I’ve concluded that everything my garden must have three functions. For example, chickens are my gardening helpers and free range at every opportunity. They eat the bugs and add their manure like I’m paying them to do it. They also provide eggs and meat. Ducks provide eggs and meat, and slug patrol.
GOATS, another story:
Goats here at Howling Duck Ranch are the ‘princesses’ of the farm. Basically, they don’t really pull their weight with respect to the permaculture principles. Thus far the goats help the fall clean up and clear undergrowth for our expansions; they clean their hay of seeds and then mix in their nitrogen. Primarily our goats are live lawn ornaments that provide great entertainment value: they are better than a crossword puzzle for keeping an alert mind. They will eat everything you don’t want them to and escape anything you try to keep them inside of. If you do spend time worrying about whether or not the goats are doing X, or Y, then that is exactly what they are probably doing!
Farming is always dependent on the weather. This year (2008) has been our second poor summer in a row, so our production is down. Despite re-plantings, lettuce and spinach refuse to grow, spinach comes up with two real leaves and then promptly goes to seed and don’t get me started on the beans’ complete and utter refusal to participate in the project!
In the valley we also have a serious predator problem: cougars, foxes, sparrowhawks, black and grizzly bears also share our property. Yes, grizzly bears can be a problem in a veggie garden, they love carrots and parsley! One invasion could destroy our herds or our garden. The neighbour has just lost his whole flock of chickens to a marauding dog. The dog actually broke a window to get in at the chickens. Then what? The bottom line says that all this effort is actually not worth it. Especially when the supermarket a kilometer away beckons seductively.
KEEPING THE FAITH
My bottom line, I’ve learned this year that there has to be laughter and lots of entertainment (enter the goats). It has to be fun for me to be out there dawn to dusk, good weather and bad, unpaid. With my hunting license I will be able to have food sovereignty and food security, if I want it. But my fantasy of supplying all our needs except for olive oil and coffee I see now is a fantasy. Even with my husband’s help throughout the summer, we cannot achieve food sovereignty. Therefore I’ve moved to food security: I trade with other farmers in the valley (we practice the hundred meter diet, usually!), the tapestry of our community is being woven tighter. And we (me and my farm) have become part of the community.
I’m starting to feel secure now. And I know that if I had to, I could stretch myself to personal food sovereignty as well. At the moment though, I am glad I can still reach for the olive oil…