The Wetlands

When you drive by the small valley we live on (in?), these wetlands become an island of trees surrounded by a sea of pasture. They’re pretty narrow, about 150 feet wide and half a mile long.

The first family didn’t actively maintain or pasture them. As their eldest daughter told me: “I knew it was wet back there, but not…that wet”.

Most of their twelve acres had the same scraggly alders, occasional pine, and plenty of Himalayan blackberry — same as this back alley biome. These aren’t your poster-boy wetlands…

Living with wetlands got me thinking about land ownership in a basic but affirming way. And I’m still a renter, traveling towards a mortgage.

We’re culpable for what goes on out here. We’re in charge, and we’re able to make all kinds of decisions, from topography to biology. But even after we dig up some 1,000 blackberry crowns and replace them with magic beans, we still have pretty limited control of what actually happens in the wetlands.

There’s crazy stuff going on all the time. Water levels turn to sludge, hawks fork rabbits, alders change their titles to “nurse logs” for fungi parties, snakes go snaking, cedars strive to grow big. They’re wilderness, regardless of how close we are to the highway.

We don’t ever really own land — especially sheaths of aqueous, living things. That’s not to say we don’t have a debatable moral obligation to care for this ecological phenomenon — one that’s increasingly rare, and increasingly important to surrounding life. And there’s the Ron Swanson/libertarian caricature to consider, too: our county has specific input not only on the wetlands, but on our property in general because we have wetlands.

Neither of these ideas freaks me out. Both sides of this coin feel like opportunities. Aaron and I continuously research wetlands in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. We observe the ones in our backyard every day — sometimes to our horror, mostly to a deep awe. One day, we were arguing about a freaky poisonous weed, when a brilliant wave of goldfinches interrupted us. They flew around the alders above our heads. That kinda thing.

And we’ve gotten to know some pretty cool people, organizations, volunteers, farmers, researchers, street folk, and county employees — all who have contributed to our experience of the wetlands. Plus the bugs, wind, and critters.

It can be tempting to proverbially die on hills — especially for the cause of human and ecological health. Full disclosure: we love wetlands and restorative agriculture, but we’re not sharing about it for the glitches of online martyrdom.

I mean, not all of them. Just the ones that help people help each other, and the world, so it’s a little easier to live together. We’d go down for those, sure.

We’re more focused on learning best practices in removing toxic invasives and taking our time restoring a healthy biome, in part for silvopasture. Eventually we’d like to provide local produce, perennials & accessible housing — Windy Corner Farm.

My grandest hope is that, while we still live here, we’ll see the blue heron come back to our streams for a snack. No hills needed after that.

Berm notwithstanding.


WA State Ecology

Wikipedia: Silvopasture