I love growing my own food. I love devouring seed catalogs this time of year, planning the garden, ordering seeds, starting them inside, planting, weeding, harvesting, eating – the whole process simply makes me happy. I love making my own compost from the bits of the food I don’t eat. (My chickens love those bits of food, too). I love identifying plants in the woods and fields that I can eat. The closer my food system is to land upon which I walk daily, the more satisfied I am.
Beekeeping provides pollinators for the land and wax and honey for candle, food, and medicines. Photo by Audubon Nature Center.
The closer people can live to the land, living off what it gives, the better off both they and the land will be. Food will travel less distance using less fuel and less inputs. Heat will warm time and time again as people cut the trees and split them and carry them and burn them. Water will be pure and fresh, filtered through the rock and soil that were here eons ago. As a result the food will be healthier with fewer preservatives, picked at nutritional peak and eaten almost immediately, losing little of those precious vitamins and minerals. Forests will be healthier because people will see them for what they are – heat, building materials, and feed for their food animals.
A braided rug made from cast off wool clothing.
Living off the land. I know – it brings back images of the 1970’s back to land movement and hippies and communes and VW buses and the idealistic idea that you can live outside the capitalist system. That movement was a failure. But living of the land is older, more reliable than any political, economical, or social system. The land has always been the support system for the animals that live upon it, humans included. It always will be, and frankly, we are treating it like garbage.
One of the faults of a global economy is that we are so far removed from the sources of the things we need to survive and with which we thrive. Our daily conscious interactions with nature as our support system (breathing is an unconscious interaction) are few. Food, water, shelter, heat, tools, light, and purpose are all provided by the land upon which we walk. And we are no longer connected to it in any meaningful way.
Learning to carve toys and tools from wood.
The things that are more important in our lives are things that relate most directly to them. We care more about our families, our homes, our cars, our jobs, our land than we do about water shortages in other countries, avalanches, the plight of the Black-footed Ferret, or melting permafrost. Harsh, but true.
The missing piece however, in this global economy, is that nature is the source for that with which we survive and thrive. Our families depend on a healthy natural system. Our shelter is made of resources from natural systems. Our jobs and cars enable us to live within the construct of our global economy, which is more often than not our source for food, fuel, and material goods.
Tea Tree shampoo bars made by Grubby Duck Soaps.
What if you could support your family by living closer to the land? What if you could learn how to raise your own animals for food and fiber? What if you could learn how to make candles and soap from their fat? What if you could learn to identify trees, how to cut them safely, and heat your house with them? Wouldn’t this bring the land into the center of your priorities? It’s a win-win situation!
Carol Spencer will demonstrate how to spin wool into yarn. Photo by Dave Cooney.
You can learn a lot of these basic skills, or at least get a taste of them, at the Snowflake Local Living Festival on February 6. From 10:00am until 4:00pm you can try out some of our traditional winter activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, or hiking. The Wagon Rides will also be available with other activities. More importantly this year we are adding a wide variety of local living demonstrations and products, to teach you how to live a bit closer to the land. Making soap, tapping maple trees, making herbal medicines, carving tools and toys, spinning wool, and repurposing old clothes into rugs are some of the skills we are showcasing.
Designed for kids and adults, there are activities all day long. A complete listing is on the website, jamestownaudubon.org, just click on the Snowflake Local Living Festival logo. Some activities have fees to cover materials, but many are free, including basket and butter making! Call for more information (716) 568-2345 or go to the website. Admission for ages 16 and up is $6, ages 3-15 are $2, and 2 and under are free. Thanks to United Refining and our other sponsors for making this event possible.
The Nature Center is open from dawn to dusk daily for eagle viewing and hiking. The building is open from 10:00am until 1:00pm weekdays, Saturdays from 10:00am until 4:30pm and Sundays from 1:00pm until 4:30pm.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon Nature Center.