The days keep growing longer. The birds, crickets and frogs break the silence with sweet sounds. The fireflies are back and their magic still enchants. Walking through the forest, the scents are a tonic, each plant offering its own special gift. The soil in the garden is a balm for feet and hands. Senses are heightened and gratitude comes easily.
And I wonder why we ever took ourselves out of the garden.
If you look at your family history you’ll find it’s not been that long that our ancestors coexisted with the earth. It hasn’t been that long since they “made a way out of no way”. There is something so very basic in our relationship to the earth, so very integral. It’s in our blood. We are made of this earth and we return to this earth. It’s natural to appreciate it. It’s natural to learn from it and to celebrate it. What is unnatural is to do it harm. And this we have been doing for some time now.
From industry to industrial ag, from chemical herbicides to chemical fertilizers, this need to make our lives easier has made it a living hell.
I’m always happy to hear of people trying to end the harm. Most recently a Canadian company, McCain Foods, asked their Wisconsin potato growers to adopt regenerative practices by 2030. There are a growing number of voices both consumers and producers ready for change.
And how hard will that change be to make? Loving makes the need for change come more easily. When we fall in love with the earth and all its wonders, when we appreciate the delicacies it offers and delight in our ability to co-create, we will change. Our health and the health of the planet depend on it.
They say when a sheep goes down they are usually gone in a couple of days. That has not been my experience. My ewes are over ten years old now and I am letting them live out their lives on the farm. I have found that sheep, as with many ruminant animals, enjoy the company of their offspring and stay close together throughout their lives, if given the chance.
So it has been with Madonna and her lamb, MissTery who was born on the hillside one sunny spring day twelve years ago. The two were inseparable. So when Madonna, so named because of her singing voice, went down early in the winter, we made an area exclusively for them.
Through the bitter cold, they shared the space and hay and corn. Both ate ravenously. And while I knew Madonna’s legs would never hold her upright again, I made a promise to care for her to the end. Warm water with a bit of molasses was a special treat on frigid days. It took two of us to move her to cleaner hay and then as she grew lighter, only one.
Apparently she was waiting for spring to take her leave, confident that her offspring could carry on without her. I marveled at the wonder of being able to witness their closeness to one another. And I was grateful for my own compassion that grew as the days wore on. Tenderness and kindness are incredible human gifts and like all living things they grow stronger with use and care.
We always have a choice. What we will do in times of hardship. What we will do for others in need. We are being driven to be kind and to help one another, if we so choose. Choose love.
*The title of this piece comes from a line in Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love” from The Prophet
In a year when the late spring frost crushed the apple blossoms and willful and cunning raccoons killed two broods of chicks, an abundance of oyster mushrooms is a welcomed gift.
There on the dead tree the golden yellow glow of mushrooms keeps calling and offering up delicious treats. As in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you might find… you get what you need.”
Living on the land you learn to be accepting. A friend suggested it is stoic, but that word suggests indifference to pleasure or pain and that is not the pill I care to swallow. I never want to stop feeling the magnificent range of emotions granted us. But I do welcome the ability to surf the peace that lives beneath the tides of my emotions.
And then there are the golden oyster mushrooms. Succulent and almost sweet, they combine beautifully with nearly every meal. Like finding the first eggs of the season, or pulling up garlic or digging potatoes, there’s a familiarity and an excitement that can’t be denied.
Those golden mushrooms signal a reminder that not all is lost, that among the dead and dying there is life and goodness. And when you ride the wave of acceptance and open your eyes so very much is given.
We live in a desperate time. We are ushered away from our inner solitude and are urged to chase illusive dreams of success. We’ve forgotten that being alive is the success. We’ve forgotten the earth is our garden of plenty.
We have so much to remember…
Fortunately there are oyster mushrooms for those who have the eyes to see.
Our chickens free range and not in a confined space. It means you’re likely to see chickens anywhere on the property. And of course that means every day is an egg hunt. We try to locate the nests before skunks, ‘possums or raccoons do.
We were lucky to locate two sitting hens and move them to safe quarters. Seventeen chicks were born and pranced behind their fearless mothers. Later a third hen yielded another six chicks.
All seemed well until a predator unlocked the coop and killed all but one chick. Certain it was a raccoon; we set a live trap and ensured the third hen and her chicks were secure in another coop.
Next morning the trap was full of one extra large raccoon. But his audacity knew no bounds as he had ripped a board from the smaller coop and killed the hen and five of her chicks.
These are the times that challenge my desire to be peaceful. I’ve caught wild animals before, but none had demonstrated the strength and cunning of this big guy. And now we had to drive him away and set him free.
His ferocity was intimidating, but the task was to free him and the hope was that he preferred his freedom to retaliation.
All ended well as he ran from the cage and scurried off.
We returned to find the solitary survivor chirping away, eager to live and to tell us all about it. We found two more nests in safe locations, so the chickens will do as they are meant to do and procreation will continue.
We’ll set traps for those who also do what their nature demands of them.
And I will work hard to be true to our nature of love and compassion.
In years past I traveled the world. Humanity’s contrasts of life styles and beliefs are a marvel, but it was witnessing our similarities that touched me. At the end of the day, we all want and need the same things. Good food, clean water, fresh air, “a little elbow room”* to live as we please, and peace. Settling into farm life, I questioned if my travel discoveries had come to an end… but now it seems the world comes here.
This region is a magnet for people seeking to enjoy the natural world and a simpler way of life. There is migration afoot in this melting pot of milk and honey and I’m grateful for the kaleidoscope of diversity and the richness it brings.
People often say, “It feels like home,” and I smile because the “home” to which they refer is not the terrain. It’s in the welcome, the beauty and the acceptance. “Home is where the heart is” most surely and when we live within our heart, we’re always at home.
They visit in one season or another and usually leave wanting to see them all. The stars are the same stars, the moon is the same moon, but living outside the neon jungle is a rare gift and those who have not lost the wonder of it appreciate the darkness.
And in all of this coming and going and listening to each other’s stories, I learn why one has said she’s from Burma instead of Myanmar, and glean deeper understanding of Palestine from a young Muslim couple.
For a brief time difference is irrelevant and human sweetness is victor once more.