To be part of here is to become intimately aware of the intelligence of the tiniest of individuals, of the patterns of relations and seasons, and of how it all works together. It is a process, never ending, of observation, realization, and letting go. Letting go? Letting go of all of our assumptions, of what we’ve been told is true, of what we should feel or not feel. Learning is layered, change is layered, growth; time; truth. . . all layered.
Here are some snippets of discoveries over time:
Cucumber beetles: The dreaded beetle, so destructive, brings out our powerful crushing fingers in full force (all hands on deck!), but did you know that this beetle is super smart?? It knows to “play dead” it senses the human predator coming from afar (leading us to learn to “sneak “up on it!!), and it hides well in spite of its bright colors.
Aphids and ants: Through observing the ants and aphids on our tall sunflowers we could see that it appeared that the ants were “farming” the aphids. We could see that there was a large any who appeared to be protecting the aphid eggs on the underside of the large sunflower leaves. The ant acted aggressively toward us as we tried to smoosh the aphid eggs, so we started watching more closely. We watched over a period of time, and could never quite figure out the motivation. The ants were obviously protecting—and appeared to maybe even be ‘raising’ the aphids—even ‘babysitting’ the newly hatched aphids. Wild. Farming by most definitions! Just recently, as I searched for more information about gardening in the Costa Rican mountains, I came upon the unlikely answer:
Side by Side: Animals Who Help Each Other.
“Tiny green garden insects called aphids make honey in their bodies from the plant juices they drink. Ants “milk” honeydew from the aphids almost like a farmer gets milk from a cow. Using it’s antennae, an ant gently strokes the back of the aphid. Out oozes a drop of delicious honeydew for the ant to sip.” The benefit for the aphid for putting up with being milked all the time is that the ant will protect the aphid from predators.
Songbirds: Returning from Alaska in May gave us a late start at the farm. Our feeders had been empty for months and the songbirds had already been returning long before we set foot at the Nancy Place. Have you ever been stared down by a songbird? It’s very guilt inducing. The little purple and gold finches would sit at those empty feeders diligently and stare directly into our kitchen. Sometimes they even clung to the windows to stare more directly at us. Believe it or not, sometimes the little birds would look at us, then look at the feeder, then look at us. . .a very clear message!
Farm animal love: Its often where you don’t expect it! The guinea guy who loves the rooster, the ducks who’s rather be with the goats, the chicken who roosts on the Highland Cow, the pig who follows the gelding everywhere (even on trail rides! RIP Fiona Rainbow) or the turkey hen who is only two steps away from her little farm girls.
Sex: There is no end to the sexual lessons in nature. We have seen true love, indifference, fear, rape, gang rape, homosexuality, sexual oblivion, masturbation, dripping wet lust, and intricate mating rituals. Each animal, from the smallest of insects to the large farm animals to the wildest of birds has its own unique style to add to the world’s composite of sexual energy. Dance, song, patterned rituals. . . dark & fearful; loving and beautiful; purposeful and brief. From the goat who sucks himself, to the mare who can’t contain her infatuation, to the rapist duck who holds her down for the next drake, to the intimate love of the wild geese or the crazy dance of the woodcock. . . its all here, even the cucumber beetles are oblivious to the crushing fingers as they lose themselves in the dead and dying zucchini leaves. Sex becomes normalized for children growing up on a homestead. It’s not taboo or this silly gossipy thing to spread rumors about. It’s just part of everything—and that’s ok.
Children and nature: Being outside from a young age undoubtedly nurtures a different child. Away from television and video games, children notice the environment—even relish its changes, both bold and subtle. They learn to nurture the wild, cultivate the tame, find adventure at every corner, and overcome boredom. Our girls hear the peepers, remember the nesting geese, look forward to June’s turtle visits, ask for seeds to plant, run home from school just to see chicks and goats, and, most importantly, notice changes in their environment—often even ones that we adults have overlooked. Ella finds the random nest of duck eggs and is the first to notice the newly bloomed flower. Maizey finds new caterpillars everywhere and applies what she reads in books to her outside experiences. She’s even explained to us that to leave the farm to all the children will only ensure its ultimate demise. She explained that she’d rather give up her share than see it divided. What an amazing little mind!
New things: Every year we find a species never before seen (for us) and often ones that we can’t find online or in books. Sometimes I’ve even contacted experts who have been totally stumped. Sometimes it’s a flower, once I saw a worm as thin as a strand of hair (and about as long), sometimes it’s a new insect. Once it was a new mushroom that eventually the mushroom guy agreed must be portabellas, (they don’t grow in Maine— EVER) — so we took a risk and ate them (yum!). We have new birds come each year, so our feeders are alive with color and surprise. We also have new plant species that appear here randomly—this year we have elderberries that have sprouted everywhere and one year it was an amazing rose bush. In short—there is always something new, and if you let it be, its amazing.
Even the cycles that you come to expect each year, will be new after a long winter or a hot summer. We look forward to the ripening of the apples, the first snow, early spring’s dripping trees, the tinkle of the thawing brook, and the return of the peepers, wild geese, and nesting turtles. Life is so full.