On Losing Our Rootedness in the Soil

Most people of my grandparents’ generation had an intuitive sense of agricultural basics: when various fruits and vegetables come into season, which ones keep through the winter, how to preserve the others. On what day autumn’s frost will likely fall on their county, and when to expect the last one in spring. Which crops can be planted before the last frost, and which must wait. What animals and vegetables thrive in one’s immediate region and how to live well on those, with little else thrown into the mix beyond a bag of flour, a pinch of salt, and a handful of coffee. Few people of my generation, and approximately none of our children, could answer any of those questions, let alone all of them. This knowledge has largely vanished from our culture.

by Barbara Kingsolver | Orion Magazine March-April 2007

Why Has it Taken SO LONG?

…and so many miles of streams gone–entire watersheds? I look at Goose Creek and Nameless, and try to imagine how I would have felt had these irresponsible “laws” allowed them to become lost to “overburden” and acid mine waste.
Press release 3/23/07 from EarthJustice

“Today, we applaud the ruling in federal court stating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the law by issuing mountaintop removal mining permits that allowed vital headwater streams to be permanently buried.

“The federal government has been illegally issuing such permits. Doing so has led to widespread and irreversible devastation to the streams, mountains and lands across Appalachia. The judge


The Corp’s witnesses…conceded that the Corps does not know of any successful stream creation projects in the Appalachian region


has made it clear that the Corps must now comply with the Clean Water Act and stop issuing illegal permits.

“This decision does give the Corps another chance to try and show that they can issue permits for valley fills in streams without violating the law. But the evidence to date shows that the Corps has no scientific basis–no real evidence of any kind–upon which it bases its decisions to permit this permanent destruction to streams and headwaters. They have shown no evidence to support their claims that this destruction can simply be ‘fixed’ through mitigation. In fact, as the court opinion correctly notes: “The Corp’s witnesses…conceded that the Corps does not know of any successful stream creation projects in the Appalachian region.”

“Mountaintop removal mining valley fills cannot comply with the Clean Water Act without strict environmental limits. We hope the Corps recognizes this fact and realizes that approving illegal mountaintop removal mining permits does nothing to protect the environment, violates the law and is destroying the lives and culture of the people of West Virginia and the region.”

Behind the Veil

Seclusion rustic golf scenic getaway cabins lake lodge gourmet Salem Christiansburg culture parkway travel
I pulled into the parking spot at the Floyd Library yesterday, and the crows in the walnut tree stayed put.

City crows, I thought, with the notion that our Goose Creek crows spook at the slightest hint of human activity. From two hundred yards into the pasture they will take flight when I crack the front door open. But these City Birds are used to commotion and noise–maybe even follow it, since where there’s city life, there might be the scraps of a tossed hamburger. Or road kill.

I reached reflexively for my camera, even at the time thinking “common crows: not much of a picture.”

And yet, I’m rarely this close for so long, so I trained the lens on the nearest one of three, and hoped I’d see something image-worthy. But the one I focused on wouldn’t even face me. All I could shoot was bird booty, and I was about to put the camera back in the bag and go check out a book.

Then, this bird turned his head over his shoulder and looked directly at me, with some apparent disdain, I might add.

And as if to say “I ain’t puttin’ on a show here, bubba” he fanned out his primaries like a cape, spread his tail feathers, and disappeared from view behind a screen of blue-black. And the show was over. And this was the show!

What wonderful control for each individual feather had this common blackbird–moving each independently as he preened feather by feather. I’d never before thought of feathers as anything but passive, and yet here was a dexterity of control not unlike the way I move my own fingers just so, mind over matter.

But then, it should come as no great surprise that to perform the aerobatic maneuvers we see in our distant crows against the sky takes precise adjustment second by second in the spread, pitch and camber of individual feathers. But this was the first time I’d really watched it happen in this crow so uncommonly close out my window, perfectly at rest, and disappearing briefly from view behind a living fan of feathers.

Healing Harvest: Demonstration March 24

Join Jason Rutledge, the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation, and Virginia Forest Watch for a demonstration of what it means to be a Biological Woodsman serving the forested community of Copper Hill. Meet at the Apple Ridge Farm on Pine Forest Road in Copper Hill at 1:00 pm on March 24 to carpool to the demonstration. For more information telephone 929-4222.

I’m going (read more about it). So is my camera. See you there. Jason is a Floyd County low-impact horse-logger. And while you’re thinking sustainable forestry, take a look at this!

Our second media production is now available!

This is a professionally edited one-hour film made at Biological Woodsmen’s Week entitled: Community-Based Restorative Forestry, HHFF Style. It features a collection of national, regional and local media, plus homemade video never before seen by the public, including footage of working in the woods, and the panel discussion held at the Airlie Center in Warrenton, Virginia.

The panelists are Troy Firth, Gary Anderson, Wendell Berry and Jason Rutledge.

Floyd County: On or Off the Beaten Path?

This is a comment to yesterday’s post, Floyd Among the Giants. This seemed a discussion worthy of more.

This is a real conundrum. Of course we want to live in a place that is a nice, comfortable and attractive, and off the beaten path. We want the town and county to survive, even prosper, but it’s chief “product” perhaps is the lifestyle and setting that will be destroyed if enjoyed by too many living too close–or too many at once on a weekend or special event.

That rural places are being discovered is a certainty. That they are increasingly popular as home-building destinations is also certain if you look at what is happening to land prices in places where previously there was a “vacuum” of population.

Mabry hiking banjo fiddler guitar bluegrass quilt winery photography blacksburg writers FloydPerhaps the best we can do for in Floyd County in this netherworld between bucolic isolation and popular exploitation is to 1) decide what’s precious about the place, pace and pleasures we enjoy and 2) prepare to protect them by zoning, by conservation easement, by purchase by entities whose goal is preservation and not mere profit. We can exert our influence on our supervisors to listen to more than the cha-ching of the treasury at the prospect of dollars–regardless of impact on the “commons” of the county.

We MUST put values on our sense of place and common “ownership” of Floyd County that aren’t measured exclusively in revenue. And yet, money talks. Farming is no longer a livelihood. Farmers own the land and can’t pay taxes. And there go open spaces, watersheds, viewsheds, and fertile agricultural soils.

This problem is not going unnoticed, but I haven’t heard a great, unified solution to it. And Floyd is a divided community–about fifty percent would welcome commercial development of any kind if it meant greater convenience and more jobs, even minimum wage.

I do know that, since new residents ARE going to move here, I’d rather have people move here that KNOW what life is like in the winter during ice storms; what it is like when you want Chinese takeout or to see a movie; what it is like living an hour’s round trip from the nearest gallon of milk or expecting any of the other missing “necessities” of life in the towns from which they might hope to move. Most who would expect these things here are so NOT ready for Floyd.

While some bloggers actively promote development of the county and region, most I know are FAR more concerned with keeping the rate of growth very slow and in maintaining the kind of change compatible with the qualities that brought them here in the first place. Many who have moved here have already left and gone back to less isolated places, as I heard today at lunch in town.

Floyd is far from perfect. And I can’t think of any of its problems that will be solved by a massive influx of retirement relocation all at once, or by importing the city amenities–Starbucks, W-mart, and convenience-at-hand–that might come with in-migrants if they don’t plan to come to be adopted by the land and lifestyle rather than to remake it to suit their habits and preferences.

This is a matter actively discussed and of great concern: how to love Floyd County, hope for a prosperous future, have affordable land and jobs for the next generation, and not overwhelm the roads, the economy, the rural feel, and the quiet landscapes in the process.