Heat waves and chilly nights, hills drying in what is becoming one of the driest February months on record…after an extremely wet December. After the orchard workparty last Saturday, we stood on a hillside overlooking the farm to be intermittently chilled to shiver and warmed as if by a nearby fire. There were alternating breeze directions ushering in big pillows of air with vastly different temperatures.
To our human senses, the world sometimes seems upside down and the same is true for non-human organisms. Living things share the same genetic structure, allowing us intergenerational memory and the potential for adaptation. Global weirding isn’t just about climate disruption, it is a symptom of human disfunction, feeding psychological malfunctions, creating disequilibrium, mayhem and chaos.
Organic farms like ours rely on creativity. Instead of turning to the newest synthetic chemical pesticide, one of the many creative tricks we use is conventional breeding and plant selection to select stronger plants, taking advantage of the creativity of DNA. Our orchard is planting trees bred for disease resistance.
Once the plants are in the ground, we provide them everything they need for maximum health, creatively experimenting with new foods, including concoctions that feed the ecosystem that supports the crops.
As much as organic farmers creatively produce food, we live in evolving natural systems and we are challenged to constantly adapt. What can we learn from Nature?
The wildfire triggered germination of thousands of lupine bushes in the habitat areas we steward around our farm. Years ago, two of our members requested that we nurture these bush lupines, mowing and clearing around them. This was one instance of these partners’ contribution to the pool of collective creativity, nurturing beauty that turned out also to be post-fire habitat, pollinator support, and erosion control.
Just now, we are seeing an eruption of tussock moths that love to eat bush lupine leaves. The moth caterpillars will feed Western bluebirds and many other beautiful, feathered friends. The frass that the caterpillars drop will feed other wildflowers and native grasses, diversifying the hillsides.
Learning from Nature
From fire to lupines, from lupines to pests, and then from pests to birds and fertilizer…these are a few of Nature’s cycles. What might we learn from these cycles? Because farmers must be keen observers of nature, we tap into this type of ancient wisdom. As co-owners of a beautiful property, our collective is also learning the creativity necessary for evolving and adapting as a group. Cooperatives and organic farms are amazing experimental grounds for solutions to the root causes of the climate crisis.
To tap into the deep potential for creativity embedded in the DNA we inherited from millennia of experimentation, we must turn away from potential-destroying toxins. We must embrace stewarding diversity in the face of the tempting and ‘easier’ monocrop, lest tussock moth-like sieges take place. And, when the pests do erupt, instead of hiding behind toxins, we must invest in deeper contemplation and more complex negotiations, as evolution has long taught us. Until recently, we were taught evolution meant survival of the fittest, but now we understand that cooperative relationships are the key to success. Mutualism. Symbiosis. We have so much to learn.
-originally posted on Molino Creek Farm’s web page as part of my regular blog at that site.