Sculpting the Future
This is the present, replete with beauty and challenges.
It is tempting to be satisfied with this tranquil scene, luring one toward a sense of equilibrium. This is the status of the creek, 4 miles long, that runs through the middle of our farm. Do we accept this status or seek to modify it to sustain seven generations into the future? Each choice comes with tradeoffs.
This beautiful scene was created by a governmental agency about 100 years ago to drain and maximize land for agricultural use. Large track-hoes and bulldozers were employed to straighten and "channelize" unruly streams that meandered through sodden fields and woods. Our farm was a recipient of this largesse, and we currently ponder its impact on our future.
The Achilles heel of this configuration is the steep, straight stream banks. Notice trees growing out the sides of them and erosion around their roots from rapid flow of water. This is an unstable condition, where trees fall into the creek and precious topsoil is washed down stream during floods. The steep banks are also unsafe and unnatural for man, beast, and machine. Left untended, this configuration will lead to increased flash floods, due to the narrow and clogged channel, and increased erosion of irreplaceable topsoil.
The government's pocket book is a lot larger than ours, and modifying these banks comes at considerable cost. We started this process last fall and are completing another leg now. We feel some urgency at do this, because we anticipate opening Phase II of our wetland mitigation bank in the next six months. Before doing so, we are required to place a conservation easement on the described acreage, protecting it into perpetuity. And before doing that, all mechanical modifications to stream banks have to be completed.
We are sculpting part of the future we envision through this stream bank. We feel our lives will be enhanced by meandering channels, with softly sloped banks, accessible to wildlife and domestic stock, that are dotted with mature, deep-rooted trees, holding soil and providing protective shade to riparian ecology. We also believe the wider channel will greatly reduce flash-flooding in our bottoms, minimizing impact to pastures and soils. We have pulled the bank back by 30 feet, increasing capacity of the channel by close to 50%.
This physical work is being performed by Mike and Randy. They are skilled with machinery, creating beautiful undulating curves in the landscape, like artists with paint brushes. Their touch is light; their pride is strong; their effect is enduring. Seven generations will be thanking them for their artistry. We are humbled to be recipients of their talent.
This work is a structural undertaking, affecting the well-being of the land and ourselves far into the future. In this situation, we are literally sculpting part of our future, by employing track-hoes, bulldozers, seeds, and trees. Doing this serves as a metaphor for how we can each change our lives. Structural decisions involving employment, relationships, residences, investment, language, recreation... all determine who we are, how we live, and the standards we pass on to succeeding generations.
Annual seedlings of winter wheat and rye, to be covered in straw, will stabilize this ground over winter. Jacob's team will then plant in the spring: sycamores, river birches, black willows, button bushes and other, in this area, creating a sense of promise... Which bank would one rather live on, the near or far?
And as our country currently stands worn and torn in two, can we not sculpt a future for it, as one ecosystem?
Allan Savory, of the Savory Institute, articulates poignantly that in creating sustainable context for living, we have to define the quality of life we seek 100 years from now, many generations out. And in so doing, we discover that most people want much the same context for their offspring: freedom to choose, safety, opportunity to thrive, community, and a healthy environment in which to live... If we look far enough out and rise high enough above, we see how much more we are alike than different. This is such a simple and brilliant insight, derived from Mr. Savory's long experience with tribes, ranchers, farmers, and governments around the world. It reminds us that we are finally one, and we can never advance toward our dreams of true health without the other, until we embrace our interconnectedness.
Can we not peel back the far bank, as a country, by claiming our commonality? Wouldn't it be great to create another sloping bank, with foot bridges across the stream and enclaves along it for intermingling, swimming, fishing, and conversing, beneath oaks and willows? What a haven for children and grandchildren, seeking the simplest joys in life: rolling downhill, playing in water, giggling, exploring the dirt, and running after butterflies. Can't we agree this is something we want for all of our little ones? And as they grow, we would grow with them, becoming less dour and more vitalized by union, reunion, and communion. This promise awaits us, fortunately, if we are willing to step far enough back from ourselves.
This calf below is part of the promise. He is thick in body, and is the offspring of our queen cow, #1101, lying to the side, who is nine years old. He is about one month of age and is already looking especially robust.
We have been trying to induce our processor to make a Merquez sausage for us, out of lamb. They express responsiveness to the idea, but with absolutely no follow-up. Finally, Susan, took it upon herself to make her own version. We have thus been experimenting with a Casablanca Merquez Sausage Roll. Early, top-secret feedback is highly favorable! We will keep you posted when we are ready to bring it to you, but it should be soon.
Turkeys on order are galloping along, growing in anticipation. We thank you in advance for your support and enjoyment of these pastured birds of Thanksgiving.
May we sculpt our futures with a sense of generations to come and with artistry.