My Christmas card this past year featured hogs, fruit, corn, a house, a woodlot and more. “Nurture what nourishes you” the card said at the top. The sentiment was simple – take care of the things that enable you to live well. Embracing a more hands-in-the-ground approach is less simple. After reading the blurb inside the card my father’s response was “Just reading it makes me tired.”
Old-fashioned, the hard way, quaint, insane. All are phrases that might describe the lifestyle to which I aspire. It is not easier to start my own seeds, plant my own garden, tend my own plants and harvest my own than to go to the grocery store. It is not simple to raise and slaughter livestock. It is not convenient to make my own sugar from maple sap. And yet…
If I could instill in you the sense of harmony and balance that accompanies working in the garden as a Common Yellowthroat flits through the fence; if I could fill you with the satisfaction of watching happy animals flock on fresh grass; if the smell of boiling maple syrup in a reclaimed wooden shanty could infiltrate your lungs; perhaps you might understand the motivation.
None of it is easier. The reasons make sense to me, though. I know where some of my food comes from, what went into it, how it was raised, and how it came to be on my plate, nourishing me. I know that the work I have in cutting firewood, moving and stacking it, and then burning it keeps the nutrients right here. The trees that grew in the woods in the backyard feast off the minerals and goodness in the soil. I harvest that, dry it and use it all the heat my house. Those same ashes that I scoop from the woodstove then feed the plants in my garden, which feed me. All this happens within a mile. Not easier, I hope better.
This matters to me because living is not only about me. My survival is intricately linked to many others and to non-living resources that cycle through the natural world. I am deeply connected to the forest stream, the snow falling from the sky, the chickens in the coop and the worms they eat. Thus, my choices cannot be made thinking of myself alone. So whether or not an action is easier is not the only decision making parameter that applies when choosing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some modern conveniences that I truly adore. Hot showers, coffee, and freezers top the list. I go out to eat, drive a car, and wear clothes that I didn’t make so I recognize that I am not living locally much of the time. I do make an effort, though, to keep the resources close to home, to their point of origin, which seems to be a healthier way of living for all, not just me.
You can learn a little bit more about living locally and how simple, and relatively easy some changes might be. Audubon is hosting its 35th annual winter festival on February 4. We have modified the name a little bit, adding a sustainable theme to it and so it is called the Snowflake Local Living Festival now. Thirty-five years strong, it is one of the oldest events we host.
This year you can make your own butter and grind your own grain. You can learn how to make items from leather, which itself is sustainable and versatile. Soap making will be a feature using lye and lard as well as other materials. Gardeners from both Chautauqua and Warren counties will be onsite to teach about gardening to benefit both humans and wildlife. You can pet an alpaca, watch someone spin the wool into yarn, and watch someone turn that yarn into wearable, usable items.
The natural world provides much enjoyment as well. Woodcarvers will demonstrate how to take a natural material and create both a hobby and a useful item. Provided there is snow, Evergreen Outfitter will have snowshoes that allow you to explore the world more easily in the snow, and perhaps the huskies from Tails of the Tundra will demonstrate their enthusiasm for pulling sleds down the trails. Horse-drawn wagon rides allow you a glimpse of the Audubon property from a different perspective and games encourage fun outdoors in the winter weather.
Many other activities are available during the day including live birds of prey programs from Wild Spirit Education and nest box building. Some activities entail extra costs, but most are included with the admission fee of $6, $2 children 3-15 and free for 2 and under. Food is available through the kitchen by the Busti Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary.
The Snowflake Local Living Festival runs from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. For more information visit the website at auduboncnc.org/snowflakefestival, call (716) 569-2345, or visit the Facebook page. Living local isn’t the easiest choice, but it isn’t hard, either. The rewards are harder to quantify, but richer. I hope to see you at the festival, learning more about how to nourish yourself by nurturing your local community.
ACNC builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. The Nature Center is open daily from 1:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. except Saturdays when it opens at 10:00 a.m. The trails are always open from dawn to dusk as is viewing of the Bald Eagle, Liberty. The website has information about upcoming programs, auduboncnc.org and you can always call. ACNC is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just east off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at ACNC.