Experiences and Relationships with the Land

Chapter 9

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 9 / Experiences and Relationships with the Land

“…We don’t manifest our vision by ourselves. We may be the initiator, but we are co-creating it with other people, guided by Spirit! …Surrounding ourselves with supportive relationships is vital to powerful visioning.”

  • Bill Pfeiffer, Wild Earth, Wild Soul: A Manual for Ecstatic Culture, pages 285-286

One’s knowledge, education, experience, skills, and wisdom are unique, and can serve to culture an individualised situation or system of caring for the Earth-community. The experience of place is going to be different for the artist, gardener, teacher, equestrian, shop keeper, writer, forester, farmer, computer programmer, mechanic and electrician. The caring systems will be diverse, but each can practice caring in ways most suited to their dreams, occupation, family, community and place.

Our experience of life and place also changes with the seasons or time of year, and from year to year. The beauty and mood of a place varies from day to day, and with different times of the year. That is, the place influences us and we it. It is a personal, interesting and enthralling story. These systems can be nurseries of harmony, if we realize and culture such holistic visions.

Here, at the Wild Edge Garden in Washington, for example, there are times annually for tree planting; times for vegetable planting and harvesting; times to hope for good pollination of fruit trees and for abundant fruit harvests; times to enjoy and shovel snow; times when the hummingbirds arrive, display and nest; times to enjoy warm summer days and clear, starry nights; and times to hide indoors from relentless chilly rain storms. In harmony with the Earth, we listen and respond appropriately to these differing times. We move in unison with the Life-story, and stay connected to it. We can genuinely appreciate the gifts and wisdom of the Life-system.

The Bishnoi people of the Thar Desert of northwest India are an inspiring case of an entire people who have cultured a sensitive relationship with their place for centuries. They practice a harmonious system of living with this dry land, by strictly conserving water, allowing all trees and shrubs to grow peacefully, limiting the number of domestic animals kept, sharing with wildlife, and eating a vegetarian diet. Their way of nurturing the desert was featured on a nature-show that I saw on TV a couple of days ago. The program said that the regions of the Thar Desert nurtured by Bishnoi methods, are known to have some of the most diverse native animal communities of any desert in the world. It is really a dry-savanna ecosystem there, like the Sahel of Africa. The Bishnoi conserve all the trees and shrubs, even to the extent that they only use dead wood. They also practice treating all wildlife, domestic animals and people with love, kindness and honesty. The world would surely be a healthier, and more peaceful place if the rest of us learned the lesson of Bishnoi wisdom, and adopted equivalent caring in our unique places and systems.

One’s education can be of further service to place, both on personal and community levels. One could be a teacher of environmental education, for instance. One could volunteer with a local, watershed stewardship group, or offer decision-making skills to a government committee. We can also employ our knowledge and resources to private conservation and nurturing projects. There are myriad ways to serve. Being a life-long-learner, who is guided by wonder, can be of further service to one’s home- place and to the world. Guided by this love of learning about the wonderful, Living world, we culture a measure of wisdom about living in our home-place, and this can serve to honour one’s own life, as well as, family, friends, community and the Earth. We must firmly commit to loving, preserving and regenerating our home-place for several decades, ideally. The luckiest among us, might even celebrate the Life-story, in their sublime home-place for a century! How splendid would that be? (See Education Appendix)

There is work to be done at home and in the community. It is good to do it with balance and determination. It’s also good to be paced, realistic, methodical, and to not burn one’s self out. Rest, working safely, pacing and incrementalism are good for sustainability. There are chores to do in the house, care for the animals on the land, and errands in the community. If one keeps pets and farm-animals, for instance, they need daily care, such as, kind attention, food, water, health-monitoring and shelter. To culture a close relationship with the land, I have also noticed that it’s important to do “rounds” regularly, or at least every so often in the case of things that mostly take care of themselves. That is, the role of a human nurturer is to walk a circuit through the land, checking on the health of buildings, shrines, sculptures, trees, gardens, animals, streams, ponds, crops, and other features and members. It is vital that we “talk” to the land. We don’t have to be obsessed by this. Everything isn’t always perfect or static. A building might need some new siding, an animal might be sick, and a wind storm may change the forest. Such things are not tragic, they just need to be noticed and dealt with appropriately. Some things get put on the “back burner” and some get moved to the front and require immediate attention.

Selective nurturing is another relationship and technique that is used to culture sublime places. The way I often use it, is in favouring trees I have planted. I have had to fence all gardens and fruit trees against deer and elk damage, for example. Without the fencing, the trees take twice as long to mature and fruit because they are damaged annually by browsing. The trees must also be mulched, or grasses and weeds will stunt their growth. One very aggressive, exotic weed here in this climate and ecosystem is flat pea (Lathyrus sylvestris). It produces vast amounts of biomass in these temperate rainforest conditions, and will utterly dominate pastures and orchards if allowed. I target it, tear out its leaves and vines by hand (its roots are impossible to fully remove), and use it to mulch the fruit trees and shrubs. By doing so, I reduce its dominance while promoting that of the fruit trees, shrubs, native and ornamental plants. By practicing selective nurturing techniques, such as this, one can transform a weed-dominated field into a useful permaculture system in around seven years. The dominance of the exotic, invasive plants will decline and be replaced by a wonderful forest-garden. In such a case, when the nurturer notices native perennials and grasses under the fruit trees and around the shrubs, these too can be protected from the exotic weeds, and mulched with the dead weeds. The biomass of the flat pea is an asset in this relationship because it saves me hundreds of dollars over the years—dollars associated with the acquiring, buying, transporting and applying landscape fabric, cardboard mulch and other mulches like bark, compost or coco shells.

One also receives the gift of health while working in service of the land. For many years now, some of my best sources of exercise are found in gardening, tree planting, mowing, weeding, mulching, shovelling snow and sawing and splitting wood. One’s mind can even think freely and body relax while doing such work outside in the fresh, quiet, country air. Roaming the land, just thinking, breathing and sensing nature, is a peaceful and healthy way for the body and spirit to relate with Earth-Life.

Our employment interests and choices can be complimentary to land-nurturing. Many jobs directly relate to nature conservation and stewardship, while the next person may work as a train engineer, yet owns a forty-acre tract of forest that they love and carefully preserve and nurture in their spare time; and share it with their family, friends and associates. We can all care for the health of the waterland-community in creative ways specific to ourselves. That’s what diverse relationships and beautiful stories are all about. The intrinsic rewards we each uniquely feel are gifts that we receive in these Living relationships. (See Employment Appendix)

In relationship with place we revisit the philosophy and poetry of place. Genuinely sustainable relationships with Life on Earth rest upon honesty, love, wonder, respect and commitment to place and community. The highest goal and gift of land nurturing is to culture sublime relations with the sacred, Living world. We can celebrate existence in place as a cosmic and spiritual miracle. We can restore paradise in our home place, if it is damaged (and most are), and never give up on it. Place also gives humility because we are participants in relations and systems that came before us and continue beyond us. That is, we inherit the waterland from our ancestors and we pass it on to the young; and the land itself is far more ancient than us and will outlive us by many millions of years. We are a member of an ancient, Living system, and embedded in the Life-stories of places small and vast.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button