Listening to the land

In the future when I talk to Ellie about feeling the onset of climate change, I think I will start with the winds. The winds are so strong and fierce. More than anything I remember from when I was growing up. I feel like the winds are harbingers of more harshness to come.

I am not optimistic about climate change. I feel like we have passed the point of no return. I don’t see people changing their habits. I don’t see any desire to change our habits. I think that Ellie is going to face many struggles.

Last week I read Pastoral Song by James Rebanks. I read it in a couple of days, set it down for a day, and then picked it up to read it again. This time with a pencil and notepad beside me.

So much of what he wrote connected with me. But this passage hit hard, and I want to share it as I look ahead to Earth Day this week.

What will our descendants say of us, years from now? How will we be judged? Will they stand in the dust of a scorched and hostile world, surrounded by the ruins of all that exists today, and think that we, who could have saved the earth, were thoughtless vandals, too selfish or too stupid to turn back?

Will the future know us as the generation that pushed everything too far, on whose watch the world began to fall apart, who had so little courage and wisdom that we turned away from our responsibilities?

Or will our descendants lie in the cool green light of the oak trees we planted and be proud of us, the generation that pulled things back from the abyss, the generation that was brave enough to face up to our own flaws, big enough to overlook our differences and work together, and wise enough to see that life was about more than shop-bought things, a generation that rose above itself to build a better and more just world?

This is our choice.

I’ve been reading a lot recently. Thinking about farming and food and our world. Trying to learn about our land and figure out what is best for it.

A consolation for me when I think about Ellie’s future and climate change is this farm. She will be able to grow her own food if she needs to. The farm will hopefully be a safe place if she needs one. We will protect this small section of the world as best we can.

I often think of the farm as a refuge from the rest of the world, but Pastoral Song reminded me that we are part of the world, especially ecologically. Climate change doesn’t stop at the farm’s border. What happens in the fields across the road affects us, as does what happens in the Arctic, the Amazon and the English fells.

I am learning. I am trying to change. I am trying to do my best on this piece of earth that I am responsible for–and realizing I have a responsibility to the rest of the earth as well. I am trying not to despair.

The winds roared through the farm on Friday. Their sound fills my ears and blocks out everything else. I can’t hear Ellie. I can’t hear my thoughts. All I feel are the winds. They consume me.

Then, on Saturday morning, the air calmed. Ellie and I walked down the driveway to open the gate–the gate that connects us to the rest of the world. We heard a crow call as it flew over and Ellie cawed back. The sun beamed into the pines, beckoning the bloodroot that is rising from the forest floor. We stepped carefully as we discovered worms crawling all along the lane.

Nature was waking and our girl was listening. I’m trying to hear too.

Preparing for the worst

One of my home goals for 2022 is “plan for the worst.”

Matt’s death showed me how important it is to be prepared for your worst case scenario. There are absolutely critical things like a will to protect your family. Or everyday things like making sure someone knows where you bank, how you pay your bills, or even what your important passwords are.

Beyond illness or death, severe weather and natural disasters are other factors that have a tragic impact on people every year. And with climate change, these incidents are happening more frequently.

I want to ensure that I do everything possible to protect Ellie, myself and the farm. My plan is to focus on one “prep” task a month.

Here are some of the things on my list so far:

Insurance

Last month we received our renewal notice for our home insurance, so I called our agent to make sure we have the coverage we need. Our conversation was a lot of “If we have a wildfire/electrical fire/flood/tree fall on the house/ice storm/power outage/tornado am I covered?”

Ice storm 2013

Our insurance policy is very, very challenging to understand–I’ve tried to read it. Our agent was able to answer my questions and explain details of the coverage that gave me peace of mind. I also made sure the new garage and mudroom are included in our policy and that my freelance communications business doesn’t need any special coverage.

In addition to home insurance, life insurance is an important consideration for many families.

Documents

Our important documents are stored in a fireproof safe. They’re protected, but they may not be accessible in a disaster. I am going to make extra copies–both paper and digital–so that we have multiple options in case we ever need them.

Household inventory

A household inventory seems daunting. How do I list absolutely everything in my home? Chris Love Julia shared their experience after a fire at their cabin, and their advice is to take a yearly, personal inventory video. This is doable. I’m going to go one room at a time, open every drawer and every cupboard.

Wedgewood Oberon china

Go bag

Having a bag packed and ready to go in case we ever need to evacuate seemed like something I didn’t need to worry about. We’re not in an area that is prone to floods or fires. But then I thought about the big pines beside our house. What if one of them fell on the house? Could I get what we needed quickly and easily? A few things in a bag in the hall closet seems like a helpful idea.

Will

Matt and I made our wills when Ellie was born. When he died, our lawyer advised that I didn’t need to update my will, as everything was already set up to go to Ellie if I die. However, things feel a little different now that it’s just me–not as hypothetical. Most of what Matt and I decided together for Ellie still stands (her guardians, for example). But I want to make some adjustments to ensure that Ellie is as protected as possible.

Finances

I’ve made some changes to our finances over the last year. As a result I have some old accounts that need to be closed. Leaving them feels like clutter and could be confusing for my executor. I am also going to make a list of what accounts I have and give that to my executor.

Executor

My family is pretty open with each other, so we have talked about estate plans, end of life care and finances. I want to have this conversation again with my sister, who is my executor, to ensure that she knows what’s in place and what my wishes are. I’ll also be providing her with a copy of important documents and other critical information, just in case she ever needs it.

Queen Anne's Lace

These are not fun tasks, but I know they will give me peace of mind. And, if worst comes to worst, hopefully they will help to protect Ellie, our home, the farm and me.

How have you prepared for the worst? Have you gone through a disaster or tragedy? What helped the most?