Lessons From the Field

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Honest Words from Scott 

Reflecting on the past 12 months of life brings a single word to mind, evolution. Surrounding this word is the infinite number of mistakes that have been made on the path to working less hard and enjoying each moment more. Ever treading towards harmony and away from stress. I am unfortunately the type of person who must experience an immense amount of stress before having my “A-HA!” moment on the path towards the life I envision for myself. The physical journey has taken us from Viola to Mancos, and if you read Margaret’s first blog post, you understand the paradigmatic shift this has had on our quest towards harmony and away from stress. Being in the place we love came at the price of picking up and starting the entirety of our lives from scratch, not exactly conducive to low cortisol levels. But we have made it here, to this day, in which we can say we reside happily. The lessons of the farm mirror those which occur inside us, and vice versa.

Starting a farm in a new ecological context means observing the patterns of living systems while simultaneously creating the very animal and plant systems you wish to build your farm around. Trying to balance the myriad of energies and forces here has proven incredibly difficult, as we have started some enterprises a bit bigger and faster than the old permaculture adage “small and slow” would allow. I am someone who sees a challenge and dives in, often without any regard for the depth of that within which I am now plummeting. We have at times rode the razor edge between ecological disturbance and degradation with our animals, luckily stopping now, just soon enough, to see where we can improve and remediate mistakes. For example, one of the pig pastures became over-grazed, tilled, and thus set back in its ability to build soil and grow grass. I did not leave enough time for myself to get them moved before leaving for a week long vacation with family. If we had less pigs, I could have had a larger time frame within which to design the grazing system, and more time to think about all of these variables in the first place. But my drive to produce something, as well as my guilt for being on a big expensive ranch, drove decisions from the perspective of “what will others think of me” instead of “how will this process lead towards the quality of life that I want for our family?” Here lies one of my greatest lessons from our journey over the past year. We must do things at the slow, steady, and serene pace of nature if we wish to keep our stress levels low. The words of one of our mentors echoes in my head, “when we are working with nature, everything should be effortless, then we know we are designing the right systems.” My stress came not from the fact that we had too many animals, this is only a symptom of the deeper ailment-- that being my own fears, self doubt, and anxiety around meeting the expectations of others rather than myself. That plot of ground, overgrazed, and tilled, stands as a reminder and reflection of my inner state at that time.

With these experiences in full view, thanks to Margaret’s ability to get me to stop and turn inward towards the true source of my difficulties, I have simply slowed down and consciously chosen the path towards the quality of life we want for our family, and I for myself. There is no hurry in mother nature, there is no rush, she never feels anxious or afraid, she only brings life in the steady and unwavering pulse of each heartbeat and breath. She knows that with time and focused energy, all will be accomplished. All we need to do is simply be that which we know we are, here in this moment. Then all our life will be like hers, effortless and harmonious.

Margaret Paradise