A year ago I started this website. The idea to write about farming and the natural environment, while incorporating personal photos and images from the internet, was a spin off from a PhotoVoice group I contributed too. That project was created by the Snohomish Conservation District, and their goal was to highlight the changing importance of agricultural land and its resilience in Snohomish County through photographs and accompanying captions.
Overall, the enterprise was a success. Community land owners and small farmers expressed their views and concerns through the lens of a smartphone or camera, and their words and photographs traveled the county to be exhibited in public functions, libraries, and government offices. Moreover, some members got active and now serve on their local Ag committees, farmer’s bureau, and Conservation District boards.
And others . . . Started an open air journal with hopes that someone found it interesting.
In reality, the concept to create a Snohomish County Almanac has festered since I first sat on a tractor (for long dull hours) to make hay. You see, in tractor farming there is just the right amount of thinking and boredom to keep you in a mind wandering muse. Often I mentally float between the focus of cutting, tedding, raking, and baling hay; and curiosity about a hovering Red-Tail, an overabundance of grasshoppers, the presence of weeds, developing clouds, grazing cattle, and what can I do about this bumpy, back-breaking field? Naturally, like the rest of our selfie-driven society I ventured the question: What if I shared my day dreaming with everyone on the World Wide Web?
Thus, this Almanac was born. Initially, it was not my intent to copy the outline of Aldo Leopold’s work, yet the monthly pacing of Sand County lent itself well to my goal of a post a month. Furthermore, the topics and points-of-view Leopold adopted gave me a guide to direct my sights for comparisons and contrasts between his world of early 20th century, Wisconsin, Professor/Outdoorsman/Conservationist, and my early 21st century, Washington, Farmer/Environmentalist/Conservationist.
Therefore, A Snohomish County Almanac is more of a record of what was through the eyes of an individual. Obvious as this seems, it requires stating because this writer value’s his work as a piece of history. Of course, I hope it’s entertaining too, yet like Leopold’s Sand County I want it to have a lasting quality, or at least reflect what and who was here, and what they thought before the 22nd century.
If we get there? Most likely, my farm will not. Even if the buildings outlast decades of flooding, subsidence, and bureaucratic pressure, the land will surely be different and perhaps not even be land. Yet before this apocalyptic vision inundates our acreage, we will lose life incrementally. What was, will no longer be, but who will be the wiser if we never knew? Which is not to say I want to indulge in mere nostalgia for its own sake. Records, in the form of stories, photos, journals, experiments, books, etc, are insights into your own unknown. They can be a call to action.
For instance, coyotes have adapted to human development very successfully. I have witnessed them in broad daylight on the streets of Seattle, and there are a few family packs in the surrounding valley. Where I grew up in SE Minnesota there were Coyotes and there were Red Fox and Grey Fox and further north there were Grey Wolves. Since living here in Washington, I have wondered where are the foxes? It seems to me, that Snohomish County would have adequate habitat for fox, however, I have never seen one. Well, about a month ago I was at an agriculture meeting when a fellow land owner, (from up on the Stillaguamish River in north Snohomish County), mentioned how, in the seventies, he would see Red Fox, but had not seen one since.
Where did they go? What happened? He guessed that maybe the coyote had driven them out. We say, “Hmmm, isn’t that interesting,” and leave it at that. Not exactly, I may not have time to track down where the Red Fox have gone, but someone might and here is a record.
Perhaps in the future more records will surface, (If so, please relate them in comments, or start your own journal.) and researchers will discover if or why the Red Fox has disappeared from Snohomish County. From there, we might be able to reintroduce the fox and adopt management tools that aid in its survival.
Or, we can forget and deny it was ever that way because: We did not even like it when they weren’t here in the first place. (Confused? I throw in this little anecdote since it is how some land owners act when confronted with whether or not salmon are in our waterways, or whether wolves roamed before ranchers.)
We have to start somewhere. Snohomish County Almanac is my small push to get the ball rolling. I hope it is a living record to the Red Fox or Pacific Salmon and not a monument like the Passenger Pigeon was to Leopold.
With that in mind, I will leave you with the beginning excerpt from Aldo Leopold’s, “On a Monument to a Pigeon”.
We meet here to commemorate the death of a species. This monument symbolizes our sorrow. We grieve because no living man will see again the onrushing phalanx of victorious birds, sweeping a path for spring across the March skies, chasing the defeated winter from all the woods and prairies of Wisconsin.
Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons; trees still live that, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a few decades hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.
There will always be pigeons in books and in museums, but these are effigies and images, dead to all hardships and to all delights. Book-pigeons cannot dive out of a cloud to make the deer run for cover, nor clap their wings in thunderous applause of mast-laden woods. They know no urge of seasons; they feel no kiss of sun, no lash of wind and weather; they live forever by not living at all.
For the full essay visit: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/news/conservation/monument-pigeon-aldo-leopold/
You can also check out more on the PhotoVoice project at: https://snohomishcd.org/blog/2017/7/10/photovoice-for-agricultural-resilience-farmers-educate-decision-makers-through-photos?rq=photovoice