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.

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