As I was weeding the blackberries, I was contemplating the state of our farm. First up, the bug situation. This past week, our neighbor to the south put chicken manure on his fields which unleashed a tsunami of bugs since the piles of litter retrieved from chicken houses are bug breeding grounds. Our poor little cows were already being attacked but this simply overwhelmed them.
What we had hoped was that we were getting a handle on the bug situation by letting nature reach equilibrium. The cattle were beginning to understand that the cowbirds were there to eat the bugs and were learning to let the birds land on their backs or walk along side. The chickens were beginning to dig through the cow patties for insect larva--interrupting the life cycle of the bugs. When the dragonflies visited in the evening, nearly every gnat was devoured.
And then came the neighbors chicken litter so now we wait, again, for the balance of nature. Balance; somedays it's easy and some days not. We had to seek balance with the blackberries. Last year my mom and I went on a campaign to remove the maidencane from the blackberry patch. This involved bending down on our knees and patiently digging out each of the bamboo-like underground tendrils that had woven in among the blackberry roots. Three months later, the blackberries still hadn't recovered but the maidencane looked happier than ever as it reinvaded the disturbed beds. This year, I pulled some and mowed the rest. The blackberries, though still having to compete, seem happier. Balance.
The thing about farming is that there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done NOW. Because of this, the house and yard are generally the last things that get attention. The growing things must come first. Today it was adding another strand of barbed wire to the fence between us and the Meltons because the fence was designed for 5 foot cattle, not 3-4 foot cattle. Today it was harrowing the earth so we could get the Tif9 seed in the ground since we FINALLY had rain. Today it was taking the chicks on a field trip so they could be exposed to grass and bugs--the diet we want them to have as adults. But I did get a batch of cookies and big pan of lasagna made. Balance.
Which leads to my second thought. We have become so conditioned by marketing campaigns that we seem to have little tolerance for houses and yards that are not the first priority. I often wish we had that beautiful little farmhouse with the lovely cottage garden that I see in my mind. I don't envision bahia grass seed heads and a mobile home. I know I'm not alone. There is something almost suspect about food that is grown on such a farm. We know from the ad campaigns that the best farms have white clapboard farmhouses and picket fences--though of course the reality is cramped and unsanitary stockyards. Intellectually I understand that having a small footprint on the earth means living as we are now--700 square feet of recycled living and grass that is mowed only because I can't stand it any longer. I understand but I struggle to balance that with the vision we have all been fed. I struggle to find my balance.