Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Farm Connection

Yikes! I’ve been so wrapped up in working on the remodeling of our house I’ve ignored the rest of the world in favor of hammer, nails and wood. My project was to finish the built-in shelves between the dining room and living room--I did. Now I can begin working on the cabinets/counter that will be between the dining room and kitchen. Lots of work but something I enjoy. I like the feel of wood being transformed into something lasting and naturally beautiful with its own colors and designs. When I am working on wood I can block out the world and let my mind go through all the garbage that has been forced into it and toss out the junk--which is a surprising amount.

In addition to building the cabinets and shelves and general remodeling, I am collecting wood from Michelle’s family farm. I’ll be incorporating that wood into the dining room set for Michelle. When it is all finished it will be something that I hope will be passed down to future generations on her side, who will be told that it was made by “Papa-G.” Recently the project took on a little more importance because Michelle’s parents had to sell the farm. A brother (M’s uncle) who passed away a couple of years ago didn’t have a will so his interest in the farm passed to his wife, who also passed away without a will. They didn’t have any children so their interest in the farm (there is also a sister who owned the final third) passed to a niece or some such obscure relative who had no connection to M’s family, who saw dollar signs and not the intrinsic value of the farm. Fortunately, the buyer is someone who does appreciate the value of the farm and when I called to ask about gathering wood for my winter office heat, and cutting wood for the furniture for Michelle (and for her sister) he told me it wouldn’t be a problem and to continue as I have.

The value of something like a farm is an interesting and extraordinarily complex thing. I believe it takes someone who has at least a little experience with the pleasure of having a farm to understand that value. My family had a farm in Oklahoma (the farm has an interesting history--for another time) and while I never lived on it (some of my siblings did) I do have many memories of “going to the farm” in the spring and summer. First for planting a garden, then maintaining it and finally harvesting it. It was enough for me that when my parents sold the farm I somehow felt a sudden disconnection that exists to this very day. On my last trip “home” (Blackwell, Oklahoma) I drove to Lamont and then out to the site of the farm. I was secretly hoping to see some trace reminder of what had been “the farm.” There was nothing. Not a tree nor a bush and when I walked where I was reasonably sure the farmhouse had been I couldn’t even find a splinter of wood. Every inch of ground was cleared, plowed and part of what had once been the fields where my father had grown up and later farmed. Now it is all one field and the memories that should haunt it have all but drifted away.

Here in North Dakota Michelle’s family farm was not “my” family farm and yet I had developed a connection to it. For the past ten years I have cut a winter’s supply of firewood out of the farmstead’s dead trees. I’ve hunted ducks and deer on the farm and driven across the harvested fields to hunt other sloughs and dove in the trees. I’m sure the new owner will let me hunt deer in the trees and waterfowl on the slough and dove in the trees, but the connection is forever severed. I’ll cut the wood that I’ll make into furniture and eventually that project will be finished and I’ll be through searching for straight logs to cut into lumber. The only wood I’ll then be cutting will be firewood and finally that too will end. I don’t know if my deer and duck hunting will end before the firewood, or after, but they will end. I have to believe the new owner’s children will develop a connection that will lead to future generations of deer and ducks and hunters.

Think about it.


Holly Heyser said...

What a shame it is that the concept of land ownership has made our connection to the land so brittle.

I would love to own a big piece of land just so I'd have a lot of habitat I could hunt without question. But I want that only because that's the system I must work within.

Galen Geer said...

Holly, I've been talking with some area landowners about hunting on their land next fall and found that most of it is open to all bird hunters but closed to most deer hunters. Why the deer hunters? The claim is they are the most damaging. I need to take a longer look at that question.

Holly Heyser said...

Interesting. I would think bird hunters would leave more spent shells in the area. What a shame that deer hunting has such a slob reputation.

Galen Geer said...

It's not spent shells (although that is a common complaint) but the damage the hunters do. Too many deer hunters will leave gates open, drive over fields to get at downed deer and the worst complaint is that a lot of (how many is a "a lot of"?) deer hunters don't pay attention to where they are shooting and they hit houses, barns, cattle, etc. I believe that statement. One short example, last year I was sitting in my truck and using my scope when I heard a shot and then a bit later the snap of the bullet just over the top of the Suburban and in the direction of town. In their excitment hunters sometimes forget how far that bullet will travel, esp. if it is aimed slightly uphill. I can't think of a single season, Colorado or here, when I have not had bullets snap over my head or close by. In Colorado we had a bullet go through a tent one afternoon. Hunters get excited and don't think. I can understand it but it does not resolve the problem. We like to say that every group has its 10% of bad eggs, I wonder if deer hunting has a higher percentage.

Holly Heyser said...

Wow. Living in a state with so few deer and so little deer hunting (our totals are I think something like one-fourth of Virginia's), I don't really see or hear much about it.

We really need some cultural change. I think it would really help a lot of hunting's major media - TV and mags - would do some well-crafted PSAs to encourage good behavior.