Flatlanders in the mountains

This weekend we have family visiting from Iowa who obligingly packed their hiking boots…P1020548Iowa is known more for its depth than its height. Historically, there have been several feet of dark loamy topsoil covering much of the state. Unfortunately, this important resource is dwindling frighteningly fast through our subsidizing of the Big Ag juggernaut with its GPS-driven monster tractors and petroleum-fueled pharming practices. Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 8.45.23 AMWhile Iowa boasts gorgeous limestone bluffs flanking winding rivers and wonderful expanses of prairie, its highest point of elevation, “Hawkeye Point,” at 1670 feet, is a privately owned area surrounded by a sea of mono-crop. This makes any recreation outside of standing still and flying a kite pretty darn difficult! Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 10.17.46 AM

To the right is a group of Iowa prairie preservers called the Iowa Prairie Network.

In the heartland, it’s corn and soybeans, while here in Washington State, it’s mostly wheat. Our high-points just happen to be out of reach from tillage, so they remain parks where we can go and play. And back to that…P1020527Attempting to keep the hiking to a minimum while maximizing the rewarding views can mean miles and miles of winding gravel roads. This time it was 13 with surprisingly few potholes. P1020508The trail, “Skyline Divide,” is short and steep for nearly two miles to gain a ridge that will make anyone feel like Julie Andrews.P1020543Mark, who has devoted much of his retirement to mastering photography, took on the challenge of hazy cloud conditions. His truly refined photography (unlike mine) can be viewed here: Mark Gromko.P1020510P1020538P1020512By the way, there is a better way. We can start by quitting feeding all this grain to ruminants who have evolved to eat grass, thereby reducing the demand for these broad expanses of mono crop and the CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). Let them roam!

This would bring back those lovely prairies and all the life they support. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia is building soil, biodiversity, and community in a major way! See his article as he responds to the New York Times ‘Myth of Sustainable Meat.’ And check out this video on “salad bar beef.”

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