This first appeared in The Chautauqua.
“Animal appreciate, machines depreciate”
I may have quoted this here before but it is my favorite saying from Joel Salatin (farmer author and educator around grass-fed, integrated farm livestock systems).
As I look around our farm, I keep trying to find ways to work with our animals to reduce the work done by machine and to integrate the animals more fully into the farm operations. It means watching them and seeing how their normal behaviours and diet can be used to do work – work that I don't like doing myself. It may mean that I seem lazy but I don't find myself sitting around and lounging much so am not going to worry about that accusation.
Our latest example of this is the home we've given our three little pigs. Our two girls will become our mamas and our little boy, breakfast :) But for now – they are our garden clean-up crew and rototillers. As the garden was pulled in over the fall, we expanded their area and have watched them explore the plants left standing and dig for who-knows-what in the soil. They are breaking up and working in the organic matter we left in the garden all summer and are growing into happy, healthy pigs while doing so.
Their home is a house of bales, insulated panels and a rebar hoop house (that once held our tomatoes). As the story goes – building out of one material made the three little pigs' houses vulnerable so we figure the cooperation between these materials and structures will work better. They seem to like it – as the first snows are falling, they have been reluctant to come out of their straw bed for breakfast.
There is work involved in the animals but working with them makes for a more enjoyable day than working around them does. Stacking functions like this means that we just might find some more time to curl up with a book inside instead of managing two sets of chores: the pigs are doing one set for us. Plus, when they are done their job – instead of being parked in the 'old tractor graveyard' that every farm seems to have: they go into our freezer and onto our plate. They appreciate in value as time passes and we appreciate them.