Scavengers First

homestead story

When you live on land thats been abused and neglected, you get to know the scavengers first. Ants, yellow jackets, black widows, gophers and coyotes were the residents when we first arrived.

Office View Year Four

The ants and yellow jackets got my bee hive. After a few months of battling I opened the lid to find the queen gone and none to replace her. My first instinct was to do away with the scavengers, thats what I thought you did, but thats not the answer. Never fight the scavengers.
The real answer is balance. When you cultivate abundant life, the scavengers don’t disappear, they just stop being such a problem, they are of course a blessing in their own way. I’m actually NOT looking forward to the day when there are no more gophers on our property. Where will my dog get such a fresh source of meat?
A common permaculture story to illustrate: a community of sheep ranchers band together to kill off all the coyotes. After succeeding, their flocks double in size and they expand their ranches. With the predation that once kept the flocks smaller gone, the vegetation disappears, consumed by too many sheep. Hunger sets in. The sick and weak sheep that were normally culled live to infuse the heard with ample disease. Herds collapse, hills erode, balance is lost.
San Francisco is trying to figure out how to cope with their coyotes. I wonder if most of the residents realize the problem is not a lack of coyotes, but a lack of frogs, rabbits, gophers and other non-domesticated LIFE – things that keep a coyote occupied. We’re never separate from nature, we just need to make better peace with it in our cities. Scavengers will always come, they need forests to live in.
It didn’t take time for the frogs to return to our land. Its a small spot, surrounded by green, I suspect it will heal quickly in the scheme of things. As we cultivate pockets here and there we inevitably displace scavengers and add fertility to the soil. The more we occupy gently, thoughtfully, the more alive this place comes. We have to earn the right to bring this land alive again.

New Garden Beds

The lizards love us, so do the many visiting rabbits for all the extra muchables we bring to the land. Our chickens are the best at turning over mulch. Just roll some out, cover it with straw and watch them push stuff around for a few months. They even mix in their own manure. The land loves the chickens, I know because she told me.
We’re now in year four of living here. We departed from permaculture ideals this winter, creating raised beds with hardware cloth to repel gophers. It really is a pain fighting gophers every day, disappointment is not a quality of sustainable homesteading. The raised beds attract us to the garden more, water and mulch and compost all bleed out into the surrounding terrain.

Greens Explosion

It takes too much energy to fight scavengers. Better to find ways to make inroads, small steps here and there.The gophers have stopped showing up in the garden, after banging against the boxes for a few months. Next we need some ducks for the slugs and snails, as soon as we figure out just how water should flow down our land. I want a couple of small ponds, we’ll see what the land says.
I decided to let the wild grasses grow as high as they would this year. They’ve topped five feet easily. The birds love the seeds, bending them over but not breaking them off at the base. The grass is now laying flat in places, covering the mulch the chickens mixed in, holding that soil fast. There used to be a cabin there, when I tore it down it was a dust bowl. The land is healing itself, finding its own balance.
Plants that show up out of nowhere are called volunteers. You could say the same for scavengers. They’re always looking to occupy desolate spaces, like a beacon they can draw us to where healing is needed. Not just for the land of course, but healing for ourselves as well.
I think the land is almost ready for another hive. I can’t wait!


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