I’ll start with a couple of quotes:
“The property sounds great and a great challenge to put it into prairie. You are welcome to any seeds here.”
“Looks like the “worn out farm” that Aldo Leopold bought complete with “shack”. Good for you. You will have many hours of sweat and good work to do. Yes I would like to see it personally.”
Sometimes events that don’t seem all that important in the present turn out to be really significant events over time. 25 years ago as a first semester freshman in college, my course load included a three credit botany course. I couldn’t have predicted that a course that would have nothing to do with the double major BA that I would earn over the course of the next four years would turn out to be the most important class that I took in college. My rationale for choosing that class, I’m sure went something like this: It was open, I needed some biological science credits sooner or later and I like plants. Mondays and Wednesdays we had 50 minute lectures. Fridays we went out to the land pictured at the top of this post. I couldn’t possibly have known that the place would still be important to me 25 years later and that I would still go there several times a year. I couldn’t possibly have known that I would now count the professor from that class as one of my friends now for over 20 years. Or that I would still be participating in any sort of restoration of prairies and other native plant communities, let alone doing it on land that I owned.
The two quotes above arrived in separate emails from my former professor. The first after I told him about purchasing the land and listed off the various weed problems. The second quote came after we’d visited in person and he asked about pictures, so I sent him a link to the Picasa album that D. has been maintaining. I definitely appreciate the offer of seeds. We won’t be ready for them this fall. I’m also glad that he wants to see it. Of all the people who I know who have expressed interest in visiting the land, he absolutely places in the top two with regard to people who I want to see the land. I don’t see myself in a class with Aldo Leopold and although I’ve not read “A Sand County Alamanac” or any of Leopold’s other writing (which perhaps needs to be added to the reading list soon), but without a doubt, I’ve been influenced by Leopold’s ideas and practices indirectly. His legacy in the fields of ecology and conservation ethics is just too profound for it to be otherwise.
Recently, I’ve looked at what we’re trying to do at the land through a couple of different lenses. I’ve read Steven Apfelbaum’s “Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm”. Steve Apfelbaum and his partner Susan Lehnhardt are two to three decades ahead of me with restoring their land. I also mean to get my hands (and eyes) on “Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land“, a book that Apfelbaum coauthored with Alan W. Haney. Currently, I’m reading Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America; Culture and Agriculture“. I’m sure that our land’s having fallen out of farming decades ago would pain Berry. By reading his book, I’m perhaps getting a general idea of what may have happened to the people who used to farm our land even if I never learn anything about the specific events which led to specific people leaving the land. I’m not sure how Berry would feel about what we’re doing there. First of all, we’re not planning to farm the land. Secondly, we are largely absentee owners of the land. I think Berry would find both of those circumstances damning. On the other hand, we aren’t the people that he was talking about when he criticized people who would buy a 30-acre meadow and when you ask them what they are going to do with it, they say “Nothing! We want to leave it just the way it is,” thinking that they are protecting the environment. We know that restoration of the land is going to be quite the active process and that we’ll have many hours of sweat and good work to do.