Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Seems like I can't stop the world long enough to share all the grand thoughts rolling around in my head after that lecture by Wendell Berry. Thoughts about simple solutions that cost more than we can afford, like ethanol. Thoughts about complex solutions that cost more than we can afford NOT to pay. Solutions that will require a whole bunch of us catching the vision and inspiring the younger generation because it is going to take a few generations working awfully hard before we see long term change.

I am thinking about how hard this year has been for us and how comforting it was to hear that we are doing the right thing.

I am thinking about our farmer friends, all working with different talents and gifts and skill sets, step by step healing our little plots of land and our bodies and our spirits. Isn't it amazing that what is good for the forests and our farms and our animals is good for our bodies and minds and spirits and even stretches out to help improve the globe?

I am thinking that going back to go forward is harder than it looks in an essay. We are so challenged by the world to live the other life. The consumer life. Wendell Berry does not give the false illusion that if we merely follow a prescribed formula all will be well. Au contraire. It is easier said than done to "not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). But after chatting with friends before and after lecture, sharing their delicious soups made from locally raised turkey and chicken, along with locally made bread, in a cozy little cottage, the boys and I felt like we were living a noble life. A life that is honorable.

We have our work cut out for us. But little changes we make can make a difference. Letting our pastures grow perennials instead of annual grains will help the ecosystem in numerous ways. Laying down manure instead of chemical fertilizers will help the subsoil grow, will encourage insect life, stronger root systems and bit by bit we will grow precious topsoil. Wow.

As we depend more heavily on our customers we grow more appreciative of a local economy and make the effort to buy from friends and neighbors, keeping a bigger proportion of our dollars in the county. One of the things Mr. Berry mentioned was that as farmers moved away from draft horses and toward tractors, they moved to monoculture farming, exporting most of their produce, grains, or whatever out of town and even out of state. With all that exporting, they also ended up exporting their top soil and their sons. Way too costly. He seemed to suggest that we need to first feed our family, our neighbors and our community, then export. That way the economy can support more jobs, feed more people and strengthen infrastructure.

One of Mr. Berry's books is called The Unsettling of America, Culture and Agriculture. It greatly moved and inspired me. At the lecture I picked up a new book, Bringing It to the Table. It is a collection of essays and stories. One can smell the sweat, hear the sound of water splashing by the back door as the men shuffle in to the table. One can see the mounds of biscuits and corn and green beans with steam rising and taste the fruit of the land. Pure. Real. Nourishing.

Just like Mr. Berry's writing.

I was simply going to check into this blog to mention that we got a gully washer. Flash floods poured off the Jefferson National Forest. Pastures, stream and pond are overflowing. Gallons of water race down the valley. I hope they are leaving plenty of nice amendments to the hay field and not washing too many away. The sun came out for a short bit this afternoon. Not long enough to dry all the laundry. We are using the woodstove and fireplace to serve instead. Please give us a warning if you plan on dropping by so I can gather up all the socks and underwear!

Also wanted to mention that we received a marvelous gift last week. The children and I are going to be able to make a trip to Texas to visit my family. We leave this weekend after market. When I realized we could go I cried out loud. The children all acknowledge that it is a miracle. They are ecstatic. We will miss Philip but are so grateful he is willing to work so hard at work then come home and do our chores for us to give us this opportunity. We have an open window. The cows are due to calve end of month or January. Sheep and goats aren't due until February and March. We are going to leap through that open window and head to Grandma and Grandpa's house. A couple of people have told me they were praying for us after reading my sappy pre-Thanksgiving homesick post. Thank you so much. This is the season to be refreshed and restored.

So you got a weather report and a whole lot more. Believe me, there are so many things to talk about in regards to complex solutions to big-time problems and the role of agriculture. We have so much to learn. I hope we will all rise to the occasion. But in order for me to rise in the morning I better hit the sack. Guess I am very far removed from Mr. Berry's world. He doesn't write by artificial light and doesn't even use a typewriter, let alone a computer or a BLOG! Oh well. the sound of the wind is going to lull me to sleep anyway.


Anonymous said...

we, the grandma and grandpa are so excited about this miracle. A few tears have been shed here in Texas about this too.

Redhen said...

Hah! Snap, I just bought the same Wendell Berry book last week. We could have shared.

Have a nice trip, I know it means a lot to you.

Anonymous said...

You must MUST keep up on your blog. I miss it so much when you are busy....It is often the only bright spot in my day(computer-wise).

Love you!
Julie said...

Mom, we are almost on our way! This getting ready to go away for so long is going to kill me!

Donna, TOO BAD! But mine is signed, so there! I especially loved his essay about all the breeds of sheep in England.

Julie, MISS YOU TOO! I will try to write on our trip. Hope to see you soon.

Jeff said...

I had known of Wendell Berry, but I didn't connect with him until I read an interview in The Sun magazine. He is a very wise man, indeed. I love the way he quotes Scripture to make his points - he's is so good at it. It is, indeed, easier said than done to "not be conformed to this world" - so many traps lying out there! But you and your family seem to be making a tremendous amount of progress. Congratulations!!