by Tom Bender
This was one of those magic moments. A sorta-random group of who happened to show up, sitting in the old orchard with the homestead collapsing towards the ground behind us.
Old trees, half-broken or tilted over.
Sand soil, depleted of its nutrients.
Junk all around.
“What could happen here?”
We were asking a real question, from our hearts, and something was listening. We had no agenda, no mission for an old orchard. We just had a feeling that something special was asking to emerge.
One person would say something, then another. Ideas built upon each other. Jim Gilbert and Lorraine Gardner from One Green World offered to provide us with ecological-niche similar plants from their researches all over the world, to see what would do well here, what would have better tasting berries, which would fit better, do better, in the rain and wind and sand. Vivi talked about edible native plants and medicinals. Those around when Tilth was formed talked about need for stuff specific to OUR climate. Doug Duer’s experience with traditional Native American food systems was discussed. Magical. Practical. Wholistic. Realistic.
“What could this give our communities?” “What could it give future generations?” “How could it embrace and link with what has lived and grown here for centuries, feeding those who lived here before?” “What about water? Can we reuse the farm’s water collection/manure tank?”
I don’t know how long we sat there, but we could all feel the magic build. An amazing mesh of backgrounds, experience, passions, skills, and dreams. We could feel them join hands and start dancing together. When we stood up at the end, the dream was there!
The garden there now is incredible. I still wonder though, what further gifts are unfolding.
Just about everything in that vision is happening. Across the fence, right now, the Teaching Trail is happening and expanding, drawing on the native plant experience gathered by Doug Duer, Vivi Tallman, and so many others in our community. What we’ve learned, what we ARE learning, what is tip-toeing up for even more learning; what a catalyst it has been for community, what a catalyst it has been FOR our community. Amazing!
The elk were unhappy at first when we installed the fence, so we threw the not-so-great fallen apples through the fence to them. A few deer wiggled in under the fence. But the bears were unfazed – they just went up and over the fence for their apple-pie desserts. That only lasted one year. Too much work for an apple-full bear.