The Margins

The Dam is settling down nicely after removing silt a few weeks ago.

I spent a great day out at Pebblespring. The morning was really beautiful after the rain yesterday. The skies were clear and there was a kind of silence that sounds different to there just being no noise. I did some work preparing pasture on the road side of the stream. The grazing is good there, but in order to run the temporary electric fence there, some work needed doing in clearing a new path through the forest. I am careful when cutting a new path to only cut alien invasive trees. In fact most of the bush in that area is Port Jackson, with a bit of Poplar thrown in, but there is a surprising amount of indigenous stuff fighting its way through. My objective is to help get this indigenous bush back on its feet.

In the afternoon the whole family came out. We made a braai. It was great. But now I am back home. Had my shower, now drinking my coffee, also great.

I was reading Wendell Berry’s “Unsettling of America” this morning. The chapter spoke of marginal land and how much marginal land is abandoned in the US because it is just not profitable for big “Agribusiness” to work it property.

Pebblespring is like that. Abandoned, when we found it, not farmed for so many years because, its marginal. The slopes are too steep and the marsh to wet for big equipment. And its too small to make sense as a significant ” Agri Investment’, But perhaps, if I am running an experiment here, one of the things I am looking for an answer to is:

Is there something useful, beneficial and sustainable that can be done with Marginal land like this?

But there are other questions:

  • Can I support my family on a piece of land like Pebblespring?
  • Can I carry on my career as an architect and make a success of Pebblespring?
  • Is there enough time for both?
  • Can I really make my family comfortable off the grid?
  • Can I support and enhance bi-diversity while still making the landscape productive?

These questions float through my mind as I wield the chainsaw in the forest or drag branches to the heap. I think about many things. I think about what the land must have looked like long ago. Before the Dutch came. Was it all forest or what there some grassland? My neighbours speak about elephant bones they have dug up on their land. It must have been vibrant and diverse. What did the Dutch farmers (and the Irish after them) do? Did they cut the  forest for timber, did they just burn it for pasture? How did the Khoi Khoi pastoralists use the land? How did they interact with the forest? Did they burn for pasture? I am interested in all of this, because I am still trying to formulate the picture in my mind of what I am trying to direct, to steward Pebblespring to become. Like the artist of a giant landscape painting or a landscape sculpture, except this is  a living sculpture, an edible landscape, a practical beneficial landscape, but a landscape which holds and captures the mystery of beauty.

Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

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