Fighting The Land

weed growing from house

Figure 1. Clover growing from the corner of the house

I can no longer recall whether I learned this directly from Dave or through Clare, but some time ago I learned the phrase “fighting the land”, and that much time was devoted to this endeavor at the Dibble homestead. At the time, I didn’t really understand what this was all about. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it seemed wrong to me. We should love and hug trees, not fight them. But now that I have been living here for a couple months, I have a better understanding of what this means, and much of my time has been spent fighting the land. Of course I still like nature, but now that I am living much closer to it (as opposed to just visiting nature as in camping), I want to keep a little distance between nature and civilization.

deck area

Figure 2. Area around the deck after clearing some of the brush

I think that a few feet is a good minimum distance, which is not the case everywhere around the house (see Figure 1). The area around the deck was very overgrown when we got here, and that was one of my first outdoor projects here. Unfortunately I did not remember to take any before shots of that area, but an after shot is shown in Figure 2.

burn pile

Figure 3. Burn pile

It is a fairly simple process. I take out my “cuttin’ tools”, which at first consisted of a pair of hedge shears, a pair of clippers, and a hatchet, but more recent additions include an axe and a “weed cutter”, and cut stuff away. I don’t agree with our current president on many issues, but I do agree with him that clearing brush is fun and relaxing. It is fairly easy to make visible progress quite rapidly, and it is physically tiring, which is good for people like me who spend most of their workday sitting around. So the next step in the “fighting the land” procedure involves piling up what I have cut (see Figure 3), waiting a week or two until it is dry, and then burning it (Figure 4).

Clare by fire

Figure 4. Ceremonial burning

I can’t recall why Clare was looking at this, but a month or two ago she was looking up some rules and regulations on the Indiana state website, and came across rules on open burning. Open burning seems to be pretty common here, but apparently it is highly regulated. There are certain restrictions on the time of day that things can be burned, on containers for burning things, and so on. It seems that the only truly legal way for us to burn brush is for “ceremonial purposes”. So every time we need to burn something, we have a little ceremony. Frequently this simply involves a toast with some PBR, or, like last weekend, we had some friends over and had a puffed sugary gelatin roasting ceremony.


Figure 5. Spring to Creek ditch

My latest project for fighting the land has been to dig a ditch. The area on the other side of the creek, which used to be a road, but is no longer very road like, is very wet all year round, because of the spring in the hillside. The spring flows all the time, and generally fills up the road with water. Dave suggested digging a ditch from the spring down to the creek, to force the water to go where I want it to, i.e. to fight the land. This seemed like a good idea, and when I mentioned this to William Harriman, who actually drives on that road with his tractor to mow the back field, he mentioned that he already dug one, but that it had gotten messed up from driving over it with the tractor. On Monday I finally got around to digging a new ditch. I was able to find some of William’s ditch and use that, which was quite helpful. I will still probably need to dig out the ditch a bit more, but the ditch (Figure 5) seems to be functioning fairly well so far. The next step will be to rebuild a bridge (or two) over the creek.

2 Replies to “Fighting The Land”

  1. Your thoughts bring me back to my younger days, so thanks for that. The TwinSprings homestead appears to be something of a Zen laboratory where nature has a fighting chance against the human – it has not been brought to its knees so that it can be forgotten, but on the other hand its relentless wearing down cannot be ignored. I have to admit that over the years my stubbornness at doing things myself has caused me to wonder if I was depriving others of their living – that is to say, if I could make a living with mental abstractions, should I not do that and pay others who were not so mental to perform tasks in which they felt comfortable. My wanting to experience it all may have cut into their livelihood. It was always better to dig myself than to hire someone else to do it.

    If you reach an appreciation for the physical and eventually go on to earn a livelihood in the intellectual realm, that may be a better balance than my insistence on always doing things myself. But am happy to see that things are falling into place for you.

    In the southern Indiana environment, there are 6 months of gray/brown and no vegetative growth. The fighting of nature will become less that of vegetation and more that of warmth and keeping systems operational. Good luck on that front.

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