The Last of The Asturian Farmers


There’s something that nobody realizes. Urbanites, ecologists, civil servants and farmers are attacking each other. They all want the same thing: for forests not to burn but some of them want to impose their blanket rules in spite of the needs, traditions, lifestyles and knowledge of the flora and fauna of the others.

Not everyone is capable of directing others, but we are all capable of helping. And in this occasion I hope to help people understand things that are often forgotten or ignored.

Wild boars roam cities like Oviedo or Gijón and it’s because there’s nothing to eat in the forests. The reason for this is the lack of clearing the forests and controlled burning that has always been done so that the undergrowth didn’t invade the woods. Years ago, all the farmers and inhabitants would go to the forest with a cart or a tractor and cut a load of ferns and brush to use in their barns to make natural fertiliser for their fields. They also brought back some wood from trees that had been uprooted or broken by the wind or had dried and perhaps were obstructing the old waterways that directed the excess water away from the houses and that now are completely abandoned. Riverbanks and creeks were also kept clean. There have always been controlled burns that were done at the appropriate times, when they wouldn’t be a risk. Of course, not everything can be controlled: time, wind or rain.

Today the forests are not clean, hundreds of hectares  have burned and only the farmers are being blamed, without taking into account that the sanitizing campaign has just ended and now is the time we can take our cattle out of the barns to graze, only to find the burnt forests where no grass grows because they are not well kept due to lack of funds, because we are not millionaires, we are not ‘counts’ or ‘dukes’, in spite of which we are seen as an endless source of money which we spend carelessly because we are sitting on a tractor that costs 30000 euros or more, to which we must add the working tools: trailer (4000 euros), rotary grass cutter (6000 euros), milling machine (5000 euros), ploughs (3000 euros), water wagon (7000 euros), all of which are used constantly or seasonally, depending on what tasks we are doing.

All this hard earned money comes out of our pockets.

This is what people who come from the city see, not that many of us get up at 5:30 a.m. to milk cows, feed them, clean them and pat them, because we know each of them by name and some by their ear tag number. They don’t see the work that we put in 365 days a year to see that our animals are well and healthy and that the wolves or other wild animals haven’t harmed them. Of course, this is another issue we face in the countryside: dealing with wild animals, trying to live with  them without being suffocated by them

Regardless of this, we always have to hear the phrase ‘the wolves were here first!’, said without thinking that wolves lived in higher areas, not in the farmland. They have shifted their habitat for two reasons:

1.- They no longer have other animals to prey on because these animals have fled in search of  a place where they can find food.
2.-The Regional Agricultural Authority has been releasing and reintroducing wolves raised in captivity back into the wild. They are not afraid of humans because they have been fed and raised by humans. When they are released into the forest, they do not know how to hunt and therefore search to satisfy their hunger with domestic animals that are easy targets as they are enclosed in their fields.

But this is a reality that does not interest politicians or ecologists.

Nowadays, farmers cannot go into the forest and chop down a tree for wood without the authorisation of the forest guard. They cannot collect pinecones even though we all know that squirrels only eat the ones they collect and field mice don’t eat them either. Their use is to light our wood burning stoves or chimneys. If we want to light a bonfire to burn the stubble from cleaning a field, we need a written permit from the local authorities and if anything happens the fines are huge. If there’s a fire, the first people out to fight it are the farmers with their water wagons, helping the fire brigades.

Our forests have have many ‘defenders’  nowadays and people forget the defenders that have always been there, caring for it and respecting it because they make their livelihood from it, whether it’s a cattle farmer that grazes their cattle or a neighbour that goes for a bit of wood  that the wind knocked down for the fireplace, perhaps cutting access to a path or a field.
If you can understand it, great. If you have doubts, watch ‘The hunter’, or read the book on which it is based, ‘The Last Hunter’.

If you still don’t get it, forget you read this.


Someone who’s lived in the countryside since her mother birthed her.

Original post By Guadalupe García Fernández

Translation to English by MariGreenDog (Maritsa Solares Rico)

<a href="">Blanket</a>

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