Living in the Woods...
Making Connections
Doreyl Ammons Cain

Grandma Retter plowed her garden in early spring, planted her vegetables in mid-spring and started harvesting foods from her garden by early summer. I remember how delicious the foods were: potatoes fresh from the earth, green beans picked and cooked the same day, honey robbed from Grandpa Tom’s bee hives, milk still warm from Old Betsy and churned butter kept creamy fresh in the spring lying deep within the cool banks under gnarled roots.

An unstated respect for the earth and the food that came from it represented everyday life in Grandma’s time. This clear understanding of our reciprocal connection to the cycles of nature rarely exists in today’s modern world. With life-styles tied to technology and a fast pace, our nature connections wither and finally decay. Many children forget, or never learn about where their food actually comes from- some would believe “Ronald McDonald,” “Colonel Saunders” or local food markets are the source.

The truth is we are relentlessly tied to the earth’s cycles and knowledge of this is essential to a healthy life-style. Many people understand the need and feel the desire to live close to nature. Some people pay large sums of money to acquire a spot of land that gives them back their earth connection. The Balsam Mountain Preserve is a good example of this phenomenon. This development company bought 4,400 acres of land from Champion Paper Company and are preserving 3,000 acres with 1,400 open to development. An established Trust watches over the 3,00 acres and the landscape & building guidelines, all based on preservation and sustainability. Working with 8 universities and a land management team, Balsam Mountain Preserve and Trust cares about the land and the people who buy property care also. 1% to 2% of the land price goes to the Trust for their on-going efforts to sustain and improve the forests, streams on the Preserve.

The Executive Director of the Balsam Mountain Trust believes in what she’s accomplishing at the Preserve. She says, “ People need a place to live, so working with developers who are open to considering the environment is wonderful. Jim Anthony, the President of Balsam Mountain Preserve is a visionary who is showing a way to develop land with low impact, while preserving large chunks of land creating a human stewardship of the natural systems that support all life.”

From the beginning my husband Jerry and I have taken on stewardship of our land at Nature’s Home Preserve near Bear Lake in Little Canada. Working with Permaculture principles and recycling, we are doing our best as a couple. Yet all of this is not quite what Grandma and Grandpa Tom would do. They worked long hours tilling the soil and growing all the food they needed. The Appalachian Heritage of this region has a creative spirit that can be honored but never reproduced. We can only keep it alive with our stories, memories and building our own style of connections to the cycles of life on this earth.


These stories and articles are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form electronically, digitally, printed matter or by any other means without written permission from the author, Doreyl Ammons Cain.

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