Naturally, we lost power that night. It was exciting really – reminded me of when I was a kid and even the most subtle wind would make our humble valley light up only by stars – electricity was something we often went without. Gathering around the Beta House, we grabbed our head lamps and guitars, chit chatting through the evening and rejoicing in song. When we awoke the next morning to fallen trees, no water or refrigeration, and a coffee pot that wouldn’t turn on – the sweet melodies of Grateful Dead tunes had faded, and I knew we were in for quite a treat . We quickly learned that we weren’t the only ones affected by the storm, and that three-quarter of a million Virginian’s were without power as well. Living on top of a mountain, in Highland County, with a population of a mere 2,300, it became aware to us that we were not going to be a priority, and the comfort of running water, electricity, and technology were things we would have to learn to live without.
We’re a bunch of well-groomed mountain folk here around here – be it through backpacking, camping, working, or traveling- we’ve braved the elements before, and we were certainly prepared to do it again. Televisions (although we don’t even have one here, come to think of it), phones, computers, fluorescent lighting, a working oven – these were easy to do without. The Great Outdoors was there to entertain us. We embraced the intimacy of lighted candles, and bread pudding cooked slowly on the grill was certainly well-worth the wait. In my opinion, the Towhees made perfectly beautiful calls that LG, Samsung, or Apple couldn’t even begin to replicate. Together, we brainstormed strategies for living without power, and surprised ourselves at the natural-flow of the feat. Of course, when thinking of flow, one thinks of water. And that, my friends, is something we couldn’t have lived without.
Pen showed up with a 250 gallon tank filled from Laurie’s gravity-fed pump sometime Saturday afternoon. From the flushing toilets to quick rinses at the kitchen sink, the average American consumes 176 gallons of water daily. The eight of us had 250 gallons to share communally. It lasted us for three days. Clearly, we are not your average folk. Now, due to the circumstances, our consumption was significantly less than had we been operating “business as usual” here on the farm, but 10 ½ gallons a day per person is nowhere close to the national average, and this triggered my mind to flow, naturally, to issues concerning water.
Often times when we think of agriculture, we think of plants simply growing in the soil – yet it is clear that a farmer’s relationship with and care for water is as important (if not, more) as the loamy, rich earth in which (a good farmer) will sow. Soil health and fertility can be easily built and restored, but water comes as a more vulnerable source. And while our 176 gallon/day consumption may reflect a societal ideal of water existing as an endless supply – truth be told, there is only so much of it circulating through nature, when it is gone there will be no more. “In water we see all of nature reflected,” writes Donald Worster. “And in our use of that water, that nature, we see much of our past and future mirrored.”
We’ve been lucky up here on the mountain this month. This time last year, the fellows were experiencing a serious drought, but it seems that virtually every day since the coming of the storm, we’ve experienced a fair bit of steady rainfall, and I can’t help but think of how much we are truly blessed. The dry, mild winter we experienced this year has lead to drought conditions throughout much of the US – which, in turn, has had a serious impact agriculturally, specifically for the otherwise strong, thriving industry of the Northeast. Weather stress is reducing yield and quantity of vegetable crops, hay and forage harvests are lighter than normal, the hot, dry weather is impacting livestock/dairy producers due to decreased animal comfort and reduced weight gain/milk yield, and tree fruit crops are also suffering, especially taking into consideration the spring thaw/freeze damage that markedly reduced fruit set in many areas. It goes without saying that these agricultural set-backs will undoubtedly lead to an over-all increase in food prices throughout the United States over the course of the year.
Yet despite all of this, I can look into my glass and see futuristic beauty mirrored, for, after the power outage and the storm, I found myself more-so-than-ever, “Thinking Like a River” – that is, thinking and acting in accordance to its flow. Here at AMS, I am learning these skills, not just for myself, but to teach others. To teach others that, as food prices rise, one can cut cost simply by growing one’s own; to teach others to live in accordance with nature, in hopes that someday, they, too, will “think like a river,” creating change and reducing negative impact by thinking, living, and acting in accordance to its flow.
Live well, be well, and eat well!
~ Kayla ~