Our elders remind us of the importance of affection.
This cottonwood tree and its companion behind, a catalpa, were too beautiful to remove, as we reconstructed this section of the stream bank. One can't help feeling their grandeur and special status, that exempted them from the track-hoe. But we can't slope the bank in that spot and rushing water will erode soil beneath the roots, eventually bringing down the cottonwood. As you see in the foreground, Jacob's team has planted live-stakes to stabilize the bank, but they won't protect the cottonwood. So, we are going to place some boulders, carefully, in front of the exposed roots where the stream bends, to thwart erosion. It would have been simpler to take the tree down, but doing so would have taken a piece of our hearts with it.
In like manner, we re-sided this corncrib, which offers no particular service except to collect items and present character. Given there is a shortage of character in the world, re-siding and preserving, rather than tearing down, seemed like the right thing to do.
Wendell Berry tells the tale of his grandfather in central Kentucky selling his annual tobacco crop to the American Tobacco Company, presided over by Mr. James B. Duke, of Durham, North Carolina. Mr. Duke was wily enough to purchase all of his competitors over time, such that he finally possessed a monopoly on the national tobacco market. Being shrewd, he figured he'd make more money paying farmers less for their tobacco than more. So, he did just that.
And Wendell's grandfather returned home from the sale of a year's work raising tobacco without an extra penny in his pocket. Taxes, fees, surcharges, and low price took all the profit he had hoped for, with which to reinvest in his farm, the source of his livelihood. Mr. Duke felt no compassion or affection for Mr. Berry or any of the tobacco farmers from whom he stole their crop. He saw no connection between poor prices, poor soil, and poor farmers being driven from the land.
Several weeks ago an MBA student from Stanford called to talk about regenerative agriculture. What could I advise her about the state of these affairs? It finally dawned that a significant effort someone like her could undertake to help farmers is to promote changing the conventional accounting system. If conventional accounting included the costs of "externalities", such as pollution of the environment and abusiveness of personnel, large agribusinesses would be much less profitable and regenerative farms would stand head and shoulders above them. Regenerative farms would become low-cost producers, offering the best value on all fronts to consumers. This would solve the burdensome marketing challenge faced by small producers.
Why should not affection stand integral to the economic equation? One of Allan Savory's testing guidelines for holistic decision-making is Society & Culture. Do businesses that incorporate loving conditions benefit or hurt society? They obviously benefit society. He considers this a key filter for deciding upon a given action.
We love our cows, ancient trees, and old buildings. They enhance the whole in a way that generates unmatched returns, with time and patience. And affection for our customers is no small reason why we persist with markets, despite changing circumstances.
Mahlon's hens are in place and adapting well. Notice the claws installed on the gas-powered winch to hold it in place when winding up the cable that pulls the egg-mobile. He designed and built this clever, low-cost device.
His goats are now out on grass. It will be interesting to observe them throughout the course of the year. I particularly want to see how much Ironweed they eat.
Jacob's team of five completed planting 44,000 trees today. What a feat! It took three weeks to do so, and included a spell of nearly perfect weather, good facilities for storing and sorting, and helping hands that dipped in and out. Planting perennial trees into rich soil is clearly an act of affection. The coulter of the planter parts the soil, the subsoiler creates space into which to place the tree, and then the moist, rich soil wraps its arms around the seedling, and welcomes it home. The soil and trees talk to each other with emotion, with affection; it is nearly audible. Below Susan is planting and engaging in the great dialogue.
We usually eat twice a day, and lunches are delightful leftovers from various dinners. They provide essential calories after a morning in the field. Below is a reheated Shortrib burger on a Blue Oven English muffin, accompanied by homemade potato and egg salad with chipotle spice. Aioli graces the salad.
May our affections spread widely.