I had reason to be at William O'Brien State Park earlier today. The St. Croix look like it was running somewhere near bank full. There was a delightful cluster of what looked to me like wild geraniums in bloom along the road to the river access. It was a real treat to be out in the sunshine with a gentle breeze blowing and the birds singing and the river flowing.
Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)
Photo by J. Harrington
I've been giving a lot of thought recently to the question of why learn the names of the local plants and animals. I know that it simplifies being able to share information. After all, if you and your friend both know what an apple tree looks like, arranging to meet at the apple tree down by the river can work reasonably well. Seeing the geraniums and being able to recognize and name them helped me feel more at home than I had anticipated, sort of like getting to know the neighbors and their pets may not do much to help us feel at home when we're in our own home, but it strengthens our feeling of being at home in the neighborhood.
late June corn cover, 2013
Photo by J. Harrington
In my neighborhood, most of the local farm fields have been plowed and planted but aren't yet showing any plant cover, so the top soil is just sitting there waiting for the next good rainstorm to create more erosion. I've seen some recent reports on folks in Iowa planting "prairie strips" along with corn. Some of the funds for seeds came from Pheasants Forever which is also doing some work in Minnesota on pollinator habitat. Each of these look like the kinds of improvements that would benefit the Sunrise River and its negative effect on the St. Croix River. I'll keep my eyes and ears open to see if there's any local prairie strip work going on of if there's a local Pheasant Forever chapter working on something. I'd really like to see the Sunrise River watershed, and Chisago County in particular, become known as a model of how we can achieve a balance between use and abuse of the land and the resources there. We need to broaden the definition of "we" when we're reminded of Paul Wellstone's great quotation "We all do better when we all do better." Aldo Leopold provided the needed insight when he wrote about a land ethic: “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”- Aldo Leopold Not surprisingly, I think Wendell Berry has it about right.
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage, copyright ® 1973 by Wendell Berry
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