It all started with a $20 donation to Heifer Project. Heifer Project is a wonderful international charity organization that takes the “Teach a Man to Fish” paradigm one step farther. First they teach a man to raise fish. Or a woman to tend dairy goats. Or a teenager to raise meat rabbits. You get the idea. Then they give said persons the fish, goats, or rabbits, on the condition that, when the animals are bred, the caregiver will “pass on the gift” by giving some of the progeny to another deserving, trained person in need. Heifer has existed for about 70 years, and has operations around the world. After you make a donation, you get a free subscription to their “World Ark” magazine, among the most readable of such publications I have seen.
So one morning I found myself reading an article about a farmer in Southeast Asia who had implemented an impressively integrated farm model on his family’s relatively small property. Food scraps from their garden were fed to their chickens, ducks, rabbits, and goats. Anything they all didn’t want went into their worm bin. Escaped or surplus worms were happily eaten by the chickens. The ducks roamed flooded fields, foraging for snails and fertilizing the flora. Chickens helped keep insect pests under control. The goats were kept in a pen above the pond: fed weeds and fibrous crop waste (goats think cornstalks are as tasty as Snickers bars), their “nannyberries” became fish food. The fish in turn became people food, and the scraps became chicken food. Rabbit droppings fertilized the vegetable gardens, the produce from which fed the humans and the scraps from which fed the rabbits. And of course the rabbits also fed the people, from time to time. You see where this is going. The waste from one animal or plant was food for another. There was no “trash,” just resources to be moved from producer to consumer. A nearly closed system. Harmless. Wise. Absolutely beautiful. Now how could I get in on that?
I was looking for a worthwhile project. I was a stay-at-home mom and part-time daycare provider, college educated but with little daily stimulation. I wasn’t a PTA sort of gal, or a play-date-in-the-park sort of gal. Have you seen that T-shirt that reads “Does not play well with others”? I am absolutely amazed that none of my siblings has given it to me for Christmas yet. Here was what I needed to do - what that farmer half a world away was doing, in whatever way I could, on my own little 1/3 of an acre on the periphery of urban Long Beach, California. Take care of myself and my own, with as little waste and bother to others as possible. That would keep me occupied for awhile. In the process, I just might figure out why exactly I wanted it to.