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  • Jessica Marie

Peaceful Coexistence


The looming heat is moving towards us. The continuous fire of summer makes me wonder why on Earth would anybody move here, stay here, and try to grow anything here. Oh wait...I've done all the above, so in summary, every summer here I question my sanity.

Today was an exception to all that is to come in the next six months. There was a steady breeze rustling the trees. The sun was bright, but it's glare was broken by the occasional passing cloud. Our little family spent hours outside watering, tending chickens, playing in the sandbox and digging for earth worms. My daughter has a game she plays, called worm rescue. We dig up the worms and she tries to beat the chickens to them and puts them safely in her insect habitat. I seriously have about twenty earthworms (in the habitat) in our bathroom right now. I had to convince her they didn't need a shower tonight.

I stood there taking it all in this afternoon and began to see a co-existence at play all around me. The plants in our garden thrive when dispersed. I have the most success if I plant squash beside tomatoes with all kinds of randomness like marigolds, rosemary, and sunflowers sprinkled about. There are still a few straggler crops from the winter, beets, carrots, and some cabbage I'm cheering on to complete their growth before the temps soar. These plants are all happily thriving right beside one another. Distanced enough from their close kin that if some pest strikes, I can likely eliminate the plant and not loose my entire crop for the year, without pesticides or much of an inconvenience. The Native American culture has an approach to planting fondly referred to as the Three Sisters. Squash, corn and beans are all planted together. The corn grows high and provides a place for the beans and squash to trellis. The large squash leaves shelter the soil, keeping it cool and moist. The beans sequester nitrogen from the soil, the corn leaves behind high traces of nitrogen. It's symbiosis, at its finest in the gardener's world.

Out of the corner of my eye, the chickens catch my attention. They are pecking at the compost. Every week I have to sift compost and put it on the garden to make plenty of room for aerating and breaking down to occur within the composter. This is another beautiful balance at play, turning waste into nutrients. The chickens love this day. They help me dig the compost out of the bottom of the container and eat all of the yummy insects, larvae and any appealing scraps they may find. Chickens are the ultimate composters. Insert veggie, fruit, and meat product and out comes a nutrient-dense excrement that provides an insane amount of nitrogen to the more than accepting garden. Oh yeah, and those nutritious wonders they leave waiting in the nest box are an added bonus to the beauty of this cycle.

So hear me out, we start with the earthworms my daughter was so gingerly plucking out of the soil. They depend fully on the dirt for their needs to survive. By just being happy little worms, they leave castings and trails all through the growth medium, benefiting the growing plants. These plants are even more fully nourished by the application of compost, waste products from produce and chickens broken down into black gold. The chickens eagerly nibble any adventurous leaves that weave through the garden enclosures. We, the humans, eat the produce and the eggs and provide the feed and water for such delightful forth comings. The sun, that blazon ball of fury threatening to fry us all in a few short weeks, reaches down from its perch in the clouds and gently kisses those thriving plants, heats up the compost to just the right temperature for decomposition to occur, and provides ample light per day for the chickens to lay their eggs.

There's a beautiful, delicate balance at play here. Each component not fully dependent upon one another, but existing together and assisting in the others' ability to succeed, building each other up, keeping each other stable. This constant flux of give and take, resulting in a beautiful tapestry tightly weaved together, though each strand is clearly visible and still itself. A balance we could all benefit by achieving, for in reality, happiness is learning to coexist peacefully with all that is around you.


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