Archive for April, 2009

Private Property


I have always respected private property in the way a child respects a hot stove; never wishing to experience the possible negative effects of ignoring either the warning against little hands touching red-hot coils, or little feet trespassing on neighbors’ fields.

Not everyone feels the same way, alas. 

The two ponds up on our hilltop pastures are a siren call to someone in the neighborhood; some disrespectful sort of folks who’ve fished them, cut the rope to the bucket holding the windmill aerator stone, left their beer cans and trash, and now, they’ve torn down the “posted” signs.

It isn’t like the place is deserted.  Bobby goes up on the hill several times a week, drives around the pastures, picks up fallen branches, checks on the equipment stored under tarps, and mows the pastures every other month or so.  Drives him crazy that someone would brazenly stomp around up there like no one cares, like we’d never posted any signs.  He thinks it’s kids and they’re relatively harmless, but still it bothers him, as it does me.

We’ll replace the signs when we’re out there in May, and I’ll speak to the neighbor about putting a new lock on the gate that provides access from his pastures to ours.  It would probably be a good idea to file a complaint with the sheriff as well, to get the issue on record. 

I’d sure like to know who it is, maybe even bump into them while we’re there.  A good face-to-face discussion about private property rights after a friendly introduction as the owner of the farm might be all it takes.  I can feel my dander gettin’ up already.


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Alene sends pictures almost every other week – her photos are not what mine would be, but I’m so fortunate to have her there to be my eyes, I won’t apologize for poor resolution or lack of composition; these pictures are precious to me, my only glimpse of all that I love and long for from half a world away.

The dogwoods have started  flowering now and soon will be a riot of white against the pale new green leaves of the overstory trees behind them.  One day not too far from now, I’ll be there to see their transformation for myself; until then, these ordinary photos keep my heart and mind tuned to a certain hilltop farm in south-central Kentucky, where the sun rises on bright spring-green pastures and sets on hardwood forests tinged with spring white.



 It has been a wet Spring thus far, with more than 4″ of rainfall by mid-April; 15″ or so for the year to date.  The forest will be exploding soon with life and the pastures are already at grazing stage, 8 – 10″ of tender, succulent young grass and clover.  Too bad I do not have any hungry sheep or cows to begin rotating through them yet…  It would be a good time for lambing, calving and foaling, with lots to eat and rains bringing more growth every day.

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How I wish I were back at the Farm right now.  Just look at the grass starting to green up, the trees yet to push leaves, still waiting for the days to lengthen enough to be safe from sudden frost.  Someday soon, I’ll live each day of each season there, noting the subtle changes in every living thing as the planet hurtles back around its yearly orbit, tilting the Northern hemisphere once again toward the burning star that makes all this wonderful stuff happen.

I have 30 days left over here in this East African desert; 44 days to being boots on ground right there (points to photo), in the middle of that very pasture, surrounded by the green grass and budding trees that wait patiently for me.  Oh, my farm is my lover, my waiting woman, beckoning me home with graceful arms and bountiful curves, life springing from her soils and grasses and forests and creeks.  How I yearn for her presence, her sounds, her smells, her touch.

This trip I will rescue the corral from certain death by weathering.  It was assembled perhaps 8 years ago, used only once, and put up too close to the Big Pond.  The panels are rusting and in dire need of a new coat of paint; I’ll attend to that then tear the whole thing down and stack ’em in the trees under a tarp, until I’m ready to set it back up again in a better location.  We’ll be there 10 days, so I’ll have time to sand and paint 20 8-foot steel panels.  I hope.

We’ll see if I can get Derril to take some pictures this time, to help illustrate the project story.  Bobby and Alene are thinking of taking a trip to see their kids while we’re there, since our stay is so long; it will be nice to have the Farm to ourselves for a change, and be able to power through the work without keeping a meal schedule or just being dang rude for not coming down off the hill until dark.  I’m bad about that.

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lady-horseloggerHere is Mel at work, skidding logs in late March at this year’s Open Woods Day in Floyd, Virginia.

She and Adam are apprenticing with the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation to become Biological Woodsmen.  They’ll head back up north to their farm soon, to start operating their own restorative forestry business  there, and will train, work, breed and care for my mares for a little over two years, until I can get boots on ground at the Farm in Kentucky.

It is my hope that the contribution of living capital, both the horses to use and the foals they’ll keep, will help them get a good start.

Mel’s a quiet girl, but intense and passionate too.   Were you to meet her on a busy city street, you wouldn’t guess she works in the woods with horses and chainsaws and huge, heavy logs.  Having done a myriad of non-traditional jobs my whole life, I can really appreciate another woman who fearlessly chooses to follow her heart into the woods and the fields and do work like this.  It isn’t just for men, and it’s a lot of fun, and we can be very good at it.

These two young people are very special, and very important, to their community and to the world at large.  Not afraid to roll up their sleeves and learn a complex craft that defies the conventional mindset of profit over every other thing, and that gives back to the Earth and her future generations.  They give me hope and remind me that good, honest dreams built of hard work are still all some folks need to be happy in this life.   Makes me feel good, that.

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Horselogging School


The dates of this course of instruction fall nicely into the leave period I’ll have after I return home from this Africa deployment.  We’ll make a 10-day working visit to the Farm at the end of May, then I’ll put Derril on a plane back to San Diego and head on over to Virginia for some much-needed training for li’l ole’ Thistledog.  Horses aren’t the only ones that need schooling.

I’m really looking forward to this.  Been getting myself ready physically, too – years ago I could have jumped right out there from a dead stop; nowadays my stamina and strength don’t stick around without being called upon, and I haven’t done much physical labor lately.  So I’m back to weight training and hill-walking to bring myself up to speed.  It’ll pay off for the whole trip, as my project list at the Farm will have me up at dawn and working until daylight fades; got culverts to clean out, road ditches to re-grade, and the corral fence panels to re-paint and move.  Getting strong and tough now will save me a lot of pain later.

One thing I won’t be surprised by is the heat.  After a year in East Africa, my yardstick for comparing hot temperatures is mighty damned long.

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