Symbiotic Relationship Between Family, Farm Animals, and the Family Farm
As we depend on God for all things, so, too, God has designed his creatures to be fully dependent and mutually beneficial to one another. Let me define a word that is not often used today but one that holds significant meaning, nonetheless. The word is symbiotic. It means mutually beneficial and dependent on one another. Common perhaps to some, but nearly incomprehensible to our culture’s narcissistic minds and independent lifestyles, it is a way of life to those who farm, who fully live symbiotically with their families, animals and the land.
I personally love the symbiotic relationship that God designed between family members, farm animals, and the land, from which I am fully experiencing His blessings now. It always brings to mind the story of the Good Shepherd who leads his flock to green pastures and beside still waters. Who watches over them, protects them, rids them of parasites, treats their ailments, pets and comforts them. In turn the sheep provide wool and leather for clothing to keep man warm and protect his feet while also providing meat and dairy to keep him fed. It is a mutually satisfying arrangement where each is dependent on the other. Both need the soil and the life that springs from it, which in turn is enriched by both man and his animals.
Nothing goes to waste. Everything is used for the benefit of the whole. For example, flower blossoms, vegetable blossoms, fruit and berry flowers all feed the bees, who in turn pollinate the plants so that they continue to produce fruit which in turn propagates the same plant kinds while also feeding both body and soul. In the end, we benefit by the honey that issues from the harvest of pollen, which helps to keep us healthy so that we may continue to care for the bees.
The grasses that spring from the ground provide food for the animals that graze it. As the animals graze the land their excrements go back into the ground to fertilize the grasses that fed them. The chickens that follow the cows scratch the cow patties for fly larvae, reducing the distress and advancement of disease from the flies on the animals, while also increasing the fertility of the land by spreading the manure throughout the pasture and adding their own droppings to the soil as they work. From the fertilized ground shoots healthier forbs, which in turn feeds the animals that graze it. In the end, we benefit by eating the animals that graze the land so that we may continue to care for their offspring that continue to graze the family farm.
As we weed and pull up spent plants, we put all the pebbles and rocks into a bucket which we dump in gulley’s to stop erosion. Most of the garden weeds and spent plants feed the chickens and the pigs. The remainder become compost for enriching the garden from which they came. Cover crops such as buckwheat are grown as feed for the chickens. As the chickens eat their way through the buckwheat, they till in the crop that becomes green manure for the ground from which it came.
Except for apple cores, cornhusks, and melon rinds, which go to our horses, kitchen scraps go to the chickens and the pigs. Shells that come from the eggs that strengthen our bodies are fed back to the chickens to strengthen the eggs they produce. The rest of the eggshells are fed to the pigs to strengthen them or put on the compost pile to enrich the garden so it will grow more food for our family and our animals.
Cattle provide us with milk and meat. The milk from the cow feeds the calf, the family, the barn cats, the watchdogs, the pigs, and is also left on the counter for two to three days to clabber for the chickens. Scraps from butchering go to the dogs, cats, chickens, and pigs; bones go to the dogs and bone meal to the chickens and vegetable garden.
The barn cats in turn eat all the mice and rats that diminish the livestock’s feed. The watchdogs protect the land from predators that would hurt the cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens. The pigs in turn fertilize the fields, which in turn, grows richer grasses for both cows, sheep, and chickens and provides meat for the family. The chickens provide eggs and meat for the family, the cats, dogs, and pigs.
Efficient exterminating machines, chickens devour insects that would otherwise hurt the family, field, and vegetables. The insects feed them and they feed us with richer eggs and meat. As they make their way throughout the fields and garden, they deposit nitrogen rich droppings for the plants that feed them.
Chipping blow downs provides bedding for the animals, which becomes compost for the fields, gardens, and trees, which in turn provides suitable ground for sprouting tree seedlings.
Hay taken from our fields feeds the livestock while providing nesting material for the chickens and bedding for the cattle, sheep, guard dogs, and piglets. Spent bedding from the livestock and nesting boxes goes into the compost pile, which later enriches the fields and vegetable beds that feed the livestock.
In the winter as the cattle eat in the barn, we cover their manure with hay, wood chips, and saw dust that comes from the surrounding forest. In turn that compost goes back into the ground either for the fields or garden, to enrich it.
In the winter, the pigs forage on acorns that drop freely from the surrounding oak trees. While foraging, the pigs excrete manure on the ground that goes back into the ground fertilizing the trees so they are able to produce more acorns.
God’s economy is so perfectly delightful. I just stand in awe of His wisdom and His goodness to His creatures!