Gardening With Chickens
02 Wednesday May 2012
No tags :(
Gardens are not just about plants, they exist to extend the spaces we inhabit, they are expressions of our activities and the things we love. They connect us back to our roots, back to nature, back to the natural languages we often forget.
I spent the weekend in my new potting shed, a project we have been working on for a couple of months now. It doubles as a writing studio, meditation spot, and a bird watching cabin – a multipurpose extension of my life.
Years ago I obtained this piece of paper that says I know the names of plants and a certification that allows me to tell people where to put their plants. That is all well and good, but a degree does not make one a gardener, it comes with experience, understanding the elements and from my latest observation, from gardening with chickens.
I am learning about soil ecology in a different way. To a chicken, drought simply means a better dust bath and the greatest joy in bagged mulch is found in scattering it about.
I am learning about sunlight, but not in terms of photosynthesis. Sunlight in the late afternoon – shining through the chicken combs. Is it red or pink or a little bit of both? Colors only nature can pick out.
In our Garden Installation classes we were taught about edging, and the finished look of rolled pine straw bedding. But gardening with chickens teaches you to blur the lines. That it might be okay for the Star of Bethlehem weeds to pop up through the path, they fade come May anyway.
When you see the horizon you see a perfect line where the silhouette of trees meets the sky, but our lives are really lived up close. An S curve is a dream, we live in the spaces in between. We live where the leaves gather, where rain wears ruts in the decks boards and it is okay for the dandelion seeds to scatter. Blur the lines is what the chickens say.
Gardening is not all about growing crazy big vegetables or showing off your prize winning dahlias. You learn more about gardening when your horse pulls a tray of a hundred seeds off the table. When you can come to terms with your anger at an animal who has no idea why you are seething and red cheeked.
You learn more when the rain slams the slender arms of the Crocosmia against the ground and once again you are in the details, up close, and the S curve is far away.
Maybe you thought this article was going to be about hanging chicken wire or how to reuse the goodness you find in the chicken house. Well, that is all part of it too, and I am sure there are books about that. Those carry water – chop wood sort of things – you think you hate them until your mind grows quiet and your hands get lost in the chores.
Gardens extend our lives, they blur our lines, they are not about perfection, but about being okay with the surprises.
To me, gardening is an extension of the language of poetry. It is found in watching the chickens take their afternoon dust bath, watching them kick the leaves in and out of the beds, and finding surprises in the herb garden.
Little surprises tucked away between Echinacea stems, Mexican Sage and the garden fence.