Initially, I’d like to say that as a child, I never was able to filter out the siren call of the Natural World. Organic is a word that has been co-opted into the lexicon as something that has not had chemicals sprayed on it. When I use the word it means much more than that. When I plan a garden, or start seeds indoors, cultivate or harvest for food, health, or medicine from my place, I ask permission from the web of life to cooperate and contribute to that plan. The plants and animals that agribusiness consider pests are merely part of the drama of life in my garden.
The weeds are filling a niche that soil preparation for cultivated vegetables open up. They grow quickly to cover up the naked soil and bring nutrients from below to the surface. As long as they are not taking nutrients from the desirable plants, I let them stay. Indeed, many are edible or medicinal. Lamb’s quarters, purslane, dock, mallow, dandelion, salsify, prickly lettuce all fill in spaces left open for them and each have excellent value as food or medicine or both. I harvest them along with the chard, lettuce, kale, spinach, and orach. It’s a relief when my greens go to seed and reseed themselves.
When mice invaded my hoop house last winter, I lost all the celery, leeks, and most of the arugula, but when I cleaned up the bed this Spring, I found 2 litters of mice that my ducks gobbled up with relish (not ketchup or mustard), The ducks lived there this winter and spilled their grain, that attracted the mice and you get the picture.
I let my lawn grow tall and go to seed and let my rabbits mow, water and fertilize it for me. They give me wool, fertilizer, food, and pelts in exchange. Even when my does have too many kits, or still born, the ducks clean up. When I find the slugs have infiltrated my mulch–I set a trap and present them with triumph to the ducks. The ducks eat up the mosquito larvae in buckets of rain water, and even snap the adults out of the air, giving great relief for me and my rabbits to end the buzzing harassment. The ducks also chow on the bindweed and give me some high nitrogen fertilizer and eggs.
The wasps buzz around looking for those grubs and caterpillars that want to chew up my shoots. The ladybugs come in for some nectar from small flowers and a drink, stay around to mate and their offspring mow down the aphids. Spiders love to hang out in the walls of water to capture bugs coming in for a drink. I herd the grasshoppers over to the duck pen and everyone has a party.
A neighbor is a beekeeper, their bees are in my yard all the time, getting a drink, feasting on the dandelion flowers, apple and cherry blossoms, and later blossoms from my fruiting plants: cucumber, tomato, squash, pepper, chili, tomatillos, turnips, chervil, eggplant, basil, mint, catnip, carnation, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, poppies, beans, peas, carrots, dill, parsnip, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, and melons.
The redworms go nuts in the compost, especially when they get the inedible scraps from the produce in the yard and table. The ducks mine this resource, and produce not jumbo sized eggs, but colossal sized eggs, full of nutrients and no gender-bender hormone mimickers.
The neighbors enjoy the landscaping, and left over starter plants that I can’t fit into any of my beds. The birds come in for some insect snacks, berries from the bushes, chokecherries, sunflowers and mice. Their songs are musical and cheerful.
Essentially, I reuse every piece of plastic that comes into the site, compost all the scraps and weeds, recycle cardboard, glass and metal, scrounge new building site’s dumpsters for firewood, use junk mail, receipts, and prunings from the bushes and trees for kindling, use rinse water for dishes and vegetables to wet the compost, catch rainwater from the roof to water the ducks, use their dirty pond water to water the gardens, use a clothesline rather than a heated dryer, hang socks and small items on a line above the woodstove, and use any surplus as a way to trade for $ to buy feed, seed, cages, enclosures, clothes I can’t make myself, oils, grains, and petrol to run errands in town. I also mine the ‘freestuff’ on Craig’s List for supplies and materials, or send out my reusables there. I also give and get things from Freecycle.
This is all in the pursuit of reducing my footprint, becoming less of a consumer, and more of a producer (I sell my rabbit meat, veggies, duck eggs, manure and pelts.) These activities on this 1/3 acre are also my way of being an environmentalist. The less lawn that is sprayed with chemicals that wash into the streams, the less gas used to run a lawnmower every week to collect that resource and send to a land fill, the less water that needs to be treated with chemicals, the less acreage that has to be farmed to meet my food needs, the healthier our ecosystem will be.