Streams & Souls
November 4, 2023
The first impression is how deep this shallow stream had become. In some places, it is chest-deep, despite a summer and fall of scant rain. I had never seen such pools of water on this farm and couldn't resist their invitation.
|The opening picture shows about 200 acres of young trees obscured by robust growth of giant ragweed and mare's tail, which are now brown and dessicated. These aggressive wetland weeds dominate when soil has been disturbed by plantings, but gradually lose vigor as trees within rise above. We are already seeing sycamores showing themselves above the ragweed, and are heartened to observe slower growing species thriving within the cover of ragweed. In the meantime, these weeds protect trees from deer and apparently sufficient sunlight is percolating to the understory. Below, Paw Paw is on the left, low to the ground, and Silkey Dogwood on the right.|
The Book of Wilding, A Practical Guide to Rewilding Big and Small, by Isabella Tree & Charlie Burrell. This extensive handbook builds on the earlier account of their efforts at rewilding on their 3500 acre estate in southern England. One of the challenging propositions they present is forests have always been disturbed by large ruminants, horses, and wild boar, creating openings in canopies that allow for growth of thickets and understory. How to manage this on a small scale is a challenge. Domesticated species are hard enough, so wild ones would be provoking, but it is a compelling theory to consider. This book validates much of our work with wetlands.
Water, The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization, by Steven Solomon. This is a fascinating account of how history has proven the ability to manage water is far more important, in the struggle for power, than the discovery of wealth from minerals. The Mesopotamians, Romans, Northern Europeans, Mayans, and Anglo Americans have all harnessed water to highly effective ends. Their ensuing and inevitable mismanagement of it, however, has also been and is their downfall.
When The Rivers Run Dry, by Fred Pearce. The era of big dams, diversion of rivers, and big irrigation systems is coming to a close. They have all proven counter-productive and extremely expensive over time. The American west has been dehydrated by removal of beaver, concentration of water behind large dams, diversion of rivers, and overpumping of ground water from aquifers. We have created the arid extremes from which the West now suffers. Solutions lie in investing in efficiencies of delivery, returning beaver where damage is not excessive, and managing for micro-solutions at local levels.
Eager, The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb. This journalist provides extensive research into the life, history, and value of beavers. It is extremely interesting, and makes one wonder yet again why the human species is so inept at providing for its own self-interest. Extirpating beaver was one of the great follies of western civilization, in Europe and the U.S. Ingrained bias against the species persists today, yet reintroduction of beaver is one of the few effective means of reestablishing a sustainable water cycle.
We also had the privilege of a visit from the leadership team at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Jeff Corney, Connie O'Conner, Cory Christopher, and Jason Neuman came for an afternoon tour. Being with them was like a reunion with old friends. Great conversation and heart warming interchange.
Our strategy underway regarding food production is to reduce its footprint because of the wet nature of our soils, but to expand diversity of production. Grazing livestock will access 150 acres of high ground while 50 acres of low ground will be reserved for vegetables. We have not grown vegetables on a commercial scale before and are looking forward to that advent several years from now.
And this brings us back to the soul. The soul is indeed like a stream, in that it flows with and around obstructions, hydrating life forms and frustrating designs of control. It is also like a tree, fragile before squalls, yet resilient in its power to regenerate.