A New Phase?

I am entirely aware that I have lurched off the “energy” articles. I contemplate the hydrologic cycle and where it might take us . . . but hasn’t it been an energetic summer? I might go so far as to say it has been chaotic, enlightening, social. We have even had the pleasure of meeting some of our fellow squatters on the land. Quill, for instance, has stopped in a couple of times this week. She is really, really cute and has strong opinions on exactly which direction she is headed. Two days ago, we noticed her marching up the driveway toward . . . something. 

If you are like me, your first thought might have been is she rabid? No! I looked up what a young porcupine might be doing wandering about in broad daylight all by herself. I learned that young, female⁠1 porcupettes leave the safety and coziness of their mother’s protection when they are around 3-4 months old. (See footnote for why.) Likely as not, Quill was looking for a new home. Our attempts to guide her away from things-human resulted in Quill stuffing herself into a corner outside of the chicken coop. 

Porcupines have terrible eyesight and apparently believe and act like human infants: if I don’t see you, you don’t see me. I will be very, very quiet and maybe you will go away.

Carl and I returned to our surgical strike on the gardens, plural, on which we have used a vigorous dose of drought and neglect this summer. And still, the flora struggles on! We have huge tomato plants that are beginning to produce green tomatoes that will, we hope, turn red prior to the first frost, which is due one month from today. The eggplant is beginning to put out its purple flowers, better late than never. Even the corn, stalks 7-8 feet high, is beginning to bear fruit. 

No need to discuss cucumbers. They might as well be weeds they are so bountiful.

At one point, I looked up from spreading the hay Carl and I had scythed (!!!) last week, and saw Carl in the garage, poking about for a drill bit and on the phone with David Jacke, of whom more below. I also noted Quill—she is so cute and wee—headed directly for him. Her waddle exuded determination. She had found her winter den. 

“Carl! She’s headed for the garage!” 

He didn’t hear me. I dropped my rake and raced out of the garden and across the driveway, waving and shouting as Quill approached Carl who finally looked up to see his wildly gesticulating wife and a bounding ball of quills. He grabbed a large stick just in time to prevent Quill’s entry into her potentially very comfortable winter quarters. She protested with donkey-like determination, stomping and moaning and continuing her forward march even as Carl pushed her back. I stepped around her and pressed the garage door button. The door descended, leaving Quill outside and us in. By the time we stepped outside, she had disappeared. 

Yesterday, we met with ecology designer David Jacke. Years ago, he took a permaculture design course with our friend Doug Clayton. Doug took pity on us (or maybe he took pity on the land we steward?) and suggested we get in touch with David as someone who might help us to figure out what we are doing up here, and how to accomplish it. 

What an inspiring meeting! Yes, yes. Carl and I have discussed all the possibilities and ideas that we reviewed with David yesterday but David asked us to go deeper, be clearer. What exactly do we mean by we “want to heal the land”? “Biochar” and “sequester carbon”? “Live fossil free(-ish) lives”? 

Visions are vague. Goals are general. Both Carl and I are ready to slow down and figure out exactly what is in this Kool-aid that we’ve been mixing. 

After a get-to-know-you conversation, we three humans headed out to look at the land itself.  We winced over the traumatized⁠2 soils. Talked about the pros and cons of getting animals up here. How to create wind and snow fences through planting trees and bushes. Natives and exotics. Carl pointed out our panting Pawpaw, huddled under the singular oak tree that survived the 2008 ice storm. The Pawpaw gets lots of sun, it’s been a dry summer and David noted that Pawpaws like shade and moist soil.

Etcetera. We continued our tour that ended us on the driveway outside of our Tier One garden. As we chatted, we all looked to the pear tree. Carl had protected it from porcupines with a fence. As we studied the tree, and the fence, and the tree’s middle branch, where sat Quill content and munching, David debated fencing with Carl. Did it make sense to fence each separate tree or would fencing the whole area cost less, both financially and moral time wise?

Quill’s breakfast finished up abruptly when Carl moved the fence aside and David, wearing red chimney gloves for protection, pushed her off her perch and into a bucket. They drove her down the hill in our fabulous Model 3 Tesla—fanciest transportation for a porcupine ever—to her new home at the other side of our field. Hopefully there, she will find lots of trees to eat. If not, I have no doubt she will wend her way back up here.

Meantime, the chicks are approaching adolescence. I’m going to post their pictures at BackYardChickens for confirmation of their sex.

And Carl and I watched an excellent documentary on Netflix: American Factories.



In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. Written by Production

Energy? Hydrologic cycle? They keep happening. Naturally. I trust that they will be there when I get back to them.


1 Young porcupines display an unusual characteristic with respect to dispersal.  In many species of animals it is the male that disperses when he can survive on his own.  However, with porcupines it is the young females that disperse.  This is probably because dominant males establish breeding territories for up to 3 breeding seasons.  Daughters, who are usually capable of mating by the age of 22 months, run the risk of mating with their fathers.  Selection would favor female dispersal in order to ensure viable offspring.  Because males have no contact with their offspring, the offspring and the father have no way of recognizing one another.  For male offspring, the chance of becoming dominant enough to effectively guard a receptive female (his mother) is quite slim, since it will take years to reach a high enough social rank needed to establish breeding rights.

From: https://wildlifelearningcenter.org/animals/northamerica/porcupine/

2 In 2007-8, we hired a forester who hired a logging company. They took the trees, then stumped the hill, leaving scars and devastation. From a distance, the land looks like it has recovered. Up close, and if you know soil and plants, it’s another story.