Sunday, November 26, 2006

Procession: Beating the Bounds

I was able to prepare the piece of music I created for download at:

It is 6 MB so it could be very slow if you have a dial-up. The piece is called "Procession:
Beating the Bounds." It was inspired by my studies of Druidry and British folklore. To wit:

"The custom of 'beating the bounds' has existed in Britain for well over 2000 years. Precise
origins are unclear although it can be found as part of ritual celebration within many
different cultures across Europe and beyond. In simple terms it involves people in the
locality perambulating their farm, manorial, church or civil boundaries pausing as they
pass certain trees, walls and hedges that denote the extent of the boundary to exclaim,
pray and ritually 'beat' particular landmarks with sticks. ...Such processions would typically
occur every seven or ten years. Apart from any religious significance in a time when
literacy or map-reading were not widespread skills these inspections served to ensure
boundaries remained intact, were known by local people and had not been sequestrated
by neighbouring landowners." (From

This piece can be used in meditating on and defining (protecting, marking) one's space/
territory, whether landscape, home, or ritual, as a community and as an individual, as a
sacred work of art.

Aldo Leopold on being a Land Doctor

"When people are ill, they consult a physician or another type of healer. To heal people is to restore their health and energy so that they may go forth and maximize their potential. But what do we do when the land is sick? Today, a forester would be called in to treat something called "land sickness." However, in the 1920's land sickness was unheard of until Aldo Leopold defined it.

"...Leopold believed the health of the land could be maintained by the exact science of determining the symptoms of its sickness. He wrote, "In general, the trend of evidence shows that in land, just as in the human body, the symptoms may lie in one organ and the cause in another." Some symptoms of land sickness included increasing pest populations and vanishing plant and animal species. For example, when prairie dogs and squirrels increased to pest levels, they were poisoned. However, science shows that deviations in the plant community might have caused the increased pest populations. Problems with plants could also result in poor soil.

"Leopold realized that "the effort to control the health of the land has not been very successful. It is now generally understood that when soil loses fertility, or washes away faster than it forms, and when water systems exhibit abnormal floods and shortages, the land is sick." He saw that many conservation treatments were superficial. He wrote, "Flood control dams have no relation to the cause of floods. Check dams and terraces do not touch the cause of erosion."
"The land's ability to receive and store energy is known as its fertility. Leopold wrote, "Thus when a soil loses its fertility, we pour on fertilizer, or at best alter its tame flora and fauna, without considering the fact that its wild flora and fauna, which built the soil to begin with, may likewise be important in its maintenance."

"To study land health, Leopold said two "norms" are needed. The first would be a place where the land has changed little despite a lengthy occupation of mankind. The second would be wilderness untouched by human civilizations. Through scientific analysis, detailed research and observation, a land doctor can discover how the wilderness has been able to maintain itself for a long period.

"The concept of studying the interrelationships of organisms and their environment was first introduced in 1869 by Ernst Haeckel. The idea then developed into the study of plant and animal communities. By 1935, the word "ecosystem" was introduced. Leopold was unique in that he proposed to humankind the idea of land ethics and acknowledged the land pyramid, beginning with soil, plants, insects, rodents, predators and humans. He wrote, "In many cases we literally do not know how good a performance to expect of healthy land unless we have a wild area for comparison with sick ones."

From Borderlands (

Land EKG Story from Bozeman

"Land doctor - Bozeman business helping ranchers monitor, improve their land. By Michele Corriel

Tim Canterbury has tripled his cowherd in three years and he's hoping to keep up the good work. His secret is really no secret at all. The idea is simple and the work is practical. By using a method to diagnose what is wrong with his pastureland, he can use his common sense to fix it and raise more cattle on the same amount of land....
They've only done about 500 acres so far, but Canterbury will continue using the knowledge he's gained from Land EKG to make improvements on his land.

Land EKG is a Bozeman-based consulting business owned by fourth-generation rancher Charley Orchard. The idea behind Land EKG is to give the farmer or rancher a picture that shows the health of their land. Like a heart EKG, it shows the peaks and valleys, and like a graph, it depicts different areas of concern.

"I had this notion to show the process of the land and all its cycles in a graphic form, a picture or a signature of what's happening out there," Orchard said.

"Once we've gone out there and picked out the number of monitoring locations, then we begin to see what's going on. I teach the ranchers to monitor their own land, gather their own information, instead of relying on outside agencies, who usually just hand out a bunch of data. What's so interesting is that these people know the land so much better than the PhD people who come in with all their numbers."

...According to Miller, the common-sense approach and the simplicity of the work are a winning combination.

"I think his methodology is fantastic," Miller said. "It as simple as possible, so anybody can do it. And he helps them understand why it's important to keep a good eye on the land. There are a lot of monitoring systems around, but they're either very complicated or so academic they don't make sense, or it's done by other agencies. This system puts the tools into the hands of the landowners."

Even though many ranch managers look at the land every day, sometimes they don't see the big picture.

"Land EKG helped to put into context what we saw when we looked at the land," Kossler said. "It's tough to do, without a framework. What's good, what's not so good, what could be better -- and that's the important part of the system. It teaches the concept of what a healthy range ecosystem looks like."

The Land EKG website is at:


"...The diseased farm I allude to, is that near the High Peak, and as I have long had an eye to that farm, but that its case seemed to me a desperate one, I thought it advisable to consult Mr. Fish ; who, no doubt, we may reckon our best land doctor here ; for as to Stream and Spring, they are as yet only Noting beginners, and cannot be expected to know much of these things.
When I asked Fish, “what he would do with that land?” he replied, “Do with it ! why, I would make a mine of it.” I did not immediately comprehend him, and he explained, he would make his fortune by it—“How so?” said I—“Easy enough,” said he, “for the land is good, and a great part of it, fit for the plough. In front of the new house, both in the vale or ravine, as well as on the west side, there are many fine acres, at present covered with coarse and useless grass.

“There is also a good large space inclosed around the premises, which I see it is needless to plant, unless it goes through a proper course. Land, you must know, is in a manner like your stomach, which I fancy you would not like to have constantly crammed with the same food ; and without any sort of seasoning : in time, you would not relish it; and disorders might follow.—Now I understand this land, or stomach, has tasted nothing for the last fifteen years but potatoes ; consequently, it baths that food, or, as we English farmers say, “it is tired of the crop.” This expression is very common with us, for we say such a field is “tired of clover,” and the like ; although this is a mode of express ion, on which some of our best agriculturists have differed. One thing, however, is certain, that if land, in its nature tolerably good, has been drained by repeated, or improperly managed crops, the best remedy for recovering such exhausted land, is by a few months fallowing ; and by frequently stirring it, and clearing it of every sort of vegetable substance. By this plain and easy mode (a sort of abstinence, if I may so express myself,) not only will its tone be recovered by the influence of air and moisture from the atmosphere, but weeds will be extirpated, and insects of every sort (and particularly the grub) will be effectually destroyed by being deprived of that food which is absolutely necessary for their subsistence, at the time the solar heats occasion a change from the oviparous state.”

I did not clearly understand the whole of those odd expressions ; but I however perceived, that Mr. Fish is, as I imagined, a very learned land doctor. I therefore candidly told him that I understood, only in a general way, all he had said, in which there seemed to be no small portion of good sense. I therefore requested him to go on, and tell me particularly the mode he would pursue with that farm, if it were in his own occupation." (