Monday, November 30, 2015

Farming is local

Many years ago, a friend suggested that I go to Peru to help the farmers there learn the best ways to raise guinea pigs. I declined because I knew nothing about guinea pigs.This fall I actually realized the wisdom of that decision. Not only did I know nothing about guinea pigs, but I knew nothing about Peru. Farming is local.

Dave and I just spent five days in a cottage on the south coast of England. The sheep and cows there grazed in small fields divided by dense hedge rows of bramble rose, gorse and holly. The pasture grasses were still abundant and green in the second week of November. Roses, cyclamen and small amaryllis bloomed in the gardens and the grass. The clouds hung low four out of five days, it rained everyday, and sea spray filled the air with mist when it wasn't raining.The fields were slanted at such steep angles that I doubt the farmer ever tilled them or possibly even ever cut them.

At home, by mid-November, the pasture grasses are short and brown, the leaves are gone from the trees and the flowers have all died. We cut our pastures several times during the summer to keep the grasses from blooming, setting seeds and then going dormant. I have never seen such luxuriant November fields as I saw in England. I'm lucky that the book I used to learn how to raise sheep, The Sheep Book, was written by a shepherd who only lived an hour from our farm. We were raising sheep under the same weather conditions, the same climate conditions, similar soil types and similar weed problems. I got my first shepherding advice from a local farmer. If I'd been reading an English shepherding book, I would have been really surprised. Farming is indeed local.

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