Living in Harmony

“Hello!” I call out as I step out the front door of our Farmstead Creamery. A new car has just pulled into the parking lot. “Is it a gelato day?”

He steps out first in agreement, eager to eye up the flavors. She is equipped with binoculars, a camera, and a wide-brimmed hat. “Or,” I add “Is it a hummingbird day?”

“Both!” she chimes, and as I scoop cups of strawberry fudge for them, she’s already walked along the split-rail fence, gear in hand. The hummingbirds are duly putting on a nice show, whirring and twirling and stopping to take a sip. In June we saw fewer of our hummingbird friends (I suspect they were sitting on nests), but now they are back and hungry.

This morning two of the feeders were empty again, and I waded through the flowering daisies and seeding columbine to reach the empty containers. Glistening hummers flitted about, buzzing my hair and supervising the operation. Our pollinator gardens have been an oasis for an ever-growing number of these adorable, tiny birds. We’ve grown used to their presence, but for many it’s a novelty to see so many and how they socially get along remarkably well.

Hummingbirds are not the only wildlife that enjoy the purposeful oasis of the farm. Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares have finally returned after the virus that wiped out so many three years ago. As long as the dogs aren’t out, they are remarkably tame, munching on dandelions as I walk past, unperturbed. There’s even one little one that’s been hiding out in our small high tunnel under the pallets supporting young plants. When I water the seedlings in the morning, he scoots out the front door, eager to miss the dousing.

A greenish tree frog loves to hang out on the east side of the barn, while another enjoys the life under the canopy here at Farmstead Creamery. The other day, a young girl spotted her lounging on the top of the gelato flavors sign. The little blondie squealed with joy, “Froggy, froggy!” It was a good “touch with your eyes, not with your hands” moment, as the girl was able to enjoy the magical presence of the frog without disturbing the amphibian’s nap. I suspect the little green one loves feasting on the plentiful insects that are attracted to the canopy’s bistro lights at night.

Sandhill cranes share the pasture with pigs, sheep, and poultry, a doe with her fawn browses the grass outside the gardens. Swallows flutter and dive in the barnyard, utilizing every nook and rafter in the historic structures for their nests. We’re happy to have their bug-eating help, especially this year.

So often, modern agriculture is at war with nature, spraying and trapping and poisoning. Wildness is driven out in favor of monocropping, which does not produce happy habitat for biodiversity at any level. It doesn’t need to be this way in order to grow bountiful food for family and community. Because we work our gardens by hand, not with machines, momma killdeer can have her nest in safety, and we work around her. Because we don’t use chemicals in our gardens or fields, there’s no runoff into the little creek that yearly hatches a plethora of dragonflies and is home to turtles, frogs, and herons.

Monarchs have been busy on the milkweed and fireweed plants we’ve tended and let be wild, and happy worms wriggle away as I weed carrots. Our diversified farm is also a bounty of wild lives living in a mutually supportive balance. Because we don’t set out poison, there are plenty of voles and mice to keep the local weasels happy, and they have left the chickens alone. Because we let the dandelions bloom in the spring and we don’t spray for mosquitoes, local bees of all extractions are busy and buzzy, doing their pollination magic.

These are not difficult things to do, but they are purposeful things to do, and it takes time to cultivate a biodiverse ecosystem that has balance and harmony. There are certainly big things we can do to create this, but there are also small, everyday things that anyone can do to nurture a more harmonious relationship between wild and domestic spaces. Much of it starts with a shift in attitude, changing from “us vs. them” to just “us,” and shifting our perspective from wildness as the adversary to an ally. That is where true sustainability and regeneration happens.

The hummingbirds outside my window agree. See you down on the farm sometime.