I always feel smarter or more enlightened, if you will, at the end of a growing season. There are so many lessons to learn (and sometimes relearn) when you try bending nature to your will.
For starters, a sick creature naturally strives to rectify an imbalance in its health. When finally sprung from its man-made prison, a cooped-up bird hits the lawn like a bug-seeking missile. Often to my annoyance, my sometimes kibble-fed dog goes outside and eats grass when he craves living plant food. Scrubbing the resulting mess out of the carpet feels suddenly less annoying when I acknowledge I created his imbalance by feeding him dead, bagged, convenience food and locking him in the house all day.
Nature, which is really just a collection of organisms, is incredibly resilient. A squash that swells from a sudden wet spell splits its skin, but then scars and heals. A bird, too heavy to stand on its own weak legs, suddenly reclaims its vitality (and mobility) after eating grass-fed lamb liver. Both of these organisms have the will and the biology to thrive. As their steward, it is my job to help them do so--which often means getting out of their way. When we see ourselves as participants in the same game, and choose health over convenience or dogma, that's the moment we find the will to let our own biology thrive!
We grew sweet potatoes this year! We started slips from store-bought sweet potatoes and really had no clue what we were doing. Lessons learned: start slips a bit later, plant them sooner! There aren't many, but it was a blast pulling/digging these out of the garden.
It was a good year for squash, despite our two-week trip to Europe and general neglect. We dubbed that thing in the right sink basin "Frankensquash". If we don't like it, the chickens certainly will. I have practiced a zero-till mulch style of gardening for the last two years and, now that our humus is established, it really pays off. I didn't water at all through the heat of summer and the soil stayed incredibly moist...plus, NO WEEDING. The chickens help cultivate the mulch.
We hatched some Delaware chicks and I built a coop (a tractor, really, with the wheels removed for winter). Thanks to some quality Backyard Chickens research by Alana, we learned how important humidity is to the incubation process. Round one: 1 chick from 20 eggs. Round two: 7 chicks from 9 eggs! After extending our fences, we were able to free-range the birds most days. It's hard not to ponder the "100% vegetarian fed" label on a carton of store-bought eggs as I watch my chickens fight over the snake they just pecked to death.
We raised some Rainbow Rangers (a rapidly-growing hybrid breed of meat chicken). The lesson there: man-made birds require either man-made inputs or complete freedom. The fast-growing birds were much more sensitive to my nutritional mismanagement. Oyster shell, raw lamb liver, earthworms, grubs and, eventually, pasture helped straighten them out. (Further proof that food actually is medicine.) If I raise them again, I will make sure to do so in later spring, when they can be on pasture from the beginning.
We will all be snoozing like Chester in the coming months! As peaceful as he looks, be warned that this cat's soul is filled with fear and distrust. Poor dude.
I'm already getting seed catalogs in the mail and planning next year's garden. On the list for next year: letting broody hens hatch their own chicks, planting peas early (for once), bee-keeping (round two), maybe buying an actual farm.
In good health,
I'm Ethan, a guy whose life used to be controlled by ulcerative colitis. As I systematically tested diets, treatments, and all types of health advice to heal my colon, I learned a lot about my own biology and also how to cook without compromise. I'm here to share the best (and sometimes worst) of that journey with you.