Domination is not destruction.

The earth was given to Man to dominate:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:26-28)

A quote from this interview with Kelly Ware, a permaculture practitioner and Christian, caught my attention:

“We were put on earth as stewards, to take care of the garden, and our domination thing, that we’re able to, you know, dominate is that we make the choices for things.  We say this plant goes, this plant stays, this earth works needs to happen.  So I really think that in terms of empowering ourselves to do earth works, because you’re changing a lot of things, but we’ve been given that right, to dominate and through that job that we were designed to do, which is steward creation.

According to Merriam Webster, domination means:

  1. supremacy or preeminence over another
  2. exercise of mastery or ruling power
  3. exercise of preponderant, governing, or controlling influence

Notice one thing that the word dominate does not mean: destroy.

Many conservatives seem to believe that domination and destruction are synonymous.  Ann Coulter writes:

The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man’s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use.  God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping.

Is this truly what God says in the Bible?  Let us check:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

It is Man’s job to dominate and subdue the earth not by raping and destroying it but rather by working and keeping it.  The reason for working and keeping the earth isn’t because the earth is an object worthy of spiritual adoration, as environmentalists and some permaculture practitioners believe, but rather because God gave it to us for sustenance and human flourishing:

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:29)

Environmentalists, who are nearly all liberals, frequently fantasize about the elimination of humans from the earth due to the mistaken belief that the earth would be “better off” without us.  They see Man’s domination of the earth as inherently sinful (I use the word sinful to describe their religious-like beliefs because liberalism is their religion and is as authoritarian in its moral prescriptions as any other religion or political orientation).

Some secular permaculturists share the opinion that Man’s domination of the earth is Bad, bad, bad! but others do not, as this quote demonstrates:

Societies and their inhabitant are the reason that ecosystems (such as the Amazon Rainforest) are abundant in bio-diversity and life. In Permaculture it is constantly reinforced that human disturbance leads to environmental degradation; however, new evidence strongly concludes that without human disturbance, eco-systems would not be as thriving if humans were out of the picture.

In addition to the earth, Woman was also given to be under Man’s dominion:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Women, kindly read that verse again.  For whom were we created?  For him.  And to whom were we given?

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:22)

Woman was given to Man to be under his dominion, not so that he can destroy her but so that he can cultivate a helper for his work of having dominion over the earth. This is where feminists, like environmentalists, get it wrong. They correctly perceive that some men are using their God-given dominion to destroy rather than cultivate their women, and they decide that Man’s domination itself is the problem, when in fact sin (destruction) is the problem.

We moderns see the word domination used in the man/woman context almost solely in the sense of sexually perverse role plays, but this is not what Christians should understand it to mean, not even when the context is the marital act.  Rather, the godly husband takes dominion over his wife and cultivates her to better fulfill her role as his helper in his domination (cultivation) of the earth.

Pastor Doug Wilson explained this well in something he wrote a few years ago:

A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.  This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

People lost their minds when he wrote this, with Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans writing:

It’s not about sex. It’s not about church leadership. It’s not about roles. It’s not about the Bible.

It’s about power.

It’s about whether or not patriarchy—man’s rule over woman—really represents God’s ideal for the world. 

And I believe, with every bone in my body, that patriarchy is a result of sin. I believe that followers of Jesus are to be champions of equality, and that it is our calling…

But a man conquering a woman does not implicitly mean he destroys her.  A man who conquers his wife in the sense that Pastor Wilson means is cultivating a family.  His dominion leads to flourishing rather than destruction.

Although it is pagan in spiritual orientation, I love the blog Bealtine Cottage, a site written by a woman in Ireland who bought a derelict cottage on some old agricultural land that was badly damaged by conventional farming practices and transformed it using permaculture gardening techniques into a gorgeous food forest.  Her stories and photos are fascinating.  However, the authoress Ms.O’Neill has misunderstood what domination of the earth and Woman by Man means.  She writes:

“As this era of masculine dominance comes to an end and a feminine understanding of life’s wholeness is included, we are beginning to experience a different world in which physical, mental, and spiritual well-being are interdependent.”

A limited and patriarchal interpretation of the Creator, has given us a male figure, with the female as subservient.

Dominance of Nature and continuous war has ensued…

It is clear from the Bible that God gave the earth and Woman to Man not to destroy but rather to cultivate, as we saw in Genesis 2:15.  It isn’t that male domination destroys the earth or women; it is that after the fall, men sometimes use their God-given right to dominate the earth for destructive purposes, rather than using their domination of the earth and their women to cultivate a flourishing garden and thriving families.  The solution isn’t to reject the order of creation that God intended, that of loving domination by Man, but rather for men to teach one another (something women absolutely cannot do) to use their God-given right of dominion to cultivate rather than destroy and then insist that it be so.

Part of the chaff of modernity is the belief that humans having dominion (domination) over the earth and Man having dominion (domination) over Woman is inherently destructive.  This is not true.  Only sinful behavior is destructive.  Godly dominion does not destroy; rather, it cultivates so that all which is under dominion flourishes.

The gift of wild food plants.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:29)

Wandering around on our property recently, I found a little patch of asparagus growing wild, probably one of the old heirloom varieties like Mary Washington, a gift from a bird whose droppings planted the seeds.  I weeded around it and put a marker down:

image

I love asparagus, but everyone else in my family hates it, so I didn’t plan to put in an asparagus bed since everything I’ve read online about growing it makes it seem like a fussy plant that requires constant weeding and mulching.  So it’s funny that as I wandered around our property, I found even more asparagus growing wild!  Here’s one that popped up behind a tree and is already beginning to flower:

image

 

We’ve also got no end of wild strawberries everywhere:

imageI’ve decided to mark off a few sections to let the wild strawberries spread in that we’ll only mow at the end of the summer.  It’s also time to start hunting morel mushrooms in the boggy section of our woods.  Wild strawberries, wild asparagus, and morel mushrooms are three things that grow very well all by themselves in Michigan.  Finding them growing on our property is quite thrilling and takes me back to childhood, when less of our state was covered in subdivisions filled with Chem-lawns.

Now if only I could find a few Sassafras trees growing on our land, my trip down memory lane back to childhood would be complete!  I remember spending hours playing in the woods and fields of West Michigan with my friends as a child, picking Sassafras leaves and sucking on the stems, and I now find even the smell of Sassafras to be evocative.  I think I shall try to find a nursery that sells them if I can, for what could be nicer than hot Sassafras tea by the fire next winter?

 

No-waste tree planting

Sorry for letting multiple days go by between posts but gardening season preparations are in full swing right during a very busy time of year for me at work!

This past weekend I planted fifty evergreen seedlings – 10 Norway Spruce, 10 Douglas Firs, 10 White Firs, 5 Ponderosa Pines, 10 Loblolly Pines, and 5 White Pines – in bare spots in our woods where I’ve cut down the evil, invasive Autumn Olive monster shrubs.  I thought I would show you the planting method I used. Continue reading

Survival homesteading on one acre: a free talk by David Goodman (but it’s only free for the next 24 hours)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is so exciting!

David Goodman is a highly accomplished gardener whose methods are eclectic, but he is mostly of the forest gardening persuasion.  He’s written several books and many articles, and I have a great deal of respect for his knowledge of small-scale homesteading.  You can find his blog here:

Florida Survival Gardening

I “know” David (aka “David the Good”) through one of my old blogs, and we also used to chat about faith, family, modernism, gardening, and homesteading on Twitter now and then, though sadly he’s no longer on Twitter.  That is why I was SO excited to see that for the next 24 hours, we can watch a one-hour teaching segment Mr. Goodman did for the Home Grown Food Summit for free!  After the 24-hour free period passes, it’s necessary to pay to watch those segments, so if you’ve got insomnia tonight or are up very early tomorrow, and if gardening and homesteading interest you at all, I highly recommend watching David’s talk.

One of my favorite parts is when he talks about all the mistakes he’s learned from in all his gardening and homesteading years.  Those of us who are trying to learn more about producing some or all of our food can relate to that; sometimes it feels like success is a rare thing in food production! But we needn’t become disheartened; that is a normal part of learning to grow and raise one’s own food.

I do hope some of you will have the chance to watch it!  Here is the link:

http://homegrownfoodsummit.com/Presentations/goodman.html

Thoughts on Christian permaculture from The Cultured Home.

With Easter preparations, household chores, and work, I’ve been too busy to write a post this week.  I have, however, been doing some reading, and I’ve found a handful of resources on Christianity, forest gardening, and permaculture.  I thought I would share one set of links with interested readers here.  The Cultured Home has a three-part series that I found interesting:

Permaculture & Genesis, part 1 — “Dominion”

Permaculture & Christianity, part 2 – “Replenish”

Permaculture & Christianity, part 3 – “Native vs. Exotic Plants”

Skills are best learned before you need them, and patience is a skill.

I tapped a maple tree this year because I wanted to practice a skill I had been reading about: how to produce homemade maple syrup.  I tapped when the book said to – late February/early March – and I got…nothing.  A week later I got a few drips.  A week after that I had a little more than a half gallon, which I cooked down but ended up with maple sugar taffy by over-cooking it.  I figured it was all a good learning experience, pulled the spile out of the tree, washed all the equipment and stored it away.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down past that maple tree and couldn’t believe what I saw:

sap 2sap 1

The entire front of the tree is covered in sap, which is running freely out of the tap hole!  B-b-but…it’s almost April!  Sap isn’t supposed to start running now!  The books said so, and I already washed and stored all my equipment!

The skill I lacked was patience.

And real-world knowledge, as opposed to book knowledge.  Even though the sap was “supposed” to run earlier, it didn’t.  Who knows why – probably because of the extremely cold winter.  But I learned several more lessons, which I’ll share here in hopes of helping someone else avoid the same mistakes:

1. Knowing how to read conditions is vitally important when it comes to producing a yield. Nature doesn’t read books; it produces when the conditions are right, not when the time table in the book says it is supposed to.  I need to learn to read the conditions for maple sap production.

2. Patience is a skill even more than a virtue.  I wanted my sap right now, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t willing to wait and see what happened.  Also, I’m struck by the fact that one of my first reactions was that something might be wrong with that tree, that it might be pest-infested and that I’d better get someone out to spray it with pesticide.

Writing for Permaculture News, Leanne Ejack discusses the need for patience:

…permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

The permaculture method of farming is the wheat we can extract from the chaff of their “belief system”, which tends toward pagan spirituality.

3. Skills are best learned before you have a critical need of them.  My family isn’t counting on that maple syrup for our livelihood or our survival, which makes now the perfect time to learn by trial-and-error and repeated attempts.  Maybe the food supply will never be disrupted and I’ll never “need” this skill – though it’s still a nice one to have – but if I ever do need it, I’d rather already have the skill acquired.

Writing for Molly Green Magazine, Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution has explained the importance of learning food production skills before you desperately need them:

…it’s important to learn stuff NOW. Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, community, and knowledge. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re almost useless.

…This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before things hit the fan.

In the face of natural or societal disasters, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure to learn the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, canning green beans, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.

…you need to go through trials and errors and the initial failures at a time when those failures won’t mean the difference between life and death. Then you need to learn what works for you. For some things, like a garden, you only have one chance a year. Get it wrong and you have twelve more months to sweat and plan before the next try.

My advice to readers is to make this the year that you grow something – anything – useful, even if it is just a little backyard garden or a window box of herbs.  But in seeking to obtain a yield of the fruit of the land, let us remember together that we need first to seek the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

And as we wait patiently for our earthly yield, we also wait patiently for the return of Our Lord:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

Conservative Christians and Permaculture: separating the wheat from the chaff.

per·ma·cul·ture
ˈpərməˌkəlCHər/
noun
 the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

 

Permaculture was originally a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” and was related to forest gardening.  It has changed over the years though, and now has both very wise gardening techniques and quite absurd new-age-y progressivist elements as well.  This is a common graphic associated with permaculturists:
There is both wheat and chaff in permaculture, and I don’t have them all separated out yet.  Here are some of the things I agree with:
1. Rather than large swaths of sterile, barren lawns, humanity would be much better served if people learned to plant beautiful herb, vegetable, and fruit gardens.
2. Planting gardens the way God made forests is sensible.  Permaculture follows a “forest garden” model:

 

Without buying into the pagan new age spirituality associated with permaculture (to read a permaculture blog is to read the word “Gaia” ad nauseum), I’m still intrigued by their ideas about what it means to labor and obtain a yield, as well as their smart gardening practices.

 

We bought a little over ten acres of woods and disrupted farmland this past fall.  The land had been let go, which means it’s becoming overrun with autumn olive bushes, which are highly invasive thorny shrub that can grow ten feet tall and spread like wildfire.  Autumn olive was originally brought to this country from Asia as a means of controlling erosion; the fruit is supposedly edible, but it isn’t a smart plant to cultivate as it will take over and choke out native plants and trees; it even changes the soil chemistry, making the land good only for autumn olive.

 

I’ve slowly started clearing it out of our forest and meadow.  Here is an area I’ve cleared:

DSC04385

Here is what an autumn olive thicket looks like up close:

DSC04387

Here is another area I’ve cleared, transitioning from our yard into the forest; previously this was a thicket of autumn olive and thorns:

DSC04392

Using some of the techniques I’m learning from permaculture, I aim to transform it into this:

Image source: Starter Permaculture http://starterpermaculture.com/


 
In the fall I planted apple and peach trees with raspberry and blackberry vines under them.  I’ll add sunflowers, strawberries, herbs and other plants, following the permaculture technique for creating a “forest garden”.  Instead of recycling our cardboard waste, I am using it to mulch under the trees and plants for weed control, which saves labor (saving labor and producing no waste are both permaculture attributes).
 
As I separate the pagan chaff from the beauty- and food-producing wheat of permaculture, I will share those lessons here.  Looking at ten acres of work feels overwhelming, but the permaculture approach of implementing small, slow solutions is comforting and compatible with both my conservativism and Christian faith.
 
[This is my second post in an ongoing series, “Separating the wheat from the chaff,” in which I consider the health of our natural world and environment in the context of conservatism and Christianity.  The first post was Conservative Christians and the International Day of Forests: separating the wheat from the chaff.]