There is no going back. Everything changes. I have changed. The land I live on and work has changed. We are changing together, the land and I.
My land was once a family farm, supplying extra food to family and friends. Partitioned, segmented, a place for each activity. The chickens go here. The goats over there. Rabbits live in this corner. Geese wander there, over near the chickens.
Now the land is growing wilder. There is more wildlife present and we only keep chickens right now. A couple of them fancy themselves half-wild. They escape their enclosure once a day. But every evening they go back in. They are like me. I can go where I like now, but I have a home. I have a new, if limited, freedom. I’m not beholden to a husband. The deed to this property says it: KBW, “an unmarried woman.” It makes me smile, the anachronistic nature of that title. My great aunt, farming her little hillside in West Virginia, her deed must have said the same thing. If I were younger, I’d be irritated that my marital status was even of concern to county tax authorities. At my age, the feminist in me may rankle, but much more than that – I feel so strongly the cords that bind me to my aunt.
I am hardly what anyone who is just meeting me would call wild. But the half-wild young girl who ran about the prairie lands and the riverbanks of Ohio is the one I have turned to just to re-discover myself. She’s the age of my granddaughters, but I need her presence to understand where I’m going. I need her presence to understand parts of the person I left behind. I need to understand how much of this wild child remains.
My land is growing wilder as I am rediscovering my wildness. I’m still interested in my drylands kitchen gardening. I’m still interested in the fruit orchard. I’m still engaged with my herb plantings.
But. I’m growing much more interested in seeing this land grow wild foods. Some food and herb crops always escape cultivation. They volunteer.
We’re cultivating a mesquite grove. I want to expand it since it thrives here with just a bit of extra water.
I’ve brought in elderberry, wild desert grapes, manzanita, and some other high desert food plants. I plan to bring in bees, hopefully by spring. I want to focus much of Rainshadow Farm’s efforts on a new ethnobotanical nursery. I want to learn to graft fruit tree cultivars onto wild rootstalk. There is a wild plum in the Sierra that could be combined with plums that bear fruit well locally.
Ethnobotany whispers to me about the future of foods of the Mojave Desert. The desert whispers to me, asking me if I will stay. One day I’ll tell the story of the raven who told my future to me. Tonight all I can say for sure is that I’m bound with love to this land. There is freedom in the wind. The land and I, we taste it together.