Nature vs. Nurture

“There are those who can live without wild things and there are those who cannot.” ~Aldo Leopold

I am one who cannot.

The Wood Frog–The only wild frog species in Alaska.

As humans, there is an innate need in us to take control of situations.  We demand ownership of even the smallest of things.  We anthropomorphize any animal, plant or inanimate object we can imagine.  To most (including myself) this is fine and acceptable behavior–it can even be funny or educational.  However, there is such peace in just letting things be free sometimes.  There is no better place to do this than in a truly wild place.  These places are diminishing year by year–even day by day; some even say there are no truly wild places left.  To them, I say, find a place that–maybe, just maybe–no other person has ever stepped foot.
I think I have found the place where this can happen.
This wild place (Hatcher Pass) is so close I can ride my bike to it!
My father visited Alaska for the week of the Fourth of July, and we enjoyed some of the quintessential “Alaskan” things.  We fished for halibut out of Homer, we walked on a glacier, we saw over a dozen grizzlies at Denali National Park. We drove on nearly every major high way that is accessible from Anchorage, putting about 1500 miles on the rental car in a week! Alaska seems to like my father, because all of the forecasted weather for rain and gloom gave way to bluebird skies and majestic mountain top views.
We walked on THAT glacier!
Since I am a Farmgirl, we also weeded a bed of potatoes.  What a way to spend vacation!  I asked him while we were weeding if he imagined himself staring at the weedy ground while on vacation in Alaska.  He didn’t seem to mind; in fact, he felt great about “rescuing” our potatoes from the encroaching catnip.  I get my Farmgirl side largely from him and his inner farmer, so it seemed natural to share some farming duties with him.
The Mountain (Denali)–Not too shabby to wake up to!
Questions in the clouds beg to be answered…
I fought with this contradiction–taming the wilds through agriculture vs. enjoying the wilds through recreation–during my father’s visit.  I see the wilderness as Nature, agriculture as Nurture…in most ways.  Agriculture really has a bit of both–we attempt to make the best of what nature has provided through gene selection and creating optimal environments for plants to grow and, ultimately, provide us with food.  It involves us manipulating nature to fit our needs; and I love it! Wait…ahem, I love organic agriculture! I do not love conventional agriculture, which seems to stare blindly at nature and kill and waste everything it comes in contact with–including those things which would highly benefit it.  It is not Nurture, it is Disregard.  Small scale organic agriculture is a very happy medium between the untamed wilderness and the chemical killing of bigAg.
First Farmer’s Market a couple weeks ago.
Happy radishes come from happy farms.
The best of farms fold into the landscape, almost unnoticed.  I don’t know too much about biodynamic farming or permaculture, but what I do know is that they strive to replicate nature.  This is nearly impossible, but so much more beneficial for the plants (both wild and farmed), for the animals (both wild and farmed), and for ourselves (both wild and farmed).
 The garden way cart looks at home on our wooded path between the fields and our homes.
A happy farm is surrounded by happy wilderness.  I live on a happy farm.  The sandhill cranes fly overhead almost daily, voles have plenty to eat outside of our beds of goodies (I guess they do have occasional nibbles here and there–those radishes just look too delicious!  The loss is minimal, though), there are very few signs of noxious farm-spread weeds (think white clover and vetch) when in the woods, and the sounds of birds welcome us every morning and bid adieu to us every evening.  Responsible, sustainable practices have allowed the farm and the surrounding wilderness to grow strong and stay strong without too much help from us.  On top of all of this happiness, there is beauty that cannot be found on a conventional farm.  There is beauty that cannot be found in a man-made wetland that had to be created to compensate for one that was lost due to agricultural development.  There is beauty in seeing the interaction between our ownership of the land (the farm) and our surrender to nature (the forest, the creek and the fen).
 Amanda, the Squash Whisperer.
All in all, I’m a little bit of Nature and a little bit of Nurture, and I’m letting go of more and more disregard every day.  Nature provides, and with a little love, patience, and care on our part, we can maximize our benefit while still keeping in check with our natural roles as stewards of the land.  Being an organic farmer is where it’s at!
Wishing you peace, love, and a wild place to allow you to feel free!

  1. nameMaureen says:

    I see mud! Rich dark mud! Does the permafrost hamper your gardening?


    From fire scorched Colorado!

  2. Cindy Sym says:

    Alexandra, you hit it on the head for me with this statement:
    "Small scale organic agriculture is a very happy medium between the untamed wilderness and the chemical killing of bigAg."
    Tho it would be wonderful to return to our hunter-gatherer roots where we make no radical changes to any ecosystem in order to feed ourselves, our enormous population does not allow for that. ORGANIC agriculture is really our only hope, and that’s been proven in study after study despite what big ag manages to get published in the press to make the minions think otherwise.
    I appreciate your insights very much as well as the photos of your beautiful Alaska. Keep it up, farmgirl, I love it.

  3. Lisa says:

    "Happy radishes come from happy farms." 🙂 I think that’s adorable!

    I loved your article and look forward to reading more. I would love to have a larger farm and plant to my heart’s desire. Instead I live in the suburbs right now and have a small backyard garden. We lovingly grow only a few of each type of vegetable we eat regularly. This year we put in kale!! The strawberry patch is threatening to take over the entire area within a couple of years. We have to figure that one out! (care if I share some strawberry plants with you?) 😉

    Even though our garden is small, I still experience what you experience, but in a different (and smaller!) setting. The birds also greet us morning and evening, butterflies gather and flutter when the garden is watered, and catbirds taste our strawberries. Now we have to fence our garden in to keep out Mr. Groundhog and the little bunnies that abound in this area.

    It’s beautiful and wonderful growing even the smallest garden of your own organic produce. Looking at a happy radish, one realizes they have control of the chemical and GMO onslaught that threatens our bodies and environment daily. The happy radish invokes in me a good, settling, connected, grounding and protected feeling. I think that’s what I’m seeking each year when I put in my garden!

  4. Diana Henretty says:

    Your quote "just hit the spot" this morning!
    Your pictures are out of this world with beauty, how blessed you are.
    It reminded me so of our lives in the wilderness of Montana!
    Now that we are in the Ozarks, it is a little more difficult to find wild places, but there out there, even if it is in our own back yard, sitting out drinking our morning coffee in between raised beds and gazing at the stars before bed every night! Thank you for sharing your beautiful life with all of us!
    Hugs from the Ozarks, Diana Henretty

  5. Alex, I love your blog about nature, nurture, the land and being good stewards over it. I love the fact that you can find a place that is virtually untoched yet by man. I wish all of your generation could see the land like you do. I saw a good video about this man who asked God to show him how to tend his gardens. I thought you might like it, so I will include the link. I think I may have gotten it from another farmgirl blogger.

    I love my little 2 acres of land and I try to be a good steward over it. I do not use any herbicides or pesticides in my garden, so I know when I go out there and I see something that is ready I can pluck and eat and not worry about it. I wish you and your new soon to be hubby lots of blessings and lots of farm to nurture. Be Blessed. Neta

  6. That was a truly inspiring message from your heart about the land, agriculture, nature and growing all things organic. It put me in touch with how I really feel about what is happening all around us that is destroying the land and wildlife. I live in Idaho and am surrounded by yellow buzzing airplanes that spray pesticides on practically every crop. I hate that! I’m trying to have an organic yard and vegetable garden and it’s nigh unto impossible. You also sparked an interest I have, and that is learning about biodynamic farming. I just started hearing that word! Thanks for letting me see the passion and purpose you have. It truly inspired me and gave me hope.

  7. What gorgeous views! Thank you for sharing with us a peek into your wonderful wilderness!

  8. Jhon says:

    very nice. I knew a lady that loved to help shave llamas for their fur to make sawrtees. Had a spinning wheel in her living room.. was not to much fun to watch while I sneezed up a storm.

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