Swans

We’ve been watching swans in the north corn field. 

It’s so cool. We first started seeing swans around here just a few years ago.  

Well, that’s not completely true. I saw a dead swan up close fifty years ago, but I’m not sure about the statute of limitations, so that’s a story we’re not going to tell. 

But now we have swans all over the farm. 

I would prefer that they weren’t swimming in the corn field, but there are times I sense we live in an imperfect world. 

I know I've said this a lot, but we live in strange times. We went about eighteen months without drawing a deep breath, because it just refused to rain, and without rain this community doesn’t exist. Then it rained, and rained again, and now we’ve had half a year’s worth of precipitation in a little over a month. 

There are other changes. We have buzzards now in the summer. When I see eight or ten of them circling high in the air, I feel like I’m in an old western, even if they’re not after me, but instead swooping toward a road killed skunk. A couple years ago, I saw an opossum not far from here, a startling sight since their technical name is Virginia Opossum. And then, the last time I went to buy trees I discovered the list of trees adapted for our area has grown, because on average winters are just a bit warmer than they used to be. 

As a guy whose life pretty much revolves around worrying about his family and the future, I’ve done some research on climate change, and despite our increasingly variable weather, the Upper Midwest is still looking pretty good. 

Other places? Let’s talk about the Central Valley of California. Walk through your local grocery store and you’ll see that pretty much everything green comes from there. A hundred years ago, irrigation wells only needed to be about fifty feet deep. Now some farmers are pumping from wells a thousand feet deep, and in places the water table is dropping sixty feet each year. 

Just living in the north doesn’t solve everything – cod need cold water and they’ve almost disappeared around Iceland. The population is down around 60% across the whole North Sea. Fishermen have been catching codfish in the North Atlantic for over a thousand years. It’s a big deal that they’ve moved out, looking for cooler water. 

 A billion people - that’s billion with a B - get their water from glaciers and the glaciers are shrinking. In India and Northern Arizona, they get between half and 90% of their water in a few months, and then rely on snow melt from the mountains to keep the rivers flowing the rest of the time. Of course, that doesn’t work when there’s nothing to melt. 

I could go on, but let’s not. Let’s just say, there’s a reason I raise chickens and built a greenhouse. 

What does this have to do with swans? Nothing. Having swans around is a good thing. The thing is, though, for most of my life, farmers could talk about bad weather years as a rare thing. My dad remembers 1957, I have 1976 and 1988 locked in my brain. But now the difficult weather years are coming much faster and more furious.   

I’ve heard that if you drop a lobster in cold water, it won’t notice the water getting hotter or that it boiled to death. 

I hope we’re not that stupid. 

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson