Bent Grass is a collaboration between myself (Nate Chisholm, the one that writes) and Hanna Hart (the talented artist that takes the pictures that led you here in the first place). Together, throwing in our one year old son Abel for good measure, we operate under the moniker “Meadows, Brooks, and Groves.” In the winter we spend our time managing grassfed organic cattle for the business “Grounded Land and Livestock,” which I co-founded with my amazing business partner Byron Palmer. In the summer, Hanna, Abel, and I will once again pack up and move to our property on the Oregon Coast. There we will also manage grassfed and organic livestock, slaving away for our unrelenting task masters, Meadows, Brooks, and Groves.
So this blog is one part bucolic daydream of family, grass, and animals. But these pastoral images and musings are filtered through a worldview and we use them as bait to shamelessly give voice a worldview that starts with the question, why do people like to see images of green grass and scattered trees, populated by large animals and a small band of (mostly) happy people?
This seemingly harmless question will put us on a journey to cover all kinds of territory, why humans alone create ecological degradation, what large extinct animals have to do with our daily lives, why technology has the properties it has, and what to do about it all.
Over the last decade and a half, my dreamy eco-philosophy has run into the hard reality of working on ranches around the world. It was this unusual (and uncomfortable) combination that provided me with inspiration for my 2017 galley proof, Savanna: How Modern Problems were Born Out of Prehistoric Extinctions. In this book I lay out the insights I received from close encounters with lions, ill-fated attempts to live without modern technology and all the things I learned. In that book I layout my worldview, developed through these unique experiences, and that worldview in a nutshell is as follows:
- The technology of our distant ancestors inevitably created ecological degradation, due to the properties of technology, even in their most simple form. The ecological degradation of early technologies manifested in the loss of large animals.
- Those large animals were critical in shaping the ecological processes of the earth’s savannas. This led to further degradation as many of the organisms on the planet require that sort of habitat. Among those organisms requiring savanna habitats are humans.
- How did humans respond to this technology created degradation? Well with more technology of course. We used increasingly severe technological processes to manage land so that it would produce food in the absence of large animals and the savanna habitats they create. This evolved into what we call ‘agriculture.’
- Agriculture is the prototype for how humans would deal with ‘modern’ problems, problems which were increasingly the knock-on consequences of agriculture. This knock-on consequences would be ‘solved’ with technology, but they would create new knock-on consequences as a result. A new technology would emerge to deal with that new problem, which would have knock-on consequences of its own. And so on and so on, until we have the modern world as we know it.
How does this worldview manifest in our day-to-day lives? With this worldview, what’s a family to do? These are the questions addressed by this blog. It is one family’s attempt to figure out how to make a life full of savanna in a world dominated by technology.
Family photo taken by Sharolyn Townsend.