Thursday, March 27, 2014

Symbiosis around the homestead....... part 1

Websters dictionary defines symbiosis as, "the living together in more or less intimate association or close union of two dissimilar organisms, a cooperative relationship." We are finding that the more symbiotic relationships that we can build between the different components of our homestead the more harmony we have, the healthier the livestock/garden/system is and the more money we save.

As I loaded old hay in the back of the truck this week I started thinking about all the ways we are integrating and building symbiotic relationships and thought "what a great idea for a blog series" so here we are.

Our little Rakin house (rabbitry with a few cleanup hens in residence) has been in need of clean out for quite some time. With my crazy schedule at school it kept getting put on the back burner but this week was spring break and it was time! While walking the pastures the week before I had noted a bunch of uneaten hay from the last bale of the winter and thought "that would be perfect for the rakin".

First thing in the morning I gathered my implements (shovels, rakes, gloves) and went to work. After offending all five hens by locking them in an empty rabbit cage, I shovelled out the rabbitry.

This truckload of garden gold will be worked into areas between plantings and add precious nutrition to the raised beds in our kitchen garden. Before integrating hens into the rabbitry, the buildup under the pens would be smelly, wet and full of larve etc. Since we put these five ladies to work there is no longer any odor, I did not see a single worm/larve as I was shoveling this load out and we have the added byproduct of happy hens who out produce (percentage wise per hen) our pastured hens. The Rakin ladies receive garden scraps and other plant stuffs daily along with their regular ration and cleaning up after the rabbits.

This is what the area of spent winter hay looked like before I loaded.

There was more than enough for a deep bedding in the rakin house. Left in the field this area of old hay would have retarded the growth of grass and been wasted material. It took less than five minutes to load it into the truck. Now the grass in that area will grow better, we didn't have to spend additional money on hay or wood chips to put down as substrate in the rakin and this old hay will be composted in with the rabbit manure by the hens into more garden gold. How cool is that!

Once in the rakin the old hay made a nice deep (about a foot) layer of bedding that the hens will work and turn as the rabbits add their part.  Don't the ladies look happy?

To review we touched on several interconnected symbiotic relationships in this one mornings activity. 

The hens keep the rabbitry clean, compost the droppings and hay while receiving a portion of their diet from the rabbits waste and associated insects. The eggs they produce contribute to feeding us, the dogs and pigs.

The old spent hay gained a purpose in bedding the rabbitry to then be turned into compost for the garden.

Since we are focusing on the rabbitry today it is worth noting that the day before when I processed 10 rabbits the meat went into our freezer, the pelts were frozen awaiting the day when I have enough time to learn to tan them, the livers and kidneys went into dog food and the rest of the innards went out to the pastured hens as a special treat. The only part disposed of were the heads and feet.  The symbiotic relationship in place between the rabbits and chickens alone is pretty cool. 

I am learning that symbiosis, thrift and self sufficiency are best friends. Hope you enjoyed part 1 of this series and gleaned ideas to take back to your own world. Please share any cool symbiotic relationships you are nurturing at your own place. We are all learning together on this journey.

1 comment:

  1. Exciting post! I look forward to seeing more of this series. I am also challenged to look at my own homestead and find where the symbiosis already exists and how it can be improved. Thanks!