“It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon..” as Garrison Keillor always put it. Nothing socially monumental occurring, no world mysteries uncovered, just the everyday ups and downs typically muted by the evening news or the latest CNN Broadcast. The passing of the first Canada Geese, the hovering humming birds telling secrets to the chickens, the slow turning over of a bed, a squash beetle on your pant leg, a stubbed toe, the evening whiiiiirrrring of American Toads, and a sudden rain storm that encourages all of us to slow down.
We’ve begun our gentle transition from summer crops to fall crops as cooler nights bring the promise of cooler tomorrows. Stands of beets, carrots, radishes, arugula, and turnips are establishing themselves in different fields as our collards, kale, fennel, lettuce, and others emerge from their sleepy resting places in seed trays. The early heat, humidity, and insect problems of the summer made life for our tomato plants tiring and they have finally been put to rest. While it is sad to say goodbye to our tomatoes until next year, it is cleansing clearing a field for rotation and a reminder that farming functions on steady, deliberate change.
We suffered some chicken losses at the tiny, clever hands of a hungry raccoon this week. The tracks and manipulated wire gave it away immediately and Elliot went to work everything-proofing the chicken tractors. Now the tractors stand tall and true in the field, impenetrable fortresses. I think the only thing these beautiful creations lack are tiny moats and hidden snares. We’ve also begun the delicate process of compiling different age group chickens together in the same tractors. Chickens are highly territorial, or more so hierarchical and do not accept new faces very gracefully. One old farm trick is to place new chickens into the coop in the middle of the night when the flock is asleep. You simply knock a few chickens off the roosting pole and place the new chickens where the others had been. They will sleep in that same spot all night and everyone will wake up and not be completely aware that the new chickens hadn’t been there for as long as they can remember. So far, so good.
Our evenings have been spent dozing to the spirited philosophies of one of our favorite writers, Wendell Berry. Often Elliot and I read beautiful words aloud from our favorite books as we drift into dreamy, moonlit nights. This week has brought about a reoccurring existential funk that comes and goes in both of us, something that probably never goes away but gets buried under the other worries and excitements of our day to day. What is this life all about? Why do humans manipulate resources without thought to consequence? If there is nothing that can change a world so full of capitalist idealism besides disaster, what is the point in paying any attention at all?
We were fortunate enough to read Preserving Wildness the other night, a piece elaborating on what Wendell Berry describes as the “Human Predicament.” If you haven’t read any Wendell Berry, I demand that you do (for your own sake.) If you have not read this particular piece, it must be done. In this piece Wendell Berry examines human beings within the two forms they occupy, as being a part of nature and as being separate. It would be wrong of me to try and explain what he has already stated so elegantly, but I leave you with this quotation in hopes that you will scurry over to your nearest book purveyor and find this life altering piece of art.
"We need wilderness of all kinds, large and small, public and private We need to go now and again into places where our work is disallowed, where our hopes and plans have no standing. We need to come into the presence of the unequal and mysterious formality of Creation." --Wendell Berry