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Stash Hempeck - Entry # 1

My father immigrated to the U.S. in 1912, at the age of 12, along with his parents and siblings, from what is now north-west Ukraine.  To this day, I remember the family's reason for emigrating:  my grandfather had poured blood, sweat, and tears into a piece of land, working it  into a small but productive farm; the then-Russian government wanted it, took it, and in return gave my family--according to my father's words--a hill of rocks.  Farming runs deep in the blood on my father's side, and as far as I know--as it was told to me--that innate need to work the soil and attend to animals can be traced back many generations.  With my father, this relationship to farming, as he knew it, manifested in his being--much to the vexation, at times, of my mother and older siblings--what one would label old-fashioned.  We were the last family in our area to put our hay up in slings, rather than small bales; we were the last family to not only raise oats, but to winnow it with a stationary threshing machine rather than a combine; we were the last family to turn our milk cows out on pasture during the spring/summer/fall months, the last family to graze our hogs on grass; the last family to side-dress our corn with nitrogen fertilizer, and to pick our corn and store it in a corn crib; the last family to start growing soybeans; the last family to practice crop-rotation, and to use plow-down crops for green manure.  In essence, my father lived by a simple code:  be good to the land, and treat it with respect, and the land will return the favor.  My birth-family was never rich, as most people today define the term; but we never lacked for food, for a roof over our heads, for clothes, for self-respect. As a result, I had the privilege of growing up in a time when farming was a respectable and honorable way of life, but at the same time, was giving way to farming as a means of mining the soil for maximum profit; of pitting oneself against one's neighbor; of amassing as much land and machinery as possible, and in the process, producing as its final result, an emptying-out of the countryside.  I loved growing up on the farm, and from my earliest remembrances wanted nothing more out of life than to continue the legacy of my father's people.  Fate, however, decreed otherwise, and I spent most of my adult life learning to be a jack-of-all-trades, a preparation--I now believe--for the journey I now embark upon, a journey I have hoped for since my earliest memories; a life of living in maximum harmony with the land and its innumerable components.  If life has taught me anything, it is that if we humans fail to interact with our environment in a meaningful fashion--if we feel our duty is to have dominion over this planet rather than to coexist with it in a state of mutual agreement--we shall not only experience a great suffering for such a decision, but we will also lose a great portion of our humanity in the the process.

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