Play To Your Strengths

Summertime social distancing is pretty easy when the venues are the open spaces. Living near Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserveoffers immense beauty, incredible night skies, and lots of people seeking to escape their cities during the pandemic.

Nothing new, except for this: the gratitude that people are expressing for the land, the quiet and the simplicity. The appreciation is palpable. It’s as if, the world has had to come to a stop to help us remember how intoxicating living on the earth really is…

We’ve had a young man visiting who enjoys fishing. Nearly everyday he explores another of the wondering creeks that feed into the Kickapoo. When he returns, he recounts the trials of fishing but he also delights at the beauty he witnessed and I get to enjoy his enjoyment as I listen. Sharing this little piece of heaven is easy when appreciation gushes so readily.

People stop by, eager for conversation. Hoping to hear some good news and relieved when no hardships are discussed. Rural people are accustomed to solitude. We are accustomed to challenge. For the most part we love the land and try our best to do no harm.

And now in these summer months as people seek solitude and the immense beauty that is here, we can welcome them and invite them to be here conscientiously. Maintaining social distance and wearing a mask while entering our businesses is a sign of respect, not of weakness.

Autumn will soon be here and winter will be on its heels. If we’ve not yet learned the importance of protecting our selves and our loved ones, the cold months may bring a harsh visitor to our doors.

We have great strengths. Now it’s up to each of us to use them.

Care for the Living

A benevolent spring is upon us. Time has come to plant gardens or to connect with those who do. Food pantries, farmers markets and Facebook pages are gearing up to share life-supporting food and information. Videos and live-streamed classes teach us how to cook and process food. There’s no reason for anyone to go hungry.

Rain seems to be ignoring us this year. It’s making it possible to repair damages from previous floods and ready our homes for any rough days ahead. There are lots of good, local hardware stores and handy people to help get jobs done.  And while we are readying our homes let us think of our neighbors. There are unused houses and cabins, which could provide shelter for individuals and families who are and will be facing eviction.

Many may be facing hard times. Yet while this virus has wounded our ability to carry on as we have, it cannot keep us from cutting a path forward that may be better for all.

With the argument to reopen businesses now, we are weighing financial concerns over the value of life. There will be plenty of time to regroup our finances. Now is the time to care for the living – and that includes our health care workers. Now is the time to ensure that each of us has basic needs met. There are many fine organizations working against great odds to help those in need.  Find one to support.

This is not a time to cower. It is not a time to be confused or angry. Everyone’s efforts are needed. Too many are living on the edge. We have allowed this for too long. Time to snap out of it.

Throw out the old playbook. There is a new game afoot. Help one another and enjoy all the good we have been given.

“Step Up or Step Aside”

There can be little doubt that we are in an evolutionary change. The choice between taking the green path or continuing the scorched earth path has never been more obvious. The systems we have employed to make life better have failed as poverty, homelessness and addictions rise. Extraction of resources, human or other, have been given a green light. Yet amid this chaos there is a growing conviction to choose another way.

Twenty young people of the Sunrise Movement were arrested this week as they protested at the Capital. “Step up or step aside” was their request to Senators who have not yet signed the Green New Deal. And the rail system in Canada has been shut down as indigenous people act to save their land and way of life. The inconvenience of truth telling reverberates wherever usury and greed meet up with those incapable of living lives of self-destruction and harm to the earth.

There is a massive movement towards sustainable living that is emerging. It may be political and take aim at the powerful, or it can be found in the upsurge of community activism, cooperative living and the efforts towards food sovereignty. Reduced consumption; local energy production; the refusal to use plastic and to drive cars are all fueling new ways of thinking and new ways of being.

Young and old are finding one another as they “make a way out of no way”*. Whether due to governmental calamities, or because the natural world is no longer playing nice, the good news is there is a wave of “can do” that is sweeping through us. From refugees in encampments learning to grow food in place to colleges and universities divesting from oil, we are all being invited to this revival.

The earth can heal and so can we. The time is now.

 

*”Make a way out of no way” has been attributed to James Boggs.

photo from wikipedia commons: Banner for a Green New Deal. Chicago Sunrise Movement rallies for a Green New Deal, in Chicago (Illinois), 27 February 2019.

A Clarion Call

Ripples of fear can be heard in the voices of those reporting on the coronavirus. It is known that casual contact may spread the disease and that the incubation period may be as long as fourteen days prior to symptoms.

The admission, that Wuhan city officials were slow to provide information as they waited for higher authority, created distrust. People can be heard calling reassurances to one another from their quarantined homes in that city.

This information comes as the virus continues unchecked, causing people to feel victimized and paranoid. But even as the numbers of infected rise and the death toll climbs, there is more than fear that we need to heed.

Traditional medicine tells us we can maintain good and upright health through simple means. Beneficial sleep, good eating, clean water, maintaining our bodies through gentle movement and focusing our minds on good thoughts and emotions all promote health. Feeling our breath and allowing our lungs to fully expand and contract is important in relieving stress and in revitalizing our bodies and our spirit. And while this may not keep a virus at bay, it may provide the strength needed to overcome disease.

This is what individuals can do, but more is needed to live collectively as citizens of a healthy world. We are being asked to look at every aspect of our lives and the choices we have made. The virus mutated from wild animals, which were being sold in a Wuhan market. It jumped from animal to human and now is spreading from human to human with little impediment.  Our consumptive and exploitive attitude towards the natural world is causing our animal relatives great harm.  That harm now endangers us, and will continue, until we remember and live in a symbiotic way with all of life.

A clarion call has come.*

 

 

*a strongly expressed demand or request for action is a clarion call.

 

Lovers of the Earth Know

In between the downpours that have become autumn’s new norm, I heard a faint cry from the potato patch. The potatoes were calling me to come and get them. I know that is ridiculous and perhaps it was my stomach saying it was time for lunch, but regardless, I took the time to unearth those precious gems. Heavy spring rains made their planting late and now they seemed pushed to the surface by the swell of water that continues to fall from the sky.

In case you haven’t gotten the memo, the times they are a changin’. The name we have given it is climate change. And while politicians debate the causes and pundits advance notions of population control and promote the need to industrialize our food systems even more, the gardener and the harvester observe and respond to the roller coaster ride that we are now engaged in.

To say we are in challenging times is an understatement.

As if uncertainty is not enough, the media spin attempts to guide us with fear. The already prevalent notion of scarcity is driving our pocket books and our vision.  When all the while, the earth remains quite capable of feeding us.

This is what the lover of the earth knows.

The lover of the earth knows that there is still time to learn from the seasons, to enrich the soil, to re-discover old wisdoms and re-plant old seeds. The lover of the earth knows that food of the earth is the best medicine, unadulterated and pure. And the lovers of the earth will go right on loving regardless of the climate upheaval, because we can.

The earth has many more secrets to reveal and we are capable of learning.

As for me, I’ll meet this new day with trust in my heart and hoe in hand.

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Just One Battle

There are no longer many battles to wage. There is just one.

The Amazon is burning. People in China want to eat more meat and Cattle Ag is destroying the “lungs of the Earth” to provide it to them. Leaders at the G7 climate summit made perfunctory nods and inadequate gifts of money to stop the fires, while the president of Brazil held his ground and refused their help. The indigenous president of Bolivia also turned a blind eye to the raging fires, as the Amazon burns.

The “Leader of the Free World” skipped climate meetings but let us know that he knows more than most about the environment. All this, while his band of followers continues to chant “drain the swamp” and we all sink in the quagmire.

But where was I? Oh yes, there are no longer many battles. There is just one. It’s not Chinese meat eaters, Big Ag, and not even the man who would be king. It is not the Republicans or the Democrats nor is it all the people who are so very willing to play ping pong in the duopoly that has eroded whatever hope Democracy had in this troubled land.

No, none of these are worthy opponents for battle.  There is only one. We knock that out and the rest will tumble like dominoes.

It is the war on ignorance*.

To battle ignorance we need clarity**. We need to remember who we are. We need to stop seeing our differences and take stock of our similarities. We need to remember this Earth is our home. And reckon with the reality that it is up to each one of us to protect her.

The ally of ignorance is doubt. The ally of clarity is peace. The choice is always before us. Find clarity and fight like hell.

 

 

Photo is from Wikipedia Commons on the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires

*Ignorance definition is – the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.  – Merriam-Webster

**Clarity definition is – the quality of being coherent and intelligible and the quality of transparency or purity. – Oxford

Return Local Control

When people visit our farm here in the Driftless, I am usually surprised by their lack of awareness concerning sustainable farming practices versus industrial agriculture.  When large-scale animal compounds are compared to small sustainable and multi-dimensional farms, it’s apparent the regulations that govern them should differ. Run off and ruptured manure lagoons of large-scale operations have killed fish and disturbed eco tourism. The nuisances of smells, sounds and sights have diminished property values and have caused significant strife among neighbors. The jump to become a large-scale producer is pricey and has left a lot of small farms in the wake. Yet somehow they have been labeled “progress” and have, for the most part, been given a pass by Wisconsin regulators.

Now for the first time in over ten years the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is seeking input from citizens regarding the rules that govern large livestock facilities. The rules are known as ATCP 51. These public hearings begin today, August 15th and run through September 5thin six locations throughout the state. Wednesday, September 4thin Onalaska is our region’s nearest hearing.

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If you live rurally, and would like an opportunity to have your voice heard on the issues raised by unchecked confined animal feed operations, or if you live in the city and enjoy visiting the beauty of rural Wisconsin, this is your moment to help preserve it.

In recent years, our state’s laissez-faire towards regulating corporate business has put numerous strains on local communities and neighbors trying to protect the environment and their homes from unwanted nuisance. The deck has been stacked in favor of corporations, as a systematic crippling of local control has gone largely unnoticed.  It’s time to notice.

For more detailed information on the proposed changes to ATCP51 visit: Wisconsin Farmers Union.

 

Say “NO” to 5G

There is something new on the horizon. AT&T has joined forces with Bug Tussle to bring the world-touted 5G to our doors in the Driftless of southwestern Wisconsin. Here is what I have learned:

The towers need to be placed every five to ten miles and most certainly will be 300 feet tall. They emit microwaves. That is the kind of radiation you try to avoid as you pass through airline checkpoints, but now will be living around and under full time.

It won’t mean a lick of difference to most people as far as usage is concerned, but it will be great for machines. Machines, however, won’t suffer from radiation poisoning, as humans, animals and plants will.

I know it is hard to read all the scientific jargon and everyone I talked to in the industry assured me that while they have not read the negative press, they are also sure we cannot stop the inevitable.

People who are offered a monthly sum for placing towers on their properties are exchanging green hills for green bills. And they are uncertain to what they will help usher in. What will become of our local phone companies who bring underground broadband to our doors? I am not talking of Century Link. I am talking about companies like Hillsboro Phone Company. How many people will keep their landlines when Bug Tussle waltzes in? Who will cry for those lost jobs? And who will pay the medical bills of increased cancers and other abnormalities in our area?

The time to decide is now. Will we continue to self-destruct in the name of progress, or will we demand better ways to treat the earth and one another?

I am holding out that we are not as greedy or as foolish as the snake oil salesman would like to believe.

 

Brussels has it right. They said No to 5G due to health risks.

photo is courtesy of Wikipedia Commons licensing.

Dependency

The Amish had it right. They did not want to become dependent on electricity. It wasn’t to make their lives harder. It was to not become dependent on a government or any other body who would seek to rob their independence or their character.

I have been thinking of this a lot lately as I weigh the urgent need for immigration reform in this country. There are many people who do not want to live in the United States, but would like to work here for a while and return to their countries of origin.

Considering labor shortages on farms and elsewhere, this would make good sense. But the current short-term work programs are severely outdated. Even the George W. Bush Center’s website, “A Nation Built by Immigrants” suggests the need for new worker programs.

Instead the current administration urges us to fear these people. We are encouraged to ignore our sense of humanity and continue to allow the separation of children from parents, overcrowded and dehumanizing detention centers, and perhaps worst of all, we ignore simple solutions because of our fear.

Creating humane worker programs would be one solution. Another would be to remove United States military from these countries, and instead offer aid to help them rebuild.

Many of the immigrants and asylum seekers are being forced from their homelands and ways of life because of extraction of resources – resources that our government and military pay heavily to protect. This “protection” has in recent years cost the lives of numerous environmental activists trying to protect their homelands and their communities.

No, it is not the immigrants we should fear; it is our ignorance. We must move towards becoming citizens of the world and realize how our choices directly affect others. Let us end our dependency on stolen resources protected by blood money. On this, the Amish had it right.

Resiliency

The melting snow that brought the most recent flooding added to the widening creeks and changed topography of the Driftless. As I surveyed the battered roads and considered where to place culverts, I realized we are embarking on a dynamically changing time. The new flood planes have already forced many from their homes with more likely to come. And discussions of relocating businesses have taken on a whole new meaning as rural towns face the inevitable decisions that lie ahead.

Politicians talk of dams. And I wonder if they are seriously considering this costly and limited solution that seems akin to putting a finger in the dyke.

It makes much more sense to me to hear old time farmers talk about growing varieties of grasses that root deep into the soil and help absorb runoff, rather than build costly fixes like dams.

Then came the news of the wipeout in Nebraska and surrounding Midwestern states. Water is showing us who is king. We have gone horribly astray as we tried to outmaneuver Mother Nature instead of living in sustainable harmony with her.

Unprecedented flooding has also crippled the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Reservations wiping out roads and corrupting water supplies. Help there is also desperately needed.

We are being forced to reckon with this new reality. We are being asked to think in new ways and to help one another.  We are coming to the realization of the preciousness and the destructive nature of water and the clock is ticking.

Here in the Driftless we are cleaning up our waterways. We are helping neighbors relocate; and we are talking about community in very real terms.

The differences among us are melting along with the snow and that is how it needs to be as we face this new day and discover our resiliency.

 

Check this site for more updated information on recovery / resiliency efforts in the Driftless.

You can listen to the hour WDRT program  “Conversations” with Jen Schmitz as we discuss resiliency and recovery happening in the Driftless.

You can listen to this WDRT broadcast of “Consider This” on Soundcloud