Learning to Nurture

Learning to Nurture

In Wendell Berry’s, The Unsettling of America, he describes two types of people: the exploiter and the nurturer.  He states:

“Let me outline as briefly as I can what seem to me the characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind.  I conceive a strip miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer.  The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not.  The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care.  The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s goal is health – his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s.  Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for infinite time?) The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible.  The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order – a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to other order and to mystery.  The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place.  The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, “hard facts”; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.”

Retraining My Mind

There has been a lot in this journey to simple and sustainable living that has forced me to retrain my thinking.  Why spending more for food (or anything really) is actually a good and necessary thing.  Why getting rid of things that I haven’t used in 6 months or more is actually incredibly freeing.  As a natural exploiter, here is another area that gives me pause and requires a concentrated effort to think differently than my natural tendency (and most of the western worlds).  While I want and even expect immediate and robust results for very little effort, I’m learning the value in the process of working hard and gaining skills.  While I have a high value for efficiency and production, I must slow down to see the needs of the environment and people around me.  

Nurturing Our Place

One of our goals that we are working toward in years to come is trying to figure out how to produce enough food off of our land to be completely self sufficient.  This weekend we spent the day tilling a plot of land to start a large (for us) vegetable garden.  While we love the idea of growing our food, nurturing our land by building healthy soil over time, and the resultant health that comes from this sort of diligent care, we are definitely not feeling like experts.  We have a lot to learn and are excited to see what this place, this home, can and will become.

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