Final Project

Video

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B7JXEYFVBb23TGRiMWxkUzdsU

 

Transcript

As I left my childhood home and drove back the University of Regina for the last time I was feeling particularly sentimental and reflective. In general, reflections have always been difficult for me but I would like to think, after the practice I have gotten these last few months, the metacognitive process is getting easier for me. As my jeep and I took the journey down gravel roads and highways that would eventually lead to the university parking lot I thought of my own own educational journey thus far and where I hope it continues to lead. In particular I thought about this course and the new path it has taken me on.
When I registered for ESCI 302 I had no idea what to expect. While I have spent plenty of time imagining myself as a teacher and thinking about the kind of teacher I want to be, and I have spent plenty of time outside and would consider myself an environmemtal enthusiast, I had never considered myself as a future environmental educator. For some reason, my ranching background and my love of nature where seperate from my dream of becoming a teacher . That is why David Orr’s words “All Education is environmental education ” has really stuck with me. I needed that reminder that all I say and do as well as all I do not say and do will send a message. I can not be a completely unbiased , subjective entity and my previous, “western way of knowing” assumption that I could be was naive.
In order to realize how this journey has effected me I had to consider where the journey began. And therefore, I was brought back to my family ranch where my educational journey began nineteen years ago. This is where I first began to create assumptions of my world. While I was home this past weekend I went out to do chores with my dad. This is something I have done many times and many of my fondest childhood memories occurred in the front seat of Dads pickup truck. While we were feeding some very cold cows this past weekend my dad said something and unintentionally summed up my new feelings about education. Dad said “I am getting kind of sick of these hay bales. I spend all summer making them and all winter unrolling them.” I think that hay bales can be used as a metaphor for my assumptions about education. I have spent my whole life unconsciously making all these assumptions about education and my roles as a student and my as a future educator. Then in my first year of university these assumptions were very abruptly challenged and I was forced to unroll them and make new ones. Now, this year, in this course I was forced to unroll the assumptions from last year and make more new ones yet again. Like assumptions, sometimes hay bales unroll quite easily. Other times they are so frozen that you need to get out of the tractor and unroll them by hand. Similarity, I have encountered some ideas that were easy to incorporate into my previous ideas while other ideas were much more difficult to accommodate . For example, adopting the identity of a “white settler invader” was easy for me. It aligned with much of what i had been told and while it was uncomfortable to take on such a negative sounding title I felt like it fit. However, taking on the identity of a treaty person was much more difficult for me. I was faced with internal question like how can I be both an invader and a treaty person? Aren’t they contradictory? And how can I be a treaty person when the treaties happened so long ago? Another struggle for me was the idea of finding a balance between hope and despair. For most of this semester I liked to focus only on the romantic side of the environment and of my relationship with the environment. I liked tof focus on my experiences on the ranch with the cows, and the horses and the immaculately preserved native prairie. Because I have had a lot of positive, wonderful experiences and connections with nature that I am so grateful for. Then all of a sudden, I was hit with all this despair about the negative things that are happening and what this will mean for the conservation of our earth. Suddenly I felt really small and guilty and helpless. By the end of the course, I have now come to the conclusion that both of these perspectives are useful and I will need to find a way to balance them.These experiences forced me to unroll my assumptions of my role in our country’s history and future and create new ones.
I have come to the conclusion that like dad who creates bales all summer and unrolls them all winter, I will need to be prepared to create new assumption and beliefs with the goal of finding information that will challenge these. It’s uncomfortable and frustrating and unsettling but also rewarding and necessary in order for me to become the best educator and the best person I can be.
Never, in the history of my educational journey, have I ended a class with more questions then answers until this class. I feel unstable and like I know less about my role as an environmental educator then I knew before this class. Whereas previous to this class I was comfortable with my brief knowledge about the environment and in my ability to portray a subjective eduction to my students, I am now overwhelmed by the immense uncertainty I feel. I now feel like I need to find a way to portray a balance between hope and despair and discover my own biases. Suddenly I feel the weight of the power I will have as an educator and I feel personally responsible to inspire and educate and coddle and expose and influence all my future students. This seems like a daunting and impossible task. I am overwhelmed but I am also inspired.
I am uncomfortable that I don’t yet have any straightforward answers. Because of my assumptions of what it means to be educated I feel like I need answers to these unanswerable questions. However I simultaneously appreciate that these answers are the easily given or found. The end of this class does not mark the end of my search for answers on how to be an environmental educator. This is far from the end of my educational journey. Unlike my drive to the university, my educational journey does not have an end destination. I will not be pulling into the parking lot anytime soon. I have plenty of time to find temporary answers that can be challenged and recreated. In fact, I have the rest of my life.

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Commonplace Blog Post #6- Learning and Unlearning

 

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A recreation of my first creative journal entry to include feelings of hope and despair

This course has been a semester full of learning and unlearning. It has been an opportunity to address my assumptions about environmental education, the environment and education in general. In order to fully appreciate my journey I looked back at where I was at the beginning of this semester. Hence my visual for this blog post. I recreated my first creative journal entry for this class but this time I tried to include both hope and despair in my visual.  I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned this semester is trying to balance the hope and despair. Originally I only liked to think about the pleasant side of environmental education and the environment in general. When I thought about environmental education, I fell into the mainstream approach [that] tends to neglect sociocultural factors and fails to recognize the interconnectedness between environmental degradation and social injustices” that Ho refers to in the article (3). I thought about the typical canoe trip and taking students out to enjoy nature. I did not think about addressing the other side of the story. I didn’t think about addressing the effects of colonization or global warming. Now I realize the importance of addressing both. As an educator it will be important that I find the balance of addressing the uncomfortable topics while still allowing for appreciation of nature and hope for our future.

Commonplace Blog Post #5-

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These are the discourses that currently apply to me

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The puzzle was created from a picture that was leftover from my grad, a cereal box and scrap paper

As I have learned about discourse, the image of a puzzle has dominated my imagination. I have imagined the discourses one experiences as the puzzle pieces that makes up one’s identity. While you are occupying each “puzzle piece” there are different expectations for you. For my creative journal this week I have made a puzzle from a picture of myself and on the back of each piece I have written some of the discourses I have experienced most thus far in my lifetime. When I was determining what my discourses have been I thought of my identities, the way I may introduce myself.  

Perhaps the first discourse I entered was that as the “eldest daughter.” This is actually a way I introduce myself to others and it has meant that I have certain expectations from my behavior. As the eldest I was expected to be a role model, a caregiver and a leader. Another way I have introduced myself comes in the form of where I am from. As a Canadian and Big Muddy resident I have been expected to enjoy the environment and find peace in nature. I am supposed to be an advocate for the badlands and its preservation. I am also a rancher. In this discourse, I am a conservationist with preservation of the Saskatchewan grasslands one of my greatest priorities. I am an advocate who would like consumers o be more educated.  Yet this discourse classes with my jeep owning, carbon producing discourse. My jeep is not very environmentally sustainable and I drive a lot, this I am not as concerned with preservation as I might like to think. It also classes with my consumer discourse in which i blindly purchase many products. As a cowgirl and a rodeo competitor I am in the discourse of an animal lover who works closely with other species to achieve a goal. In this discourse I am a competitor. As a student I have many assumptions to what my role is. I am passive, I listen to the educator, I learn by following regulations and rubrics. I do not make decisions and the effectiveness of my learning will be decided by my teacher. As a future teacher, there are assumptions to me behavior. I will be expected to be neutral, and unbiased. I will guide students through their lessons and I will be responsible for their learning. Discourses I would not have considered my own until I took this course include the “white settler invader” and the treaty person.  I am not completely sure how I fill this discourse at this point in my life.

According to Barrett, we should “attempt[] to gain some understanding of ways we have come to understand ourselves, question the legitimacy of these understandings” (80). How have I come to understand these identities and what has been expected of me. I think the simple answer to this is through the socialization process in which the people around me, unconsciously or consciously,  told me these were my identities and then demonstrated and explained what was expected of me as a result.

“In the Middle of Things”

To be honest, this class has overwhelmed me. The constant questioning of my previous assumptions and beliefs has been an exhilarating and sometimes frustrating experience. But more than anything, this particular assignment is very overwhelming for me. This semester, it has been painfully obvious to me that I am not good at expressing my thoughts. Thus, the idea of re-reading and re-interpreting my previous attempts at expressing said thoughts gives me hives. But to paraphrase Colin Harris, I will do my best.

Upon reading my blogs posts I have rediscovered that a large part of my life has been influenced by my parents ranch. I have also discovered that in my blog posts I have decided to only include positive anecdotes.  With words such as “tranquility and harmony” I have chosen to describe the “rainbow of flowers all snuggled in together with no segregation”. I have chosen to describe my ride with Lola over sacred hills and my favorite childhood memories of “exploring” with my siblings. I have told the feel-good stories about roping and bonding with my family and insightful conversation with my father about land ownership. My Eco literacy poem about my grandfather romanticizes ranching and the common-sense idea of what ranching is. However, I have conveniently left out my negative experiences in the environment. I did not describe the dreary days were the grass is brown and the snow that is left is dirty and the world looks gross. I did not describe the cold days I spent outside when my feet were so cold that it hurt to walk on my tingly toes  and the air bit at my cheeks and I couldn’t wait to go back inside and drink hot Chocolate. I have left out the experiences in which my equine partner was not so willing and chose to buck me off. I only talked about the Indigenous people and their history in relation to my own pleasant experience with looking at their left-over tepee rings and imagining what life was like for them way back then. I also outline a pleasant memory for me of a discussion with my father about land ownership and what it meant for Aboriginal peoples. But I leave out the negative aspects of the Aboriginal peoples history. This is not all I have left out in my posts during this course. Like Cole notes in his eco-literacy braid, I have considered my Grandfather an environmentalist, a conservationist and an eco-literate person without including the negative side effects to Grandpa’s actions and ranchers actions as a whole.  I have romanticized his profession.

The aspects of the stories I included in blog post  fit the common-sense idea of a romantic, peaceful experience with the wilderness and thus by leaving them out I am buying into the idea that “wilderness . . . [is] coded as symbols of the nation, symbols suggesting a just, good nation, with a history brimming with adventure and intercultural cooperation”.    

This assignment reminds me of the Sesame Street game “one of these is not like the others”. The obvious answer would be my Blog Post # 4 which is the only one of my posts that I do not talk about my family ranch. Instead I talk about my assumptions around teaching and interdisciplinary learning including the idea that teachers need to “provok[e] passion for learning in students.”   However, to me the answer is Blog Post # 3. This was my first attempt at an assignment after I received a head injury. Upon rereading this post, I see the incoherent long ramblings of a concussed student. Reading this post made me uncomfortable and embarrassed which reveals my ideas of what an assignment should look like. An assignment needs an introduction, an organized flow through ideas, and one or two references. Emotions and cliches such as the introduction to this blog post,  should be edited out as an assignment is not the place for ranting or rambling. This blog post does not meet these expectations nor does it follow the model of my typical post or assignment. This particular blog post and the fact that this class was the first one I attempted to participate in after my injury also speaks volumes about my view of this course. This course has been a class that I can explore new ways of completing assignments and expressing my thoughts. This was a safe place for me to complete an assignment outside my normal thinking parameters and while I am not particularly happy with the results of this attempt I am glad I took the opportunity for two main reasons. One, I had to start doing assignments again at some point and this was a low-pressure way to start and two, it gave me insight into lots of my own thoughts. They say an addled brain is an honest brain. And although it was kinda difficult for my sober self to interpret these “honesties”, it was fun to see the memories and thoughts that I consider part of what develops my Eco-identity.   

My past assumptions about reflections on my own work requires me to look at what I have done thus far and determine a way I can improve. For the next half of the course, I hope to see myself try harder to challenge my own previous thoughts. Thus far I have continued to use my previous assumptions to complete these blog posts and while I personally know this class has forced ,e to reevaluate these assumptions, I do not think my blog posts reflect this.

Common Place Blog #4- Interdisciplinary Mandala

 

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Interdisciplinary Mandala

The Grade One class we visited inspired me and really demonstrated to me what we had been talking about in class. So I decided to use their example and what I learned from the students, Morgan and David Orr to create my own Mandala. I followed the “rules” about Mandala building I learned from the students. I started at the middle and worked my way out and while I created I looked inward and reflected on my own happy thoughts about interdisciplinary learning.

I included in my mandala quotes from David Orr, Morgan and her students that stuck out for me. Orr said “We do not organize education the way we sense the world” which I think is what Morgan was expressing when she said “disciplines are not natural. Children do not learn in categories. They come to school and we have to show them how.”  I have heard this concept of trying to move away from categorizing learning but I had not heard it explained in this way. I found it fascinating that a simple activity such as creating Mandala’s with nature can include so many outcomes from so many different subjects.

David Orr said “I propose we give students a stronger reason to want to know while making them more trustworthy in their knowledge.” I like this idea of provoking passion for learning in students. And I think that Morgan is doing this with her Environmental Education philosophy. Through interacting with the students it is obvious that the class has spent much time discussing about and exploring the environment. One particular incident sticks out with me. The two boys who were in my group were gathering acorns from under a tree. One boy said to the other, “Hey those were my acorns!” in response the other said “But nobody owns the acorns. The acorns can’t belong to anyone.” I particularly like Morgan’s “bringing the outside inside” motto as this allows her students to connect with the nature even while inside the classroom. This is a philosophy I plan to use in my own educational philosophy.

 

Works cited

Orr, David W. “The problem of disciplines/the discipline of problems.” Conservation Biology 7.1 (1993): 10-12.

Common Place Blog #3- The U over Lazy S Ranch

The U Over Lazy S Ranch

The U Over Lazy S Ranch

To represent my Eco-identity, I have drawn a map of my home. With this map I have tried to visually represent the land I grew up on. The land my siblings and I spent countless hours exploring on foot, on sleds, in the farm truck or on horseback. The land I took for granted and appreciated with every inch of my being at the same time. The land where I was able to connect to nature and appreciate my role in the ecosystem.  As cliché as it sounds, this is the land that helped shape me into who I am today.

My parents moved to this ranch a couple months before I was born to work for my grandfather. Therefore, prior to moving to Regina to start university last year, I had never lived anywhere else. This place is part of my identity. I have lost count of the times I have introduced myself as part of the new family that moved to the Noble place. The fact that we have lived there for 20 years seems irrelevant to our community members.

My siblings and I started our exploration of this land in our background that my dad enclosed with fence. Because of all the possible dangers on a ranch, it was very important that we kids had a safe place to play. It was stressed to us that we were never to leave this backyard. I remember when I was about six and we got in trouble for leaving the backyard to play on a trailer parked by the shop. A tractor that Dad had just parked at the house popped out of gear and rolled down the hill towards us. Luckily, Dad came out at that moment and saved us. In our enclosure we had a sandbox, a swing set, a little truck-box camper that we used as a playhouse and a wagon. The backyard was the start of our exploration of nature. It was also the start of us learning about boundaries and that the land was divided into places that were for us and places that were not.

While we were little, mom would often take us for frequent walks. With my sister in a stroller and my brother and I on pedal bikes we would take off down the road followed by my dog, Rose, and a few cats. Typically we would only make it to the “Treasures.” This was a pile of golden colored rocks by the first curve in the road where we would sit and play and climb. If we were feeling very ambitious we would walk all the way to the Lone Tree. Shockingly enough, the Lone Tree is a tree all by itself beside the road. This tree all ways fascinated me partly because it grows on the side of a hill far away from any other trees and partly because when the road was made it was made to go around the tree. The road goes right over the tree’s roots. I always thought it was a cool example of nature and man interacting.

The next area we were allowed to explore independently was the hills behind our house. These includes Cactus Hill and Flower-Valley Hill. Creatively named by young children, these hills were the best play structures any child could ask for!  We spent much of our elementary school days climbing these hills. At the bottom of Flower-Valley Hill was a coulee were we built our tree forts. I’m sure we spent more time planning elaborate ideas then we ever spent actually building anything. Neighbouring our tree forts is the spring that provides the water for us and our animals. The water is gravity fed from this spring down to hill and into a tank in our basement. From there it is pumped out to the barn and corrals.

From early on in my childhood, I was expected to start contributing to the operations of the ranch. This started as I joined dad in the truck while he did his chores. Sometimes I was even allowed to steer the truck while he shoveled pellets from the back. Eventually I graduated to doing my own daily chores. My brother and I were in charge of feeding the yearling calves throughout the winter. This meant first feeding them pails of pellets and while they were preoccupied with that we would fill the feed bunks with bales. The bales were quite heavy for us elementary aged children and it always took us hours to complete the job. Partly because it was hard work and partly because we spent a lot of tie either goofing off or fighting. Now I can do the same chore in a few minutes. Another “duty” we were expected to help with from a young age involved participating in round-ups. We would have to move our cattle from pasture several times throughout the year. Because I started riding when I was about two years old, I was participating in round ups by the time I was four. In our very hilly country, searching for cattle meant splitting up and searching each coulee. Unfortunately for me, I have always been terrible at directions and all the coulees looked the same to me, which meant I got lost in my own backyard on more than one occasion. I don’t ever remember being sacred about being lost, I always had faith my horse would know the way home, but I do remember fearing my dad’s frustration when I would once again arrive to the corrals long after everyone else. I think my inability to memorize every nook and cranny in the pastures as easily as my dad and my brother did really baffled him.

When we were older, we were allowed to horseback ride for pleasure all by ourselves. Often we would take off bareback- me on our 35 year old mule Molly, my brother on our 30 year old pony, Wildfire, and my younger sister on our 10 year old pony Flower. It Is during these adventures that we really became horse-people and we really learned our land. Mostly we explored the calving pasture and that is most likely why this is the pasture with the most landmarks. There’s the chokecherry patch where we go every August to pick chokecherries for mom to make into syrup. There is the Willow Coulee where we set up a campsite. Here we hosted overnight guests and the odd party, and the dam beside it has been turned into a skating rink during the winter months. Here there is also Toboggan hill that makes an excellent sledding hill during the winter months. There is Hoffart’s Dam which is filed from a sprig located on the neighbor’s land. This particular dam is surrounded by Tepee rings and is speculated to have once been a winter camp for the Indigenous people who once occupied this land. There is also Pistol Point which is a particular favorite spot of mine. The story is that when Dad first moved to the ranch, there was a rock on top of this hill that looked just like a pistol. However, shortly after being named, the pistol rock fell off the top. My favorite part of this spot is the wildfires that grow in abundance at the bottom of the hill which I reference to in my first blog post.

In recent years, we have gotten brave enough to start exploring “Up North.” Compared to the rolling hills of the rest of our pasture, the North pasture is very rugged. It is much easier to get lost here but it is also some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen. This pasture is almost completely untouched by humans and still shows plenty of evidence of the Indigenous people who once lived here.

In my early teenage years, my family built an arena.  Here I trained my horse, Skip, to compete in all my rodeo events and were my family and I spend quality time practicing rodeo. A couple times every week since the arena was built, my family team ropes. Sometimes we invite other families sometime just the six of us rope together. These hours spent playing together has kept our family very close.

Commonplace Blog #2-

Complicating the Concept of the Canadian Wilderness and Land Ownership

I was very fortunate to grow up in the Big Muddy Badlands. Therefore the idea of wilderness and home were always fairly blurred. My family’s nearest neighbor is 4 miles away “as the crow flies” and 10 miles away if you follow a road. This means that the much of what I would consider my home I would also consider wild. Besides our yard, the land that is currently owned by my family shows very little human influence. In fact the only human influences you can see in this area is the rugged pasture trail, the fence lines and the remnants of indigenous people in the form of tepee rings. Yet I would consider this “neutral, natural and empty” pastureland my home as much as I would consider my yard as home (Newberry, 30). This wilderness is not just empty, neutral land. It is my home, the home to many animals and the old home of the indigenous people. This land is rich with culture- the left-overs of the indigenous culture through tepee rings and artifacts and the evidence of my own ranching culture in the form of fence lines, and ownership boundaries.

I love spending time in this “wilderness”. It is a very cool experience to be able to look at this area and clearly imagine how it looked hundreds of years ago. It is fun to reflect on the lives of the Indigenous people who have their remnants on this land. But just like Newberry suggests that there is an “absence of a critical pedagogy of colonialism” in education, there has been a lack of talk about colonialism during my family’s reflection (Newberry, 31). We have never reflected on how through the process of colonization this land that was once indigenous land has become our land nor what happened to the descendants of theses Indigenous people after they stopped following the buffalo through what is now my home.

However, we have discussed the idea of land owning. As ranchers, the land is very important to us and to our livelihood. Therefore the idea of being thankful for the land and the opportunity to own land is not a new concept to myself or my family. My Grandfather told my father who has told me that very few people have the opportunity to own land and therefore if you are lucky enough to be one of those people you need to be thankful for the opportunity and take the responsibility seriously. Newbery’s idea of identifying oneself as a “settler invader” actually parallels the many discussions that I have had with my father. He believes that ownership is a concept that can be easily disputed. He believes that as easily as our ancestors took away this land from the Indigenous people the same land could be taken away from us by the government. He believes that will this will happen in my area within the next couple generations for the purpose of conservation.

The second session I attended at Treaty Ed Camp had the same message about the privileges of land owning as my dad. Grant Urban recounted to his audience how his grandfather acquired farm land from his boss and had the opportunity to pass it down to his child who then had the opportunity to pass it down to Urban’s brother. He finds the process of inheriting land to be fulfilling and expresses regret that the Indigenous people that lost the ability to live on the land of their ancestors. It is through this family experience that Urban has developed gratitude for colonization while finding passion the messages of Treaty Education. He also brought up a very valid point about how we ranchers recognize past owners by naming the land after them but we do nothing to recognize the Indigenous people who occupied it first. His example is that his family named pastures after the families who sold them the land. My example is that my family home is called “the Noble Place” by my family and by our community. The Nobles were the family who sold the land to my grandfather who sold it to my parents. I can also tell you that the Nobles have lived there for several generations. The Nobles bought the land from a man who co-squatted on the land with the outlaw Sam Kelly before he became the first owner of this land. I can tell you about all the people who have lived here before my family and after colonization yet I cannot even tell you which tribes of Indigenous people occupied the same land not long before. I think this is an indication of where the priorities in my education have been thus far. The “settler-invaders” have held more significance than the people we invaded.

Work Sited

Newbery, Liz. “Canoe Pedagogy and Colonial History: Exploring Contested Space of Outdoor Environmental Education.” Canadian Journal of Environmental Education (CJEE) 17 (2012): 30-45.

Ecoliteracy Braid

To me and my classmates,  ecoliteracy is created by the willingness and dedication to learning about the environment and the practices that invoke sustainability, and the lack of ecoliteracy can lead to disaster. I think Capra would agree. He says “in order to build sustainable communities, we must understand the principles of organization that have evolved in ecosystems over billions of years. This understanding is what we call ‘ecological literacy’” (Capra, 10). But more than that, ecoliteracy means educating those around you, whether it’s your descendants or your siblings or your neighbors, about ecological issues and sustainable practices. Like the rancher in my poem who has “shared his knowledge . . . with his children and his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren” (Froshaug, 40-45) to the benefit of his descendants who get to “share his love of the environment” (Froshaug, 46).    But does being ecoliterate mean pushing your ideas onto the people around you? Can you educate those who do not want to be educated? Hanna Hansen expresses that her experiences with D was “frustrating, challenging, heart-wrenching, and undeniable ” (Hansen, 1-2) as she “seemed to find a way to question [her] morals, to challenge [her] opinions or to straight up argue with [her] about all ways [she] was wrong” (Hansen, 2-4). Can you go overboard in the quest to help others become ecoliterate and sustainable? Is there a way to push too hard? Joel Wright’s letter uses scare tactics to convince the addressed to “watch out for the wrath of mother nature” (Wright, 1). He warns of the many ways that earth can harm us. He claims that “she’s [Mother Nature] is mean to us, because we are mean to her” (Wright, 16). This is a claim that effectively forces us to think about how are actions are effecting the earth and the need for us to “stop giving her heat.” [Wright, 17]. His poem shows the many negative consequences that can arise when people are not ecoliterate.  But is fear the most effective tactic? Does being ecoliterate mean scaring the people in our lives into taking actions that invoke sustainability? Are ecoliterate people obligated to guilt others into sustainable practices?

 

Sources

Capra, Fritjof. “Sustainable Living, Ecological Literacy, and the Breath of Life.” Canadian Journal of Environmental Education 12.1 (2007): 9-18.

Wright, Joel. “Eco-literacy Letter”; https://joelwright9.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/eco-literacy-letter/

Hansen, Hanna. “Love letter.” https://hannahansenblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/love-letter/

Ecoliteracy Poem

The Rancher

His weathered hands

tap unconsciously against his coffee mug

And silently tell a story.

They tell the story of a man

Who has spent many hard years

Earning a living off the land

By studying

And respecting

And loving

The environments around him.

They tell the Story of a man

Who has helped countless baby calves

Enter the world safely

And has mourned the loss of countless baby calves

he couldn’t help

They tell the story of a man

Who has carefully studied the patterns of the native prairie grass

And knows which grass is tame enough

To get the Momma cows through the spring

And knows which grass needs to be saved for summer

And knows exactly how to get the most nutrients from a pasture

without overgrazing

And knows which coulees will provide the best shelter from violent winds

And knows which dugouts will still provide water through a drought.

They tell the story of a man

Who has laboured through numerous autumns

Making

and hauling

and stacking

Enough bales to feed his cows for the winter

He has cautiously predicted the condition of the upcoming season

And carefully calculated the feed he needs to make it through.

They tell the story of a man

Who has left the warmth of his kitchen

On cold winter mornings

And embraced harsh blizzard winds

As they bite at his cheeks

So his cows won’t go hungry

They tell the story of a man

Who his shared his knowledge

His experiences

His passion

With his children

And his grandchildren

And his great-grandchildren

So they too can share his love of the environment

They tell the story of a man

Who has dedicated his life

To protecting his cows

To learning his land

To ranching

 

Originally I was writing this poem to represent all ranchers. I believe that as a whole ranchers need to be ecoliterate in order to be successful. The land and the environment plays a large and direct part in this occupation. Therefore, it is necessary for a rancher to be dedicated to learning about and preserving their environment. However, as I wrote this poem it became clear to me that the rancher in the poet was one rancher in particular, my great-grandpa Anderson. This man has been a prime example of an ecoliterate person. He has spent his life as a rancher and as an aggravate for agriculture. He takes pride in his land and his cattle and has worked hard to preserve both. He has passed down his knowledge to his descendants and has helped many of them to also become ranchers. He has inspired many, including myself, to appreciate the privilege of getting to experience nature.

Commonplace Blog #1- Storying the Environment

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In the Big Muddy Badlands in southern Saskatchewan lies the UoverLazyS Ranch. Nestled between clay hills and neighbored by the American border, this land is rich with history. It has been home to herds of wild buffalo and tribes of Indigenous people and then outlaws and then settlers and now it is home to my family.

When I think of what environment means to me, I am taken to my family ranch in the middle of nowhere. This ranch has many special spots that are perfect for connecting with the environment. There is “Cactus Hill”- the hill behind our house- where my siblings and every kid who ever visited during my childhood and I spent hours climbing and visiting and picking flowers. There is the “Tree Forts” where my cousins and I used our imaginations to create various elaborate adventures. There is the “Willow Coulee” where many people have come to camp to experience the badlands and connect with nature.

But one of my favorite places on our ranch is a side hill in the “Calving Pasture.” The ranch is widely decorated by all sorts of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer seasons. However, during the first couple weeks of July this particular hillside comes to life with nearly every wildflower Southern Saskatchewan has to offer. There’s a rainbow of flowers all snuggled in together with no segregation. The Saskatchewan Prairie Lily is my favorite of the flowers and it grows in abundance here. They dot the hillside- their bright orange and yellow leaves standing proudly in amongst the purple and blue and pink of the smaller flowers. It is on this hillside that I have felt the deepest connection with the environment and with my home.

Because this little hill is far from any road, the best way to reach it is on horseback. Just this last weekend my four year old mare, Lola, and I rode through the hills to this spot. The flowers are gone for the year but the tranquility and harmony this spot radiates remains throughout the seasons. As my equine partner and I stood overlooking this sacred hillside I felt the true comfort that only being home can bring me.