Raylene Nickel

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A Prayer for the Prairie

Dear Reader,

As grass farmers, my husband, John Nickel, and I evolved ways of living and working that were centered as much as possible in the natural processes at work on our farm in North Dakota. John studied nature's rhythms closely, and he strove to emulate these in his nurturing of soil, plants, and livestock.

I worked beside him, learning much from his keen observations and unfolding work as a steward of natural resources. My teachers included, too, the hundreds of farmers and ranchers I have interviewed over many years of working as an agricultural journalist.

Beyond its physical life, the work of our hands has always harbored for us a deep spirituality. During our earlier years of farming, this union of the physical and the spiritual inspired me to write A Prayer for the Prairie: Learning Faith on a Small Farm.

Yet after John's death in July 2013, I wondered how I could possibly continue with our work. Time has brought change, of course, but more importantly I have seen that the rhythms of our farm have their own way of continuing and carrying me forward. The cows still have calves, and the grass and alfalfa still grow.

I agree with these words John wrote only months before his death: "I consider myself marked for this craft, and as such the perfect blessing is evident in the work of these hands. This indeed is work that is worth doing."

Raylene Nickel