Monday, October 6, 2008

Home [on the] Range

Consult any field guide to mammals and it will indicate, among other things, the average home range of each animal species. This does not mean that the animal might not stray much further, but rather delineates the day-in, day-out territory the critter covers in its regular travels.

Humans are much the same. We all have a home range, and I consider that the territory that we cover on foot rather than by any mechanized conveyance. For some, that home range or territory is no larger than their house and yard. For others, it can cover many miles. For me, it’s easy to pinpoint an exact size. It’s ten acres, the size of my woodlot.

I walk around my woods on a regular basis. If something is amiss, I’m quick to see it. Changes are quickly noted and I feel about as “in charge” of my home range as anyone could ever be. That’s not to say that I exercise much control over things, but only that I am aware of what goes on.

For instance, I am aware that a huge, ancient white pine has died. This, along with some others, was irreparably damaged by the ice storm of 1998. And only now, are these powerful giants of the plant kingdom finally relinquishing their grip on this earth. Of course there’s nothing I can do to bring my tree back. So instead, I’ll cut it and haul it to a nearby sawmill. There, it will go toward pine boards to be used in building a planned addition to my cottage.

Taking this home range idea a step further, I heard a radio interview with a man, an author, who wrote a book about his circle experiment. He took a map showing his property, placed a saucer over it with his house in the center of the saucer and drew a circle. Then he proceeded to identify and date every house, mill and historic site within the circle. My home range project is not as ambitious. It only involves identifying all the plants growing on my range.

On the other hand, keeping track of everything that grows and everything that happens on my ten acres, entails considerable effort. But it’s fun and more to the point, it’s rewarding. If I can describe my home range in detail, then I really do have some kind of relationship with it, something deeper than simply paying Caesar his due, in the form of yearly property taxes.

I suggest that anyone can learn a lot by taking a closer look at their home range.

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