When I started at the cattle feed yard about fifteen years ago, the feed yard cowboy had a baseball cap that he wore that said Lone Wolf on the front of it. I figured out pretty quickly that my cowboy was a naturally quiet and solitary guy, and this hat was a good fit for him.
Like many quiet people, he has an uncanny knack for noticing things. This makes him an excellent caregiver of animals. Over the years, in his own quiet way, he has become a special role model for my kids. Some time ago, he gave my girls a Native American Dream Catcher that has the following words written in the middle:
Treat the earth well: It was not given to you by your parents—It was loaned to you by your children!
We have the Dream Catcher hanging in the hallway just outside of the room that my youngest two daughters share. Every once in a while, I see one of the girls stop as they walk down the hallway and read the message. Although it is not a subject that we talk about with any scheduled frequency, I know that it is something that is often in the back of their minds.
As we traveled through Kenya, I found myself comparing and contrasting the environment, the people and the culture with my own experiences in the United States. While many things were vastly different, I was surprised at how many commonalities I also found. The biggest commonality that I noticed was the relationship between growing food and Mother Nature. As I have mentioned in the past, my relationship with Mother Nature is a passionate one. The harshness, the beauty, the raw strength of her lends itself to powerful emotions. My strong willed nature tends to exacerbate the passion…
Mother Nature has been my single most effective teacher. She has taught me to bend far more than any other influence in my adult life. No matter how much I want to be in charge, she always wins…She brings blizzards in the winter, she brings tornadoes in the summer. Sometimes she brings drought that usurps the life out of our land. Sometimes she brings needed rain. In fact, sometimes she brings so much rain that floods wash out the crops and the grassland.
When my middle daughter was preschool age, we were going through a dry period where moisture levels were low. She and I would pray for rain. One day, the weather pattern changed and what followed was three years of unusually heavy rain and snow fall. This brought its own challenges, and I remember one day she looked at me and said: “Mama, the next time that we pray for rain we need to make sure that we tell God exactly how much we want so we do not have to build an Ark like Noah!”
No matter how much we (as farmers) learn about better ways to use our natural resources to grow food, Mother Nature ALWAYS has the last say. I could sense this same understanding from the people in rural Kenya. From the semi-nomadic livestock herding tribes of the Samburu and Maasai- to the permanently located subsistence crop and livestock farmers all across central Kenya-to the white woman from Nebraska who asked thousands of questions in an effort to learn and understand…As farmers, we are all beholden to the power of Nature.
Regardless of the fact that Mother Nature’s omnipotent forces play me like a puppet, I do (as the powerful phrase on the dream catcher points out) impact the earth with all of my actions and I am beholden to her for my livelihood. Mother Earth is to be respected and cared for, and it is my job to protect her just as much as it is my job to use her resources to grow food.
The next few “Foodie Work” posts will focus on the environment and how Matt and I work to make our farm productive and sustainable.