This morning marked a rare day off, sans kids. I had a moment to reflect on a summer filled with work; most of my time spent away from our little homestead. Sitting with the birds in the sun, many thoughts passed through me. I let them come and go as they pleased. I was struck by the complex simplicity of our life on this little chunk of earth and the beings we have chosen to care for.
This spring brought many new additions to our lives and the continued challenge of incorporating old residents with newcomers.
We added Guiana Fowl and additional hens to the flock, which is now composed of four generations of chickens (of various makes and models), three guiana, three remaining ducks and one rooster. Bringing the bird population back to 24, a fine place to be going into winter.
We had to invest in extra fencing this spring as we had a predator or predators take many of our residents early on as they free-ranged (midday!). The ducks were hit hardest as they cannot fly away. These losses are always hard to bear as they are a direct result of us not providing the proper protection for our flock. There is a constant battle between letting them roam free and offering them the sanctuary necessary so that they can continue to exist as live beings and not lunch.
The sheep have done an excellent job keeping the land outside the garden cropped close to the ground and have enjoyed many walks through the forest to the top of the mountain.
Like the nursery rhyme states, they still follow us wherever we go and are still more obedient off the leash than the husky.
Both new hives swarmed shortly after we got them and re-queened successfully (thank god!)
They spend their days gathering the supplies to sustain them throughout the coming dearth of winter. It is doubtful we will take a honey harvest this year in hopes that they will become better established for the next.
The gardens flourished. We set up three separate areas, one on either side of the house and a big expanse in front. We focused on crops we could dry for the cold times.
Mixed in with now established berry brambles, pumpkins, sunflowers, tomatoes, basil, peppers, peas, birds nest gourds and a plethora of medicinal herbs for winter aliments. We let the yard run wild and the results have been impressive, as were these sunflowers we did not plant.
Many of the ‘weeds’ we didn’t cultivate provided distractions for pests and gave our intend crops the chance to grow to maturity. It wouldn’t win any Homes and Gardens contests but the yield has been wonderful!
The pack suffered the loss of its matriarch but has adjusted as well as can be expected, finding a new balance and an extra space on the couch. In all the activity there has been very little time to process these busy months. I have learned a lot about managing such a varied system as I do every year. Each resident has vastly different needs if they are to flourish and thrive. We have a great responsibility to bear in mind all these different aspects of the lives we share. Our inattention will result in pain, suffering and death, an inescapable fact that I often dwell on in my time away from the home-place.
We have taken on the care of so many and with that comes a weighty responsibility to observe and understand the varied needs of each different inhabitant. Good fences are important, the sheep will never ‘get along’ with the garden, they will eat it. Every. Time.
Likewise, the husky can never be trusted with anything that she can chase and fit in her mouth. The sheep have no patience for the dogs and the ducks will never roost up high with the chickens. We have to create spaces that allow safe areas for everyone.
This means providing many different environments for each need and understanding that even though their lives are all bound together, they will never experience the intrinsic nature of the other beings’ experiences.
I am not trying to make a direct analogy with that happenings in our nation at this moment; only that as I sat today, I became acutely aware of all the different truths that surrounded me. How they all interconnect and yet maintain an isolation from one another I can’t ignore and be effective. If I treat the ducks, like the chickens, I will create a situation that will be painful or dangerous to one thing or another. For example, the ducks require a pool to swim in but if we set it into the ground or make it too deep, it increases the chance for a chicken to fall in and not be able to get out; a danger that many a well-meaning farmer has lost birds to.
When I don’t adequately address these complex needs nothing with flourish, instead we will descend into competition for limited resources all will suffer, wither and die.
In the various populations there are subcultures. Within the new flock there are those who are well handled and love to be stroked and touched, some who actually fly into my arms each morning and those to whom my touch is aggravating. These are birds who have shared space all of their existence. I can’t argue with their reactions, for whatever reason they have vastly different reactions to me and my involvement in their life. I have to respect the individual, if I am to provide them a quality of life I can be proud of.
It cannot be about what makes me happy or what I want to do, I must respect their sovereignty and individual experiences. Just like the husky will never know anguish like her older rescued sisters. Her idea of cruelty is when I have to clip her nails or give her a bath. She has never known concrete cells and rooms filled with cries of pain and sorrow as Pele and Honey did. She has never been struck in anger (or at all for that matter) and so her definition of suffering will always be bound to her experiences. Both realities are valid, one is not more true than the other. Each must be respected.
I have no answers. We can only take care of the systems and critters that surround us here and now. Some years on the homestead are better than others and many times the harvest is determined by the weather, totally independent of any effort we could exert.
I know for sure that growth is hard. It becomes impossible when we treat all things the same- without acknowledging the myriad of experiences and realities that exist simultaneously side by side. There can be no progress without honest evaluation of the history of each existence as a true and valid entity.
The old saying “when life give you lemons, make lemonade” ignores the cultivated nature of that fruit. How can I be shocked at the lemon, when it was I who planted the tree? It was not something ‘given’ to me but a thing I brought into existence with my effort or at the very least- could have seen coming had I been paying attention to the characteristics of the tree.
I come back time and time again to the wisdom of the bumper sticker that hangs above my computer- “judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”
It is a good daily reminder. A place to point my bow.
Be well and take care of one another, it is the most important thing you can do today and everyday after.