Erin Schneider

Erin Schneider, farmer writer in residence at KBS.

In 2019 we welcomed our first-ever artist, a self-described “people, plants, and dirt-lover”, Erin Schneider. Erin is co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm in La Valle, Wisconsin. She visited KBS and worked with the community to examine the interstices between science, nature, and art through poetry. The culmination of her first week was a poetry workshop where Erin shared her work and invited others to do the same. On her following visit, she helped organize the Allurement Salon, an evening showcasing the art and science from KBS to the broader community.

Erin wrote the following poems, inspired by her visit to the LTER.

Poplar Destinations

    Isn’t it funny
    When suddenly
    after a decade of vigor and climb
    You were razed overnight.
    I didn’t raise you
    Though I remember planting you, a slender whip, 
    with a rooted tuck
    A gentle press and off you went
    All spindly, chalk-white, and nodal
    And when you leafed out to scintillate silver, alchemize the sun 
    I stood winded, sighed
    the sapling years were through
    Before I knew you surpassed 5’ 10’’
    explored new heights underground,
    ran amok with neighbors.
    Roots groping, branching out, testing boundaries, 
    Leaves settling for sun allotment
    Trunk sequentially spaced
    and turgidity in check.
    Wonder and Movement came naturally to you.
    I knew resisting change causes the past
    to present memories
    on quaking platters.
    I take to analyzing the remains;
    Age is a number
    Gravity a wave
    Tree breath a miracle
    Attractions sometimes strange.
    I love these poplars and this world!
    Ten years ago, such a proclamation would’ve 
    upset control, emancipate research.
    But now, appreciation for decays’ arrival,
    And transformed research,
    I reach for a fine sip of soil
    As timbre goes underground.
    Sporulating nightcaps of mushrooms reclaim stumps and pollards
    And everywhere I look, fuel for renew. 

    -Erin Schneider 7-17-19

Tilia Philia

    I used to chase windmills,
    Held wooded expectations not even lake winds and gull cries could stir.
    Now, I embrace Tilia time,
    Discover where data might end and reverie begin.

    And learn to answer the kinglets whisps
    with my listening voice
    Stilled by the immensity of it all.

    I step into your robed canopy of 
    heart shape leaves, the way you branch and breathe
    into the soft spaces behind my ear and
    Offer your stump to rest
    In gratitude

    I unwind into your lime green
    That must have massaged temples, 
    Welcomed strangers avian, human and Other, wise
    Softening worries, absorbed and etched in
    Your furrowed trunk and brow beats, 
    I pause, attempt to write your shape, witness your arboreal expectorants
    Florets posited on petioles poised, at the ready
    To soothe coughs, enhance drumbeats, feed bees,
    blur lines where canopy and clouds part ways.

    Basswood, linden, little leaf, big heart
    Tilia philia

    -Erin Schneider 5-21-19


    As the Swan foretold,
    A corridor evolves edges,
    maintains wing beats,
    stirs mists of dust.

    Some fly to colonize restricted tracts of land
    Taste moss, drink dew threaded by spiders.
    Others seek passage to the place in between.
    Only through sound could they see through veils.

    In each case, the ascent winds long, narrow
    Views filter, then stabilize.

    Wings and worlds succeed
    to the comfort of clouds.
    Their throats interbreed
    Seed Earth with stars.

    Swans’ descend to feeding grounds
    Limp and lead-laden
    Bottlenecks disperse
    Spiraling trumpets.

    Witness the spectre and the passage.

    – Erin Schneider 12–18-19

An Enemy Release Hypothesis

    She assumed the pressures to perform
    more so at home
    than from strangers
    sensing the error of their arrival,
    as they hitchhiked by ballast, wind, and fur coats

    They arrived foreign in name only,
    Japanese Knotweed, Bermuda grass, Asian carp
    Novel in their strategies, use of latex, rhizomatic reach,
    keeping the natives at bay.
    Or so they say.
    No less potent
    Were the ones
    Who took arms to bugger the botany
    Wage just wars on invaders
    Viruses flitted, insects took flight
    Leaftips bloodied
    Anything to save the desirables
    Just before the Fall.

    Traits migrate, roots exodate
    Theirs was violence devoid of conscience malice
    And soon she stood without kin.

    – Erin Schneider 12–18–19

Cues from the Friesians

    They were of smaller build, harder to fatten,
    Their moon-eyed lashes giving way to slips of pink
    Tongues, preening their comrades necks.

    Their breath releases the soil’s secrets,
    A mix of sweet ferment, heat, and rot.
    Burping, farting, and ruminating with the best of them
    These teenage Seers of grass.

    Treading through hectares of green subtlety
    A five day rotation, and by seven, restless
    They sought the plants’ advice,
    patches to avoid, the ones with parasites,
    the buffets of choice succulence – and the one’s eaten for lack.

    On the other side of the fence

    We wandered to greener pastures
    Turning umber from our inputs
    Toiled with the plants, the plow, the weed,
    The manure movement
    A revolution for a few,
    Promises of money saved
    If we kept the cows confined
    And brought everything to them –
    More milk per units in space, for haste.
    What’s a farmer to do?
    When the cows come home

    The bovines shoulder our weight
    The gravity of loss in stories
    when cows, grass, and grower sync

    On this morning we walk the pastures’ edge
    Listen to the riff and rip of ruminations
    Til we come home to the cows
    Free of grief.

    – Erin Schneider 11–18-19

Strip Part 1

    Extreme heat and cold would
    Keep the trees out
    While you kept Her starved.

    with Her infinite,
    You stripped Her bare
    You couldn’t help but burrow into her riches—a mix of ancient
    bison sweat, mulled sunlight and fixed lightning.

    You poked further, you couldn’t stop, craving all Her green
    She bled black
    As milkweed scalded, moss yellowed,
    and butterflies kept low to the ground.

    You had the nerve to throw your hands in the air
    You watched Her skin choke, sloughing in the water’s chamber
    You fell further to your knees, as the gulf between widened.

    The only home you knew.
    Rusted combines, buckled tensions
    Your debts grew.
    Your morale no longer subsidized.

    She wouldn’t yield.

Strip Part 2

    You forgot about the seeds, held in trust
    By Oak and Bramble

    The wind intervened
    Sparrows whooshed
    Crickets dared to chirp,
    The librarian shush of grasses
    Bowed toward Her.

    Clouds whispered,
    Seeded airborne prayers that
    rattled the Masters as
    rain shed wounds,
    Displaced the corn,
    balmed bees, stitched roots,
    She’s staying here, on this strip.


    Susan’s black eye radiates stillness
    But I stood and watched a while from a distance
    Close enough to feel the photons pulse purple
    As the dewpoint dipped and
    The mason bees move into their muddied nests

    I listened for the blues of folding inward,
    Could only find the golden rays,
    Soundings strum with the hum of spinning composites.
    Flower organs that pump and stir things up
    Where light proceeds, music follows.

    Resplendent form, black eye radiance
    from the far side of eternity
    Extra irony, the need to hold seeds that disperse
    Un-named, underground.

    Still, stars descend on stems,
    backbones of being brighten
    A shower of luster sprinkles
    Susan’s sleep.

Radiance 2

    It lights up a child who caught her first fish at 4 just to watch it swim away
    It comes when, fathers have passed out from one last drink.
    It’s the auntie you wish you knew about,
    Yet who still emits warmth when you thought
    You were abandoned, left to smolder in despair.

    It comes to the prisoner in her cell.
    As spiders spin webs, weave the days and a way out.
    It re-unites lovers in cautious pleasure from days spent adrift
    Negotiating silence

    It’s the starry night that orients the dung beetle through detritus,
    And the dirty details that illuminate your Radiance.

Synergy Exodus

    She set out to meet her neighbors
    Sensing where we are placed impacts our response—
    She remained labile, limber, as every centimeter counts.
    Recruitment would demand all of her trust—
    she could not foretell what’s in the water.

    She exhales into exiled territory,
    garners her tensile strength,
    and gropes into a loam of darkness.

    It’s black outside the film—she misses the stars of her ancestors.

    She wishes to invite them in, all 16,000 residents in her compound
    to see, to understand—her companions and conspirators.
    Undocumented, for now, though not without influence.
    The known ones—are held to their spheres of deficiencies.

    The gravity of the situation takes shape—waves refract unsettled soils.

    She pulses further.
    Offers her sugary secretions and secrets
    —how to live among strangers, change traits and become next of kin.

    She takes to heart the possibilities and effects,
    Maps the hype along the hyphae networks.
    Notes the points of entry at the port of ion exchange
    —airborne, watery, and microbial

    Observes what happens when consumed among the monotony
    —miles of switched grass,
    The same greens, always on the defensive.
    She prefers to dwell with the mass of messiness.

    Which takes her further underground, among the sand and silt.
    She learns to distill the distribution of acid
    How to amplify ambiance, foster fluidity with fungi.
    -her stories take shape while seeds swap—

    Recruitment that took all of her trust.
    To prop up kin and strangers—it’s just in her DNA to do these things.

    – Erin Schneider 12–18–19

The Microbes laugh at US

    You didn’t know
    a precursor to NNO !
    Scavenges energy to 3 lumps—
    While a radicalized NO !

    changes charge,
    the effects, dizzying.
    You exhale, NO longer able
    to laugh it off.

    Decades of energy fell to waste
    a sky-rocket release
    inflamed space as NNO !
    detonated atmospheres.

    You denote NO impacts
    from the war to end all wars.
    Responsible for NO one
    As reddish mushroom clouds
    spare NO one.

    Your consciousness dizzies,
    You fall knee high
    Into streams of corn on corn,
    to wheat on soy, back to corn again.

    Breathless fertility of granular proportions
    Your throat starts to burn
    NNO! You emit
    It’s enough to make you weep

    colorless pools of NO,
    widens the gulf between us
    it deadens US.

    the 11th hour arrives
    post-humusly you lie
    how could it be
    you didn’t see the off-gassed remarks

    In this dark loamy leachate
    Laid to waste
    When the microbes filled the air
    With NO laughter.

    – Erin Schneider 12–6-19