Stories from the Farm: Riding the Dragon
Hi there local food eaters,
I've been walking around the farm with the kids a lot lately, and we've been noticing many paths, made by our animals.
It has been fun to discover them, and see where our sheep and cows travel repeatedly, like from their favorite shade to their water. Like people and dogs, they like walking on the path.
This has reminded me that years ago, I read food writer Michael Pollan's A Place of my Own. I'm not recommending this book, I don't remember finishing it, but one part of it stuck with me . In this book, he goes over all of the minutiae in excruciating detail of planning and building a small writer's cottage for himself. After a while, I lost interest, but I remember telling Brooks about "riding the dragon". (I did google "Riding the Dragon", and who knew, there are tons of drug slang meanings associated with it!) Pollan was investigating the ancient Chinese principles of feng shui, a poetic combination of art, science, and spirituality, in his choosing the exact site on his rural property. Michael Pollan writes:
"But while there's nothing we can do to influence the planets' paths, there is apparently a great deal we can do to influence the path of chi through a landscape, first through proper site selection and then through site improvement. In this repsect, feng shui is a form of gardening. Like picturesque garden theory, it tells you how to improve a landscape, but to spiritual rather than aesthetic ends...Evidently the Chinese visualize the tallest forms in a landscape as a writhing dragon, and this high ground is the wellspring of chi. 'The ridges and lines in the landscape form the body, veins, and pulse of the dragon,' Skinner writes, and the dragon's 'veins and watercourses [known as dragon lines] both carry the chi' down from the highest elevations. ...To map a landscape's dragon lines, a feng shui doctor will sometimes travel to the top of a ridge and then run down it several times as heedlessly as possible, noting the various paths he naturally inclines toward, the points at which they intersect, and the places where his momentum is checked by hollows or inclines. The practitioner is said to be "riding the dragon," something animals do as a matter of course. (And in fact animal paths are considered reliable conduits of chi.)"
When we got to this farm 6 years ago, the area by this creek was a nightmarish tangle of multiflora rose and poison ivy. It was nearly impossible to walk through here, at least without heavy overalls and boots. And a weedwacker. This is what it looks like now.=
Our son says, "it's like a perfect walking trail!" Sidenote - my kids also call this area of the farm "Ewok village".
When we walk around feeding animals, doing chores, enjoying nature, we are able to experience over time, a growing sense of belonging with and creation of this place. Some of it was created a long time ago; for example, we often marvel at the siting of our house, which no doubt has perfect "chi", as it is on a flat spot at the bottom of one hill and the top of another, sheltered by the hill and south facing, and water flows around it so that the basement never floods. But now, with animals being raised outside all around and constantly moving on this piece of land, we can see their impact as a sort of site improvement. There are open meadows where there used to be tangles of thorns. There are paths where there used to be poison ivy. There are wallows dug where there used to be flat ground (mini ponds!).
While our primary aim is the production of the highest quality, most nutrient dense food possible while at the same time improving the soil, aesthetic improvement and poison ivy elimination is a nice bonus!
Enjoy your summer everyone!