I hit a place this week, of feeling so discouraged by things happening in my garden and chicken coop that I had serious thoughts of quitting – giving up after more than 50 years! The rats figured out very quickly how to get into my new $100 treadle chicken feeder (it only takes two of them on the treadle to open it!). The moles have made a shambles of parts of the garden – undermining some plants and shoving mounds up on others. We were all ready for an amazing crop of gold raspberries this fall and the yellow jackets managed to suck them all into dry little nubs before they ripened. They did the same to the blackberries. The spider mites destroyed one of the best crops of beans I have ever had – and the aphids are working hard at taking out my baby kale! On top of all that I am sucking the well down trying to keep it all going until the fall rains start. Oh – and did I mention the rats ate my whole potato crop!
Then last Sunday I was sharing a picnic lunch with a friend and she brought up the concept of communicating with “critters” and plants – and I was a bit floored that I had managed to “forget” this most basic technique – something I learned back in the 70’s when I read my first book about Findhorn. I have had some significant successes with this technique over the years. And plenty of failures. I was never quite sure what factors created a successful effort but it seems silly that I haven’t made this my first go-to method for dealing with problems in my garden. Silly because I HAVE had success. Instead, I will try things I have never tried before – spend $100 on a chicken feeder for instance – before I try using a much simpler (and FREE) technique that has actually worked for me in the past.
Back in the 80’s after years of battling slugs – drowning hundreds of them in beer and soapy water – I stood in the garden and – out loud – told them that I truly did not want to kill any more of them – BUT they must stop eating my food and flowers. I showed them an area they were welcome to have, and asked that they leave my garden alone. Much to my surprise – they DID! Up until then there were certain things I simply couldn’t plant because they were so quickly devoured by slugs! After that there was never a problem!
And a decade or so later in California at a garden plagued by gophers – I rescued one in the middle of a deluge. It was drowning in my flooded garden. I brought it into the house and put it in a box on an old towel and sat it on the oven door to warm and dry. The next day, when the weather cleared, I took it to a gopher hole I found about 50 feet from the house, and tipped it gently out of the box. It sat there looking up at me – and I told it that I would appreciate it if it and all its friends and relatives would leave my garden alone. It then turned and went quietly down the hole. I have never had another problem with gophers since!
As I am writing this I’m realizing that the thing these two profoundly successful experiences had in common – was my feelings of compassion and my strong desire to do them no harm – but to live together in harmony. Most of my other attempts have come in the form of angry threats or defeated pleas. These were times when I was able to calmly express my needs but didn’t feel angry or powerless.
I truly believe that we communicate our feelings and thoughts to one another all the time – just like radio and TV signals. We just don’t realize it most of the time. And I believe that all sentient beings – plant, insect and animal – are capable of this. Like many of you, I talk to my plants and pets and creatures I meet on my land and expect they understand at least my intent, if not my words. I know many of you reading this feel the same. It’s not something we talk about much because of the fear of being thought a bit unhinged, but I think gardeners are more apt to do this than any others – except perhaps animal lovers.
After I wrote that – I took an early walk through the woods because I just needed to be out there. I found a stump in the sun and sat there with Fizzy on my lap, and had a little heart to heart chat with the over-seeing “nature spirits” of this land and of the creatures that share it with us. I found myself putting out my very clear and strong desire to live together in harmony here. I truly don’t wish any of the creatures I am struggling with any harm. I can’t help but realize that I don’t know what hidden benefits they bring to us and the garden. So I do not wish them GONE (well maybe SOME of them…). I simply wish for balance. I expressed the fact that I am happy to share a portion of what I work so hard to grow – but it makes me really cranky having nearly all of it taken from me and my family – and my chickens.
I came back to the house with a sense of peace and a renewed feeling of love for this place and the work we are doing here and the desire to do it in a more harmonious way.
I will let you know how it goes…