Waiting for frost

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

We check the weather every day. When the frost comes, everything changes, and quickly. What will survive – and for how long? What won’t?

Growers and producers set up farmers’ markets and CSA shares around specific dates, carefully defined growing seasons. But the frost makes the real call as to how long the farm will continue to be in production.

Do we humans control nature? Sometimes, and sometimes too much. But the weather reminds us that in the grand scheme of things, we have to fit within the earth’s habits and patterns. We can make the most of them, and adapt to them. We can use such things as hoop houses and greenhouses and row covers and mulches for the fields, sheds and heat lamps and straw and water holes and fans for the livestock, to support better and longer growth and survival. But we can’t force nature’s hand. We have to follow it, and pay attention to it. Sometimes we hate it. We learn to respect it.

My grad school friend Mae Rose Petrehn talks all the time about grazing practices, and holistic management in particular. (She’s currently grazing several hundred sheep on a ranch in Nebraska.) Here’s a link to an article in The Atlantic about cattlemen who are looking at new (old) ways of having ruminants on the land, grazing in a way that emulates how nature would have it done in the wild, in order to restore landscapes in addition to producing food.

Lisa M. Hamilton writes: “The basic premise of holistic management is to use livestock like wild animals. But whereas bison on the Great Plains moved through the landscape by instinct, now ranchers must supply that direction. Rather than simply turning cattle into a pasture, these ranchers conduct them like a herd, concentrating bodies to graze one area hard, then leaving it until the plants have regenerated. The effect can be tremendous, with benefits including increased organic matter in the soil, rejuvenation of microorganisms, and restoration of water cycles.”

Read the article! The Brown Revolution: Increasing Agricultural Productivity Naturally.

There is a kind of tension that can exist when one’s livelihood and/or survival depends on nature. But we are kidding ourselves if we think that only applies to some people. It applies to all of us, as nature’s resources feed, clothe, and shelter us – even if we have so distanced ourselves from the process of production that we forget this reality. So we would be wise to explore the tension, to avoid the downfall of domination, and to move as much as we can towards harmony.

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