Some days feel like just a murmur. Silent graceful feelings of hope and perfect happiness. It’s funny how these can feel so subtle, and then once again your whisked into our crazy world filled with screaming stresses and world wind emotions.
But in that moment, everything is perfect. You feel better, you think clearer.
Everything comes to light on those days, those precious opportunities to really feel what your soul is trying to tell you.
It was on one of these such days, as I was reading with a sleeping Nathan cuddled in close, that I realized what I wanted and have been striving for, for so long without even knowing. What it was that we had been working towards these past 10 years in our adventures in gardening and now in farming our own land.
I wanted to create an ecological space that benefitted both us and the land that we were using.
It sounds so simple, yet is far more complex than that. In the most simplest of form everything affects everything…Simple.
Well, that is until you really take it into perspective…everything!
The soil benefits the plant roots, the plant roots help support the biology of the soil, the deeper the roots the better support. The biology in the soil supports better plant growth and health, which supports better yields and better flavour. This in turn benefits you in your health and wellness. Then repeat. This is where we usually mess it all up…
We can happily continually replant and rebuild the soil that we use. Most small-scale farmers and gardeners do just that. When using annual garden plants that we remove / pull out and then replant, this leads to a decline and non-existing deep root system. Leaving the soil vulnerable, especially if there is nothing on it, it’s a clean slate just waiting for the wind and weather to strip it of it’s topsoil.
This also leads to deeper rooted problems (excuse the pun) where nutrients are continually and quickly used up and lost in the surface, but the deep earth is under utilized and often forgotten.
Most of us view common garden weeds as nuisances, things that get in the way, no benefit to us at all and quite frankly are very time consuming to deal with. I’ve been there, I know. Of course eventually one cannot always keep up and then they get out of hand and are practically everywhere. At this point especially when we first started gardening I accepted the fact they were going to stick around, and would usually just deal with the bold ones that would end up where we planted vegetables.
From this simple act, I looked back now and the benefits that it gave to the creatures around us (and ourselves too) who we share this natural world with, as well as the benefit it did to our plants is something I recognize now.
At the time I really didn’t see it, I just felt like I couldn’t keep up with it all…having two cats, a dog, gardening, a full-time job, hobbies, family and friends, etc. You only have so much time really to pull weeds.
In this lull of a day when I realized that an ecological farm was what I was envisioning, one that worked WITH nature instead of against it, I started to realize that we were already working towards this goal long before we even realized it.
Those weeds, that we feel such disdain towards, can often have some of the most advantageous root systems (part of why they are so hard to pull!) that bring up deep seeded nutrients and minerals closer to the surface of the soil and aerate it, the flowers that erupt from them benefit our local pollinators (many more than just the bees!) and also provide homes for a huge variety of animals that are just as big a part of the whole thing as the roots themselves, often we can even eat the tender greens or flowers to benefit our health as they are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Examples would be red clover, dandelion, shepherds purse, and sorrel just to name a few.
The key here, is that everything benefits everything, wether it doesn’t look like that at first or not – you just know it does. I have no problem sharing the wealth of the garden with some pesky creatures too. In turn the aphids that eat my kale, benefit the ladybugs, the ladybugs in turn get eaten by stink bugs or spiders who then in turn eat other very pesky bugs – like mosquitos!
The point I suppose of ecological farming is that the end goal is not how much produce or “usable” goods you produce necessarily, but really how much of the entire land is a healthy and effective ecosystem; Benefiting a whole variety of bugs, creatures, and vegetation. The key is healthy.
When we are healthy, even a cold cannot take us down and usually doesn’t even effect us, our system is just too thriving and can handle it no problem. If we are not healthy, things like a cold can take better hold because our system is already struggling to battle other things unseen.
I believe the same holds true for our land. When a problem gets out of control, it shows that perhaps theres an imbalance that needs to be corrected. This is where our conducting is needed.
At one time we were able to work beside nature, to understand the signs and “speech” it would show us, and know exactly how to cure it or respond. Now most of us associate nature as a separate entity.
I believe this to be a most dangerous path for us as humanity, because when one does not believe to be connected to something we are even less likely to rise up to defend it when it needs us most. Like right now.
Part of this ecological goal is to make sure that the plants we grow “know” that they are part of nature. Just like we should. To make sure the goat feels as a goat should and lives as a goat should. That a chicken knows it’s a chicken and lives as one should – scratching for bugs and eating bits of roughage here and there.
Looking on this vision, and it feels really good to finally realize it, I look upon the chickens and can’t help but feel that I am not fully doing them justice. The first chickens we got, we allowed to free-range but are now penned up. With the younger chickens when we built the new coop we added a run to it, a very generously sized run albeit, but that can support them naturally only so far…
The “weeds” that I allow to grow abundantly in the garden area, along the walkways, I keep trimmed down and throw into the chicken run for the ladies (and gimpy) to “forage” through and get good greens. Clover and Dandelion are among their favourites. This is ok for now, but definitely not my intended vision, I have yet to completely stumble upon what it is that it will look like for our chickens or land, but I’m sure through this learning experience we will find it, wether we see it right away or not.
It’s exciting when things start to add up…