2015-02-16

The Land Ethic and The Farm

I have been participating in a MOOC.  Yet another acronym... this one for Massively Open Online Course.  The title of this course is:
  The Land Ethic Reclaimed: Perceptive Hunting, Aldo Leopold and Conservation.

The course is based on The Land Ethic which can be found in the book entitled "Sand County Almanac", and authored by Aldo Leopold.  The book itself is a series of essays, some short, some a little longer.  Each of them contains Leopolds impressions of natural environments that Leopold worked and recreated in.  I will be honest here:  Ten years ago I would have read a few pages, set the book down and forgotten it.  Now that I am managing the Farm in SW Wisconsin I find that much of what he wrote hits home for me.

Leopold was both a scientist and an artist.  His prose is simple and unpretentios, as if he is sitting next to you having coffee and telling you his thoughts.  Yet the simple stories he tells remind me so much of my rural childhood and of those things I find so endearing on my Farm.  His thoughts about conservation are based in his stories and as one reads along, one begins to understand that Leopold is binding together art, science and philosophy based on experiences, observations and a sentiment tightly coupled to the land.

The course itself is excellent.  There is no  'grade' per se.  But there is a wealth of opportunity to learn about conservation, politics, science and more importantly:  Other folks thoughts and perceptions.  The session I am in is attended by folks from all over: Asia, the UK, Finland, South Africa, etc.. .  Conversing with folks from all over about the content is fascinating.

While I won't say that I am going to make specific changes to the way I farm this summer, I have a lot to think about long term.  Everything from examining my farms tax status to perhaps establishing small blocks of habitat in my pastures for deer, turkeys, pheasants and others.  Perhaps some tree planting.  And further examination of methods to build healthy soils.

I would encourage anyone, whether landowner, hunter, angler, birdwatcher, hiker or other to take a couple hours a week and sign up for the course.  It is time well invested.  Below is a link to sign up.  Note too that there are a plethora of courses in many subjects which one can take, most all of them for free, as in free beer.

Coursera - Search for "Land Ethic Reclaimed"

Cousera is one of many MOOC providers, but this one is based in Madison WI, so it is home state stuff if you happen to be a bit biased like I am.. :-)