Hubris, Food, and Farming


One of our sad looking apple trees clinging to life

noun /ˈ(h)yo͞obris/ 

1. Excessive pride or self-confidence

2. (in Greek tragedy) Excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis

Hope. Hubris. Naiveté. What's the difference? I'm especially hoping that a farmer or two will chime in here.

The very first spring we lived here, just a few short months after buying this farm, I wrote a blog entry called "20 Year of Food in Two Days." Now, that is probably the attitude that set me up, like a Greek tragedy, for destined hardship.

We didn't move out to Big Stone County thinking that farming and food production would be easy. Quite the contrary, I remember a St. Paul conversation with Mike asking him if he was prepared for a drastic reduction in leisure time. Even in St. Paul I correctly envisioned that there would be no end of farm work.

Neither did we think farming would be a breeze. Mike had been a farmer (who had known tragedy) and I have some serious book learning on agriculture under my belt, so we more or less knew what we were getting into.

What I didn't take into account (and if Mike did, he didn't let on) was being faced with what feels like failure upon failure. About 6 weeks ago I toured my fruit tree orchard. It appeared that about 90% of my 30 trees had died over the winter. Many had been girdled by voles/moles under the 100 inches of snow. Others were simply eaten by deer right down to the tree protectors. Three years of fruit tree planting... all for naught. Mike said we should get more trees, I just said "forget it!" If we can't keep what we have alive, why buy more? Same with my poor bees that froze to death in -100 wind chills.

This western Minnesota climate can be harsh and it feels unforgiving. Wind, snow, wind, floods, droughts, arctic cold, suffocating muggy heat, wind. So here we are on June 3rd. 320 unplanted acres. Garden is still ankle deep mud. Old farm buildings blowing and rattling in the wind. 500 trees waiting to get planted (hazelnuts, prairie plum, choke cherry, etc...) and up against the limits of their viability.

To cut us some slack, maybe just putting ourselves "out there" opens us up to failure. Experiment, test, try, fail. We've got some experimental plots to test growing organic edible beans, a 30 acre wetland being restored, a wind turbine in the making, local foods efforts, grass fed beef (they at least look and act happy!), and more.

And to stay on the hopeful beam, it is only early June. Maybe there will be some good planting days ahead. Maybe there will be a late fall and gentle rains throughout the summer. Maybe the harvest will be something sweet and unexpected. And maybe there are some lessons to be learned here as well. Like those 30 fruit trees. As it turns out, only 20% of them are dead. The rest of them are soldiering on against the wind and cold. Like us I guess.


Yeah, it seems with climate change, failures will be even more frequent. I've been fed up and thrown down my tools in disgust more than a few times over the last dozen years--and it seems like that has happened more frequently in the last five years.
But, as you know, the more you diversify, the more you'll have some successes to go along with the flops. Cold comfort, though, when the fields are flooded and the fruit trees are girdled.

Sounds pretty upsetting...but I hope you will hang on. Mother nature can be kind as well as cruel!! Wishing you the best!!
Love from Auntie Carolyn

Oh, Kathy, my heart goes out to you. I know something of how you feel. It is hard to suffer the setbacks. It's been a real rough spring. But you got that prairie woman spirit in you, I think, and like those before you, this is something you'll weather, move on and apply as you go forward. Dang tough, though, I know it. I look out there at our newly planted haskaps and carmen jewel cherries and hope like crazy they'll take and we'll keep the bad guys away long enough for the little things to thrive. Farmin' ain't for sissies, that's for sure. There will come a morning that reminds you why you love it, though. Still beats the heck out of morning commuts on 35W, far as I'm concerned.

Thanks y'all for the kind words. Looks like a great day out on the prairie-- a pink sunrise and hopefully no rain. A few hours of warm and wind and we might just ___ (I'll just stop there to keep from jinxing us).

Hoping to learn how to run the field implements today. The digger I believe can be put to work on some of the high ground.

And Carol... there's a phrase to keep "Farmin' ain't for sissies."

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on June 3, 2011 2:57 PM.

Wind Beneath his Wings was the previous entry in this blog.

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