By Paul Myers
–Piece originally published in the Gibsons Farm Collective newsletter–
A rich, loamy earth is a thing of beauty. But farming is not only about what’s in the soil.
There are many influences on the land that are not fixed to the land. In the lingua franca of agriculture we call these “sectors.” Tops on the list of sectors, of course, are sun, wind, and water. But there are many others; for instance, people, animal, bird and other creaturely movement, noise, frost, and lightning. Politics, social trends, and bylaws are all invisible, but they also deeply influence our land. Earthquakes come and go, but they might create a canyon on your back forty where one never was.
A sector is always a head scratcher. Do we want it here? Can we get more of it? Or do we not want it? Can we prevent it from entering? Or perhaps we want it, but differently than it now is. You can alter the influence of full sun merely by plopping a baseball cap on your head. If you need more shade than that, you can erect structures, or plant trees for dapple light. Likewise, water is generally a welcome sector, but if it’s pounding down on your tomatoes or running across your driveway, you may want to attempt to channel it. Here at Brookbank Farm, for instance, we channeled the water energy sector with our ponds and waterways development. To add to these conundrums, at times a sector may be wanted, and at other times not.
The game of sectors is a particularly dicey one, for the simple reason that we are not omnipotent. In the last week or two I curtailed all physical activity and, at length, had to settle myself into a state of resignation, all for two sectors that I had no power to influence. Truly, I wish I could say that I got “zen”, but it really was more akin to simple misery. I coughed. I wheezed. I dosed myself on synthetic pharmaceuticals. I speak first, of course, of the pervasive, inescapable, sector of air pollution we have had due to forest fire smoke. Second, there was an almost complete absence of any wind sector. Did you notice that the smoke drifted but did not blow? When a particulate is two microns in length (that’s two millionths of a meter) there is not a lot that can be done about not breathing it. When the wind goes still – and, ask any sailor, sometimes you live or die by that wind - you can only wait out the doldrums. The insidious Slow Death Fog lingered, and it would stay that way until either fires were quenched or the now most welcome sector of wind returned.
Well thank God there’s been a sector change. And as I resume a life of normalcy (to the extent I may be accused of such) I think retrospectively on the powerlessness of that experience. We do what we can to influence the influences. But we are not omnipotent. Whether by zen or by misery, we accept our finitude.