Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Friday, June 30, 2017

(Chapter 1 excerpt) In Which I Moved Some Stakes

Near the center of the woods there was a clearing and a huge red oak. The tree spread out like the great tree of Moreh at the furthest reaches of Abram’s biblical journey bring myth and mystery to wandering children like myself. It stood with massive lateral branches reaching in every direction to absorb as much solar energy as possible. The land around the tree had been cleared for a small nursery of woody perennials, now over grown, but the giant oak kept the land directly underneath clear. Nearby also existed the old long-abandoned barn and brick silo. Some of my earliest memories are of the trees, the forest and land that stretched from my back yard toward that tree and the forests surrounding it. That is where I played, got dirty, created forts and tree houses and sometimes got poison ivy and skinned knees. But that tree at the center of it all represented an ancient sacredness to me that few others recognized.

 I thought those woods would exist forever, that those trees would drop seeds and continue the generational reproductive process for generations to come. During one of my hikes deep into the thickets of underbrush I began noticing a strange invading presence along the valley about 100 yards from our back yard. Four-foot stakes had been driven into the ground in a long line with pink flags flapping in the wind calling out to a young boy to follow and see where they led. They’d been placed in my woods like an enemy frontline, setting a boundary in a place that I thought was mine, my family’s and my neighborhood’s. To me, those woods had no boundaries, no areas off limits. This line of stakes said “do not cross” and “do not touch.”

Sadly, the neighborhood had no imagination to preserve that faithful remnant of wilderness in the suburbs for the enjoyment, renewal and refreshment of all the surrounding families. The land had been destined to become more suburban houses and cul-de-sacs. The elders of the Bush family had held on to a portion of the old farm as long as they could. Much of their land had been sold off years before I was born for the development of my own neighborhood. The remaining siblings, too old to work the land and keep the family nursery business open, sold their inheritance - a common practice among my parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

Apparently there had been rumors of these transactions for quite some time. My parents and neighbors seemed not to be surprised. No one I knew took it quite as badly as I did. In fact, I’m a little cautious to tell you the next part of the story, but I’m sure the statute of limitations has long passed. It’s the part of the story when I transitioned from being an existential naturalist to an environmental terrorist.

When I saw those pink flags staking their claim in my woods with complete disregard for the trees and animals all around them they had no chance at remaining in their precisely planted location. Their straight line represented a sure boundary telling me I was no longer welcome. I soon learned they were there to mark professionally surveyed property lines for the new homes to be built. I had no intention of leaving those stakes in place, and no intention of just pulling them out, throwing them to the ground to be replaced on a later date. No, I moved them just enough to throw off the new roads that would be paved and to create property disputes whenever someone wanted to put a shed or detached garage in their new back yard. Most of those markers stayed in those woods, but not in the places that I first found them. A few of the larger 2”X4” stakes were kept as souvenirs for years in our garage to remember the woods that had be destroyed.

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