Category Archives: Nature

Farm Life

Corn
Our first planting of corn has been producing for almost a month! Eating fresh and freezing as much as possible.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, about her family farm in southwest Virginia, she describes the extensive preparations they took to protect the garden from weeds and critters before going away for a week. I was away for two weeks at the height of the growing season with no time for preparation, and my gardens, both vegetable and flower, were busy both producing and returning to the wild when I returned. I was able to wrestle back some control from the weeds while also harvesting corn, green beans and tomatoes for consumption and preservation. My freezer is slowly filling up with bags of beans and plastic containers of corn and tomato sauce. It will be a delicious winter.

The Pear Orchard
The pear orchard with six trees and lots of delicious, eat-off-the tree pears.

I have also been canning pear jam with the bounty from our six pear trees, all of which have produced amazing fruit this year. I am using this great recipe from Practical Self Reliance; it makes a beautiful, chunky but spreadable jam. My only hack is that I use my pressure cooker to cook down the pears as it requires less tending than the stove top.

The world of “real” work is calling, and in between gardening and cooking, I got started on a couple projects for the fall semester. I was worried that, after feeling very retired for the first months of 2023 and especially while I was hanging out with my parents and then digging into my part-time farmer life, I wouldn’t have the energy or motivation to deal with timelines and deadlines and other people. Fortunately, my skills at prioritizing and focusing kicked back in but with a better sense of balance. I was able to integrate work without it overwhelming the rest of my life the way it might have in the past. Plus, it has been a great time to learn new tech skills: I am incorporating AI into both my edtech courses and have been having fun learning about and experimenting with ChatGPT. More on that later.

For now, I’ve got pears to prep and tomatoes to pick, and I might even take a bike ride on a Monday morning.

Pears
Pears hanging low on the branches

Tree Reading

I have been letting my books lead my reading this year and a group of three books revolved around nature with trees at the center.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier is the fictional story of a pioneer family trying to make a living by growing apples in Ohio. When tragedy strikes, the oldest son heads west and works for a seed saver who is feeding the foreign thirst for American trees. We get a glimpse of the destruction of the huge cedars and redwoods.

It is this destruction that forms the foundation for The Overstory, Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the activists and scientists trying to save the last of the giant trees. I had avoided reading the book because I knew it would be a challenge to read about the deceit and devastation practiced in the name of progress that tried hard to wipe out the Native Americans, the buffalo and the ancient trees, just to name a few. I live amongst trees here at the farm, and my husband and I own ten acres of wooded land along a creek where we once considered building a house but may now just preserve it from development as long as we can.

Development and hunger for wood was devastating for the trees and for the activists who try to save them from humanity while trying to save humanity from themselves. It does not, as you might expect, go well for the trees or the people. Law enforcement was often brutal to the protesters when they refused to yield in ways I won’t describe here. Oregon Public Broadcasting has a radio series called¬†Timber Wars¬†produced in 2020 that lays out what they call the biggest environmental fight in the US.

The book is the story of ordinary human beings who encounter trees in ways that change their perspectives on the world. Powers masterfully tells their stories from their childhood through adulthood through the perspective of their journey both to and then with trees at the center. Along the way, we learn the stories of trees in America including references the Johnny Appleseed, chestnut blight and seed saving. It did make a nice companion to At the Edge of the Orchard although trees did not form the centerpiece of Chevalier’s novel with its focus on family and relationships. But she describes the huge stump where the westerners held dances and it is surprising to think any giants were left for Powers’ characters to save.

There may have been an undercurrent of hope in the story that ultimately the trees had a longer timeline than human beings but it couldn’t cut through the sense of grief that permeated the book. I don’t want to discourage you from reading it as I think it was the best book I’ve read this year.

The third book of the trio was The Forest Unseen, David George Haskell’s reporting from the field where he tended a 3 meter mandala in the woods of western Tennessee for a year. Haskell, a biologist, takes us deep into nature with his observations of this world, from the tops of the trees to the leaf mulch and below. He uses this small patch of the earth to lead to detailed and engaging explorations of the natural world. Haskell covered some of the topics the Powers did and lamented man’s impact on nature although his book is a bit more joyful.

These books focused primarily on the United States with brief forays into the rest of the world. Perhaps nowhere is the destruction of trees more devastating than in Brazil. A recent article in The Guardian described the increase in rainforest deforestation. In this case, it is linked to political leadership with the new leadership trying to reverse the destruction. Trees may be playing the long game but they are losing in the short term and taking us with them, I’m afraid.

Back Online With Boundaries

I spent December binge watching media while making cards, crocheting gifts and baking. When I wasn’t making, I was reading, finishing the year with 134 books. I also completed the Kindle challenge with a perfect month in December. I traveled a bit, too, to see family and friends. All excuses for not blogging, I suppose, but being offline in general helped me consider how and where I wanted to spend my in 2023.

Happy New Year 2023

I have not made a resolution to post every day but figured I could at least check in to wish everyone a happy new year. I spent yesterday setting up my LibraryThing thread in the 75 books a year group, my 9th year sharing life and reading with a few people. I intend to spend more time there than on social media, developing deeper relationships in this protected environment. I created a new year’s greeting just for them as several of them are bird nerds like me.

I would like to take more photos so I signed on for Fat Mum Slim’s Photo a Day challenge. Today’s theme was hello and here was my submission.

Hello

Major is loving the nice weather and we usually get out twice each day for a ramble around the farm. We have had regular sitings of a bald eagle and a hawk along with meadowlarks and white-throated sparrows.

I’ll write more this year about the importance of nature in my life.

January 1, 2023 Dog Walk

I also include a selfie I grabbed on the walk. This is me at 60-1/2, unfiltered. I cringe a little at posting, but I have earned those lines and wrinkles. If I have any wisdom to share, it is to be aware in the present as much as possible. Bad or good, it’s what you have. It is the essential lesson of meditation. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your life and your circumstances if need be, but acceptance of the present can help with that process as well.

For some reason, I thought of Bruce Springsteen as I wrote that advice. His album, Wrecking Ball, is filled with stories of struggle and oppression; yet, there seems to be a sense of hope as well that hard times and rocky ground have moments of contentment and joy as well, even if it is in the listening of a song. I leave you on this first day of the new year with two songs from Springsteen. The first is his live rendition of a Stephen Foster song called “Hard Times (Come Again No More)” and the second the video for “Rocky Ground” from the Wrecking Ball album, which references the Foster song. Many of the songs on Springsteen’s album have connections to old American songs and spirituals.

Connecting With Nature

I had a wonderful visit with one of my oldest friends and my parents. It was so wonderful that I rarely looked at my phone and only took three pictures!

My friend lives in a rural area and, one day, we looked out to see the flock of turkeys that had been regular visitors to their yard. I had fun making a bit of video as well.

My parents live in a retirement community in Cornwall, Pennsylvania. I get out for a walk every day. This time, I explored the meadow walk that leads to the main campus via Wildflower Lane. I chatted with the bunny as I headed towards the creek.

I also sought out my favorite, “secret” garden, between two buildings on the main campus.

I have written about Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things”, before, and these pictures remind me that nature is all around us if we are willing to seek it out.