monthly conversation experiment #4

‘Connection to the land and to nature’

By TOM KNAPPER of KENOZA LAKE, NY
Posted 9/30/20

It is the fundamental connection to the land and to nature on which our rural culture is rooted that is my refuge and also the source for renewal.

It goes back to my childhood when, as a …

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monthly conversation experiment #4

‘Connection to the land and to nature’

Posted

It is the fundamental connection to the land and to nature on which our rural culture is rooted that is my refuge and also the source for renewal.

It goes back to my childhood when, as a 14-year-old, I spent a summer vacation from school on a ranch in Chile. My father worked for a company that supplied inputs for agriculture: fertilizers, seeds, additives to enhance the nutritional value of feeds, tanning chemicals, etc. He used his contacts to land me on this ranch.

The family that ran it was extremely gracious. They provided me with the gear of a “huaso” (Chilean version of a cowboy) and a horse and told me, “OK, huaso, you are on your own. You can ride anywhere you want; the ranch is so big that you will never come near its outer limits in a day. Just make sure you come back for supper.” And I spent my days riding in that breathtakingly beautiful landscape of plains and hills going into the gorgeous Andes.

I developed a close relationship with my horse and a profound appreciation for nature. Later in life, I always fantasized about being able to replicate that experience. I dreamed of owning some land where I could enjoy the outdoors and my love of animals and get away from the artificiality of an urban existence separated from the natural world.

My opportunity came with the oil crisis of 1978 when the real estate market crashed. You could only get five gallons of gas on odd or even days, depending on your license plate, and you had to sit for hours on line to get to the pump. We were able to pick up a run-down, 32-acre farm with a wonderfully diverse ecology: ponds, fields and wooded areas, bordering on a large wetland. It was a rich habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

I had found my refuge where I could fulfill my fantasy of living off the land as much as that is possible. It also became the source of my spiritual renewal.

I grew most of my food and did some hunting. Being connected to the land, producing your own food, as opposed to it appearing in a supermarket neatly wrapped up, teaches you so much about what life is about: the hard work it takes, the tenuous connection to weather conditions, the profound appreciation of nature and, above all, the satisfaction of seeing the direct results of your work.

Living in a rural community has taught me so much. It has reaffirmed my conviction of the basic decency of human beings. Three of my close neighbors are farmers and many more are part-time farmers, holding down a profession (carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc.) or job (in corrections, post office, medical facility, etc.) to finance their farming activities. Farming is in their DNA.

Farmers are individualists; they are not particularly social. They like to be self-reliant and do everything on their own. And, at the same time, they also have strong communal bonds.

I could always rely on my neighbors, they taught me so much: the best way to grow things, how to fix machines, how to do stuff around the house. Whenever something would break down, I’d call one of them up and say, “Hey Ed, I got this problem,” and he’d say, ‘OK, I’ll be right over.’” And we’d work on it and fix it.

The community I live in and its profound connection to the land and nature have been my refuge and source of renewal.

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