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This I Believe

Thoughts on the Care of Creation

October 8, 2021 by

Anise flowers
Anise hyssop and the rudbeckia polinator bed. Photo by the author.

My three oldest children graduated from a small public high school in upstate New York, so small that the graduation class was rarely more than forty students. Each year their English teacher had them write for the national essay contest This I Believe. Started by Edward R. Murrow in 1951, and perpetuated by National Public Radio for decades, it invites anyone, old or young, to distill the guiding principles of their life into an essay. Such an exercise is always good, and the student submissions were reprinted in the end-of-year school magazine.

So the phrase this I believe lodged itself into my brain the other afternoon as I was out in our garden, picking a stand of anise hyssop to dry for tea. The lavender blooms were crawling with honey bees and bumble bees, and I apologized as I gently shook them off. (I left some flowers for them.) The weather was perfect, a weeklong break from the often heavy Hudson Valley heat; the flowering plants were dry and fragrant. Picking anise hyssop is not an article of faith, it’s not included in any religious creed I know. But being in that garden on that afternoon felt so right and aligned that it was suddenly spiritual.

Much of the farmland at our Mount Community was apple orchards a hundred years ago, well-drenched in pesticidal sprays which linger in the earth for centuries. No one wants to grow food that is taking up heavy metals from old orchard soil, and there is scope for extensive remediation. Steph, my farmer-husband, ran thorough soil tests, and found and is working an acre that was not orchard, even actually in a pretty good shape.

Bruderhof farmer at work Steph in his garden. Photo by the author.

The decades-old buzzword in farming, organic, has been stripped of meaning and value by commercialization; even sustainable is no longer quite what serious farmers are doing. What we have now in our farms is not enough to sustain. Regenerative farming is what Steph does, building back soil heath through biology and fungi. New research on the vital role of mycorrhizae in healthy soil and the whole soil food web is fascinating, and typically our home is stacked with books and articles on the topic, more than can be read in the time allotted by our local library. The biology of it all sometimes eludes me, but there is no denying the evidence we see.

Our small garden, less than one acre under cultivation, is both a source of rich produce for our community and a place to observe regenerative farming’s healthy effects on the soil and crops. Continued soil building through rotation, cover crops, fungal composting, and as little tilling as possible, has yielded gorgeous harvests that feed our community with enough to share. 

This summer, the Climate Report issued by the United Nations was both dire and alarming, and panic laps at the rim of my mind as I think about our future. Every attempt to mitigate climate change is politicized, and subsequently thwarted by the next administration. Some days I am quickly and easily overwhelmed.

My husband’s garden is small, not even a drop in the bucket that is our earth, but I felt just a little less anxious that afternoon in the sun and wind, perhaps wrongly soothed by a feeling of wellbeing, but better nonetheless. This I believe. I believe we should take care of the earth. I believe that the little things we do make a difference. I believe that the little things we don’t do also make a difference. I believe that a good Father in heaven watches over us and our earth. (I also believe God is saddened by the state it is in.) I believe we are in his hands, therefore in very good hands.

The first paradise was a garden, we read in Genesis. God created for six days. First was the light of day, then the sky, the vault of the heavens; then the oceans, and seed-bearing plants, and the sun, moon, and stars. The land gave forth creatures, and finally, God made man and woman, tasked with caring for his creation. We have not performed our God-given custodial tasks at all well in the last century; the evidence of our neglect and destructive practices is abundant. But Steph likes to say that the new paradise might also be a garden, something God must love very much. I think it is a beautiful idea as well.

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About the author

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey

Carmen Hinkey and her husband Stephen live at the Mount Community in New York State.

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