“When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.” – Native American Proverb (attributed to Alanis Obomsawin who was described as “an Abenaki from the Odanak reserve)
I love to work puzzles – crossword, crypto-quote, jigsaw, you name it. The other day I was working the crypto-quote, and this was the answer. Although puzzles are a lot of fun, rarely do they resonate with me the way this one did.
In Society today, we can almost be persuaded to think that our resources are endless. And I do believe that some of the mindsets run toward, “Who cares? I won’t live long enough to see total destruction – why should I worry about it?” The very idea of this quote, coupled with the ‘me first – me only’ attitudes of some people, is a very scary thing to contemplate. I think the real question is, ‘Are we responsible for the world in 100+ years?’ To me, the answer is a simple, one word statement: ‘Yes’.
I am not someone who has a college degree in Ecology, Geology, or any other subject that studies the long term effects of the earth and its ability to thrive. What I am is a simple farm woman, who knows the value of taking care of my family, the food we eat, the water we drink, the land we live on and the animals that provide a portion of our food. I am also a mom of two grown children, one of which now has a child of her own. I am also a wife, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor. All of these facets of who I am should dictate my actions and reactions to any given situation. I take helping to feed and care for these people very seriously.
We work a fairly large garden each year. On occasion, we have planted trees (mainly fruit trees) that will hopefully outlast either of us. Randy takes every opportunity to collect acorns to grow oak trees. I am learning how to save the seeds from my heirloom vegetables, so I can keep my garden growing year after year. Although we don’t have a river running through our property, we do have a creek and three ponds, so we are very mindful about keeping both clean of any chemicals or trash. Even our septic lines are properly installed and run far out across the pasture into a leech field. Our ponds have one rule: Unless otherwise allowed, fishing is catch and release only. We do this so we don’t overfish. We are already at the mercy of Nature with her otters, so we don’t want to lose what few fish those water creatures leave. Basic knowledge and care keeps us from having to restock our pond. Randy doesn’t shoot to kill (unless it’s a predator after our livestock), but instead hunts to provide food for his family. When he has enough, he hunts with his eyes only, leaving some for another hunter or for the next year.
Long ago we figured out that our wealth does not come from the size of our bank accounts. We know the true value of a little piece of land, close family, several friends and great neighbors. We know we are far richer than most, just because we actually have a house to live in, food and water on the table, books to read and even a television in the living room. We have long since understood the true value of God, people and food, so we have learned to be grateful for enough money to pay the bills with a few pennies left over to save for something special.
We also know how important it is to teach our children and others how to take care of themselves, and the land they live on. It’s scary to think of how many kids don’t know where there food comes from, so every time a young child visits, we delight in telling them the process of food. In some cases, we let them plant a few seeds to take home and watch grow. If we have eggs incubating, we explain the circle of life (leaving out a few of the details, depending on the age). It’s even better if they are there when the eggs start to hatch, and we even have one six-year-old who is always asking if our eggs are hatching yet. When they do, we will make sure to call him so he can watch.
We also are actively learning more and more every year. Some of the things we learn are how to improve what we are already doing. Some things are new to us and added to the farm – like the bees. And some things are just learning our basic care, like making soap and cleaning products, herbal remedies, and Randy is wanting to learn more about rain barrels and water filtering.
This all may sound like a lot of trouble to some people, but if it does, I beg you to ask yourself this question:
‘What am I doing to help myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, and the future generations?’
If your answer involves at least some degree of gardening, planting trees, keeping an eye on any water waste, or teaching others how to do these things, then thank you, and I applaud all you are doing. If your answer is, “Not a thing,” then I beg you to stop and really think about it for a while. Think of the consequences of your actions down the line. Stop and look at a newborn baby, or a young child, and consider the world that he will continue to live in, long after you are gone. And if your life and joy is still based on having a bank account that is overflowing, go back to the top and re-read the quote. And when you finally figure it out, call me. I have some seeds I’ll share with you, as well as instructions on how to build a rain barrel.