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Letters from Larksong
An Amish Naturalist Explores His Organic Farm
David Kline
Illustrations by Anna Raber
Introduction by Wendell Berry
9781590982013 l $26.95
hardcover with dustjacket, 208 pages; 6"x9"

                  

The house sits beneath the canopy of a large silver maple tree at Larksong Farm. There is also a picnic table in its shade with a sweet cherry tree and vegetable garden growing nearby. This is where the Kline family gathers for conversation, produce processing, and to repose with nature as evening settles in (look, here comes the Screech-Owl). Some of these letters were written at that table, but the inspiration for this writing comes directly from the farm, as fresh as the milk and hay and eggs. Like a seedling, these letters came into the light from that organic place where soil and water and germination occur and where growth takes root and is cultivated. This collection reflects the rhythm of farm life; where that most forgiving of animals, the horse, sets the pace and the range. These letters are addressed to the most fundamental need of people, land, and community-nurture.                                                                 
      David Kline has been living on the same farm-his home-place-every day of his life except for a brief period of conscientious objection during the Vietnam War. Even now, the 120 acres along a branch of the Salt Creek, a tributary of the Killbuck River, are a source of reverence and wonder for him.
The Klines farm a herd of about forty-five Jersey cows. The cows are mostly grass-pastured and they are also fed on organic-ally grown corn-the fields yield about 225 bushels per acre-and so the milk the Jerseys give is certified organic. The milk is valued at a premium; but almost everything at the Kline's place has a special quality.
      The Kline farm faces south and so the growing season comes to it one week sooner than the next farm over. The cliff swallows find the barn eaves a good place to roost; the bobolinks safely build their nests and raise their young in the hay fields; and an osprey on the prowl for an organic mouse knows to fly overhead. One hundred and eighty-eight species of birds have been identified on Larksong Farm and an annual list is always posted on the kitchen door.

      David's favorite chore is cultivating-moving straight along the line of seedlings, but still cutting the pigweed. This is an apt description of careful writing. As he says with a knowing twinkle, "You sit on the plow and you can daydream all day." But this is making the most of chores, not maundering.

     Larksong Farm retains its permanence and its sustainability. David carries an ancient flint tool that he found while plowing. It is still sharp and useful. He uses it to cut baling twine. Several old growth trees along the hillside were dated by taking core samples. Of these, the oldest white oak was dated to 1662, several years before the first European is thought to have explored the Ohio country. The timbers in the barn were sampled as well. Here the oldest timber was dated to 1836 when the tree from which it was cut was felled. During a season of church services, a ton of local food will be served and eaten in this barn.
      Through a combination of lore and literature, heritage and harmony, David Kline finds deep satisfaction in the practice of farming and the careful observation of nature. And nature, with all her mystery and trilling creatures, is still awake after everyone else has gone to bed.
      But David says it best. He likes the cows. They bring him home.