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The Symbiotic Homestead

Have you noticed that everything on a homestead is interwoven and connected?

It's a web of things that benefit us and also benefit each other. It's amazing how closely connected these systems are.

If you're a TV watcher, you're probably familiar with Gibbs on the show NCIS. Gibbs has rules for his life, and often refers to them as "Rule #9". Likewise, although mine aren't numbered, I have rules for my life as well.

One of my rules when we began homesteading was that everything we did should have a purpose. If it didn't have a purpose, it had to go. My list looks like this:

  • Chickens: provide eggs
  • Goats: milk, and the kids were sold for income
  • Garden: vegetables and herbs
  • Fruit trees: fruit
  • Livestock guardian dog (LGD): protect goats and chickens
  • Barn cats: keep down rodent and gopher population
  • Guineas: eat ticks and fleas (well, until they became coyote food)
  • Steer: grass-fed beef
  • Pigs: pork
  • My next addition will be bees to provide honey

On the surface, that looks pretty good. But if we look a little deeper, we can see that many of these have more than one purpose.

Our little orchard not only provides fruit, but the fallen leaves go on the compost pile, and the branches provide shade for our home and cover for songbirds. Their spring flowers feed the bees, especially our plum trees that bloom early.

The chickens and goats provide droppings that are composted to fertilize our garden. Goats and old hens provide meat. Extra eggs and milk are fed to the dogs, as well as organ meats and bones. A bottle calf or pigs can be fed goat milk.

We grow some plants to feed the livestock as well as to feed us, and others that are medicine. Plant waste is composted; the compost enriches our garden soil and fertilizes the plants. Those bees that feed on the plum trees' blossoms also pollinate our garden.

Let's go even deeper, and think about how you can put these systems to work. Pigs can till a new garden site. Chickens can clean up the garden in the fall. Our steer ate weeds that our horses wouldn't touch, so he contributed to pasture management. Goats can clear brush.

Composting inside a hoophouse or making a hotbed will help keep your plants warm in cold weather. Keeping chickens in the greenhouse will also help raise the temperature in the winter.

What about my horses, you ask? They do have a purpose, although it isn't as obvious as the animals that provide meat, milk or eggs: they feed my soul. There's a saying that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a [wo]man. They remind me of my father who hauled my horse and me to weekend shows, of my grandparents who gave me that horse, and of my youngest daughter who rode with me until she grew up and moved away. Plus their "horse apples" go on the compost pile, so they aren't entirely worthless.

This web that connects everything proves to me that God has provided all we need. We are merely caretakers, working the land and caring for the animals as He intended us to do.

Related Posts:
Why You Should Have Goats on Your Homestead
Why You Should Grow Comfrey
Homesteading: Where on Earth Do You Start?

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
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  1. Enjoyed this Kathy because our views are completely on track. We're in the process of selling our livestock for a move that will set up a homestead community. It took me almost two months to decide to let go of some of our animals because I've enjoyed so much of everything you've shared here by having them aboard. Another day I guess because this new land is going to be quite the project.

    Carole @ Garden Up Green

    1. Wow, that sounds interesting! I'm looking forward to reading more about it, Carole.

  2. I was just discussing this with my husband since we are finally starting our laying hen flock this spring, and I have big plans for them. They give eggs, entertainment, bug control, weed control, and fertilizer. That's a lot for such a small animal, but so important to the homestead. We don't have enough land for cattle or pigs, so the meat rabbits and chickens work for us.

    1. Chickens and rabbits are an important part of the homesteading system, Michelle. Both are important in the scheme of things. Most people don't have space for large livestock; good for you for making the most of the space you have available.

  3. I love that aspect of homesteading - having our own little eco-system. I've tried to learn more and more of these things over the years.

    1. Eco-system, that's the perfect description, Michelle.

  4. Wanting things to have a purpose is why I wouldn't have ornamental plants...I need them to be edible, or at least really good for bees. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!

    1. Edible, medicinal, or beneficial to pollinators - I agree!

  5. You are so right about everything on a homestead (smallholding) being interconnected and I just wish more people realised this. Sadly it seems many are too far removed from nature now to understand how important she is to our survival. We work to a similar rule here and it includes our boys - they have to help out with jobs and not just skulk on their computers all day! #WasteLessWednesday

    1. I agree about putting kids to work on the homestead. :-)

  6. Such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

  7. This is a beautiful, thought-provoking post, Kathi and I'm so glad you shared it with us at Hearth and Soul. Pinned to my Sustainable Living Pinterest board.


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