Zip into Spring


I heard a Wood Thrush today. The song was clear and bright. The bird had positioned himself strategically within the tree. Deep enough within the tree limbs to avoid becoming dinner for a Coopers Hawk yet high enough to allow his intended to hear his courtship song. The Wood Thrush sings a patchwork of other birds’ songs. He carefully chooses select pieces from his winged neighbors, sewing them together to form his own beautifully unique melody.
The arrival of the song birds is a sure sign of Spring and all it promises. Every year, as Spring spreads her warm embrace over the land, the chance for starting over beckons. The hope for renewal, for better days, for continued aspirations is a powerful tonic. I love Spring and all it represents.
The ground has warmed enough for planting spring crops. Spinach, all kinds of lettuce, kale, broccoli and cauliflower are just a few of the seeds that are waiting to sprout in my garden. As I worked in my garden, the local farmers were busy in the fields as well.
Many of the farmers around here are working the same fields their parents and grandparents worked. They know the individual personality of each field. They carefully nurture each crop from start to finish. This is their life’s work and it means everything.
The farms and the families that love them are economically and emotionally tied to the land. It brings permanence and continuity to our community. The small family farm is crucial to the economic and social structure of our society. The farmers that toil in these fields have no intention of leaving. This work is in their veins and it keeps them going.
What do you think of when you imagine a small family farm? Do you imagine a man with burnt skin and stooped shoulders fighting the dust to grow food for his family? This is an outdated picture of the modern farmer.
Today’s farmer is college educated. They are men and women that are involved in local politics and local decision making. They shop at the locally owned grocery store and buy furniture from the cabinet maker that attends their church. They help each other in times of need and support each other’s victories. Because they are joyfully tied to the land and the community they have a vested interest in it’s success.
Small farmers are not going to farm the land to death – using up all of it’s resources and then move on as a commercial farm operation would do. These farmers want to preserve the land so their children can farm this land. These farmers want to see their children and grandchildren running through the fields and swimming in the ponds, just like they did. These farmers are educated on the latest farming best practices. These families run for local political office so they an help shape their future.
Every Spring, the cycle starts over. The cycle of tilling , planting, and cultivating has started anew. The only way this cycle can continue is if the land is used wisely. It is concerning when folks without this connection to the land buys up land for farming. The first thing they want to do, is rip out all of the trees to create these 500 acre windswept fields. These fields lack windbreaks from tree rows. The tree rows also provide habitat for wildlife, like owls and hawks. The large raptors help control the rodent populations. The uneducated farmer also drains the marshy areas. The marshy areas also provide important wildlife habitat.
I live on an organic farm that is worked by one of the families that have long generational ties to this area. Our farmer cleans up the tree rows but leaves the large trees for windbreaks and habitat homes. Our farmer leaves the marshes so the water can help the fields and support local wildlife. His family has multiple generations working together to successfully farm the land. They also have an extended family through their church that also comes together to help each other. This model works. Community helping community is a proven way to keep an economy going.
The preservation of the individual family farm is a cornerstone to keeping middle america alive.
This morning, as I walked the fields and strolled by the pond, I saw a Green Heron standing in the water. These are quiet and solitary birds. It didn’t make a sound as it lifted into the trees to watch me and my dogs walk by. As I turned my back, it floated back down to the water. I was able to capture the photo of this beautiful bird that I have shared with you today.
The quiet beauty of nature is to be treasured and saved. I am thankful everyday I live in a part of the country that appreciates this beauty.

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