Archive for May, 2017

The end of an era

May 31, 2017

In the end, she departed us the same way she moved about us—quickly and quietly. Yesterday she was not herself, and so today, if not all better, she was going to go to the vet. Instead there she was this morning, lying on her bed, peaceful, still, a stone’s throw from where she was born 9 ½ years ago.

Since this place became A Place on Earth, it has been Tierra’s place on earth. She lived here before we did, by a couple weeks. When she was five-weeks old, she moved one hill away from her mother and eleven fellow litter-mates into our house. She knew, from birth, what her purpose on this planet was: chase down and retrieve. She preferred sticks but anything that could be thrown would do. If you didn’t seem to understand what you were supposed to do, she would make it perfectly clear by repeatedly dropping the object of choice on your hand or foot. She’d wait patiently and unwaveringly. Don’t pet her, don’t talk to her—just throw it. You had to follow her rules, but if you did she would go until she wore you out. Lifeless sticks lying around will poignantly point to her absence.

Tierra embodied the fairer qualities of this farm: free, friendly, fun-loving, focused, often fixated. She was also the face of this place. If you ever visited us here, chances are she was the first to greet you. Her energy hardly mellowed with age; it brimmed over and zoomed around. She was never a threat to hurt a soul on purpose, but she certainly could bowl you over with her exuberance. A void will be felt now upon arriving home.

Tierra was terrified of storms and fireworks and gun shots. She never wanted to come inside the house except when the great sounds were pounding. Our neighbor was shooting off fireworks Monday night, and I let her in for the last time. When at first she was missing Wednesday morning, I assumed it was because she was hunkering down from the thunder rumbling about. It was as if she could endure the commotion no longer.

Tierra was a steadfast companion. Countless are the times she led the pickup truck out back to the deer fence and then again back home. As she loped ahead of the truck effortlessly—an athlete ever in peak form—the boys would holler, “Faster, Tierra! Go faster!” In the last 6 months, I took up jogging around the farm, and without fail she would glide along beside me, at times darting off towards movement or splashing into a pond. I will feel with full force now the loneliness of the long distance runner on my trail runs, a boy without his dog.

We named our baby German Shephard “Tierra” because it means earth in Spanish. She was one with this place on earth. She belongs here, and today she transitioned from gracing the face of this earth to melding with the very soil that sustains us. We give deepest thanks for the blessing of her existence. We won’t be the same without her.

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The world needs CSA

May 1, 2017

Political proceedings of the past year have elicited much-needed discussion of the urban/rural divide in this country. As a child of the city who has called the countryside home for the last 12 years, I have lived within and witnessed the ignorance of both sides. We can all reside in our bubbles, smugly superior, failing to acknowledge our interdependence. Community supported farming is a rare yet desperately needed bridge that brings us back together.

Before I became a farmer, I was already appalled and ashamed of the mining that powers our supercharged lives. Be it blasted-off mountains or blood-soaked diamonds, wars over oil or fools rushing off a cliff for gold, our species’ heedless greed is well-documented and often unabashed. Over these years in Henry County, Kentucky, I have come to understand that the ravaging of the land for “resources” is everywhere. Here, corn and soybeans grow green. They don’t look like oil rigs, but nonetheless they are pumping the wealth out of our communities in a direct pipeline to Coca-Cola and Cargill. We have rendered soils lifeless, murdered waterways, choked the airs, snuffed out biodiversity, ghosted the towns. Residents have lost livelihoods and have moved or must commute to where there are “jobs” and, in return, get to buy cokes at our gas station grocery stores and get diabetes. The land and rural populations are collateral damage, sacrificed to a lust for profit.

On this farm, we have been spoiled.
Much of the land around here is steep and rocky and not conducive to agriculture or other “development.” We are not next-door to wall-to-wall Roundup Ready crops. We don’t live near pig or chicken concentration factories. There are lots of woods around. On our quiet, narrow road, there is more tranquil than traffic.

Until this spring. Just down the road from us (about a mile), a neighbor mined his property for lumber through most of March and April. Day after day, pre-dawn to dark, the big machinery groaned—bulldozing, banging, sawing, loading, hauling. The few regular drivers of Long Branch Fork Road had to be extra alert in the blind curves to dodge the massive trucks, barreling past the infinite, innocent greens of spring, weighed down with now-dead, brown logs. It felt to me like living on a construction site or in coal country. The sound was the endless gnashing of teeth, the sad shrieks of a peaceful village being pillaged by steel.

I dwell on all this ugliness to make a plaintive appeal for community supported farming. In the city, it is easy to regret far-off drilling, far-away indigenous people suffering and displaced. The truth is that such shattered worlds are not so distant. In the country, it seems obvious that city folk would rather stereotype us than care about our shattered world. I have come to believe that we either actively and cooperatively take care of the land, water, and people around us or, unfailingly, these will be poisoned for profit. They will die out anonymously, invisibly.

These two different visions—mining and mindfully farming—were in stark contrast this spring. While our neighbors made a lot of noise (and money, I presume), John, Stan, Jonna, and I (and sometimes Campbell)
planted peaches, pears, plums, apples, pawpaws, grapes, strawberries. We dug holes and filled the air with laughter, ate lunch and solved the world’s problems. We stewarded carefully, shovelful by shovelful. Some apple varieties are slow to bear; it could be ten years to a future feast. With community support, we have made a commitment not just to nourish people but also to respect and enrich the earth.

The hell-scape that mining manufactures is not the only way. Rather than dealing the world death and dying, we can choose to belong to community supported farming. We can all together take responsibility for what we eat and how it is grown. Right relationships can be restored. When we see outside of our own bubbles, we realize we had better lift up all the lives around us with reverence. There is no telling what a difference we can make.