Blue Smoke

written by

Drausin Wulsin

posted on

May 11, 2023


The owners of this land are in a conflagration over its status.

This is not uncommon. Ownership of land has inflamed many and wrought dispute throughout history. That such discussion should suddenly arise among these owners, like a wildfire, catches them all by surprise. Land is a potent resource, and its symbolism in our lives looms larger than we know. Competing points of view echo back and forth, trying to find consensus, in a maelstrom of dissension.

This discussion has been deeply earnest, painful, and epic. Fear lies at its heart. Revisionism complicates the past, while grandchildren beckon the future. The power of nature revealing herself in maturing wetlands is the primal presence and issue. Brotherhood at odds and allure of lucre confuse sensibilities. Humility tangling with temptation adds mystery. Legalities competing with common sense confuse sensibilities. Faith in the past and future is strained. Wounds emerge...  And the gods wonder who these fools are.

The fools circle and circle and circle, exhausting themselves over the obvious, without clear explanation. But in the circling, slow progress is indeed made, and eventually resolution will emerge, like blue smoke... History reminds us that this too shall pass.

Our newly planted trees seem to be on a stable trajectory. So far, we see little death loss, but they obviously have a long way to go. The cover crop of oats has finally come to life after a very dry fall and winter, and is doing its job insulating and protecting seedlings from deer and drought. The crop is now about three feet tall. The poplar seedling below was nipped by the late frost, but is doing fine.

We are discovering how well systematic tiling works to drain fields and how much water it carries away from them. When we break and obstruct tile lines to create wetlands, we wait with bated breath to see what happens. Usually nothing happens, which is disappointing. We have been hoping to see water at the surface within days. But we are realizing it takes a lot of water to saturate a 30-acre field from 3 feet down up to the surface. So we strive to be patient.

The other phenomenon we are witnessing is the power of water to find its way to the nearest outlet regardless of what we do. In one field, we blocked the outlet near the stream, only to find the water had moved over and was flowing two feet away into the stream below. So, we blocked that, and the water then moved another two feet over, to flow unimpeded. We finally realized this is sandier soil than elsewhere, which allows water to flow around whatever obstructs it. So, Mike Garen, our artist and engineer with equipment, excavated clay from another field and built a subterranean wall in this area that is 8 ft. deep, 3 ft. wide, and 40 ft. long! That is holding so far. 

There is so much about life we do not know...

Now that the trees are planted, we have opened the valve feeding this pond from a spring-fed stream nearby. The pond is full, and it will be interesting to observe it come to life over the next months with amphibians, fish, and waterfowl. Two Canadian geese have already found it appealing. This pond will be continually fed by spring water. 

We will create other shallow ponds in our wetlands, but they will be mostly fed by ground water, and may become seasonally dry. We will see what unfolds. 
The plastic lines you see in the water are tile lines revealed when we excavated this area. Water from the pond is now flowing out into the field through these tile lines, helping to saturate soil. The question will be can the blockage we created at the outlet for this field hold all the pressure flowing from this pond.

We celebrated Derby Day last weekend in grand fashion, as Susan insists. Home-made fried chicken, corn pudding, biscuits, fresh asparagus, fresh tomatoes, devilled eggs, exquisite Derby Pie, and Kentucky lemonade made up the fare. We were grateful to be watching from afar in the comfort of home, rather than rubbing shoulders in person with 150,000 enthusiasts!

The picture below is of Short Bull, who has been my guide for forty years, always helping to navigate complexity.

May blue smoke bless us all.


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