Land Nurturing Goals

Chapter 7 - Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing

Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing, a book by Steven D Redman, has been compiled for farmers, homesteaders, land-carers, environmental educators, conservationists and more. It amalgamates the theories and ethics of Permaculture, Land Stewardship and Biodiversity Conservation practices, plus it provides useful templates to help assist with nurturing of the planet.

Each week on Permaculture News we will share with you a snippet from various chapters of the book which is available on Blurb

Todays snippet is a second extract from Chapter 7 – Land Nurturing Goals


Therefore, if you dedicate your life for the benefit of the world,

You can rely on the world.

If you love dedicating yourself in this way.

You can be entrusted with the world.”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, #13

Centred on the web and grounded at our eco-farm in the watershed; is an inspiring place from which to pursue dreams. The goal is to nurture a personal, family, spiritual and professional life experience in harmony with the land. We will sustain and enhance the place while meeting our needs there. We can conceive of this chapter (Goals), and the last two (Place and Philosophy), and the next two (Models and Relationships) as five interflowing ponds connected by a stream. In other words, the five concepts discussed in these chapters are realms of their own, but are connected intimately to the others in one circuit.

There are a huge variety of goals possible because they are unique to the place, purpose, person, family, group and community. Stewardship can range from wilderness preservation to national and state forest management, private and cooperative farm and ranch operations, campus maintenance, private and public gardens, or small parks development. Even designing healthy and livable urban and suburban residential and commercial areas, as well as, industrial developments that are relatively pleasant to be in and that strive to contribute to resource conservation, are important goals.

In contemplating goals in Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing, the goals can also be thought of as needs, such as, the needs of the forest, the needs of the wildlife, and the needs of people and farm animals. In pursuing goals, we work to fulfill needs. Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing is about balancing these considerations. I would like to discuss three loosely grouped categories of needs and goals: ecological, family, and community. Then we could think about five different common land stewardship and use scenarios to examine how the goals of each will vary, but how each can be guided by the ecologically-sensitive approach. Our eco-farm at the center of the web could be any of these five scenarios, or a mixture of types. Our goals will contribute to our nurturing system policy and plan, and lead us to the exciting realms of designs and models. Let’s set-off, because this is a very significant part of our journey through the watershed.

Ecological needs and goals are one broad category. We might have the goal of preserving one-third, or a half or even nine-tenths of a site as native ecosystem. Our biodiversity conservation efforts might focus on key species like elk, bobcat or pileated woodpecker. Their preservation acts as an umbrella for protecting the forest, the smaller wildlife and the insect community. Perhaps the site is degraded, and so we have the goal of regenerating a tract of forest, increasing the width of a greenbelt in a riparian zone, and planting nut trees, fruiting trees, shrubs and flowering perennials for wildlife. Maybe there is a stand of old forest on the land where hawk or raven nest, and we vow to leave the area undisturbed.

To further the inclusion of ecological needs and goals in the nurturing plan, we might regenerate and maintain meadow areas with a great diversity of flowers and herbs for pollinators. To conserve soil health, we may keep much of the land in pasture, practice strip or alley-cropping between pastures and nurture tree and shrub cover within and between pastures too. We might set a goal of maintaining thirty or forty percent forest cover throughout a farm for the sake of climate moderation, ecological stability or air pollution control. To protect water quality, we might find it necessary on another site, to preserve a forested hill, nurture a greenbelt near a marsh, and establish a lawn or meadow to catch runoff from a drive. At my family’s Wild Edge Garden, we do many of the things cited above. Nearly half of the 2.6 acres is native, mature forest, there is at least an 80-foot-wide greenbelt between the creek and the buildings, there is a thicket out front for privacy, wildlife, beauty and small wood products, and we’ve treated the land organically for a decade—thereby creating a haven for native insect communities, including the pollinators among them.

Human and domestic animal needs are a second important broad category worthy of great consideration. People have housing needs, transportation and utility access needs, storage, drinking water and sewage treatment needs, as well as, nutritional, employment, recreational and other needs and goals. Pets and farm animals also need housing safe from predators, feed storage, pasture with some shade, fresh water, and love and attention from people. These must all be given thought and action in land stewardship. Some people have a home-based business, like lodging, mechanical or artistic work, or a nursery stock business, for example, and may need to maintain a beautiful site to attract customers, or may need a shop or studio building, or a few open acres of farm field.

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We have a neighbour here in our village, for instance, who runs a spa and vacation retreat business. She has over a dozen cabin and yurt options to lodge guests. Yet most of her 30 to 40-acre site is forest reserve, and the land, overall, is almost entirely forested. The buildings are clustered and strung along trails and narrow drives in such a way as to allow for maximum forest conservation. Yet, with a dozen rentals available, she makes a very respectable living. Her site even has an old-growth forest stand, a trout pond, and a stream.

People have safety needs too in relation to land nurturing. Some safety considerations might focus on the use of tools like chainsaws, ladders and tractors, the proximity of large trees to buildings, utility lines or water lines, the installation of fences around water bodies to prevent small children from drowning, or the maintenance of defensive space around buildings in case of wildfires and the access to buildings in case of structural fires. The maintenance of fences and gates may also be a safety issue if one raises or rescues dangerous animals like bison, bulls, stallion or bear.

Still other common goals people often have in land nurturing and use include privacy, beauty, a peaceful retreat and relaxing spiritual sanctuary, a gathering place (like a picnic area and fire circle), and space for recreation and play. The needs of the neighbors are important to include in our planning. This might include being sensitive about noise coming from one’s land, finishing a building project or two at a time as opposed to having four or five unfinished projects going at once, not leaving garbage, junk, clutter or derelict vehicles or functioning equipment scattered over the land, and the practice of minimizing the burning of waste wood or leaves and brush, and never burning garbage, rubber, plastics or other toxins.

Production is another goal and need that people have. Sacred Earth Land Nurturing expands the common definition of production. That is, in addition, to producing timber, potatoes, flowers, nursery stock, holly products, oats, sunflower seeds, apples, chestnuts, mushrooms, ginseng, blueberry, garlic, rosemary, fowl, dairy, hogs, wool, hemp, hay, electricity, biofuel, and many other crops and products; eco-farms produce oxygen, healthy soil, fresh water, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, nature and agrarian education, peace and quiet, beauty and art, happy people and healthy, free and wonder-filled children, resilient and democratic communities and thriving local economy. Some spiritual or community-service-oriented stewardship plans might even focus on production for charity. That’s right, produce simply to give it away to the needy. As touched on above, the main products of some sites may be ecological preservation and eco-tourism experiences. With our broad definition of production, we see that all the products and services have value to society and the Earth.

Community-oriented land nurturing goals should enrich community, democracy, human, animal and ecological rights, and economy. Community and systems diversity is far more inspiring and productive than profit-only-monoculture. That which degrades the Earth and human community, democracy and happiness, is not productive or sustainable. Community is about a shared, beautiful experience, not simply profit for an elite few at the expense of all else and leading to common ruination. An important goal is to bring Earth-nurturing to all, not just the upper-middle class or wealthy. We should, therefore, always consider how goals can be accomplished with minimum budgets, cooperative effort, and local or free materials from the land. Consider the charitable work of non-profit groups, like Heifer International, as a good example of sustainability, profit and nurturing for all. Or the discounted plants offered by the National Arbor Day Foundation and county soil conservation districts. I should also clarify here, that I am primarily talking about community-building and strengthening goals and efforts from private or cooperative sources, not public projects specifically. Yet, government and private-cooperative-public joint ventures and philanthropic organizations can also work for responsible land nurturing. A great variety of efforts are being and will be pursued, and this is all part of the sort of cooperation, evolution and diversity that is needed.

Education is a vital goal of land-nurturing. Open sharing promotes communication within the community. Shelburne Farm in Vermont is a wonderful example of this welcoming spirit. Health and nutrition benefits the community. The gifts nature gives from the waterland-with our loving-care also involved- nurture our bodies, minds and spirits. Holistic health is best nurtured within the honest and caring context of Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing. Consider the story of a person like Wendell Berry, who has experienced deep fulfillment in life by being a writer and grass/cattle farmer. His love, passion and wisdom has also spread far beyond his place in the watershed.

The ecological research, conservation, technology and arts emanating from holistic stewardship endeavors benefit the community too. Just by nurturing an eco-farm or other ecologically-sensitive projects and programs, a model of ecological regeneration is shared with society. I would love to create a film series about all the wonders, products, humanity, diversity, beauty, challenges and realities existing in these places, but that is another story.

Careful nurturing benefits community recreation and psychological and spiritual wellbeing. I, for example, enjoy, am inspired by and find peace in not only the vast wilderness of a national reserve, or wandering enthralled on my private lands, but in simply seeing the green space of a large, wooded cattle ranch in the neighboring village, by taking a walk with my family in a county park, by having a picnic at the university arboretum or at a public beach, or by even watching the insects and birds visit a flower bed near a porch or patio of some inn or restaurant while I am savoring my coffee. If there is some art or particularly interesting plants or landscape feature there, then it is all for the better, and is more endearing. The loving efforts of those people there directly benefits me. I appreciate and remember it.

Socially, ecologically and economically-beneficial business activity benefits community. My neighbor, who runs the spa and retreat business, not only preserves the forest, wildlife and green space, but keeps herself off the welfare rolls, puts her children through college, and pays her fair share of taxes, while providing an enchanting retreat for community use. The eco-sensitive forestry cooperative, the grass-fed cattle ranch, the organic vineyard, the artist’s shop, the beautiful eco-farm, the solar energy-business, and the veterinarian’s private, wooded farm-reserve all enrich, strengthen and sustain the community also, and especially when they choose to honor holistic care.

Steven Redman

Land Keeper, Steve Redman, seeks to inspire all people in the practice and support of biodiversity conservation and ecologically sensitive land and water care. He has explored interests in gardening, landscaping, ecological philosophy, and forest ecology since his youth in northern Michigan. Steve has served as a park ranger, schoolteacher, garden centre salesperson and landscaper. He enjoys wilderness recreation with friends and family. Steve nurtures 10-acres of forest in Michigan and the 2.6-acre Wilderness Edge Garden in western Washington where he lives with his wife, daughter, and dog.

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