Monday, September 1, 2008

Changes in the land

An aerial photo of a random quarter-section (40 acres) of land in Big Stone County in 1939:

And that same quarter-section in 2003:

The top photo looks like it was taken around August. Some of the ephemeral wetlands (about fifteen of them, big and small) look dry and you can see the squiggly rows of stacked hay (not baled!) in a couple of the fields. The different colored strips of land indicate different crops grown. I see at least four farmsteads in the photo, with pasture surrounding some of them for livestock.

With the bottom photo, it's kinda hard to tell what month it is. My guess is probably April or May, when things are starting to green up and the lower areas are showing some water. The farmers have carved ditches in the land to drain the wetlands, creating more crop space. There's miles of drain tile buried underground, increasing the drainage off the fields. The landscape is uniform, with only one crop type grown. No ponds, no pastures, no tree groves, and only one sole remaining farmstead along the lower roadway.

Seeing these pictures makes me wonder (again) what 'progress' means.

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