Most all of the leaves in the valley below Echo Mountain have let loose of their perch and collected in fiery piles that have quickly decayed into young soil. Sun Dog Farm has been put mostly to rest as the weather has taken a turn for the frozen, with frosts as hard as 16 degrees. Our cover crops have had a sudden guerrilla siege by foraging deer whose selection of lush summer edibles have all since gone dormant. A quick visit to some Farmer friends down South has sent us out with t-posts and fishing line for a quick fix, and the purchase of a rifle and acquisition of a license are high on the horizon. As we come to the close of our first growing season here in the valley, I feel the Earth’s movement towards a slower, more digestive, and introspective time, when we have a moment to reflect and gather from the lessons met throughout the year. We have poured out our hearts here on this beautiful landscape and have been rewarded handsomely with the abundance germinated from a healthy relationship with the land and community. To say this year was successful would be true, but it is but the successful beginning of something much larger than ourselves and will take many, many years to fulfill. Our dedication to this piece of Earth is one out of the interest of our own well being, but in acknowledgement that our own well being relies entirely on the well being of our land.
This simple reality, that everything is connected and our responsibility to cherish the natural gifts of this world as if they are (and they are,) extensions of our own body, has begun to elude us as a culture. The infiltration of virtual realities, technologically induced introversion and apathy, and the uprooting of our values for anything that can be traded for with money (with the acquisition of such never in question,) has laid waste to our watersheds, condemned numerous species to extinction, and ravaged the community centers of our human populations. With screens in our eyes and “facts” at our fingertips, we feel unstoppable, comfortable, and limiting our imagination has become a game whose addictive stimulation cages our peace of mind. Our food, losing life and vitality with every unnecessary laboratory and feedlot, is not nourishing our bodies and spirits in ways that promote healthy personal exchanges and greater social communities.
Our war on the planet has no winners or victories, it can only provide for short sighted economic gains and help determine the outcome of political election. We’ve spent the better part of our history convincing ourselves that we are separate, that sciences are separate, that our religious ideals and the creative natural forces within our ecosystems and solar system were separate phenomenon, things that simply occurred because they did. Our current medical system works diligently to convince the paying customer that the organs in ones body are to be feared, that they are separate entities likely to fail. We’ve lost touch with the life force that resides within us and therefore our scope has been shortened and our expectations have been limited. How are we to connect with nature when we cannot even connect with ourselves?
When people ask me why I farm, I suppose I should say to cope. Working 7 days a week to grow food and maintain a homestead is an incredibly difficult task that tends to ask too much of us on a regular basis. The chores are physically demanding and the changing temperaments of the land and climate are very taxing on the mind. After a long day we are tired and sore and after a long month our spirits are eggs in a frying pan. And still, here I am, most every day of the year, pouring out more of myself into the land and being met with the richness of life. My relationship with this piece of land gives me a purpose, gives me the tools I need to cope with a world that seems to be too far along towards an end I fear. Accepting less plastic and possessions for a healthy, sustaining lifestyle leaves me the opportunity to do good by this world, to make peace with my fears in the fields and turn my doubt and insecurity into seeds sown and nurtured. It is my greatest treasure to put my fingers into the soil and feel with my own hands that which sustains. This joy can be found in any moment, even during the harshest conditions or when we have suffered difficult loss. I carry these gifts of the spirit with me every day when I rise and I hope to return all of them to the farm before I lay down to sleep.
In the words of the great Wendell Berry:
“The change of mind I am talking about involves not just a change of knowledge, but also a change of attitude toward our essential ignorance, a change in our bearing in the face of mystery. The principle of ecology, if we will take it to heart, should keep us aware that our lives depend on other lives and upon processes and energies in an interlocking system that, though we can destroy it, we can neither fully understand nor fully control. And our great dangerousness is that, locked in our selfish and myopic economies, we have been willing to change or destroy far beyond our power to understand.“
As we move into winter and the Holiday season of Thanks, I send to your heart of hearts, within this great struggle, this daring of symbiosis and survival, the solace and peace of a season spent in the fields among the honey bees and blooms. I send you all the love I have collected from my growing calf and harvested from my babbling creek. I share with you the urgency of a world in turmoil and the hope for that which sustains us all. I encourage each of you to go outside and become a part of some beautiful and complex natural rhythm. To nurture something whose roots extend beyond sight and whose territories are not limited by the bars of a cage or the asphalt of a city block. I present to you my open and ever changing perspective that guides me to make small moves everyday towards the dynamic partnership between this common, shared existence and myself.
Peace be with all of you and Happy Holidays. Thank you for sharing with us, here at Sun Dog Farm, a beautiful first season in the valley.