Dirt, I thought that that was what I was seeing. The soil is absolutely black, as rich as any soil anywhere in the world.

Half of the onions grown in New York are grown in the Black Dirt. Many of the farmers who bring their produce to New York City to sell lease space in the Black Dirt. Lettuce, radishes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, pumpkins, you name it, it's grown here.

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