Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1930's vs. Now...

My brother ran across an interesting site the other day (don't know how) and they called to tell me all about it. It seems that you can go to the Iowa Geographic Map Server to check out pictures from your are now ... and back in time! It is really a pretty neat site, but it doesn't look like all of Iowa is covered in all decades ... nevertheless it was fun to check out. I assume some other states have a similar thing ... if not I guess I just found another reason as to why Iowa is so great!

But, the greatest thing about seeing these images was seeing how much the farm has changed in just eighty years. The picture here on the right is what the farm looks like today (click the image for a slightly larger version). Our farm is outlined in red and you can see that we have about half or more of the are in forests and trees. That nice looking pasture on the Southern section of the farm is actually pretty nice pasture ... except to get to it you must go down a hill, cross a creek that has no good crossing, and up a hill. Once you make it there is really no water (although there is a shallow pond that you could pump water from, but I don't have much faith in it keeping water in even slightly dry times) and no electricity. In our dreams we would love to be able to make hay back there and graze cattle, but it will take some work. The Southern wooded area is very overgrown and full of brambles. On the other hand the woods in the Northeast section are fairly open and has some older trees (less than 80 years though!). The biggest problem is getting into the woods because of the multiflora rose on the Northeast section. The top left section is where the Dexters are right now and is also where we made one cutting of hay this year after the land came out of CRP. It is okay land, but needs a lot of work!

Now, check out this picture on the left (again, click to enlarge slightly). This picture is from sometime in the 1930's and if it wasn't for the roads I don't know if I would even recognize it! When you zoom in on the farm at the website you can see all the buildings (most of which have fallen down) and areas that were used for pastures. It almost looks like a real working farm in this image! Of course you can see the beginnings of the wooded areas and what are probably some of the trees still on the farm, but for the most part it looks like a totally different place.

So, here is the question, and I would really love your opinions, which farm do you think is better? Is the 21st century land better or the 1930's land? For me... I would love to have the land back to the way it was in the 30's, maybe with a few more trees in the woodlot areas. I think it would be perfect for a diverse farm! It can be like that again ... but it will take time and hard work. Maybe this is something to shoot for?


Beno said...

Wonderful Blog you have here, I just ran into it.
Both farmscapes seem to have advantages. I'm not sure of the scale but it looks like the modern acreage is much better timbered. And if you remember the advice that Gene Logsdon received from the oldtimer who said it was better to have some trees around because they cut the wind and made the house warmer.

Ethan Book said...

beno, I'm glad you found the blog ... I hope you keep coming back and add to the conversation. Having trees around is a good thing, but I do wish that it wasn't half and half because the wooded areas are too overgrown at this point.

Yeoman said...

Very intersting, and far more typical than we might imagine. One of the odd little secrets of the environment is that not only have forest largely recovered from the first wave of Euro-American immigration, they've actually expanded. Due to the suppression of forest fires, they've expanded enormously in the West.

There's good and bad to it. From a grazing prospective, there's actually some serious forest overgrowth in the high country in the West. This has, in recent years, actually been the source of government sponsored fires, in an effort to restore the forest ecology. Forest growth out west actually suppress grazing for everything.

In the Mid West, however, it may be an actual return to a more natural state. The deforestation was done to encourage crop farming, as prior to the Depression there was a serious effort to plant fence to fence, and trees were a nuisance. Now, however, with some land returning to grazing, trees are much less of a hindrance.

I'd tend to leave them as the land as it is now. But then, I have a hard time cutting a tree down, they're so hard to grow here.

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