I remember very well the very first Earth Day in 1970. We attended the events held at Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh on a beautiful, sunny Spring day. We were newly married just six months previously and we had not yet given serious thought to the "Back To The Land Movement" that was to be the impetus for the search for, and ultimate purchase, of our farm. All of that was still off in the future for us. But, in retrospect, those first Earth Day events held 40 years ago, were really the catalyst for the shape our lives would ultimately take. I like to think that many others' lives were changed by the new awareness of Earth and our environment that was birthed that year.
There was much clean-up to do this spring on the farm. One of the first big chores was to remove the 30-year-old post and rail fence that the heavy snows this winter had literally turned to toothpicks. Art asked me how badly I wanted him to repair that old stretch of fence that had no purpose other than aesthetics. I caved in and told him that we didn't need to continue to maintain things that had outlived their purpose just for the sake of rustic charm. So, with the welcome help of our brother Hank and our trusty Stihl chainsaw, we removed about 100 feet of fencing. We saved the salvageable posts and rails for 'parts' and cut the rest into firewood, and the job was completed in short order. We realize we are not getting younger so we now think in terms that human energy spent on maintaining everything could be conserved and expended on maintaining the more necessary things. It required a lot of mowing and trimming around those fence posts. After every hay crop was removed that lovely-looking fenceline required weed-whacking, a tiring, dirty, sneezy job. You know, I thought I would miss the view of that silvery-grey fence that for over 30 years marked the edge of the hayfield above our barn. But the eye gets used to what is in 'the now' and the brain forgets how things used to be.......and this is progress!
Our newest tractor, the John Deere 4720, is a 4-wheel drive workhorse that enables us to maintain our farm, which is really a mini-municipality! We have our own water system, sewage system and road system of paved, gravel and dirt roads that lead to all the fields on the property. All of the roads require regular maintenance as they are subject to washing from heavy rains and snow melt. They all have ditches for water runoff that regularly get clogged with leaves, sticks and gravel debris. Our 4720's high-lift bucket is put into service to keep the ditches clear, and we use the wide blade that fits on the rear of the tractor to taper and level the roadways before spreading fresh stone and gravel. We also use the tractor to pull a heavy water-filled roller that presses down the rock and gravel, compacting and hardening the roadbeds. We had a good many downed tree limbs to clean up this spring and the high lift was perfect for carrying the tree sections up to the woodshed, where we cut them up and stacked them to age the firewood, which we will later use to heat our home.
Another big job this spring, which seems to be ongoing at this point, is Art's war on the Muskrats that have invaded our lake. We hate to kill anything and only resort to trapping when nothing else works. Even so, trapping Muskrats is tricky and cruel. Muskrats ruin dams and destroy valuable water empoundments. Our newest plan for Muskrat control is to fill the holes they dig into the sides of our lakeshore with large stones. This is a huge undertaking, as the lake is 1/4 mile in diameter; over 1500 feet of shoreline! Every day we find new holes. We gather large rocks and dump them over the holes. The Muskrats then dig more holes in new places. We then gather more rocks and repeat the process. I anticipate that by summers' end, we will have hauled enough rock to completely cover the shoreline of the lake. Eventually I know that Arthur will win this war because he always accomplishes what he sets out to do, one way or another. He is a Taurus. He has that kind of patience.
So far we've planted Vidalia onion plants and 3 types of garlic. Soil testing revealed that our organic garden needed a 40 pound dose of bone meal to raise the phosphorous level this spring. It is a messy, dusty job to apply the bone meal to the soil using a very scientific method of application........broadcasting it by the handful and then rototilling it in with the help of the BSA 720, a workhorse of another color!
So, here at Jolico Farm, every day is Earth Day. That's what farmers do.....take care of the earth. Millions of Americans who didn’t know what “the environment” was in 1969 discovered in 1970 that they were environmentalists. Millions of people make choices about lifestyles, diet, housing, automobiles, and even the number of children they have because of thinking that began at an Earth Day program. The Earth Day philosophy must welcome those who are just beginning to recycle as well as those involved in the pursuit of ambitious environmental goals. I believe that it is up to every single human being living on Mother Earth to love her and tread softly upon her, keep her clean, and know that we each have an impact and we each leave a footprint. We can't all be involved in writing legislation involving the environment, but we can use our votes by electing officials who have a green conscience. When I see trash on the roadsides, illegal dumping, polluted streams, belching smokestacks, wastefulness, unnecessary packaging of products, people who don't recycle and reuse.....it makes me sad. I try every day to set an example for others, to spread the word, to educate, to spread enlightenment. Won't you help me? Together we could do so very much more.........Thanks!