When the Last Tree is Cut – Are we Truly Ready?

(This post originally ran on April 30, 2015 – but it is as important today as it was then. It will also be important in the days to come for a bright and healthy future.)



“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’.



You don’t have to have a Degree

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. I know 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 a mom of two grown children. A grandmother of two. 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 two gardens each year. One of our goals is to plant a small orchard. Randy takes every opportunity to collect acorns to grow oak trees that will last longer than our grandchildren’s children. 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. 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.



Just One Rule

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. The true value of a little piece of land, close family, several friends and great neighbors are our riches. We know we are far more prosperous than most, because we actually have a house to live in, food and water on the table, books to read. There is even a television in the living room. We have long since understood the true value of God, people. and food. It is a valuable lesson to be grateful for enough money to pay the bills with a few pennies left over to save for something special.



Teach Your Children

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. 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. There is 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.


Ask Yourself

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. I applaud all you are doing. If your answer is, “Not a thing,” then I beg you to stop.  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.


Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. I love this article. I can tell from experience that the words came easily to you as you wrote this one. It’s like your just channeling what your soul already knows. I just say, “the muse beckons, and I must attend.” Also, some of my Truckey ancestors intermarried with the Abenaki near the St. Lawrence river at Batiscan Township in Quebec Province.

    1. Author

      I actually thought of you when I used that quote, Gary. I thought I remembered you saying something about your kinship with that tribe. Also, the quote just sounded like you! Thanks for the kind words. I just wish I could get my ‘muse’ to quit being so flighty sometimes, and taking a vacation when I really need her!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.