Borderland: Local Roots Farm, Carnation, Washington
In everyday talk, we speak of cultivated and wild land as distinct. On the farm in Duvall, Washington, where I work, we live at the border between these lands
I stand in the field harvesting carrots. A heron flies low over the slough. Two slugs twine and spiral against the carrot greens, hanging from a thread of slime in their mating interplay. An osprey knifes the quiet with three fierce cries. Clouds steadily fill the sky, rain begins to fall, the temperature drops. And I pull carrots from the wet soil, each carrot grown full from the smallest of seeds, spring-planted in orderly rows along a 160-foot bed and carefully tended through the summer. Seeds in cultivated earth, one gesture in our effort to bend the land to our purpose, which is to grow food.
Gestures of domestication: Planting seeds into flats. Watering the flats laid out in the greenhouse, which we close tight when the weather is chill and ventilate when the weather warms. Transplanting seedlings at carefully-appointed times in deliberately measured intervals in orderly beds. Hoeing, hand weeding.
Expressions of wildness: The mystery of animating life held in each seed. The alchemy of soil and sun, oxygen and water. The dance of weather across the fields. The snake that stretches across the greenhouse path in the summer and that curls into a greenhouse corner as the days grow cool. The plants growing, growing and dying, dying and rotting and renewing the soil which we will, next season, cultivate.
It’s tempting to cast the farmer as the protagonist of the farm. The farmer cultivates the land, yes, but the farmer is not the only hero in the story. That story has a full roster of protagonists: the carrot seed and slugs; aphids and the ladybugs who eat them; clouds, rain, open sky; the river that rises up in the fall to swallow the farm. These protagonists come together to bind the wild and the cultivated into one story. The story of the farm, the story of life on the borderland, where I live.