Posts Tagged by Nature
|June 5, 2013||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture, Homesteading|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in May 2010 at Jack-Booted Liberal.
Last fall, in anticipation of raising pigs, we plowed up a section of the field and put down a seed mixture consisting of yummy, nutritious, and easy-growing plants that pigs like: rye grass, sudan grass, field peas, and rape-seed. Although wild pigs live exclusively on forage, we don’t have enough space for us to raise them that way. We are using feed, but we also wanted to supplement with forage as much as possible. For one thing, the other plants would add variety to the pigs’ diet. For another, rooting around in the field would make the pigs happier, since rooting is a basic part of “what pigs do.” And of course, there could be some financial savings if the calories gleaned from the field translated into lower feed consumption.
From one perspective, open pasture is nature’s solar panel. Grass and other field plants capture the sunlight that falls on them and turn it into calories through the wonder of photosynthesis. Pastures are not, typically, composed of calories that humans can use, since we lack the physical adaptations that would allow us to digest grass very efficiently, but certainly other animals are more than happy to consume those calories, and convert into yummy meat (if you’re into that sort of thing). Anybody who’s ever had a garden knows how much work it can take to squeeze a meaningful amount of food out of a vegetable plot. Anybody who’s ever had to mow a lawn knows how little work it takes to grow grass, as well as plantain, dandelion, clover, violets, and other such “weeds”. So, the idea of something that eats grass and “weeds” and turns it into meat is awfully darn appealing (again, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Twice now, this year, the grass in the field has gotten tall enough that I have mowed it, and seeing the cut grass composting in clumps on the ground has ticked me off every time. The solar energy stored in that grass is incredibly valuable. It is one of the only truly sustainable forms of energy that exists. If I am going to call that field “mine” and bend its form to my will, then I feel like I have an obligation to do something more with that energy than leave it to rot. I have interrupted the life-cycle of the grass. I have deprived the animals that would live in the high brush of their habitat. I have denied the trees that would grow there the opportunity to take advantage of this sunny, clear spot. And for what? So I can have a pretty view out my window every morning?
For all the ways that we are just apes, I do think that humans have something that other animals lack. Our big brains give us a unique ability to imagine the world as we would like it to be. Likewise, they give us the technological wherewithal to realize our imaginings, for good or for ill, on a Herculean scale. Other animals may sometimes cause destruction in the same way that we do, but I doubt that they have the same intellectual capability to realize what they are doing. They are what they are, and they live or die, thrive or decline, on the merits of their selves. And, really, so do we, it’s just that we (might) have the unique ability to make conscious choices that change “what we are,” and so to shift the outcome.
When I look at all the environmental damage that the human urge to modify has caused, I sometimes revolt, and wish that we could “just be animals” again. But of course, that genie is out of the bottle and won’t go back. I took some comfort in the words of Joel Salatin, who says:
Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.
The comfort comes from the realization that looking at how things are and imagining how they could be is just as much a part of a human’s psychological distinctiveness as rooting in the ground is a pig’s. There’s no sense hating it or denying it. Just like a pig wouldn’t truly be fulfilled as a pig if it couldn’t root in the earth, I wouldn’t be truly fulfilled as a human if I didn’t see things and imagine how they might be better. So, I accept that doing so is just a part of my unique contribution to nature. Pigs root. Chickens peck. And humans cannot leave well enough alone.
But idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and a clever clever human is apt to make changes to his or her environment, for good or for ill. If I poison the plants in my yard and then put down sod and treat the land with weed killer so nothing else can grow there, I will have made the land one kind of “better.” But it is a very expensive form of “better.” Monocultures are fundamentally unstable. They require massive inputs of energy in order to sustain themselves. I will have to apply fertilizer to make up for the nitrogen that the lack of legumes like clover is causing. I will have to use weed killer or manual labor to keep out unapproved plants. I will probably burn gasoline to run a mower and a string-trimmer and a leaf blower. What I will have done is taken nature’s solar panel and turned it from a net energy producer to a net energy consumer.
Another option is to look at that land and ask myself, “What is that land capable of doing, in a way that will sustain me without fundamentally depleting it?” The field by my house is too small to raise a cow on, never mind a whole herd, but my few acres could possibly support a sheep. Better yet, they already support a colony of rabbits! If I want the grass to be short, is it better to expend my own energy to cut it, and to then leave it to rot in the field, or to bring in animals that will cut the grass for me, and will use that energy to sustain themselves? Even if you set aside the potential for those animals to become meat in the future, the answer to me seems clear. Fossil fuel being shipped from around the world so that I can run a mower to cut some grass and leave it to rot? Or happy sheep or bunnies living their lives off that grass, providing entertainment, companionship, and possibly even wool, milk, or meat to me? There’s no question to me which one is more Right.
The bottom line is that it feels fundamentally disrespectful for me to mow the field and nothing more. It’s disrespectful to the plants that would have grown if I hadn’t mowed, and to the animals that could have lived off of those plants. If I was to leave the field alone, then I don’t think that I would have any responsibility towards it, but when I divert the field from the path that it would take in my absence, I feel like I also take on a responsibility towards it, and leaving that grass to lay in the field doesn’t feel to me like I’m fulfilling that responsibility.
|November 4, 2012||Posted by Issa under Just Pictures, Simple-Eco-Happy|
Wikipedia says this is a golden silk orb-weaver, but I know it as a banana spider. It’s a beautiful spider that makes big, awesome webs, and one recently found a home in our bushes.
|August 23, 2012||Posted by Issa under Simple-Eco-Happy|
Summer is winding down, but the world is still so vibrant.
The ducks are always a joy, whether they’re preening after a bath, following each other around in a line, or nestled into the grass to rest.
Dylan is frequently roaming the property, dirty, happy, and getting into things.
Basement Cat lounges about.
A few more flowers make their appearance.
And inside we start getting ready for fall, like with the 19 quarts of canned tomatoes Joshua put up.
We turned off the A/C this week, too, since the night times are getting cool enough to use the magic fan system of house cooling.
Is it still summer to you, or do you feel fall coming?
|April 26, 2012||Posted by Issa under Uncategorized|
Maybe someday I’ll be an old farmer… and an old writer. In the meantime, I’ve got my little homestead, and I write in fits and starts, but I never slow down on reading. I read every post by Gene Logsdon, an old farmer and old writer. It doesn’t surprise me that my attitudes about the land line up with those of an old timer. It does surprise me when this 80 year old man seems to share a lot of my political ideas, too. Whatever he has to say, it’s always interesting to me in a surprisingly quiet and intimate way.
My homesteading scars are limited to a couple of lines on my arm from the wood-burning stove. I’m sure there are more to come, though. From Scars Keep The Record of Our Lives:
If you want to get a lively conversation going among farmers, bring up the subject of scars. For some reason we glory in telling about the marks of maiming or near death that decorate our bodies like so many road signs along the trail of life. Hardly a one of us doesn’t have a crooked leg or missing finger, or a lost limb… Perhaps it is the gravity of the situation that awes us into wanting to talk about it.
This spring has been undeniably bounteous for me. The growth, the babies, my joy in the details. It always seems like spring comes just in time. From Nature’s Promises Kept Again:
Going into March… I am torn between despair over a political process descending into lunacy and an economic process that guarantees only an ever-growing poverty class. I am glad I do not know how to tie a rope into a noose.
Then I look out the window one morning and see the great miracle… Slowly but surely all the spring wildflowers return— actually this unusually warm spring, they came fast and furiously— and I feel that great uprising of joy and hope once again. Nature does not renege on her promises.
The resilience and stability of nature is amazing and we often miss it because the news of the day focuses on the failures and threats, not on the successes. In all the earth-shaking changes that have shattered our sense of security over the past forty years or so, here on our farm, right here, the state of wild nature is remarkably little changed.
And then Living At The Whim of the Weather was written right as spring was snatched back momentarily this year. I don’t think I lost any plants, even though I definitely planted early.
Gene’s most recent post It Pays to Stay Home resonates with me, too. I love to go out into the world, but I love to stay home at The Wallow, too. Until I moved here, I never knew how interesting one’s own backyard could be.
Staying home has to be one of the most unpopular ideas in America where the whole culture embraces faraway travel as essential to happiness. Many of us don’t really have homes that can provide as much enjoyment as travel promises. Rather than spending our money to acquire such a property, we are taught to buy such enjoyment with far away travel. Perhaps what we need is proper publicity. To advertise traveling at home, a documentary could open with unbelievable close-ups of ants herding and milking aphids on an apple tree, a raccoon destroying a bluebird house, a hawk dive-bombing a mouse, a flint arrowhead sticking out of a creek-side cliff. Then a roll of drums and a voice sonorously introduces the docudrama: “Today we are going where no explorer has gone before— YOUR BACK FORTY.”
If you’re ever in the mood for some down-to-earth farming posts with insight, I recommend Gene Logsdon at The Contrary Farmer.
|April 28, 2011||Posted by Issa under Simple-Eco-Happy|
|March 9, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
It’s almost spring at The Wallow!
Here’s the last of this year’s wood stash:
If we were to use that up, it would be right around three cords that we used this winter.
Here’s the view out to the west of the house:
When it’s really spring, that will all be covered in lush greenness.
Here are the raspberry canes we transplanted last fall:
I’m watching with anticipation to see if they made it and start putting up new growth.
|January 21, 2011||Posted by Issa under Simple-Eco-Happy|
In Fishlake National Forest in Utah there are about 47,000 trees, but they are actually a single organism! Click through to read more about this massive fascination.
|January 10, 2011||Posted by Issa under Simple-Eco-Happy|
|December 15, 2010||Posted by Issa under Homesteading, Just Pictures|
|November 6, 2010||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
How do I know that fall has arrived at The Wallow? The Ladybug Apocalypse has begun!
I’ve been here two falls now, and apparently this will be a tradition. As the temperature starts to drop, there’s the sudden appearance of ladybugs around the windows in the house.
Barely live ladybugs that are soon dead ladybugs.
Piles and piles and piles of dead ladybugs.
|Photo by: The Pug Father|
It would be impossible to exaggerate this situation. Every single window sill in the house, and any flat surface near the windows like tables or the floor are covered in the corpses of ladybugs. It doesn’t make much sense to clean them up, either, until it’s all over, because by the time you’ve wrapped up the cord of the vacuum cleaner, 6 more have died in the newly clean space.
Last year my bed was situated underneath a skylight. This had two unfortunate effects. One was that as I tried to sleep, I could hear ladybugs falling dead onto the bed. Ew.
The other problem is that The Ladybug Apocalypse coincides with the Wasp Invasion. These are very similar except in scale and in the primary mode of death. There are gazillions of ladybugs, and they die on their own. There are a handful of wasps a week, and I try to kill them as soon as I see them. The wasps are going to die anyway, so they are exempt from my bug-relocation program. I kill them so they don’t sting me from their death beds.
When my bed was under the skylight, I would lay in bed afraid that wasps were about to attack me at any moment.
My bed is now in a different location.
My office desk is kind of halfway between two windows. This means that as I sit here during the day, both wasps and ladybugs go whizzing by my head, and ladybugs crawl half-heartedly all over my desk.
It’s very strange, but I’m beginning to make my peace with it (which is also strange, I guess.) Last year I was terrified of the wasps, and killed them by sucking them into the vacuum cleaner, which I could do from a distance with a long attachment. This year I just whack them with whatever’s nearby and go about my business. Although I do keep a daily tally like it’s some kind of bizarre cage match. Last year I tried to clean up after the ladybugs as it happened. This year I’m going to settle for being entertained by how big the piles can get before the whole thing is over.
I just think of it as a “feature” of living here.