Where the Land Meets the Sky

I can’t quite add wrestling to my list of professional skills, but I probably could claim some amateur status. I’ve wrestled numerous sheep as a farmer. As a mother, an aunt and a dedicated girlfriend of other mothers, I’ve even wrestled a few running-toward-the-road-too-fast defiant toddlers on occasion, too. Last winter I wrestled outside in the elements, on a regular basis, with a large unnamed monster, and this coming winter I should like to plan my way out of that specific type of wrestling, if at all possible.

I heat my farm with wood and propane gas. Last winter I did not heat with wood very much at all and ended up spending far too much on propane than I had planned. My wood pile is just exactly that — a “pile,” albeit stacked neatly and close to the house, that is fully exposed to all the elements. To protect it from rain and snow I had covered it in a blue tarp. This tarp was not happy: It hated being spread thin, tied down and trapped. This tarp believed it was born to roam, and it bolted for freedom frequently.

Oftentimes I’d admit defeat and let the tarp win. I’d return home to see the tarp had escaped yet again. I’d let it fly across my snow-covered lawn for days even, before deciding enough was enough. With resolute determination I would don my snow boots and chase that tarp, wrestle that tarp in the snow bank it was napping in and bring it home. Despite all my admonishments, complaints and even pleading, the tarp still refused to do the one job I required of it: Keep the wood dry. This tarp was best friends with the wind. This tarp just wanted to play. This tarp was not a hard-working member of our farm family. This tarp did not understand that free-range tarps are not a founding pillar of my organic farm vision.

I do not wish to spend this winter wrestling a naughty tarp.

So, I have been foraging, not for mushrooms, nettles, wild mint or any other thing that grows in abundance at my farm. I have been searching off-farm instead for used wood pallets, to make a sturdy wood shed. I managed to find some at a neighbor’s farm close to mine. Although I did not know this neighbor before, I am very glad to now. Not only did he deliver the pallets for me, he also chanced a look up at my farmhouse and saw how badly it needs a good pressure washing (as the siding has succumbed to the ravaging of the elements, too), and he offered to lend me his for a day and to show me how to use it. To help build the woodshed I have four wonderful friends who gain, in exchange, exclusive hunting rights this season on my land. In turn then, this tale of the naughty tarp has allowed me to fall more deeply in love with my land and my community, and to forge deeper, more meaningful connections. I’m also able to finally resign from the impossible task of wrestling big, unwieldy, wind-loving monsters.

Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She runs a consulting business working at the intersection of sustainability and marketing, and is a sought-after speaker on sustainability in the United States and Europe.