The farmland here is rolling, gentle hills. A little rocky here, sandy there, and clay-ey closer to the river. The farms are small, traditionally it's been all about cattle, with fields sown in hay, alfalfa & corn for winter feed. Some rotation, of course; oats do well here. Barley is iffy thanks to summer storms.
It's only in the last decade or so that we're seeing more and more soy, and only in the last few years that we're seeing 'modern' farming techniques being used. Massive, computerized machinery. Fields 'burned down' with chemicals to get rid of the weeds, hedgerows and sugar-maple bushes taken out to make room, and vast fields of that soy, year after year, crop rotation be damned.
Remember how I told you about our excessively snowy winter and the ensuing spring rains resulting in a whole lot of moisture? That was early May, and it's still raining. Now going on July and the fields haven't recovered; an awful lot of them remain unplanted. Boggy, that's what they are, especially (of course) those fields where the hedgerows and maple-bushes that surrounded them have been removed - that
I know it's "wrong" of me but I'm finding it rather satisfying to see. Even more fun is the utter disregard Nature seems to have for the attempts at chemical burn-down. Spring brought acres and acres of bright yellow dandelions to fields where nothing was supposed to grow, summer is bringing forth daisies, burdock, yellow dock, and hawk-weed in populations we've never seen the like of before. Cattails are springing up in the low patches where the land is still under water, these are places that haven't seen cattails in, likely, generations. It will be a great summer for asters, goldenrod and St John'swort, too. I suppose they got rid of some sorts of weeds (which ones I have no idea) but the land itself, it knows best, and is doing its best (or worst, depending on your point of view) to bring some balance back to that soil. Those weeds, given a year or so, would bring the soil back to recovery. Within 5 years the poplars and aspens would spring up, within a decade or so there would be the beginnings of decent little forests.
Of course we know that Big Ag - and the farm insurance companies - will convince the farmers to double down on the Round-Up. Not that Round-Up does much, so they'll have to add other poisons and triple the frequency of spraying. They'll be having to put in drainage pipes too. After spending all that money and effort, just how much profit is there in soy, I wonder? They'd have been better off with 50 head of cattle.
And that's the irony. Pontiac cattle are renowned, as is Pontiac hay. It's not so much that they're raised for their meat, but for breeding purposes; the gene pool here is the envy of the cattle breeding world. Yet with stars in their eyes from the promises of Big Ag, farmers fell for the idea that this rolling land could produce the same sort of crops as vast flat prairies. But it can't. The old farmers knew it, and said so, but as their sons left the land they've been forced to sell to the big investors who, it seems, are happy to have this land to exploit for insurance & tax write-off purposes. Those local men who've stayed on the land have been coerced into following the same destructive methods as the big players. Bastards.
Meanwhile, who suffers most?
This year, not the bees, happily. As the land goes wild we've got a population explosion of bumble bees and the honeybees, too, are working the weeds with delight. The birds are doing exceedingly well, the mosquito (over)population bodes well for the swallows, bats and dragonflies. Nature is having a very good year here. The beavers are literally reshaping the landscape. While there is far more water than usual in most areas, we've noticed some streams have all but disappeared and a couple of very large swamps are now strangely dry. That's because the beavers have decided to make new lakes; damming here, draining there and - hey presto! - a new meadow appears where once was swamp and a deep lake where once was shallow wetland.
But the men who work the land suffer economically, and the businesses that depend on them too. But more to the point, its the health of the farmers, their wives and children that will be affected most by the chemical residues that daddy chooses to use. There are some interesting, nasty, and little known associations between pesticide use and suicide risk . Did you know that wives of men who handle pesticides have higher rates of cancer? No one mentions why it might be, but the rates of childhood cancer and birth defects are extremely high in our area.
I went digging for stats to back up my statements there but man, science just doesn't want to commit to what people know already, does it. I found plenty of 'maybe's' and 'more study is needed', but nobody in authority saying 'let's err on the side of caution for once'.
Meanwhile, you and I know full well that if it's poison to bugs or plants, chances are it's poison to people. So farmers and their wives and kids and anyone downwind or downstream? Collateral damage as far as Big Ag is concerned.
Bugs and plants are part of a bigger picture, and overall, Nature is willing to sacrifice the few in the short term to ensure the the health of the many in the long term. After all, She has all the time in the world to fix what we fuck up. Our comeuppance comes in the form of failed crops and nasty illnesses, karma for our lack of foresight.
Too bad we don't get lightening bolts from above and a booming voice saying
"CUT IT OUT, YOU MORONS"
Or do we?
Front page news on our local paper this week:
Caleb Nickerson, THE EQUITY
Heavy winds on June 18 brought down *********’s large hay barn in Litchfield. ***** said that the collapse destroyed his sprayer and did extensive damage to one of his tractors and other equipment. Luckily, several tractors and a backhoe that were usually stored in the barn were elsewhere when it fell. “It’s a big loss,” he said.
I blocked out his name because I have nothing against him, personally. But I can't say I'm not glad it happened.
Meanwhile, those of us who are 'in the know', who see what She's doing, know that Nature hands us gifts at every turn. As She plants the seeds that farmer's hate She's offering up some of the very nutrients those nasty 'modern farming methods' have stripped from the land.
That's not irony, it's justice. Restorative justice.
Of course, there's 'something for anything that ails us' now growing in the meadows that have been sprayed, but there are extras in the ones that haven't. Restorative justice is available for the humans, too, if we'd just use our eyes and our brains and have some faith in She-Who-Provides.
Below is a meadow that's been allowed to be a meadow.The farmer who owns it might call it a hay field, I don't know; we'll have to go back and see if it's been hayed in a few weeks. I doubt it, as there are some toxic plants in there too. But right now, it looks like this:
another view, because I know some of my readers like to see the big sky we have here:
See the mists of white flowers in the lower shot? That's cleavers. Here's a nice long monograph on cleavers (also known as goose grass or bedstraw) and here's a shorter one.
If there is one health issue that dominates in our area, it's kidney troubles. If there's one plant that dominates the landscape this year, it's cleavers, a sure kidney remedy (among other things).
Restorative justice. Whether we deserve it or not, She's there for us, in Her way.