Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quotable Bailey

Some things are true in spite of statistics and philosophy and tabulation. Some things we know because we know them.

Business has no divine right, any more than has rulership.

The land is never partisan.

The fences are coming down,—those crooked, crabbed fences, horse high, bull strong, hog tight, and man proof, —the fences within which one might hide and be relieved of outside obligation. When the fence would not keep the neighbor out, the devil's-lane was interposed, the no-man's-land of briers and crooked growths. Many were the histories of the old line fence.
...the destruction of human beings by human beings is of a piece with the destruction of animals and vegetation, of the disregard for the essential rights of neighbors in the use and proprietorship of the earth, and of the shameful wounding of the planet.

A man does not serve his fellow until he takes care of himself. One does not serve the neighborhood until one serves one's own family; nor does one serve a state before one serves a community; one is not a good internationalist until one is a good nationalist.

The public schools constitute an arm of governance as well as an agency of education. We are to look to the school systems, more than to any other official force or agency, to develop the feeling for service. To this end they must be of the spirit as well as of the subjectmatter; and here is their greatest likelihood of failure.

The habit of making demands rather than rendering service will shorten the reach of any class of people.

I propose a Society of the Holy Earth. Chapters and branches it may have, branches it may have, but its purpose is not to be organization and its practice is not to be the operation of parliamentary machinery . It will have nothing to ask of anybody, not even of Congress. It will not be based on profit-and-loss. It will have no schemes to float, and no propaganda. It will have few officers and many leaders. It will be controlled by a motive rather than by a constitution. The associations will be fellowships of the spirit.

All quotes from Bailey's third Background Book, Universal Service (1918)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Country School

THERE certainly will come a day
As men become simple and wise
When schools will put their books away
Till they train the hands and the eyes;
Then the school from its heart will say
In love of the winds and the skies:

I teach
The earth and soil
To them that toil,
The hill and fen
To common men
That live just here;

The plants that grow,
The winds that blow,
The streams that run
In rain and sun
Throughout the year;

The shop and mart
The craft and art,
The men to-day
The part they play
In humble sphere;

And then I lead
Thro' wood and mead
By bench and rod
Out unto God
With love and cheer.
I teach!

From, Bailey's second Background Book, Wind and Weather

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Preserving the Birth Home of L.H. Bailey

As posted in our November 14th blog, Liberty Hyde Bailey's birth site home (a National Historic Place and museum) is being historically accessed inside and out in order to uncover, rediscover and finally recover this priceless artifact. For this installment we start with the home's most noticeable feature, the arched front porch.

A popular Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum anecdote that has been bandied about by docents and trustees explained the four asymmetrical arches that grace the home's front porch as a Masonic symbol, secretly announcing to any passing Mason of the homeowner's connection to the brotherhood. While making a good story ala National Treasure there wasn't any evidence (besides the story) to support this claim. Even with pressing a museum docent further about how he new about the Masonic symbolism, he cryptically shook out the well worn trope of keeping Masonic secrets, secret. This doesn't hold water even more so now that the Masons have public radio commercials to help boost their waining numbers. Not much cloak and dagger as wishful projection. Here is what historical preservationist, Erica Pearson-Eklov uncovered for us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Living the Backgrounds of Our Life

There are two parts to the common day — the performance of the day, and the background of the day. Many of us are so submerged in the work we do and in the pride of life that the real day slips by unnoted and unknown. But there are some who part the hours now and then and let the background show through. There are others who keep the sentiments alive as an undertone and who hang all the hours of work on a golden cord, connecting everything and losing none: theirs is the full life; their backgrounds are never forgotten; and the backgrounds are the realities.
The joy of flowers is of the backgrounds. It lies deeper even than the colors, the fair fragrances, and the graces of shape. It is the joy of things growing because they must, of the essence of winds woven into a thousand forms, of a prophetic earth, and of wonderful delicateness in part and substance. The appeal is the deeper because we cannot analyze it, nor measure it by money, nor contain it in anything that we make with our hands. It is too fragile for analysis.
L.H. Bailey's, "Blossoms" 1913

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rediscovering Bailey's Background Books

Among the volumes of Liberty Hyde Bailey's work, the more personal and philosophical writings are found in the Background Books: The Philosophy of the Holy Earth. These seven books which he called his “budget of opinions,” were written, as Bailey explains, with only the authority of "a single and unattached citizen, looking on." Bailey explained that, "Out of an experience not inconsiderable grew the desire to attempt certain Background Books...the person who may have chanced to read one of the other books may understand that here is not a repetition of statements but a progression of ideas." Bailey holds true to this format where there is constant weaving of a tapestry which meditates on the sometimes forgotten panoramas of our life. Here they are for the offering, with links to the first four.
Wind and Weather (1916)

Universal Service (1918)
What is Democracy? (1918)
The Seven Stars (1923)
The Harvest: Of the Year to the Tiller of the Soil (1927)

The Garden Lover (1928)

The Holy Earth

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quoatable Bailey-Never Lose Faith In the Soil

Above all, old and young, we must never lose faith in the soil. It is the source and condition of our existence. It never grows stale and it never wears out. The earth is always young.

-L.H. Bailey, Lessons of Today

Monday, December 14, 2009

Health Care and 20th Century Agriculture Reform?

Question: What Does Health Care Reform and the condition of agriculture at the start of 20th century during Bailey's time have in common? A lot according to the New Yorker's Atul Gawande

"At the start of the twentieth century, another indispensable but unmanageably costly sector was strangling the country: agriculture. In 1900, more than forty per cent of a family’s income went to paying for food. At the same time, farming was hugely labor-intensive, tying up almost half the American workforce. We were, partly as a result, still a poor nation. Only by improving the productivity of farming could we raise our standard of living and emerge as an industrial power. We had to reduce food costs, so that families could spend money on other goods, and resources could flow to other economic sectors." See how he connects the two in: How the Senate bill would contain the cost of health care:

We Must Begin on the Earth

Every great crisis imposes special obligations on the people; and certain classes or groups of the people may be met with separate phases of the obligation. So it is said that certain very definite responsibilities now rest on the farmer because of the upset of conditions produced by the great war...When the armies shall have killed each other off, when the supplies shall have been exhausted, when the military organizations shall have tired of their vanities, when vengeance has been spent, and when society becomes ashamed of itself, then we shall begin all over again at a slow and laborious process of reconstruction; and we must begin on the earth. - (after the start of World War I)
L.H. Bailey, The Present Responsibility of the Rural People, November, 1914

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Threads of Nature Study

"But if the child chooses the material, the subject will lack continuity: what then?
Nature is not consecutive except in her periods. She puts things together in a mosaic. She has a brook and plants and toads and insects and the weather all together. Because we have put the plants in one book, the brooks in another, and the bugs in another, we have come to think that this divorce is the logical and necessary order.

If all the things mentioned above are taught, then the life of the brook will be the thread that ties them all together. It is well to introduce the pupil to a wide range of material, in order to increase his points of contact with the world."

I think there is a lot of wisdom in the above words written by Liberty H. Bailey in The Nature-Study Idea (1903) . He gives us two illustrations in order to understand the connective idea of nature study led by our children. The first is a mosaic where the pieces are fit together to make a beautiful image. The second is a thread, weaving our study together within some focus area.What a wonderful way to remind ourselves of the way our children will build a love for the natural world and its Creator. - Barbara McCoy
Read Barbara's wonderful Blog, " Handbook of Nature Study." It is filled with extensive Nature Study activities and links. Thanks Barb!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Carl G. Jung- We Need a Relationship With Nature

Like Liberty Hyde Bailey, Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, lived in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This quote taken from a new collection of his work, The Earth Has A Soul, Jung reflects on how the changes wrought in the twentieth century had unmoored man from his instincts. His reflection strongly compliments Bailey's beliefs on land ownership and the value of the farmer.

Every man should have his own plot of land so that the instincts can come to life again. To own land is important psychologically, and there is no substitute for it. We keep forgetting that we are primates and that we have to make allowances for these primitive layers in our psyche. The farmer is still closer to these layers. In tilling the earth he moves around within a very narrow radius, but he moves on his own land.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Blogging Bailey

"I am sure that the first President of ASHS (American Society for Horticultural Science), Liberty Hyde Bailey, delivered his presentations and lectures without many visuals, and I know that he definitely was a print type of guy. I have seen a photo of Liberty Hyde Bailey sitting in his living room up in Ithaca, New York, talking and conversing with students about horticulture. Today, Liberty would be on Facebook, have a blog site, and be on YouTube showing how to prune or identify a certain plant. The art of pruning a shrub or the science behind the horticultural principles extolled by Liberty Hyde Bailey haven’t really changed, but it is how we deliver the information that has most assuredly changed. I am sure if he were alive today, he would embrace the electronic revolution. I think back on how as graduate students and young professors we used to make our presentations for the annual conference using the old blue and white slides with black tables of data on a clear background. Now we use PowerPoint and create presentations and posters that boggle one’s mind. Sometimes I believe we stand a chance of losing the 'take-home” message in the myriad of bells and whistles in a presentation."
- Excerpted from, Reflections, by ASHS President, William J. Lamont, Jr., August 2009, ASHS Newsletter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

There's a Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum?

Well, yes. Since 1938 there has been a museum dedicated to America's Father of Modern Horticulture. It is also Bailey's birth site, a 1850s Greek Revival rural farm house in South Haven, Michigan that is on the national register for historic places. The region is known as Michigan's southwest fruit belt. Soil and location make this place the largest non-citrus producing regions in North America. It is in this auspicious setting that Bailey grew-up amongst pioneer pomologists on a 80-acre fruit farm.

Despite the museum's early origins (even Bailey found it odd to have a museum dedicated to him before his passing), it has remained unknown to most of the country and even the natives of the region but for some legitimate and legally shaky reasons.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

L.H. Bailey and Albert Einstein

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." -Albert Einstein

"It is blasphemous practice that speaks of the hostility of the earth, as if the earth were full of menaces and cataclysm. The old fear of nature, that peopled the earth and sky with imps and demons, and that gave a future state to Satan, yet possesses the minds of men, only that we may have ceased to personify and to demonize our fears, although we still persistently contrast what we call the evil and the good. Still do we attempt to propitiate and appease the adversaries. Still do we carry the ban of the early philosophy that assumed materials and "the flesh" to be evil, and that found a way of escape only in renunciation and asceticism.
Nature cannot be antagonistic to man, seeing that man is a product of nature. We should find vast joy in the fellowship, something like the joy of Pan. " -Liberty Hyde Bailey, The Holy Earth

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Would Bailey Read? An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century Offers Solutions to Food Crisis

Lincoln, NE – “Food and farms are involved in a blitzkrieg of changes,” writes veteran journalist Steven McFadden in The Call of the Land. The book joins a growing chorus voicing a new vision for food and agriculture. Picking up where Food Inc., the recent documentary on industrial agriculture, leaves off, the volume presents dozens of creative responses to the crisis. The sourcebook documents a range of positive pathways to food security, economic stability, environmental health, and cultural renewal. The surging range of responses—from individuals, communities, cities, and institutions—are both imaginative and practical. Steven McFadden is co-author with Trauger Groh of Farms of Tomorrow (1991), America’s first book on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The volume helped inspire the movement to grow from two farms in the late 1980s to thousands, with hundreds of thousands of shareholders, in 2009.

To order The Call of the Land:
Author’s blog:
Author’s website:
Facebook Page:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Quotable Bailey, "What does a flower think?"

"What does a flower think? Who are the little people that teeter and swing in the sunbeam? What is the brook saying as it rolls over the pebbles? Why is the wind so sorrowful as it moans on the house-corners in the dull November days? There are elves whispering in the trees, and there are chariots of fire rolling on the long, low clouds at twilight. Wherever it may look, the young mind is impressed with the mystery of the unknown. The child looks out to nature with great eyes of wonder." L.H. Bailey, The Nature Study Idea, p. 36

Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Going Back Makes Sense, Your Going Ahead

The title for today's blog comes from contemporary poet, novelist, essayist and agrarian Wendell Berry. In his essay, "A Practical Harmony" from the collection What Are People For?, Berry refers to Liberty Hyde Bailey's "...view of things that...goes back to the roots of our experience as human beings." In the opening passage of The Holy Earth, Bailey starkly points out our current condition, "So bountiful hath been the earth and so securely have we drawn from it our substance, that we have taken it all for granted as if it were only a gift, and with little care or conscious thought of the consequences of our use of it; nor have we very much considered the essential relation that we bear to it as living parts in the vast creation."

Bailey's reprimand directs us to go back and revisit our rightful heritage to the land or as he eloquently puts it our "essential relation" to the earth. Our current discourse usually has focused on the large scale damage we are doing to the earth. While it serves as a brief shocking sound bite for the media, it can leave one feeling powerless. It is a perverse guilt. The solution is simple. Planting is one step to take. Composting may be another. Walking is also a good meditation. For this week and next, reflect on how you can go back to the root of experience and essential relation with our holy earth.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Bailey Came Home

In the 1930s, retired Cornell Dean and world plant explorer, Liberty Hyde Bailey returned twice to the city of his birth, South Haven, Michigan. Bailey reflected that his writings, "...all came out of South Haven. My roots are here and my experiences here must enter into my consciousness. All life comes out of childhood." Here, in the largest non-citrus fruit producing region in the world, a young Bailey partook in the operation of his family's 80-acre fruit farm. The region remains a diverse botanically rich environment and was well suited as the training ground for America's Father of Modern Horticulture. A report on one of his last visits appears in a May 9th, 1934 article from the local newspaper, "The South Haven Tribune." Filled with wonderful anecdotes the article shows an intimate exchange between Bailey and his "homefolks." One of the last poems that Bailey read that evening was "Campanula," inspired by "the finding of a lovely, lonely bell flower," during his frequent boyhood nature excursions in a local marsh near the city's Fruit Exchange. The poem appears in his book of verse, "Wind and Weather." We offer it here. The poem is not just an extolling of nature but a deeper reflection on the opposition of the "world of men" and nature.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ours Was the Privilege: Fifty Years

In 1945, at the age of 89, Liberty Hyde Bailey refelcted on farming of the 19th century. This was his boyhood and immediate experience with the world. This piece penned for the magazine, The Furrow, Bailey takes a non-nostalgic look of our past. It is a testimony of what was being lost in the industrialization of agriculture and still strikes a cord for us today.

From: “The Furrow, Deere & Company," January-February, 1945, Volume 50

My father could not complain about the weather, because the Lord made the weather. Uncle Jim, a neighbor, complained about the weather; therefore, he should not have been a farmer. Rewards were in the satisfaction of farming. These satisfactions could not be taken away. Farming was the natural occupation. We had barely heard of the big word agriculture! I remember that we had a feeling something like pity or even condescension toward those who had been so unfortunate as not to be farmers. We, as farmers, inherited the earth...

Friday, October 09, 2009

More Than Enough Online Bailey to Shake a Stick At

For those who want to delve into the works of Liberty Hyde Bailey... The good folks at Internet Archive have been making some headway in offering free electronic downloadable out-of-print publications of Liberty Hyde Bailey. I highly recommend this database which has grown considerably in the last year. Besides books on "how to" there is also a small collection of Bailey's poems, entitled simply, Poems (image from page 13) published in 1908. These gems were crafted before his first book of verse, Wind and Weather and read more personal. Thanks to researcher, Bruce Hubbard for the tip.

Adding Plants In Classrooms Increases Student Satisfaction

It’s widely known that the presence of houseplants in rooms improves air quality, reduces eye irritation and stress, motivates employees, and even improves concentration. In one study, employees’ reaction time on computer tasks improved 12% with houseplants present. Now researchers have found that University students can benefit from having houseplants in the classroom as well.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Are Mother Nature and God Married, Or Just Good Friends?

When my son Matthew was four, he asked me, "Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?" -Richard Louve, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Richard Louve's wonderful anecdote sets up an important question; are religion and nature opposed to each other in our lives? For Liberty Hyde Bailey there was no conflict between religion and nature. In a privately published poem written in 1911 titled Outlook, Bailey sets out his personal theology. Where a Christian religion espoused a lost race whose hopes were consumed by innate guilt due to Adam's fall, Bailey found that nature taught a different lesson.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Unwrapping The Holy Earth: A Breakdown of Bailey's Classic Book

I first came across Bailey's The Holy Earth as a museum intern at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum. The title was striking but what lay inside was even more so. The copy I thumbed through was the museum's only copy of the first print edition, signed by Bailey's daughter Ethel. I desperately wanted to annotate, highlight, underline, circle, and write reflections in the margins. The prose was dense and crafted with a different lilt but energy flowed out of the pages. There was gold here to be mined.

With new print editions available, the annotations can now begin in earnest. The full text is also available online from the Library of Congress . Currently, as Director of the museum, I caution folks that the book is not a quick read. It isn't even structured for today's reader. The great summation of the book isn't saved for the end as a loud revelation that predominates today's style. The small deceivingly simple chapters need to be ruminated on, one at a time, one per day. There is a visible structure to Bailey's theme. The one I have provided made sense to me. (Click on Blog Image) It has been used in a Holy Earth class held at the museum. As I mentioned then, use it as a template for your own ordering. This blog posting will look at each grouping. Feel free to join in the conversation and read along with us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Coming Agrarian Revival: A Footnote to Liberty Hyde Bailey's, "The Holy Earth," By Maynard Kaufman

This lecture was prepared for delivery at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum,
South Haven, Michigan, on March 5th, 2008, the day, which would have been Bailey’s 150th birthday.
Click on the title bar for the full text

Liberty Hyde Bailey as an Agrarian Thinker
Wendell Berry has defined the agrarian as the opposite of the industrial, and he got this directly from Liberty Hyde Bailey. In one of his early books, The Outlook to Nature published in 1905, Bailey began by emphasizing nature as the norm that should govern civilization. We now live in an industrial civilization which sees the farm, or nature, merely as a producer of raw materials. The agrarian, like Bailey, recognizes the industrial sector as being the producer of the tools needed to produce food, but the agrarian would like to see the industrial sector integrated more harmoniously with nature. Although Berry goes on to relate Bailey back to a tradition of agrarian thinkers, from the ancient Roman poet, Virgil, to Thomas Jefferson, the fact is that Bailey was a new kind of agrarian, the first environmental agrarian.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Holy Earth Review at Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed has a thoughtful and reflective review on Liberty Hyde Bailey's, "The Holy Earth" by Scott McLemee. "By the time he died in 1954, Bailey was a sage and a legend -- part Al Gore, part Indiana Jones, avant la lettre."

Read the entire article at: mclemee / Intellectual Affairs - Inside Higher Ed
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Monday, September 14, 2009

An Evolutionist's View on Nature and Religion

A woman who knew my evolution beliefs once asked me where heaven is. There seemed to her to be no place left for it in the cosmos of the evolutionist. This is a type of difficulty which perplexes many persons. They dwell upon the physical symbolism of faith and creed, as if the things of the spirit must be measured by time and space and materials. I could only answer that I never expect to be able to discover heaven with a telescope. Perhaps heaven is much nearer than we think.
- L.H. Bailey, from the 1899 article, "An Evolutionist's View on Nature and Religion" in The Idepedendent

Friday, September 04, 2009

Quotable Bailey

Nature does not become senile; it pauses, and then resurrects.
- L.H. Bailey
Carriage barn at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, South Haven, Michigan

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Separate Soul: Liberty Hyde Bailey’s Reflections On John Muir

The new Ken Burn’s documentary, The National Park: America’s Best Ideas will take to the airwaves on September 27th. One of the featured personalities will be that of John Muir, no less reintroducing the legacy of this profound man to many Americans. Muir’s activism ripples through our culture with concentric waves touching the founding of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, the Sierra Club, and bringing awareness to Americans of the landscape they inhabit. Liberty Hyde Bailey too was effected by Muir’s legacy. Not too long after Muir’s death in 1914, Bailey wrote of him in The Holy Earth in the chapter entitled, “The separate soul.”
Click on the title link to dowload this chapter from Bailey's, The Holy Earth.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Local Beef Brown Bag Caps Summer Program

Where does your beef come from? As author Michael Pollan points out in his book, In Defense of Food we have resigned one of the most intimate acts in our daily life, eating food, to an industrialized system. Mike Rainey, of Rainey Farms in South Haven, Michigan presented an alternative at the museum's last Brown Bag this summer; know your farmer and know where your food comes from. Mike raises cattle without the use of synthetic hormones or steroids and are fed only all natural ingredients. As a local farmer who also sells at the South Haven Farmer's Market, Mike is an advocate for buying food locally citing its benefits of spurring local economic growth, knowing what's in your food and where it comes from and basically better tasting food. Put away that marinade! This beef has flavor.
To order from Rainey Farms call: 1-866-655-8855. On the web at:, E-Mail:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Recommended Reads

Two leaders in environmental thought influenced by the writings of Liberty Hyde Bailey continue to inspire. Parts of Bailey's classic The Holy Earth can be found in Wendell Berry's What Are People For?: Essays. Aldo Leopold's classic A Sand County Almanac furthered Bailey's idea of how one is to live with their environment. Great reads and food for thought. What would you recommend?

Farm Fresh Foods Feature on NPR Website

This Morning Edition series takes you to America's farmers markets and roadside stands for a sample of what's growing on its farms, in its gardens and across the countryside.

Check it out at: