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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Home the Land Built: Week 14

In 15 minutes—poking in and out of the riot of a hedgerow below the shed, Architect Paul’s dog Luna panting at my side---I picked enough wild raspberries for dinner, supper and breakfast tomorrow morning.  Then. as I look up the hill toward Home the Land Built, I ponder our newly planted Meteor Cherry, browsed nearly to the ground by deer.  The sad Como Park Rose, one red bud daring to bloom after all the others were hungrily chewed.  And then there’s the salvia in the entry pot, one withered leaf clings to its wind-shredded stem.  Such an irony!   We purchase, dig, plant and water, only to yield naked stems.  I do nothing, except follow a dog out onto the Land, and an abundance is returned.   
I know, I could increase my level of control.  I could fence out the deer (9 feet high is what Lonny and Sandy Dietz, my vegetable farming neighbors, are considering).   And if the fence were made of slatted wood, it might slow the wind as well.   This is what I’ve done my whole life:  solve problems by turning levers and pushing buttons.  I came to the Land in hopes of learning another way.
And the Land whispers another idea, a wild idea:  belong to the community, engage the Connection.  Seems the wild raspberries belong to their hedgerow community.  The overarching trees shade out the encroaching grass, giving the raspberry roots room to run.   The tree-nesting birds gorge on the berries and spread the seeds up and down the hedgerow in their droppings.   The bramble of arching raspberry canes, well-armed with stabbing thorns,  say “you shall not pass” to the deer, allowing tree saplings---even a cherry---to rise safely in their midst, creating ever more hedgerow.    So to engage the Connection, what if I just encouraged raspberries---and their spiny cousin the gooseberry---to grow where we wish to plant trees?  Then, while we wait for the cherries and plums and pears, we eat raspberries.  Seems too simple.  And I’m sure it is.  Fortunately, if I try it, the Land will quickly teach me what’s wrong with the idea and suggest improvements.  And Home the Land Built---designed by Architect Paul to enable the Connection---agrees with the Land.
Consider, as I often do, our composting toilet.   While many are surprised at its polished-cherry beauty, no few are loathe to actually use it.  “I don’t want Mike to have to haul out my stuff,” proclaimed one such first-time visitor.   Indeed, hauling two buckets of pooh each week (plus one bucket for the cat) can be a chore.  Yet, the composting toilet belongs to the community of Home the Land Built.
Suppose I ignore Home the Land Built and replace the composting toilet with a good old flush toilet.  We actually plumbed for a flush toilet, so we need not rip up the floor to install one.  But then we’d need a lot more water, thousands of gallons more, possibly exceeding the capacity of our 5400 gallon rainwater harvest cistern.  So, at considerable expense, we add another cistern.  To pump the additional water into our house requires more electricity, possibly exceeding our off-grid capacity.  So we burn gas to run the noisy generator or buy more solar panels and batteries.  Worse yet, what if we can’t collect enough rainwater to fill two cisterns?   Then we install a well.  After spending $30,000 to drill 700 feet, we tap two huge problems:  the considerable electricity required to pump water that high and the possibility of offering you a chemical-laden cup of water.  The karst geology of southeast Minnesota allows some surface contaminants to cascade between rocks and drip unfiltered into the aquifer.    So, in the end,  a good old flush toilet could cost us $40,000 and ruin the quality of our water in the process.    A regular toilet does not belong to the community of Home the Land Built.
So when I tire of hauling buckets of pooh, I remember how our butt-simple composting toilet belongs to Home the Land Built:  low cost, clean water, off-grid compatible.  And one day, perhaps in two years or so, I’ll feed the compost to the raspberries. 
I don’t why I did it---perhaps to nudge its odor away from the house---but I built the compost bin in the hedgerow below the shed.     I’ve often wondered if it was out of place.  No more!  By feeding the raspberries, the compost begins to belong to community of the hedgerow.  So what about me?  I haul the buckets.  And, like the birds, I gorge on the berries and spread the seeds.  Do I belong to the community of the hedgerow?  I don’t know, but this afternoon I’m donning my double-thick pants, covering my head with a gnat-proof kitchen towel and venturing in.    I can’t resist the whisper of the raspberry. 

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