FARMING IS FOR THE BIRDS

oat seed
Oat Seed (Avena sativa)

Pangaea Plants, Lake Lure, NC
Sanctuary Steward: Gabriel Noard

When I wake up, it’s still dark out. If the sun is up before I am, I think I am already late. The day has started without me. No matter though, there’s work to be done and songs to be sung. Not that I am good at that or go about merrily singing. But as my intelligence knows, Song and Voice are much more important than what most revere them to be normally. Song is everywhere, and most agree that music is transformative. My perception of everything is often a little different than some though. So Song is not just entertainment, but to make an incantation. To me, this is to make a prayer, or wish, or to vocalize a deep powerful feeling one has in their heart, mind, body, and soul—a wish to spread it and live it in every moment and action. So this is what I live, and I head out as soon as I can to the farm to take part in the song that happens when I go there.

tall oats
Tall oats (Avena sativa)

It’s as peaceful as a therapeutic massage or meditation setting. I’m sure somewhere it is indeed actually being played to people who are less fortunate and seeking solace. Imagine if you will for a moment what it sounds like as the sun rises across the fields. One can imagine birds, of course, but listen, and one can hear the rustling of leaves, and in the sea of grains growing one can hear the soft surf of the ocean. And if you are really inquisitive, you can part the sea and crouch down into a world of standing grain, and it looks like seagrass with the calm blue water above. From above it looks like a fine standing field of wheat or oats, rye or barley. Down below there’s actually a few inches of bare earth everywhere in between the plants—no not bare really—it is teeming with life. In summer it is quite a few degrees cooler there. In the cool weather of autumn and spring one can feel the warmer earth. This is a whole different microcosm. There are hundreds of things to notice, and I wish I could look closer and closer at each thing. There are ants and spiders hurrying places and moths still sleeping, as well as worker bees who may have been too pollen laden and tired to make it home last night or might even have perished on their flight from old age. There are exoskeletons of various pods and weeds that try as they might are diminishing without enough sunlight. Immediately obvious are 5 or 6 different types of fungi, all of them fascinating and exquisitely beautiful and surreal. Each is so small but plentiful enough to be seen at least partially with the naked eye, and oh how I wish I could look closer and closer. Down there, the world is different. Down there the air is clean and replete with airborne soil particles that are full of life, filling the lungs and inducing the brain to release serotonin. Down there one can hear an insect take a bite.

oats flowering
Oats flowering tops

From the sound of that bite I know what kind of mouth parts the bug must have and being familiar with the environment, I am certain I know what kind of bug it is. My thoughts are transformed. I realize the world that I am peeking into by sitting down inside a sea of grain. The ground is actually clearly visible and dark brown and teeming with life. There is a microcosm of action going on that any kid would immediately take to playing in. If one could only see it. But I know I am one of the few who will ever be here in this tiny world. My being is wholly consumed for the time I am there. The insect chewing brings me back a little, and I start being somewhat analytical. Do I have a bug problem with this crop? I come up slowly out of the bottom of the sea searching for any other signs. It is subdued, but it’s so loud in there. Every bend of the grass makes a noise. My movements and clothing are so noisy. When I come up, it seems by the height of the sun that I have been in there for an hour and ten minutes, though it has been far less. Still, now the day has really begun. Ok, let’s get started. I say to myself,” Oh, that bug chewing I heard, is it an issue?” And before I finish standing, the songs of birds answer me that no, the farm is a healthy environment, and the bug is bird food. The plant it is eating may be weak, and its destruction will feed yet smaller bugs, and really, I’ll never miss that one leaf. I’d miss the birds a lot more. The birds have a special relationship to the plants and the farmer, or steward of the land. It’s obvious the birds are the real farmers here.

milky oat seed
Milky oat seed

Who else calls in attention from far away ceaselessly every day? Who else can keep the millions of insects here in line and in balance, all the while merrily singing a gay little tune? They keep a watchful eye over the whole farm. From the ground nesting birds to the hawks and crows in the treetops, they have it on lockdown.

I can hear their wings flap, and as they glide I can hear the wind passing their feathers. It is a sound like no other, a sound that brings reverence and peace that inspire awe and inspiration and knowledge. It makes one smarter to hear it. Ideas come to me, and I now can continue with my plans for the day having been informed by the birds what course would be best. The birds have their own way of farming and their own way of influencing life. I am not the only one listening.

The farm song continues. Aware now of how loud I am, the sound of my footsteps informs me how the tilth of the soil is and how strong the grass is today. I am reminded to walk lightly by my time crouched in the oats. I know it is full of life underfoot, and I walk more intently, more guided and fluid.

From its conception the farm was born to be a diverse sustainable medicinal herb farm. And by making such a choice, it took on a life of its own. With little additional effort the farm became certified organic, certified biodynamic, and an official United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary.

Gabriel Noard is the founder of Pangaea Plants, LLC in Lake Lure, N.C. He adds, “Let the birds do the work. I’ll be found contemplating in the field—somewhere.