We have all we need for everyone to live well.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fire Good

By small increments we prepare to put 150 cider apple trees in the northwest field at the end of April. Early on a calm Sunday morning three weeks ago we burned the large brush pile in the corner. This is what remained when I pulled all the metal and glass and every other damn thing from the burn-and-bury dump that had been there. And we'd added a lot of invasive mulberry and other matter that we'd cleared and trimmed elsewhere.

Cattle foraging on soybean stubble:

To the west and north of our northwest corner:

A diesel-soaked rag as a torch:

A few creatures, pheasant and rabbit and vole, abandoned homes in the brush pile, most before the fire but a couple rabbit not until the flames licked close.

These intriguing tracks, we finally concluded, represent the last steps of pheasant before their wingtips scrape the ground and they fly into the air:

It all went pretty quickly:

And that was that. But we've got a bunch of other brush piles...

Take a Morning Walk Through the Soundscape

Put on your headphones and spend the next 30 minutes walking a loop around the farm, through woods and across the creek and along the fences that border the meadows. Crunch through the last of the snow. Listen to birds of all sorts, sounds distant and near. Explore the soundscape through this audio verité field recording.

This is a rather quiet recording, so if there is very much noise in your listening environment, you'll hear the sounds of the farm much better if you wear headphones.

Morning Walk - 27 March 2013 by American Nacre

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Expression of the Season

On February 28 and March 1 we had another substantial snowstorm, and afterward brilliant blue skies and calm winds and dazzling celestial displays in the night. I bundle up and take my walks, frequently stopped in my tracks by the impact of my surroundings: awe and joy at the perfection of form and texture, light and shadow, snatches of birdsong and the silences in between.

The east garden, its row of asparagus and the sweet potato mounds:

Squeaky Tree:

Lobster Tail Trail:

Toward the north fence line and the draws with coyote dens:

Big Bucket Trail:

The ancient hickories at Turkey Holler:

The Gorge:

The Grand Traverse:

Approaching Tire Shrine:

The Ford:

Hidden Meadow:

Across the top of the Trap Range:


Below the dam:

Rabbits congregate beneath this maple near the burn barrel:

The bridge-to-be, and across the dam, the pond and the terraced observatory field:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It Gives One Paws

Charismatic megafauna. That's what ecologists call those wild creatures at the top of their food chains. (As biologist Lewis Thomas notes in The Lives of a Cell – highly recommended, by the way – life is a game of 'now I eat you'.) And it's a continual wonder that these turkeys and coyotes and bobcats and horned owls and deer and falcons and buzzards exist here, such large animals, so close and yet so seldom seen. And still more I wonder that they find enough to eat and thrive; and about so much else that must perish to nourish them.

Wild turkey:


Bobcat spray:


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Wind Arose and Swept the Snow – Our Place in the Landscape

We occupy a rather unique geography here at American Nacre that has a large effect on how the elements treat us. Here is an aerial photograph that shows the farm last May as seen from an altitude of about 17,000 feet. Our 40 acres is the small square of land surrounding the pushpin – you can see the 1000 feet of lane running up the middle, paralleling Kincaid Creek. You can see all the dark green of wooded creeks running to the southeast, falling steeply off the bluff onto the Mississippi River floodplain. To the northwest, another series of creeks drains more gently into the Cedar River, another of Iowa's many large rivers, but which despite its nearness at this point doesn't have its confluence with the Mississippi for another fifty miles downstream. The grey-tan fields in between these two major drainages are an edge of a plateau scraped flat during the last ice age, and all these rivers and creeks were formed after the glaciers receded.

The upshot of all this is that American Nacre sits just below the plateau, enough that winter winds from the west and northwest tend to pass over much of the farm, rather than blowing across it. You can use the live map link to fly around the farm and see how steeply the land falls into the drainages.

View Larger Map

Which leads to the next set of photographs.

In the woods and the creek valley, the snow has fallen softly and evenly in relatively calm air. Snow several inches deep balances even on very slender branches. But along the west fence line it's a different matter. The neighbors' soybean and hay fields are swept by the wind, which sculpts the snow into beautiful drifts as it is released in the vortices produced by the fences and brush and terraces that separate our land from theirs.

Monday, March 25, 2013


We have had several beautiful, substantial snowfalls this winter, only one of which could properly be called a blizzard. The rest have occurred in near calm winds, producing blankets and pillows of downy white. This storm occurred on January 30, and I took my walkabout the following day.

The coyote, rabbit, and deer are the early risers, always leaving their marks before I get out.

The shooting range, a very wet little field that I would like to plant to blueberries. Yes, we use steel shot, not lead, for trap shooting.

Hidden Meadow, one of my favorite views on the property. The juniper in the foreground is a favorite shelter from the weather for coyote and, in the absence of coyote, pheasant and rabbit.

The smaller burrowing creatures, voles and mice, mound the snow as they pass among the underlying grasses, sometimes leaving elaborate branched patterns as they move back and forth.

And down to the creek at the under-construction ford, just upstream of the road culvert and wier.

Stepping stones at the ford, looking upstream.

One of the woodland avatars. It probably has a name, but Donna has not revealed it.


Good old Eye Chair.

Adjacent to Squeaky Tree, near the upstream border of the property, with cattle pasture beyond.

The Grand Traverse between Joy Stone and Little Bucket, overlooking The Gorge.