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  • Writer's pictureHeidi

Stewarding Our Land

In 2008 Ben and I started looking to purchase our first home. It was quite the undertaking to keep us both happy; he wanted to be on a main road, I wanted to be in the woods, we needed a garage for our motorcycles and all of his tools, and we wanted to stay in the same school district for the kids. Fast forward to October 2009 (yes it took over a year!), we are driving down the main road in our tiny river town and I point at a house on a hill with a two car garage at the end of the driveway. I say, "why can't that house be for sale?" A week later we are taking the same drive and there is a FOR SALE sign in the yard?!?!?!?! We immediately head home to look it up online and it was way over our price range. I insisted that we call our realtor since I asked for it to be for sale and a week later the universe answered.

Mountains moved, things aligned and by the end of November 2009 we signed the paper work to own our little piece of this Earth. The house needed a lot of work; there was a cliff in front of the house that was eroding with every rainfall and putting stress on the front of the house. Solving this problem became my first priority (along with replacing the floor joists in a room that was collapsing!)

The hill in front of our house Summer 2010

Our solution? We put in a 120' concrete retaining wall, back filled it, brought in topsoil and planted 650 native medicinal perennials. This created stability for the house, wildlife habitat, beauty and medicine for us. This was our first step creating a reciprocal relationship with our land.

Martock Run

Our property has a small, amazingly tranquil stream that runs through it. I called the township to find out its name since it wasn't listed on any map. They let me know that it was an unnamed tributary and I instantly wanted to know how to name it. A few phone calls and a website later I was connected with the criteria required by the United States Geological Society (USGS); the main one being that the name must be historically pertinent to the area. I took this task very seriously and started digging around and researching the history of this land. At my local historical society I discovered the Martocks; a small tribe of native people that used to inhabit this area and are virtually unheard of. I knew right away what our little stream's name was going to be and I promptly filled out the paperwork and filed. Within months I received the letter from the USGS that our stream was officially named Martock Run and would appear as such on updated maps. Ten years later I still get excited when I see the name on a map.

We have spent the last 12 years "rewilding" this space, growing more trees and plants every year. In 2021 alone we have planted 100 native trees and shrubs. We are continuing to sheet mulch around the saplings, killing the surrounding grass and making room for more medicinals, yeah! Our property is hilly and not conducive to annual gardening so we needed to branch out. Three years ago we approached our neighbor down the street with a large, flat, sun-filled yard. While Roger was not interested in selling just yet, he agreed to let us garden in exchange for taking care of the two acres. Fun fact, Martock Run runs through his property too!

Our garden on Roger's property

Since we do not own this property we tread lightly down there, only planting annuals and not making any permanent changes. For the past few years we have been using this land to grow our food, calendula, tusli basil, milky oats, scented geranium and any other annual medicinal that I might want that year. After taking my permaculture course this summer I am teeming with ideas on how to make this property more sustainable; like creating permanent, no-till contour lines for planting our annuals, and surrounding the garden by a living fence to keep the deer out. We are holding out hope that one day we will be able to own this space and create the vision in my head.

As the business grows, so does our need for more plants and space to grow them in. I get approached often about teaching classes on making herbal remedies and my head is filled with ideas on how to make this happen. I mean, I get EXCITED about the prospect, but we just do not have the place to do this right now. Ben wants us to look for a new property that has 5+ acres so we can do everything we want in once place; we are even getting listings from a realtor. But no matter how much I explain it to him, I do not think he understands the level of connection I feel to our little plot of land and Martock Run.

My sense of responsibility, the connection and love I feel for our property, our AMAZING neighbors and the 360 acres of preserved public forest that connects to our 1.5 acres will probably keep me here for the remainder of my life. While it might make more business sense to move, grow and expand; my heart and soul are keeping me right where I am planted in hopes of growing more right in THIS space.

Cheers to protecting our natural landscapes, rewilding the land and making connections with our surroundings (people and plants)!

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