Friday, June 13, 2008

The Neighborhood Meeting

Thank you to all who have held me and the farm and the water main in your thoughts and prayers these past few days. Just knowing you were doing that surely contributed to the sense of serenity I felt during most of the meeting...but only God could have arranged for there to be a rainbow in the sky after the meeting, reminding me that He does hear and respond to prayers, and that He look after the arks He asks His servants build for Him, even little ones like the farm that carry mainly small creepy things like ants and very few interesting things like elephants....

Put that on my gratitude list: Of all the challenges I DO have on this farm, I DON'T have elephants...or moose or bears, like my farmer friend in British Columbia who called out of the blue this evening for a nice long chat. Her computer is kaput so she had no idea all this was going on here.

It was good, at the meeting, to sit quietly and listen to my neighbors voice some of the same questions I have about the project. I know that I am not alone.

During the meeting, the presenter kept suggesting that we break up into small groups to address specific landowner questions. The crowd didn't seem to want that, and it pretty much didn't happen. We want to hear what the City says to our neighbors. We're like that in North Lawrence. We mind our own business on most little things, but when push comes to shove we mind each other's business just as well as any self-respecting small town! Lawrence, "proper"--Lawrence south of the river--may be becoming a big city, but North Lawrence is very slow to lose its collective identity of not REALLY belonging to the city. At one time the Douglas County line followed the Kansas River, and the town of North Lawrence was a separate municipality affiliated with Jefferson, not Douglas County.

A friend noted after the meeting that it appeared the City people very much wanted to address the farm as a "special" situation, one on one, away from the public meeting. It seemed as if there were issues and questions they didn't want to address publicly. However, they conceded to keep me in the public conversation, and agreed to let us have a copy of the attendee sign-in sheet so that we could report back to one another what we learn in our individual meetings with the City and engineers.

It seems as if they consider this alignment through the farm as pretty much a "done deal", though they are looking at other options. But along the way they must jump through many other hoops before committing to take my land...testing of soil and groundwater, an Environmental Impact Study, etc. I know from my work in developing our Conservation Reserve Program Riparian Buffer Strips (a.k.a. "CRP" or "Wilderness Area") that such detailed investigation can turn up surprises that change the best-laid plans. We had originally wanted to construct a wetland on the north part of the pasture, since it seemed to be wet a lot of the time anyway. Testing revealed that the soil would never hold water, no matter what we did to it...when it was wet, it was because the water table under the whole farm was that high! I was disappointed to not be able to have my own permanent "frog bog", but the qualities of highground water and excellent drainage ARE part of what makes it so valuable as crop land!

It was interesting to hear again and again the phrases "developed land" and "undeveloped land" be bandied about. Of course, by "undeveloped land" they meant no roads, buildings, utilities, or other "city" infrastructure. This is a way of thinking that I believe our culture must change if we are to feed and otherwise support ourself in a future of increasingly inadequate and more expensive fuel supplies.

Every inch of my 12+ acres is "developed", in my way of thinking. I have built fences, planted and managed pastures, planted trees to shelter the farm from city noise, light pollution, and buffeting winter winds. I am developing outstanding wildlife habitat that is home to thousands of different species from all kingdoms of life, many that we will never reasonably be able to include in a census. I have had a development plan for this farm since several years before I even bought the land: the original Pinwheel Farm was designed on paper as a final project in a KSU horticulture class.

Stay tuned for further "developments".....!

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