Melchemy is special not only because of the mead we make, but also for our deeper purpose. As a business integral to a place-based community, there is a spiritual element to how we approach our livelihoods, reminiscent of the trappist monks and their communal brewing craft. In gaining a deeper sense of place and purpose, we expand our notion of community outward from ourselves to include the more-than-human world around us. We are inspired by the philosophies and practices of Bioregionalism, having used this as a foundation for the creation of our business, our community, and also the non-profit organization we work with to put it into practice. It is through this understanding that we re-affirm what community means and how we fit into it. In terms of finding ones place in a world that transcends artificial and abstract borders and boundaries, we first learn to listen. The essence of a place, the constant murmur and hum of all of its residents and underlying processes creates a unique song that can be heard by the discerning ear. It is in the learning to sing along that we come to understand how to be in concert and harmony with place.
Terroir (/tɛrˈwɑː/ from terre, “land”) can be defined as a combination of natural factors, including the soil, climate, and environment, that give a particular wine its distinctive character. The term originated within French grape growing regions and has traditionally been applied to grapes and their characteristics. We find that the concepts derived from the term nicely relate to some core concepts of bioregionalism. Through using this idea of terroir influencing and affecting the characteristics of grapes, we can see how these same climatic, geographic, geologic, hydrologic, and ecological factors define regions across the planet and influence and affect the characteristics of human culture. If we truly believe we should live in harmony with each other and the natural world, it behooves us to understand these specific factors. We should celebrate the unique flavors of place, as lived through our cultural traditions. In a sense, our task is to discover the terroir of home.
Maps are useful tools in understanding the terrain of one’s choosing, whether that is mental mapping, geo-physical representations, or the documenting of assets or activities of place. For us, using maps to better understand our interconnectedness provides a visual reference to an ongoing process. As the saying goes, “the map is not the territory”, we recognize their usefulness in conveying our progress towards better understanding how we are connected to each other in place, but also recognize their limitations in the actual process of building relationships. For that deeper and more subtle experience, we go afield to observe, harvest, and restore in our celebration of becoming part of something greater than ourselves.
Cascadia is loosely defined as the collective watersheds which flow through the temperate rainforests of the west coast of the North American continent, from the western slopes of the rockies, into the ocean depths beyond the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It encompasses the state of Washington, and parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, the panhandle of Alaska and northern California.
This very bioregional map of Cascadia was created by David McCloskey and depicts many of the ecological and geophysical attributes of the bioregion, including vegetation types, geological features, human population centers, river systems, and a unique view of the ocean floor off the region’s coastline. Learn more about this map at Cascadia Institute.
The Columbia River & its Tributaries
The Columbia River spans two sides of the Cascade Mountain Range, bridging the wet-side/dry-side dynamic that is a prominent feature of our bioregion. It’s home to a diversity of cultures that have relied on the iconic and imperiled salmon for millennia. We support efforts to enhance the habitat and thus populations of the distinct native runs of salmon of this watershed, and in doing so support the strengthening of cultures and traditions tied to the lifecycle of the salmon and their ecosystems.
The Cascades & a Gorge within Them
The Cascade Mountain Range is the “backbone” of the Cascadia bioregion. This chain of volcanic peaks and forest-cloaked mountains “squeeze” rain out of the moist pacific air passing over which gives rise to the magnificent temperate rainforests of the wet side of the region. Once over the mountains, the air is drier and colder in the winter, hotter in the summer for an effect appearing more like a desert climate. The Columbia River has cut a dramatic gorge through this range over thousands of years and is the defining feature of these mountains where we live.
The Wind River Watershed
Nestled under the Crest of the Cascade Range, the Wind River Watershed receives 90 plus inches of rain a year which give rise to the stands of giant old growth conifer forests. Not ideal for agriculture, this watershed has historically supported the logging industry and was the growing site for the region’s forest re-planting stocks for many years. Our bees forage mostly upon flowers of the forest’s shrubs, trees, and grasses.
To learn more about how we are working to discover the terroir of our home place, and how we share the knowledge and process with others, visit Cascadia Education Project.