'Permaculture Pets' at Hostile Valley Farm
At Hostile Valley Farm, we believe that you can have a farm that raises livestock without butchering them. I’ve run into a lot of discussion online lately about farming and having pets, folks who believe that if you aren’t butchering your animals you just aren’t farming or you are somehow weak. But I believe my animals are both useful, hard working farm assets and also pets.
I do not believe in any model of farming or homesteading that says if you do not butcher animals, you aren’t a real farmer. If you are growing your own food, striving towards self sufficiency and working your land to the best of your abilities, you’re doing a good thing and you are “homesteading”. I can say from experience that you are definitely working hard enough and are not weak.
I also have a lot of respect for farmers who do butcher their animals. It’s something that I could not do, and I have admiration for anyone who eats meat and has taken on the responsibility of making sure their food has a happy, healthy life and only one bad day.
Our farm is home to goats, pigs, geese, ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, dogs and cats. Each creature serves a purpose, some more effectively than others. We got goats to help eat the brush down along the stone walls that line our property. They also provide us with more milk than we can drink.
Our chickens were our first egg animal, and during the summer they keep us in a great supply of eggs. We’ve since supplemented them with the ducks, who are also good layers and eat slugs and other pests.
The geese do lay eggs, seasonally in the early spring to summer, but their big job is guarding our chickens and property. A large flock of geese is an intimidating deterrent to most predators, and the whole flock sounds a loud alarm whenever something is out of place on the farm.
The hardest workers on the farm are the guinea fowl and the pigs. Guineas do lay eggs, but usually lay them off in the woods so I don’t always find them. What guinea fowl accomplish is keeping our fields tick-free. High energy and far ranging, our guineas eat up ticks, bugs, and even small snakes. They’re extremely effective and always working.
Of all of our animals, pigs are the ones you’re least likely to see on a farm that does not butcher their animals. But the pigs are dedicated workers. Their job is clearing bush, stumps, and overgrowth from several acres we hope to turn into a pond and pasture some day. They can accomplish in a week what would take us a month of hard work to do. In the winter, when frozen ground makes it impossible to rotate their temporary fencing through the woods, they stay in our garden. They leave rich droppings and turn the soil that we do not have the rototil in the spring.
All of these animals serve purposes, and they are all very well loved. Knowing that we will not be butchering them, we bond with them and care for them every day of their lives. It’s those bonds that inspire us even when things don’t seem to be going right. A lot is made of sustainability, and the love of our animals sustains the drive for this lifestyle. If it were simply a mater of a belief in our mission, but without heart, it wouldn’t be the same. When things go wrong on the farm or in our persona lives, it’s the animals that provide us with a daily consistency, routine, and always a smile.