Honor & Dignity

January 7, 2021

Honor is to the left; Dignity to the right.

Yesterday morning at 3 AM, Landis Weaver departed from this farm, after 12 years hereon, to start a new chapter of his life in Smyrna Mills, Maine, 20 miles from the Canadian border. Landis is the epitome of honor and dignity, and these are two of his four draft horses the day before departure. 

Landis understands tasks before him and moves into them without reservation or attention to himself. Keeping 250 acres of pasture mowed with 4 horses, while milking cows twice a day, is no small feat. He is always present, wordlessly stepping into the work, and cleverly resolving their resistance. He does not consume others with concerns, while being unfailingly responsive to theirs. He is inevitably in motion, up before the rest of us and half way through the day by sunup. His high intelligence and inquiring mind is nurtured by a steady diet of reading and discriminating conversation. He kept the premises of the dairy clean and tidy, by quietly picking up after himself and others.

About five years ago, he married Deeanne, who hails from a Mennonite community in Maryland. She is of equal intelligence and full of personality and humor. They brought three children into the world, while living on our farm, Cameron, Kelita, and Jennikan, blessing this land and our small community with their essence. We have come to care for and love them.

The land he managed and leaves behind is soft to the foot, for being rich with organic matter. This is the result of his dairy cows grazing rapidly, with minimal impact, followed by select mowing, which reflects high level of management. After every milking, twice a day, Landis moved the cows to new pasture. One has to be highly organized to accommodate movement that rapid. And this was all executed from a bicycle!

Landis honored our farm through his indefatigable efforts to improve both it and himself. And he dignified both through his quiet elegance. I am not sure of the difference between honor and dignity. The former seems to be a general statement and the latter a form of action. But I know he carries both. One is not enough to describe him. We have been blessed by his presence in our lives and on our land these past twelve years. We salute and endorse his journey in life.

The silence from the departure of Landis' family is deafening... It makes me cry, part for the loss of our daily relationship with them, part in celebration of their great promise, and part in despair over social forces that compel moving 1200 miles for acceptance.

He and his greater family developed a minor philosophical difference with their local church. The church could not tolerate the difference, and so showed them the door. They are thus moving to a church in northern Maine that is "more accepting and open." 

Landis and Deanne are incredibly resilient, like this pin oak in the dead of winter, and will not be deterred from claiming their own light. But they have suffered under domination by others. Where does the need to dominate come from? 

Perhaps the need to dominate is endemic to human genetics or perhaps it is simply a bad habit that can be broken. Whichever it is, it imparts plenty of damage. Diversity is the cornerstone of nature, as diversity breeds stability against threats of disease, weather, fire, and all unexpected phenomenon. Yet, humankind seems to insist upon the opposite, upon the notion of mono-culture, where one race, religion, caste, political party, specie of tree, or agricultural crop dominates.

If one drives from Cincinnati to Cleveland in January, what does one see on the landscape? One sees nothing. Nothing! And this on some of the richest soil in the world, that used to support a dense and thriving mix of forest and prairie. This denuded and dominated landscape has been cleverly wrought so King Corn and Queen Soybean can deliver profit to an accounting system that is silently choking our ecosystem to death. We can and should grow corn and soybeans, but within diversity. Perhaps they should be grown on 10-acre fields, surrounded by a buffer of trees and natural habitat, rather than on 100-acre fields that abut each other endlessly, without a morsel of nature in sight.

A few reflections follow about the tsunami that washed up on shores worldwide and nearly drowned us all over the past year. First, this pandemic may have unified the world more than any since the massive meteor wrought the extinction of dinosaurs. This sounds like hyperbole, but it is hard to think of an event that affected the whole world so uniformly. 

And where did this pandemic come from? It came from our stubborn insistence on dominating nature. In order to grow food to feed animals in feedlots; in order to harvest wood for building endless houses; and in order to find minerals for manufacturing and luxury, we are denuding forests and landscapes with clear cutting, strip mining, and chemical applications. We are extracting mercilessly and simplifying nature relentlessly. 

This leaves less and less habitat for animals, insects, fungi, and unknown forces to keep our ecosystem in balance. The result is we over-interact with these natural systems, in our need to dominate, taking their space. They bite us in the fanny in return. We are currently so bitten, and will be repeatedly, until we strategically reestablish forests and habitat around cities and throughout rural landscapes. 

The world has been affected uniformly by this pandemic, with the exception of sub-groups incurring more harm than others. But one overriding message form the pandemic is we are one. The message is not one group is superior to others. Worldwide, people are keenly wanting the same thing: safety, health, loved ones, clean food, air, and water, and decent shelter.  These are the basics nobody is taking for granted any more. These basics are the rich soil in which we can rediscover our unity. We are so much more alike than we are different.

It is fear that compels us to dominate nature and each other. We are afraid to live with less, so we extract more. We are afraid to share the wealth, so we become greedy. We are afraid that being recessive is weakness, not strength. This fear keeps us from living with honor and dignity. 

In terms of how the pandemic has affected us more intimately, I want to thank each of you for keeping us vital over the past nine months. Because of you, we have not had to lay off team members or seek relief funds. Your faithful support has kept us going, and we are grateful to you beyond words. You are our partners, without whom we would not be. Thank you.

My dear friend and Wednesday-morning-partner, Cameron Weaver, age 4, departed with his parents at 3 AM yesterday morning for a more accepting church. By 3 PM yesterday afternoon, insurgents were defiling our capital building in Washington D. C. Are these not driven by the same phenomenon? In the former, the dominant church can not accept a divergent point of view. In the latter, the dominant political party can not accept the concept of losing an election. These are both acts of fear. Churches benefit from new ideas and political parties benefit from rotating out of power. 

How we treat each other starts with how we treat nature. If we accept nature's paradigm of complexity and diversity, we can live together in a healthy and safe environment. If we reject it, we defile ourselves over time. 

On a different note, Chris and I sorted the rams out of the breeding flock before Christmas, and one of the ewes decided to test whether she could walk on water. And it turns out she could! We are contemplating starting a new line of genetics featuring this storied talent. We think it has promise.

The hogs received the last corner of Landis' milk flow, and loved it mixed with grain. Mr. Bull is content with his ladies. Only one more week before he returns to bachelorhood.

Here we are celebrating Aztec Tacos, replete with tomato salsa, guacamole, and a dollop of sour cream. I never knew tacos could taste so good. 

And here we have beef tenderloin on New Year's eve, accented with cheese souffle and petit pois. The piece de resistance was the bordelaise sauce for the meat, made with red wine and bone broth. After the picture was taken, I poured a copious amount more onto the meat, and confess to finishing off the sauce with a spoon in the kitchen after dinner. It was rather intoxicating and goes well on any meat or none at all!

Chris and I look forward to seeing you at the Madtree market on Sunday. Come by and meet Chris. He is proving his merit quickly here, and we are most grateful for his contributions to our team. His broad range of capabilities is helping to fill gaps and create new opportunities.

May we find honor and dignity by respecting the natural world and each other. If any of us find ourselves in Smyrna Mills, we know where a model can be found. 

We have missed you over the past few weeks. It is good to be reconnecting. 

Drausin Wulsin

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