Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Nature and the Small Farm

 After brunch and time with family on Easter, my youngest Son and I took off to do a quick overnight backpacking trip into San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. San Mateo Canyon Wilderness is a 40,000 acre roadless area mostly within Riverside County but with limbs touching or reaching into Orange and San Diego Counties also. 

In 2013, I published a book on the area titled Santa Ana Mountains History, Habitat and Hikes: On the Slopes of Old Saddleback and Beyond. In the book I describe the Natural and Cultural History of the region in some detail, so I will not do so here (Maybe you all will buy the book). In general the wilderness area is made up of deep canyons whose slopes are covered in chaparral and coastal sage scrub, with riparian forest lining the canyon bottoms. 

Now, I consider myself an Ecological Farmer, and I try to follow the laws of nature when carrying out the activities required to grow food, flowers and fiber for my community (Just to be clear, I dont really produce fiber but admire those wh, o do). But on this trip, another role of nature on the farm struck me quite hard. I realized after several years of not entering this wild space, how important wildness on the small farm and for the small farmer, or all farmers for that matter. This short trip proved important for my mind, body and soul. (SOIL, SEEDS, SUNSHINE AND SOUL). Taking a little time to slow down, observe my surroundings and share quality, natural experiences with my son was an opportunity you can't put a price on. 

The wild flowers in bloom was a tremendous extra and this particular area is known for its wavy leaf soap plant and wild peonies. Both of which provided inspiration for my farming. Ceonothus, also know as wild lilac, painted stripes and splotches of blue, purple and lavender across the hillsides while sticky monkey flower and Indian paint brush added reds, yellows and oranges to the canvas. 

Watching birds at flight and feeding on tiny flies and gnats added to my understanding of the things wildlife can do for my farm and the importance of attracting them my fields and pastures. And the creek, which with our drought conditions was very low, provided just enough water to provide an enjoyable and audible background and visual setting that settled and relaxed my mind and soul. It was also deep enough for my son to practice his fly fishing skills though he caught nothing. 

This simple 36 hour get away, took me off the farm physically, but kept me deeply rooted in farming emotionally and spiritually. As I wrap up this quick little post, the sun is beginning to bring light to the day and I must begin the chores required to keep our agricultural enterprises going. I now not only have the laws of nature to guide me, but I have the inspiration of nature to fuel me and that is perhaps the most important role wildness can play on the small farm. 

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