Those of you who have visited Brookbank for your CSA box pick up or on another occasion will know that Dawn and I have been working steadily to reclaim and restore this site to become a regenerated farm that provides food for our community. To do so we try to work with Nature, mimicking her movements, and listening when she speaks. Of course, we also nudge the process along. For instance, after we studied for some time the patterns of water flow on the land we undertook a large project of building a series of three connecting ponds and waterways.
It’s not always easy, however, to see Nature’s movements or hear her voice, and not least because a bend-of-knee attitude runs against my – well okay, the truth here – control-freak, manipulate-the-outcomes, Calvinistic domination of Earth machismo that was drilled into me in my formative years. Dawn, bless her, is much better than I am at adapting to the subtle, and to the obvious. Here I provide two examples. First, there is Canaan field, which we opened a few years back. For two seasons we grew some brassicas and some kale there but, despite the good soil, without smashing success. We know now that it just happens to be one of those spots on the land where the undulations of blue clay beneath the topsoil rise a little too high, making for virtual swamp conditions. We could perhaps plant bog blueberries there. But when Dawn saw a host of new pioneer alders sprouting there she heard Nature whisper. “Let it reforest here.” (Meantime, I didn’t hear much, because I was too busy shouting “Honey! Canaan is such a mess!”) The second example, gratefully, is one of simple and pure wonder. Our Toulouse geese got themselves hot and bothered. Eggs a poppin’, we ate fine omelettes for a spell. But then one of the ladies decided to lay within an old and giant cedar stump. She nestled in, and as befits all mothers-to-be of every species, promptly became hellbent obsessed to protect her (future) family. Hissing at us from forty feet away, we didn’t dare go near. But the incubation period is around 35 days, a long haul in a stump. We might have tried to steal the eggs, put them in an incubator, set the temperature and humidity just right, and turn them twice daily for a month. But Dawn (again) simply said exactly this: “let’s just let Nature happen.” And, photographic proof of our gaggle of ten attached, Nature did just that.
It’s vital in farming and life that we learn to know when to exert ourselves for the outcomes we seek, and when not. When to step in, and when to step out.