Working with Nature

When I told some of my Grovemates that I would be working on this piece soon, they all laughed and said “Are you kidding? You could do that one with your eyes closed.” It was a good feeling, because it lets me know that an example on my part has been set. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still a good one.

To put it bluntly, I’ve been working with nature all my life. My family is full of generation after generation of farmers, and it’s instilled in my blood. My dream is to own a ranch where I too can develop my own farm (albeit on a more eco-conscience foundation) and be one with the land.

So where exactly do I start an essay that would essentially cover all of the different stages of my life?

As a child, I was a pure-bred tomboy. I grew up in the spirit of many native american principles. The eco-conscience decisions were merely an everyday thing. We were farmers, so we couldn’t afford expensive medications, so we made due with old medicinal folklore. We grew our own food and cattle, so we were never caught up in the consumerist grocery expenditures. We had a big family so clothes were always handed down. And if something broke, we fixed it, instead of throwing it out.

I am so grateful for the childhood I was given, because it taught me a lot about independence and living with the land. As children we would often hike far away from home in the large reservoir that surrounded our farm. So much that our parents hung up large church bells at the main house that they could ring when it was time for dinner so we knew to start heading back home.

Those values and that experience still live on today, and I intend to instill them in my own children should I ever have them. My father and I do not live on such a big farm now, but this is our home. Hopefully one day we will own it, but for now I am grateful for what we have.

We grow our own vegetables, just last week we harvested our first corn of the season. Next week I will be canning tomatoes for the upcoming winter. We raise laying hens, so we always have a fresh stock of farm fresh eggs. We have a decent sized customer-base for our eggs as well, which means they aren’t supporting the unethical chicken factories either. My co-workers and our egg customers have learned to bring back their egg cartons to be reused in the next batch, which helps keep trash out of landfills. We even use the styrofoam ones, because I figure it’s better that they are being used to the brim instead of sitting in some landfill somewhere.

And every September through December when hunting season starts, my father and I both grab a rifle and you’ll find us out in the woods at 5am in the cold, looking for our next game. That meat will provide us through the winter, and the fur will give me more practice with my tanning knowledge, and warmth when the snows come.

Granted hunting and killing game may not be considered an eco-friendly decision to some people. In fact I have a cousin who is adamantly against it and often chides me for it, because he says it is unethical. Yet I find humor in his hypocrisy because he is not a vegetarian, so he eats meat from the grocery store. Such meat has been treated far worse and done more damage to the environment than anything I could ever be capable of.

We also kill some of our rabbits several times a year for meat and fur. We sell whole rabbits to a series of customers, which I know they enjoy knowing where their meat and eggs come from.

During the summer months, my father and I conserve water by using gray water on our plants. It’s a bit of a pain because I have to bucket out the water every morning after I shower. Eventually I’d like to have a system installed where it would be stored in its own tank and I can pull directly from there, but for now I enjoy the extra physical labor.

We split our own firewood every fall, but only from fallen trees that we’ve drug up from the woods with the tractor. We’ve never cut a live tree (the wood would be too green anyway), and this means we are conserving energy because we do not pay for heat.

My father has a slight obsession with our local bird population. I’d say we have at least 10 different bird feeders that are tended to everyday, with another 4 bird baths. He could spout off the name of every bird that flies through (another trait I hope to pick up, when I have time to sit around and watch birds all day like he does).

I have also downgraded from my 1978 full size bronco to a more environmentally friendly v6 mustang. I still have the bronco, but have taken it off the road temporarily to fix it up. I would have invested in a hybrid vehicle, but even they are ridiculously expensive, and I had to buy used. Fortunately it gets decent gas mileage, which certainly helps out the environment, compared to the v8 351 modified engine I was driving before 🙂

I use almost all organic/natural products in our home. From soy-based toilet cleaner, to organic soap that I barter feathers for that my friend Anna makes. We use Seventh Generation detergent, though I intend to start making my own. We raise guinea fowl to help deplete the insect (especially ticks) population, as I refuse to use any harmful chemicals around my home.

I even do small things like, save our grocery bags if the only option we have is plastic. These make great trash bags later on. Otherwise I try to use a canvas bag or two instead. I also saved some of those little black plastic dishes with a lid that restaurants give you if you order carry-out, and those make perfect lunch containers. I also bring my own metal drinking container to work instead of using masses of paper and plastic cups like my co-workers (though trying to get them to do the same thing is not so easy).

One thing I’d also like to have here, if we owned this property, is solar panels. There’s a lot of investing I would do to make our home have a softer footprint on the earth, but I can’t see myself spending that type of money on a place we don’t even own (even if we’ve been living here for 28 years).

I’d also like to have enough space to be completely self-sufficient as far as food (and everything, really). I intend to build a smokehouse, greenhouse, and raise small amounts of various stock and game. My home will be built in a manner which compliments Mother Nature, and will not be dependent on standard heat and air conditioning, but instead the natural terrain of the earth itself.

But the biggest contribution I can make to the environment, is education. Educating myself and learning the skills I want to learn to walk softly on the earth. And then to teach and lead by example, to not only my children, but to my peers and everyone who would listen.

But those types of plans are reserved for the future. It is after all, a way of life.

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