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Do occult practices contribute to the health of my pear trees? After all, there I was, clomping through lily-white snow in boots tossing what looked like puffs of smoke at each tree. As I moved from tree to tree, a gray halo settled to the ground arround each tree’s base.

Yes, those puffs of smoke would be contributing to my pear trees’ well-being. No, all that puffing was not occult, not even really smoke, in fact.

The stuff was wood ashes, and I had three reasons for what I was doing with it. First and foremost, I was disposing of it. Wood ash is rich in potassium and alkalinity. Potassium is an essential nutrient for plants, and alkalinity is good to counteract the increasing acidity of our soils, where rainfall constantly washes out its alkalinity.

But too much of a …

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