Another growing season is coming to a close, and I don’t know what it is about this last month, but everything seems to be coming together. I think we’re finally grasping some of the complexities of this pasture-based animal husbandry thing, and for the first time, I honestly believe we are doing right by land and beast.
Things are springing to life! Areas of our property that have been fallow or brambles or both for decades are bringing forth clovers and chicory, brassicas and volunteers of everything from tomatillos to sunflowers to squash and buckwheat. The pigs and cows are moving through and gleaning much more from the land than in previous seasons, and as we learn how to move with nature and read the weather and anticipate outcomes, we are causing less damage to the soil by compaction and erosion.
It’s so pretty. And it’s so much work. But it’s deeply rewarding to see it start to pay off. There’s nothing like it. I could die happy and fulfilled at any second.
As I walk the property I see evidence of toil by hands of those who are long gone, and it makes me feel #solidarity with ghosts, and it makes me appreciate centuries of cultivation, selective breeding, building, tearing down, repairing, building again … just the every day labor that makes homestead life possible today.
Ohio was, like, a swamp forest, wasn’t it? But this year? This year I did not plant a damn thing, yet was still able to make jelly from violets, wine from dandelions, cider from apples and today we are roasting chestnuts over an open fire. It’s really the least I can do to try not to ruin everything.
And as soon as we leave, it may go fallow for another 50 years, but the land and the established trees will be waiting for the next guy to uncover some prizes. The elderberries, the blackberries, the old apple trees, the chestnuts and walnuts … the plants and herbs and deliciousness and remedies I don’t even know exist yet? They’ll still be here.
And with each new fence row, each new animal paddock roped off, each new square foot of multiflora rose cut down and each new perfectly good pair of yoga pants ruined, you can feel the centuries of sweat dripped in the hot sun so that you can watch your kids eat their lunch off the ground.
Even as the 100-year-old barn collapses under our watch, even as that beautiful centuries-old centerpiece Elm in the backyard finally succomb to some wretched bug, there is enough new life on the farm to prove we are building something that could last. That is to say … We’re not screwing things up too badly. Maybe in the next 100 years, someone will come along and feel thankful for the work we are doing today.
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