Most of the time nature encroachment refers to human activities encroaching on nature. However, my post today deals with nature encroaching on human activity – specifically, OURS.
I like to leave as much of our property open to nature’s use. For the most part, it is entirely natural. The parts we need are the driveway, the roads to get to certain places on the property, the house and surrounding yard*, and the field for the horses. Altogether we steward/own 160 acres of fairly wild Ozark mountains. To the east there are some large parcels of hunting club properties, and to the west some cattle farmers with a hefty portion of their large parcels still wooded. South of us is owned by others who have left very little mark on the woodlands and maintain their roads to a pond and a small cabin. Northward is more woodlands for many miles.
So nature has plenty of room here and human encroachment isn’t happening in a large way.
* By ‘yard’, I mean the area around our house that is cleared for outbuildings and human use. It’s too rocky and sloped too much to mow like normal people do, so all maintenance is done with weedeater. Mainly, we need to see where the snakes might be, haha, so that trimmed area represents ‘our’ space. The rest of the 160 acres belongs to the wildlife.
Humans Encroachment ON Nature
Overall, I think humans have done far more damage and have staked out far more territory than necessary. The balance between human activity and natural activity on earth is definitely causing problems. I saw an article stating that pandemics could be caused by human encroachment on nature. I had never thought of that. But I suppose with more exposure of wildlife to people, and vice versa, the odds of a virus leaping from animal to human is certainly increased.
Encroachment BY Nature
Our driveway is a half a mile long and during rainy summers it’s hard to keep it passable. Specifically what I’m doing today is trimming back the weeds and trees. Hubs keeps the surface as passable as possible with the tractor. Rainwater runoff carries away the sand and small rocks that keep the larger rocks from being an issue.
Proper drainage cuts helps to minimize the runoff damage. But you know what else helps with that? Plant roots. So I’m not against a healthy dose of encroachment from Nature. But a balance is necessary.
Nature doesn’t care much about what she uses to keep the ground covered, but the environment does influence her choices. We’re fortunate to live in an area with a tremendous amount of biodiversity, and I value that highly. So my goal isn’t to mow it all down. Far from it. My goal is to strike a healthy balance that works for us as humans with a need for this driveway, and for nature.
Certain grasses and weeds crop up that I have no desire to keep at all. Ragweed is one of them. I’m allergic to the pollen and can’t even cut the stalks before it blooms without getting seriously messed up. I’d cut all of that I can find, and replace every bit of it with alternatives if I had the stamina to do so. Our county road is an extension of our driveway, when it comes to what grows in this area. I love driving slowly down them both, not only to preserve the vehicle suspension, but also so I can see what’s there as I pass.
Encroachment is Insidious
First the grasses move in and begin to creep over the sides of the driveway, towards the center. This is not so bad, it looks pretty and softens the drive, you think. Soon shrubbier things appear. Burdock and Yellow dock make camp and send up flower stalks with seeds, so excited to find a nice spot. Poke and elderberry bring edible and medicinal options right to the windows of your car. Convenient, I know. Pretty soon there are tree saplings mixed in there too. And if left to it’s own devices to continue on this path, Nature will ensure you can’t drive a vehicle up to the house anymore.
I have a flash fiction story about the insidious nature of some things. Encroachment can happen very gradually and it’s easy to overlook. Until one day you wake up and the only way to get to the house is via deer trail, haha. Now that’s a bit of exaggeration, but it does feel like we’re not far off from that sometimes. Human encroachment is equally insidious sometimes. But most of the time it seems fairly drastic when we take a space that once was natural and turn it into a parking lot, or shopping mall, or any other number of things we tend to do with space acquired.
Over time, though, the amount of space that humans take up grows. It’s most noticeable to me when I visit somewhere I haven’t been in a long time – like going home to my childhood neighborhood, for example. So many more houses, so much more traffic. It’s very noticeable then.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my philosophical approach to the homestead task of cutting back nature encroachment on our driveway. I like tying everyday activities to the greater picture of my life. I value the biodiversity here and enjoy living in context with raw nature. That doesn’t mean I have to be a pushover and let Her take everything back. Some of it is ours to use, and we don’t abuse that position. So, while I feel bad about cutting some of the things I had to cut to take the driveway back, I am glad to be able to drive up to the house without scraping up the sides of my car.
At the time of this writing, I’m working on the driveway project. By the time it goes live, we’ll be on our way to treading gently in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, and maintaining minimal impact on our little spot in the middle of it.
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.
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