Ruminations: Hot Summer Days, Big Rainstorms, and Canadian Wildfires

The sun sets over Mud Lake after a torrential downpour in early July. A haze caused by encroaching smoke from Canadian wildfires hovered over Lily Springs for much of last week.

The sun sets over Mud Lake after a torrential downpour in early July. A haze caused by encroaching smoke from Canadian wildfires hovered over Lily Springs for much of last week.

After the echoes have faded away and the sulfurous clouds of firework smoke have dissipated into the summer skies, an eery and yet familiar silence remains in these early days of July. It is not the quiet of a face-up float in the lake but the windy, birdcall-filled hum of an alive and busy landscape. The abundance of summertime in the North is visible in every corner of the farm, from the surface of the lake speckled with bugs and ripples from hungry fish, to the whistling trees bending with fruit, birds, and the wind. It is a magical time here when the long mornings and evenings stretch the human energetic rhythm to its limit, when we open ourselves as wide as possible each day to receive the many gifts of being alive right now. 

This mushroom emerged quickly after a recent storm left five inches of rain on our land. 

This mushroom emerged quickly after a recent storm left five inches of rain on our land. 

These are the days when the sweat on our brows begins to bead and trickle down our necks in seconds, not minutes; when the air begins to taste like rain and the weekly thunderclaps are a comforting reminder of regularity and rhythm. When the humidity is 60% and the sun is high overhead, the fields are hot and unforgiving, even for a task as seemingly simple as weeding asparagus. With the summer heat, we must adjust our already arhythmic schedules to allow for downtime around midday, when the sun is at its hottest. With work behind us and a cool lake steps away, swimming or paddling the waters is a necessity, a daily replenishment of the senses through placidity. 

Light dances on the surface of the lake, speckles of dust or bugs glimmering in the setting sun.

Light dances on the surface of the lake, speckles of dust or bugs glimmering in the setting sun.

A thousand miles to the Northwest of Lily Springs Farm, hundreds of wildfires burn in the rangelands of Saskatchewan and, with the help of the jet stream, their smoke drifts into the skies of Western Wisconsin. An unfamiliar glow surrounds the sun and begins to choke the air with particulates and pollutants that no one in this bioregion had any hand in causing. Such is the reality of the interconnected and dynamic landscape we call home; when one part of the continent is engulfed in fires caused by powerful lightning storms, another is shrouded in the mysterious and unsettling cloud. We can only hope that our lands do not burn more acreage than can be safely and sustainably depleted from their ecosystems, that our farming and living practices are beholden to and respectful of the carrying capacity of the lands on which we depend. 

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While I am just now beginning to articulate some of the recent experiences I've had here on the farm, these are not new feelings or ideas to me. Rather, there are countless other who have articulated some of my core beliefs more clearly than I ever will. To finish this rumination, I have chosen a passage from Wendell Berry's bold 1977 publication, The Unsettling of America"I am talking about the idea that as many as possible should share in the ownership of the land and thus be bound to it by economic interest, by the investment of love and work, by family and loyalty, by memory and tradition."