My Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story copies arrived September 25, 2023. Its 58 pages, with my observations, reflections, and many of my own photographs (130 images), tell the remarkable Earth stewardship tale of a dedicated family resurrecting abandoned strip-mined land to premium beef production and luxury off-grid lodging! The Dutton land is located in southeastern Ohio.
The small paperback displays nicely among my other three books. Its typeface is small; the tale compact; its color photographs densely chronicle the two years that I periodically visited the Duttons across the seasons. A centuries-long story requires deliberate verbal distillation, concerted historical research, and countless hours of fieldwork. I cannot say any of my labor of passion fell short of absolute joy.
Here are the appropriate credits and acknowledgments:
- Edit and design oversight by Brandi Waligura, Dutton Land & Cattle Marketing Manager and Designer
- Freelance editing by Keri Cahill
- Cover design by Chris Dutton, Dutton Land & Cattle
- Printed by Knepper Press
My greatest abiding fulfillment came from getting to know the Duttons, including John and Rita below, and the entire family of children and grandchildren. Theirs is an intergenerational embrace of land stewardship…a land legacy story rooted in the past…and reaching far into the future.
John and Rita’s Preface, which I had not seen in advance, lifted my soul and reminded me that this project mattered, perhaps unmatched in satisfaction by any professional endeavors across my career in industry and higher education:
When we purchased and settled here on the original property, our dream was simple: Raise a big family on a farm. We couldn’t have imagined the farm would be what it is today – a generational model of regenerative agriculture, with premium beef production and luxury off-grid lodging. In some ways, we still can’t believe it.
Steve’s book—and his entire creative process—allowed us to reflect on what we’ve created throughout our 40 years here. It is more than a testament to our commitment to land, and our place here in this corner of the world; it places in perspective the effect (profound or otherwise) that we have on our own landscapes as a society—in this case, rural Ohio. It takes work, and it takes time. It takes trials, and it takes errors. It takes good decisions, and it takes learning from bad. We’re proud of each just the same.
We’re grateful for Steve’s commitment to this story and guiding us through this project. His eagerness to dive into the history of land use in our region yielded a thorough and comprehensive “reference tool” for generations to come. Quite frankly, it was wonderful to see such incredible interest in perhaps a “too soon forgotten” piece of our past.
Much of what we’ve done here on the property—along with the businesses and projects that contribute to the farm—have been collaborative efforts with dear friends, and hardworking hands over the years. We consider so many of these folks our family, and we’re endlessly grateful to each of them.
Lastly, we want to thank our kids. Each of them participated in Steve’s research, and as noted, each of them has contributed their own efforts and skillset to the farm. But, much more importantly, we want to thank them for making our life, our journey, and yes, our land, so absolutely worth every minute. Together with our grandchildren, they are our true legacy.
My Recollections: Three Prior Posts
The entire landscape in both photos below saw the action of massive strip mining equipment that sequentially cleared the topsoil remaining after decades of abusive agriculture, removed the overburden, excavated and transported the underlying coal, reshaped and recontoured the land, redistributed the topsoil, and re-established vegetation. The photo below left shows the lake (a remnant of strip mining) that fronts one of the luxury cabins (AKA the Family Escape Cabin), and served as my home away from home when I visited the property. I actually learned something about the art and science of premium beef cattle (Akaushi breed) production (below right).
I provide below a portal to my three prior Great Blue Heron Posts chronicling the emergence of the Dutton Legacy Story. Because the Duttons self-published the book, we are not yet certain how to arrange for purchasing. I will advise in a future Post. Meantime, these three Posts will present the gist of this incredible land legacy story.
April 2019 Post
November 2020 Post
August 2021 Post
I don’t need to remind you that COVID turned our world upside down coincident with my May 2021 visit, resulting in an extended period between that visit and the September 2023 book publishing date.
A Sampling of My Favorite Photos
I traversed nearly every square foot of the property’s 1,100 acres. I have myriad “favorite places,” including that depicted in this highlight portfolio of special haunts. The family escape cabin below left faces the dawn lake photo shown above the three Posts. The thick forest above (and north) of the cabin regenerated on an unconsolidated spoils heap. Some trees reach 100 feet tall. Until I entered the equation, all individuals associated with the land assumed the trees had sprouted from seeds. However, I discovered rows of main canopy sweetgum trees where reclamation crews had hand planted seedlings. I’ve said often in my Posts that so much in Nature lies hidden in plain sight. My role, in part, was to serve as a Land Legacy sleuth. Each secret revealed served as reward for effort.
Another reward came in form of discovering the rich biodiversity of life across the property, like the milkweed with seedpods and a monarch butterfly caterpillar on land so severely disturbed by the hand of man. Below right Chris Dutton is, with my assistance, marking trees by species on a future interpretive nature trail we were establishing across the spoils debris pile above the cabin. The red oak where Chris is standing may or may not have been planted by crews as a seedling…or as an acorn cached and subsequently neglected by a squirrel or jay.
I was glad that workers did not reclaim all evidence of strip mining. The high wall (below at left) illustrates the scale and violence of the operation. The coal seam is apparent about halfway up the face. As the hill continued to rise above the seam, the overburden depth rendered continuing the recovery uneconomical. I appreciated having this harsh example as reminder of what had been masked elsewhere by reclamation.
This 21-minute 1969 film, The Ravaged Earth, produced at Cleveland State University, opened eyes to the environmental consequences of strip mining:
The documentary led to more effective and comprehensive regulatory measures in Ohio and nationally. Those regulations helped ensure the rehabilitation of what is now the Dutton land.
I often saw whitetail deer, squirrels, groundhogs, hawks, ducks, and geese…and heard owls and coyotes. The property…this abused and decimated land in the eyes of some…is a rich sanctuary of abundant life and commercial beef production. Beaver had recently colonized a pond just upstream from the cabin.
The Land Legacy Story, I am convinced, is a tale meriting a much wider audience. In fact, I view the two-century (several millennia when we include the land’s Native American history) portfolio as globally significant, rich with lessons for stewarding the Earth through responsible and informed decision making.
Most Memorable Quotes
I’ll offer broadly and succinctly that embracing and practicing Earth stewardship is reward and fulfillment in and of itself. I discerned four distinct lessons from developing this Post:
- Nature knows disturbance — learn to harness her wisdom.
- Very few things are as they first appear.
- So much in Nature lies hidden within.
- Earth stewardship is a multi-generational commitment of passion and action.
Carl Sagan reminded us of our absolute dependence upon our Earth…our One Earth…when photos from beyond Earth orbit first appeared:
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
The Duttons understand and appreciate their role in tending this corner of our pale blue dot.
John and Rita may not have recognized their embrace of a land ethic, yet they are now acutely aware, I hope in some small way because of my discussions with them. I talked about mid-twentieth century conservation scholar and philosopher Aldo Leopold (A Sand County Almanac): All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively the land. John and Rita know that their 1,100 acres is a diverse interconnected and interdependent community.
John Muir: Earth has no sorrow that she cannot heal.
Louis Bromfield, an Ohio-born novelist and playwright who devoted his life to rehabilitating the soil on his old worn-out farm (Malabar) near Mansfield, summarized a zeal and ethic embraced by the Dutton’s:
The adventure at Malabar is by no means finished… The land came to us out of eternity and when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here. The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it, to die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work.
The adventure at Dutton Land & Cattle is by no means finished! Some clearly identified and essential steps remain short-term. My hope is to participate to some extent in seeing them to fruition:
- Interpretive Nature Trail: I assisted Chris Dutton in laying out the trail, identifying tree species, and contemplating interpretive elements. I want to see the completed trail, assist with developing an interpretive brochure, and publish one of my photo essays on the trail.
- Permanent photo points: I hope to help the Duttons establish 20-25 permanent photo points for a long-term photo record, retaking photos in cardinal directions at special locations every 5-10 years over the long reach of time.
- Distribution of the book: The Dutton Legacy Story is globally significant. I plan to assist in finding a way to tell the tale far beyond locally.
- Developing PowerPoints: I want to create a series of 10, 30, and 50-minute PowerPoint packages for telling the Dutton Land & Cattle Legacy Story.
- I see the need for recording 10-12 short videos on-site to tell the Legacy Story.
There may be other needs…ones I can’t identify without returning to the property.
Thoughts and Reflections
I offer these observations, from a single Louis Bromfield quote (Pleasant Valley):
- The land came to us out of eternity and when the youngest of us associated with it dies, it will still be here.
- The best we can hope to do is to leave the mark of our fleeting existence upon it…
- To die knowing that we have changed a small corner of this earth for the better by wisdom, knowledge and hard work.
Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”
Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL
And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at email@example.com
A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause
If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied by untold orders of magnitude:
Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.
- People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
- They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and understand their Earth home more clearly.
Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!
Steve’s Three Books
I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.
I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:
- I love hiking and exploring Nature
- I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
- I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
- I don’t play golf!
- I do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
- Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grandkids, and all the unborn generations beyond
- And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future
All three of my books (Nature Based Leadership; Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading; Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship with the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.
This Post introduces my fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story. Available for purchase directly from me. Watch for details in a future Post.