The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Developing an appreciation for nature

Playing in the creekAlthough the comments were divisive, I found our previous Walden discussion, about whether hunters appreciate nature more fully, very thought-provoking.   For those of you who don't obsessively read the comments like I do, I want to draw your attention to a few comments (both on the blog and off) that delved deeper into the issue. 

First, Chris L. started us off the right foot with his statement:

"We are part of the ecosystems in which we live whether we acknowledge it or not."

Ikwig retorted:

Abrams Falls"Personally, I spent my childhood pretending to be a pioneer woman, running barefoot through the fields, streams, and woods all around our home.  I got quite good at recognizing plants, insects, and birds, and could tell the time by the position of the sun.  No one needs a gun in order to learn about the natural world."

And my father sent me a thought-provoking email about his own experiences:

"I think the noble hunter thesis is a stereotype which needs balance.  I grew up among hunters, some of whom became close to nature in ways other than stalking game and killing it.  I did some of that myself when young.  Hunting can be a pathway for closeness to nature, but it is not the only way.

"I remember how my father introduced me to nature: picking berries, gathering hickory nuts, cracking beech nuts for their tiny fruit, hunting the perfect Christmas tree, fishing on the creek bank, walking thru woods to find paw paws and telling me about the great chestnut trees he knew as a boy, growing a garden, digging with a harness mule and picking up potatoes on shares when he was on strike."

SwingingAnd Everett gave us a vegetarian alternative for partnering with nature:

"I also think that wild edible foraging could easily fill that niche for people who don't like to hunt."

What I found most interesting is that the commenters who delved beyond their knee-jerk reaction to the issue were all suggesting ways of partnering with nature, not merely being a tourist in the woods.  Sure, we all got a lot of simple pleasure out of playing outside as kids, but the experiences that really changed us involved creative problem-solving in the outdoors --- figuring out how to build houses out of branches, herd minnows into a bucket, or collect delicious blackberries without getting scratched up or accidentally swallowing a stink bug.  I'll bet those are nature-appreciation experiences we can all agree on.

Our chicken waterer keeps the coop dry and hens happy.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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These photos are a good move for me today and hopefully for your blog.
Comment by Maggie Fri Jun 29 13:25:25 2012
Yeah, given the current heat wave, they make me think now might be a good time to play hooky and go soak in the creek. :-) I'm glad you don't mind being pictured without your permission!
Comment by anna Fri Jun 29 14:46:30 2012
At least I have clothes on.
Comment by Maggie Fri Jun 29 14:57:41 2012

I can think of two people in my community that are big on being in nature. One is a trapper who knows a lot about animals, wildcrafting, and the forest ecosystem. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much of an appreciation of that ecosystem (he's known for over-harvesting). The other is a woodsman who hunts as many around home do, but the majority of the time he goes out armed with a camera instead of a gun. I think it's how you see what you get from the forest. Is it a place to go to get things you can consume or is it a system you can try to function responsibly in.

Comment by Matthew ~B Sat Jun 30 11:37:27 2012
Matthew --- I wonder if your trapper works primarily on his own land or on someone else's? I've found that having my own land gives me a whole different range of appreciating my stewardship role, because I see the results of my actions very intimately. It's hard to see that as much if you're trapping in a National Forest, for example, and dozens of other people are using the same land. (The Tragedy of the Commons.)
Comment by anna Sat Jun 30 21:24:25 2012

Any good trapper is very careful about over trapping any one area. If you remove too many animals they won't repopulate to numbers to make that area worth trapping the following year. Over trapping occurs, but is something a serious trapper tries to prevent.

I might mention, if the trapper is doing some kind of Animal Damage Control work then they are trying to get all the animals and it can be "over trapped".

Comment by Heath Sun Jul 1 00:38:52 2012

He typically traps around the waterways of Crown land, logging company land (some of the big logging companies give access for ATVs, hunters and trappers) or through the land of some of his older friends. I was always most bothered with beavers, which were never around when I was growing up, but have returned to the area in the last 5 or 6 years.

On the other hand, he does help get rid of some of the mink problem in our area. There are big (million+ animal) fur operations in the next county and several dozen escape ever year and seem to make a bee line to our chicken coop or my neighbors rabbit hutches. Unfortunately it seems when you remove one mink, another comes down the river system and fills the void.

Comment by Matthew ~B Sun Jul 1 02:25:55 2012

"Is it a place to go to get things you can consume or is it a system you can try to function responsibly in." I think that Matthew ~B got it just about right with this sentence; sadly there are plenty of people out there, both hunters and non-hunters, who take the consumer culture attitude into the forest with them and do a lot of damage, one way or another. It's the people (again, both hunters and non-hunters) who understand that they are a part of the system and have a function in it as surely as every other bit of fauna and flora who do their best to perform their function carefully and thoughtfully.

I liked what you said too, Anna, about creative problem solving: I think, looking back on my own experiences, that you're probably right and that is, at it's most basic, what actually helps us to develop and appreciation for nature and our place in it. It's not just about learning, but about interacting with the world around us. :)

Comment by Ikwig Sun Jul 1 09:33:27 2012

Heath --- It does sound like intentionally overtrapping might be happening in certain cases. (A bit like me and my push to lower the deer population.)

Matthew --- That's a shame to remove the beavers! We seemed to have nearly lost them here for a while too, then they started showing back up maybe fifteen or twenty years ago. Very little trapping happens here, though, so I think they'll continue to make a comeback.

Ikwig --- "It's the people (again, both hunters and non-hunters) who understand that they are a part of the system and have a function in it as surely as every other bit of fauna and flora who do their best to perform their function carefully and thoughtfully." Nicely said!

Comment by anna Sun Jul 1 14:22:35 2012

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