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A brief intoduction to "muck"

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  • Robert Monie
    Hi Everybody, Zora Hurston made the muck of the Florida Everglades famous in her tragic (and funny) novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her hero and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 26, 2003
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      Hi Everybody,

      Zora Hurston made the "muck" of the Florida Everglades famous in her tragic (and funny) novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Her hero and heroine work in the muck and go through a harrowing hurricane there.

      Soil scientists define muck soil as a saphric organic soil (as opposed to the more usual mineral soil) whose source plant material is so decomposed that the plant sources (stems, leaves, seeds, flowers) can no longer be identified. In other words, the stuff is completely composted and then some!

      The advantage of growing crops in muck is that the muck is well-supplied with organic nutrients. The disadvantage is that muck is likely to subside, which in plain English means "sink," I believe. Apparently sink holes and muck go hand in hand. Structurally, muck is far from stable. You wouldn't want to build a house (or even a Fukuoka hut) on it; the house/hut might dissappear below the ground.

      Muck soils are found throughout south Florida, in the Everglades and in mangrove swamps. Scientists classify muck into many types including plantation muck, dania muck, torry muck, terra ceia muck, lauderhill muck, and pahokee muck.

      Muck is interesting not only because it is nature's own compost field but because of its origins. Much of the Florida Everglades muck appears to have been formed from vast fields of wild grasses. Grasses are an ecological system quite distinct from either Robert Hart's forest gardens or Fukuoka's legume cover crops, grain and straw system. Wild grains spring naturally from grass beds but grow reluctantly or not at all in forest systems. Huge stands of grains are compatable with grasses (such as beta blue),and our remote (American) ancestors may have bred the grains we eat today right out of the wild stands that grew in the grasses. The prairie system that supports our "bread belt" in America may have descended from a similar system which, unlike the muck in the Everglades, did not decay.

      If anyone on this list has experience growing anything in the south Florida muck, please let us know. The more ecological systems we explore, the better off we are.

      Bob Monie, on the Mississippi Delta

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