Now I know that earthquakes can be terribly devastating and destructive and I don't mean to belittle the loss that occurs in major events, but a little tiny bit of me always wanted to feel a small tremor. It's the same part of me that would secretly love to go storm chasing, and enjoys going outside when it is rainy and windy. Now as chance would have it, I've actually been in several minor earthquakes where the people around me all felt a gentle shake, but somehow I missed it. So the other night when the house started to tremble, I leaped out of the chair (sleeping baby and all) and went sprinting into the other room jumping and squealing with glee.
After the excitement faded a bit and I took the time to check 'being in an earthquake' off my bucket list, (in my head, I don't have an actual list) Dave and I started explaining what an earthquake was to our 4 year old twins. As we simplified the concept, I realized how crazy the idea sounds to a child. For them, the idea that the earth shifts and shakes is right up there with believing in fairies and Santa, and that got me thinking.
So much of the time I spend in my backyard involves trying to gain control and triumph over mother nature, I fix the soil in my gardens, I build shelters to keep my animals out of the rain and warm and dry, I grow things in my heated house even when it's freezing outside, and I use water from the ground or a barrel when there is a drought. But feeling the earth shake made me realize something; no matter what I do, mother nature will always win. There is no real competition, and that little foothold I have in my backyard is such a little thing - such a very very little thing. When you start to think of things on a global timescale and size, one little backyard seems so insignificant.
That feeling of insignificance can lead you to two conclusions. You can take that feeling and wallow in the emotion that nothing you do really matters. If you choose to conserve energy, how can it possibly make a difference? If you grow your own apples, other people don't. If you plant the perfect garden, a simple hail storm could destroy everything, so why start?
And yet, the idea that mother nature always wins can actually make you a better farmer When I head out into my backyard today to feed the chickens and goats and pull out the remaining brussel sprouts for dinner, I'm going to do so, not as a way to control mother nature, but as a way to work with mother nature. I'm switching teams, I'm joining the competition, I'm playing for the winning sides team.
This shift is subtle, but when you start to think about farming, or simply living, as working with, instead of against, mother nature, the task seems infinitely more feasible. You still do the same things, but you do them differently (or with a different perspective). When you work with mother nature, you accept what she offers you and you make the most of the situation. There are always more possibilities for building a better life. So when a hail storm knocks out your vegetables, maybe it's the year to get chickens, or when your chickens scratch up your cucumbers in the mid-summer, it's the year to try a fall crop, or when a drought starts to wither your plants and your rain barrel is dry, don't drain your well, but rethink your water system for next year, and perhaps the plants that really like it dry will do great. I might brag about the seeds 'I grew', or the eggs 'I raised,' but I'm a fraud, and the small bit of work I did is nothing compared to my partner, the supremacy of mother nature.
Yes, mother nature is destructive and powerful, she can bring down ice from the sky and shake the earth beneath your feet, but that same power resides in the smallest seed and can transform a yard from flat grass to a thriving homestead. That little tremor I felt the other night is confirmation of this power. As homesteaders and farmers, we are given the chance to work with mother nature, to tend the earth and the creatures here, and to maybe tweak things just a bit in our favor, and that may be just enough.