Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Time Hurries On...

...and the leaves that are green turn to brown, sang Paul Simon.  And they become compost after they have been raked up.  We borrowed a very sophisticated mower from a good friend of ours, and it has not only mowed the grass in our front area, it has given us a pile of clippings mixed with decaying leaves that is to die for.

When we took the property in the fall of 2013 it still had a 'rural residential' feeling to it.  As one friend described it, it could easily have been transplanted into a suburban subdivision.  The lawn was manicured until about 100 feet our from the house, forming a tidy line with the field of hay.  Walking out to the hay for the first time felt like walking into a vast uncharted world, but now it has become familiar, and so has the routine of chores, of riding my bike between gardens and chopping wood along the treeline, dragging it back to the woodpile.

A couple of days ago I got the camera out for the first time in months, and shot the sunrise.  Last year I took hundreds of photos of skies, fields and I would often drop whatever building or digging I was working on at the sound of an unusual bird song, find my camera and chase it until I had a decent picture.  Farming is dangerous - beyond the risk of heavy objects falling or machines (for those who have them) getting out of control, it risks dulling some of your senses in their curiosity about the great outdoors - its sounds and smells and sheer freshness because it all become some familiar.  It also makes something as simple as visiting the local museums something that keeps eluding, going further and further into the future because there is never a good time to get away for a day.

I suspect that a guru or life coach's advice would be to set aside time for "being" amidst the spleandour, even when other mundane tasks are pressing.  But, as Paul Simon sang, time hurries on.

In spite of the grind that farming is becoming, there is an underlying goodness in the lifestyle.  I heard a CBC radio program yesterday on which the merits of organic food were debated.  There was the claim that the nutritional value was the same as conventional food, following by the claim that the research into this was largely done by large conventional food companies...there was the claim that environmentally speaking, conventional agriculture was in fact better than organic because it was more efficient, and organics also use pesticides, followed by the rebuttal that, according to the UN's findings, ecological agriculture is the only kind of farming that can be sustained over the long term, given the heavy dependence on fossil fuels in conventional growing (I should note that while the organic industry is only as organic as the regulators say it has to be, it is not the case that every organic farm sprays with pesticides, even though certain sprays are approved for organically certified farms).

The debate was not really interesting to me, I had heard the arguments before, but when you are on a farm seven days a week and it practically meshes with your very being, the question of farming practices becomes important.  Perhaps the most significant issue for me, which was not discussed in the debate, is the fact that large conventional monocropping farms do not seek to nourish soil in order to produce good food, and nor do they claim to.  It's not considered efficient, and with the times.

There is a great pleasure in building a compost pile that is full of green grasses and brown leaves, and chicken manure and bugs and worms and chickens hurrying about like kids in an arcade.  Time hurries on, and life is short, and as much as the farm grind is tiring and not often restful (or profitable), it's hard to walk away from it, in part because so much time, energy and money becomes invested in it and in part because the processes that go into nourishing soil to produce good food become vital to you as the farmer too in ways that most people wouldn't understand.

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