“It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.” - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Visiting my parents this winter I picked up a copy of A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Diving into his detailed portraits and feeling into his emotions has inspired a deep appreciation for the new farmland. Though few can write with the beauty and precision of Leopold, I hope that I can paint a picture of a place that is so dear to us.
The soils on the east side of the 21 acres are some of the best we have ever seen. Without mattock and spud bar, we have planted trees nearly two feet deep without hitting a single rock in the dark, loamy earth that crumbles like deliciously moist cake. The west side of the property has some rocks near the top of the soil surface, but falls squarely into the luxurious category by Teton Valley standards.
There is one large tree on the property - a stately cottonwood who stands sentinel over the field. Our neighbors who once owned this land call it the Lightening Tree after a close call some decades ago. We often see and hear raptors in the lightning tree. A Red-Tailed hawk likes to watch as we work. The husky hoots of owls greet the dusk. And every so often, a majestic Bald Eagle reigns over the farm from his lofty throne. Attention meadow mice: steer clear of the lightening tree.
In wintertime, we find evidence of a happening night life across the property. It is our delight to know that snowshoe hare, moose, deer, fox, and wolf all visit the farm as we sleep. Sometimes, however, these visits are less welcome. At the beginning of January we discovered that the local elk herd gorged itself at our hay stack. We have since secured it from any future chomping, so the herd will have to make do with whatever the largest in-tact ecosystem in the continental US can provide. Perhaps the wolves will help keep our ravenous guests from lingering too long.
The land is smothered by alfalfa monoculture, but not for long. At the edge between field and forest, the natural tendency of this land is toward a diverse mix of grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees. So far we have seeded at least a dozen new species of grass, legumes, herbs, and wildflowers. These will slowly establish beneath the alfalfa, only to surprise us with dense forage and beautiful blooms as they take over. Our new calf, Honeysuckle, dozes off to dreams of pasture like this.
Anchored along the irrigation ditch on the northeast side of the property, serviceberry, hawthorn, and willow shelter the local songbirds. Before long, these birds will enjoy new residence in newly planted trees ranging from stout conifers to delicate flowering shrubs.
The more time we spend on the farm, the more it surprises us. Constantly changing, growing, evolving, the land perpetually offers more to see, hear, and feel. Stay tuned, the performance at Teton Full Circle Farm promises to be quite the show.
To keep this show on the road, please support Teton Full Circle Farm’s efforts to protect Teton Valley’s prime Farmland. Please visit Farmland Forever to make a contribution today. Thank you for your commitment to this important work!