Matfield Green - Our first years

Monday, January 30, 2006

The property

We own about 38 acres, but it is not your usual square or rectangle parcel. We bought the land - with our "Bunkhouse Parnters" Pat Moss and Karl Rohlich - in 2001 from Wes Jackson, co-founder and president of the Land Institute, and Dick Austin, Presbyterian minister, poet, and friend of The Land. Wes & Dick had purchased the property from the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation in 1992.

It's an oddly shaped piece of land reflecting its former use exactly. On the east side of the tracks a long thin 10-acre parcel stretches south from Matfield Green City limits three quarters of a mile to our nearest neighbor, the Rogler Ranch. On that parcel sit the bunkhouse and the simple triangular corral which will soon be host to our vegetable garden. Walking south from the bunkhouse, just a little closer to the road, is evidence of the exact location of the section forman's house. Mexican railroad workers, and their families lived in the cramped and primitive bunkhouse quarters. The section forman's house, while nothing palacial, boasted modern amenties like running water, electricity and telephone service. The small wood-frame house was so simple - one story, no more than 3 or 4 rooms - that it seems odd to me that someone thought it was worthwhile to preserve it intact and move the house 5 miles up the road. But there it sits, urging me to overcome my shyness and ask for a tour.

Maybe my new status as permanent resident will bolster my courage.

On the west side of the tracks we own 30 acres - an almost square parcel plus a long easement connecting the property to the road going west out of Matfield Green. Cattle would be driven from that road, via the easement to our second corral, the only structure on the west side of the tracks. This scond corral is more elaborate than the first - scale, dip tank (and toxic waste still seeping in our soil). This corral is in greater disrepair, deeply scarred in a prairie fire out of control just the year before we purchased the property.

The prairie on the west side of the tracks is beautiful, though it too is scarred from overgrazing. From the top of the hill closest to the bunkhouse I can see for miles east and south, and to the west, over the next hill, I know there are miles and miles of unbroken prairie. I've walked out into that prairie often, sometimes encountering a small herd of cows, which I am careful to stear clear of so they don't become frightened (or frighten me with their common assumption that I have come out into the pasture to feed them some special treat). But more often than not it's just me out there. Me and the view and the prairie plants, and the rock outcropplings and the rippling streams.

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