About five or six years ago, I read Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. Its content has stuck with me many times over.

In the book, Chernobyl is referred to as one of those "worlds". And a PBS show featured that area as a good example of how nature reestablishes itself.

Living in a rural area (north central Indiana), I'm very cognizant of the war between man and nature. Farmers subdue all nature's attempts. Weeds, grasses, trees, wild animals are plowed,  burned, poisoned, run over, cut down, etc.

Hiking and running trails are a joke. I ran a 5k race yesterday down and back along a highway!! But even county roads are nothing more than paths through corn and bean fields (barren in winter).  It's become a monotonous "world with us". It's getting more and more difficult to find a large natural area, unspoiled and uninhabitated by humans.

Furthermore (and in addition), I've discovered people know very little about names of trees, weeds, flowers, even animals. In a recent example, I had a farmer friend who didn't know an ash tree or even poison ivy! And when I said I had a vole problem in my sweet potatoes, he had no clue what a vole was. Others I asked had no idea either.

So, one of my missions in life is to create a world without us. No, I'm not going to start killing people. As fortune would have it, I inherited 120 acres of prime farmland. It borders a small, but growing town of 1500. I've promised myself: a) not to sell any part of it, i.e., no home lots, and b) to eliminate corn and soybeans year after year after year.

What I have done thus far is maintain 10 acres of woodlots and fence row, and establish a 3.3 acre strip (along a creek/ditch) of prairie grass (big bluestem). The latter is compliments of the government's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which I took advantage of 11 years ago. 

Further, I've deeded 20 acres to my daughter and son-in-law to be used for "sustainable vegetable farming" and "loaned" them another 20 acres for pasture and more vegetables. This is their second year. If things go well, I will eventually turn the whole farm over to them with plans of raising animals (range chickens, cattle, hogs) and fruit trees. If I can talk them into it (and it's my land!), I would like a small herd of bison! I love the idea of buffalo grazing the prairie grass. 

The bottom line is: I don't like where we're headed in a "people dominating nature" world, and as a nature lover and environmentalist, I want "to put my money where my mouth is." I'm lucky to have that opportunity and hope to make the best of it.

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Comment by Pat on August 28, 2013 at 12:08pm

FA, I too laud the efforts of those that are contributing to the "greening" of large, metropolitan areas. Another rewarding effort includes vegetable gardens in the city. Not only do you get nice looking plants, contributing to the greening of the place, but the added benefit of eating the fruits of your labor. Nothing like a fresh summer tomato right off the vine! 

P.S. I taught my son and daughter how to make sassafras tea. Be careful though. It's a heck of a diuretic. 

Comment by The Flying Atheist on August 28, 2013 at 11:52am

I also heartily commend you for your noble farming efforts, Randall.  I was a boy scout, and one major aspect of our environmental and nature education was learning to identify our different regional trees. 

(Pat, you mentioned sassafras in your post.  That prompts me to remember making sassafras tea at summer boy scout camp in Michigan.) 

Most of us are not lucky enough to be in a situation where we can live on a volume of land equivalent to a farm.  The majority of us will most likely always be concentrated into larger urban areas.  I readily admit I love "the big city."  But even for us urban folks, there are actions we can take to minimize our negative effect on our native environment. 

Last night, our local Chicago public television news program aired the following segment about a suburban condo complex with extensive native prairie gardens.  It was, to me, quite inspirational.  I would love to see much more of this in urban settings.  

Chicago Tonight: Native Plant Gardens

 

Comment by Pat on August 25, 2013 at 11:10am

There are farmers in Indiana that can't identify an ash tree, or know what a vole is?! I live in rural southern Illinois, am not a farmer, and can identify ash, hickory, oak, maple and sassafras, along with avoiding poison ivy. And, I know the difference between a vole and a mole. Nothing personal to your neighbors, Randall, but they sound more like industrial crop producers than actual farmers. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 25, 2013 at 10:54am

It is pure joy reading your comments Randall and Daniel. A fine lift to go with a lovely, rainy day.

Comment by Sentient Biped on August 25, 2013 at 9:53am

Randall, my hat is off to you!  If I was in Indiana, I would want 120 acres next to yours, and we could have bison roaming both of our lands.  The climate and soil of Indiana should support a diverse ecosystem that benefits humans with many plants and animals, as well as continued support of nature.  A food forest, or food prairie.

The best hope for the future is an ecologically literate population.  That includes farmers and urbanites and suburbanites.  We can't expect people to make the right decisions about our world if they are completely illiterate about how it works.  Which probably 99% of people are.    Pessimistic made up statistic on my part.  It's absolutely pathetic that a farmer can't name a tree on their land, and isn't interested in learning.  When I grew up on 100 acres in Northeast Missouri, the farmers were somewhat less ignorant about the plants and animals, but still plowed marginal lands across the drainage fields, resulting in profound loss of land, and deep ravines where there had been land with trees and underbrush, or prairie grasses.  Pathetic.

I realize that my own 2 acres at the edge between farmland and almost-not-suburban land is a luxury. I don't understand my neighbors who spray along the road with roundup so that the edges of the road look "cleaner".   Some of them mow their own 2-acre plots short, spray them with selective herbicides, and water to keep it looking like a golf course.  Or not water, and it looks like a rural airstrip.  It's sad and harmful.  But it's their property.  I hope that my property, and good relations with neighbors, helps them think about other, less harmful and more interesting, options.  That's also why I sometimes give them fresh eggs, and plan to give fresh fruits and honey when I have some.

Mine is much messier.  I've planted, probably, more than 50 trees and 30 shrubs.  Many of them fruit trees, but those have a place in nature, even if some of the fruits go to my table.  Pollen and nectar for bees, and more fruits to birds and critters than I would like.  And each is surrounded, not by clean short mowed grass, but starts of culinary herbs that bloom to produce more beneficial insect food.  Those herbs also enrich my palate.  I've seeded over the grass with clover, and in some areas with wildflower seeds.

It's mostly not native - what is "native" here would be fir forest, which is long gone.  It's a mixture that will find its way into a new ecosystem, for a changed climate.  Some things will work, and some won't.  Some of the trees are seed-grown, for genetic diversity.  Those seed grown trees, I've noticed, also grow faster, being on their own taproots instead of grafted. 

What I do know, is the monoculture, chemical-laden, destructive desertification of the ecosystem does not help anyone.  My hat is off to you.  For a minute - gotta to avoid sunburn on my bald head.

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