The Times They Are A-Changing

Late last year I wrote about my farmer neighbor who was in the process of selling off his cattle herd. I’ve missed watching those cows and steers from my office window.

At some point in the last several months, the neighbor on the other side of us sold his herd as well. I didn’t miss them right away since they generally spent the winter months on the far side of the pasture where the farmer kept their hay and feed. But as spring approached, I started looking for the annual crop of calves only to discover there were none. In fact there were no cows at all.

After living in cow country my entire life, I find myself surrounded by empty pasture. It’s kind of lonely.

But I have a feeling I should appreciate the quiet while it lasts. As the farming business is dying off in my corner of the world, a new industry is taking its place.

Drilling for gas.

I’ve known for several years that we’re living on what amounts to the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Marcellus shale is the hot button topic in southwestern Pennsylvania. And it’s changed the countryside all around us. Find a hilltop with a lovely view, and that view will no undoubtedly include a gas rig or two.

I admit to mixed feelings about the whole thing. As a lifelong farm girl, I find the new industrial landscape abhorrent. But farms were dying out before this new trend hit. Gas leases and royalties have allowed many farmers to stay in business, buy new equipment, remodel their homes and barns. The running joke now is when we see a farmhouse or barn being fixed up, we say “Gas drilling money.”

Plus we’ve leased our own ten acres to one of the drillers. With times being tough, part of me would love to see them drilling here.

However, some stakes with pink flags have cropped up in the field outside my kitchen window. Surveyors have been mapping out the land belonging to the old farmer who sold his herd last winter and is now selling all his farm property. My world is on the verge of changing, and I’m not sure at all that I’m ready for it.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m NOT ready.


jrlindermuth said…
Gas drilling certaily could be a benefit to farmers and others in Pennsylvania. Concerns about the dangers of 'fracking' and other environmental threats do make me leery, though.
Personally, I'd rather see those cows back in our pastures.
Becky said…
I knew you leased with all the drilling being under your property I never thought about the fact that they had to put those drilling rigs somewhere. I hope they are not going to be near your home. But the pink flags either mean rigs or roads. Either way I've watched what is happening to Angels place. These changes have not been good ones.
Annette said…
We did have a lawyer look over the contract they offered and he had them tweak it to add some extra protection for our water. It wasn't in the original version, and I fear that many of those who are having the problems with contaminated wells didn't have it in theirs. We've already done water tests before any activity has begun, so we have a base line. This was all done on the advice of our lawyer.


Becky, we didn't lease our surface property at all, so they can't touch anything here above ground. However, they can sure alter my view from my windows by putting in pipelines and such on the neighbors' land.
The only constant in life is change, and you and hubby are flexible enuf to adapt, right?
Donnell said…
Annette, my cousin is a farmer, and he leases his land to an oil and gas company. It's been a win/win/ situation. You have the right idea. Contract. Go over it with a fine tooth comb. I prefer drilling for oil and gas in America and becoming independent on foreign oil. Then maybe we can bring our troops home.
Kathryn Craft said…
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place--sound motivations all the way around. EXACTLY what readers want in their fiction, if that gives you any ideas...
Annette said…
Donnell, the issues we're facing here have to do with the new "fracking" technology and no one knowing what problems it will cause in the long run. Drinking water sources have already been poluted by companies taking shortcuts. But there are good and bad in all industries.

Kathryn, I suspect this topic will show up more and more in my writing as I experience it first hand. But the conflicting motivations definitely are the stuff of good fiction.

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