Nature deserves our respect
My helplessness to travel very far from our farm illustrates the power that nature holds over us.
I’ve stopped keeping track of how many times my work and personal travel plans have been thwarted during the winter of 2022-2023 by snow and wind that made it impossible to get from here to there.
Roads drifted over with snow stop our travel pretty much whenever the wind blows. The snow in the ditches along the road is higher than it, and that, combined with ever-growing canyons of the white stuff frequently makes travel impossible, even with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
As those of us who have lived on the northern Plains expected, in March, the snowy weather has not dissipated, but, instead, intensified. During the weekend of March 10, 2023, a winter storm dumped a foot of snow on us, accompanied by strong winds that whipped up waist-high drifts.
I’ve pretty much given up on making plans to take any road trips until at least April, maybe longer depending on what spring weather holds in store.
The isolation that this winter has resulted in makes me empathize with homesteaders who dealt with cabin fever. I can at least connect with the outside world through the internet, television and my cell phone. In my great-grandparent's day, they had none of those luxuries, not to mention that they had to do all of their snow removal by hand or with the help of horses.
My helplessness to travel very far from our farm illustrates the power that nature holds over us. No matter how good our vehicles are and how sophisticated our technology is, nature holds the trump card.
While blocked roads are the challenges our family faces, in other parts of the United States, weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have wreaked havoc on people and their property this winter. Across the oceans, tsunamis and tidal waves destroy lives.
The awesome and terrifying power of nature is one of the reasons I’ve had a lifelong respect for it. As a farmer’s daughter, I was aware at an early age how a single event, such as a hailstorm, could ruin a beautiful wheat crop or how a string of cold, wet spring snow storms could result in a herd of sick calves.
One of the ways we can show respect, I believe, is to take care of the land with which we are entrusted. Neglecting it by not using conservation practices that will aid in preserving it, is an ill-conceived notion, not only from a philosophical perspective, but also from a practical one. Treating the land poorly results in damages that affect not only the current generation of farmers, but future.
My dad and brother illustrated to me, through their farming practices, that incorporating relatively small things into their farming plan achieved their conservation goals. I know, for example, that planting alfalfa on sandy soil will anchor it and provide nutrients, in contrast to crops that require the soil to be pulverized. Another conservation method they employed was rotation of half a dozen crops — sometimes as many as eight or nine.
My dad also planted shelterbelts to mitigate soil loss. Those and other shelterbelts are aging, so replacing, rather than removing them is another conservation practice I support. I have been a personal witness to the effect that wholesale shelterbelt removal has on soil erosion, and I can say, without a doubt, it’s not a positive one.
I understand these and other practices add to the logistical and financial load farmers bear, but the long-term cost of not at least exploring conservation methods like those have potential to be much higher.
I’m not an environmentalist or a doomsday prophet, nor do I claim to be an expert or anything close to that on farming. I do know, from observation, that humans can never conquer nature. Given that, we need to give it the respect it commands and do what we can to take care of the Earth.
Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.