In the midst of waxing sentimental over baking bread, the scent of line-dried sheets, picking blueberries, snapping beans, and countless other ways we escape the chaos that is life: we neglected to tell you about our saltwater reef tank. The tank serves as our taste of luxury with its glorious array of bright colors and interesting shaped animals. Not only is it the centerpiece of our living room, but it is our inner courtyard and underwater garden.
Instead of watching television to zone out or wind down at the end of a long day, we sit in front of our glowing tank and get thoroughly lost in coral, anemone, crustaceans, and fish. All of the creatures in the tank work together so that they may live. The corals act as filters for the water and the fish keep the algae from growing over the corals (if allowed to grow, they would block the light and rob nutrients). Even the sand, which is filled with living organisms, works to keep the water clean. The snails sift the sand and the crustaceans act as janitorial staff and morticians. There is life in every corner of the tank. Life that is hard at work so that others may live. Essentially, the reef is a utopia.
We have one of the most complex ecosystems in the world peacefully existing behind some glass in our house. In maintaining the tank, we learned about balance. The tank could be rolling along great guns and then we add more sand or the power goes out — suddenly we have unhappy corals, dead anemone, and stressed out fish. One small element can be the difference between mind-numbing beauty and complete chaos.
These lessons can carry over into farming. We plan (one day) to have a fish farm, chemical-free U-pick vegetable garden and orchard, grass-fed beef operation, and free-range poultry. The water & waste from the fish will water the garden and fields. The grass will feed the cattle and poultry which we will rotate. The compost from the cattle and poultry will help to replenish the soil and also go into the garden. The garden also helps to feed the fish (more on this in another post because it’s really cool). See? We’ve learned a lot from the reef tank!
As I sat and watched the reef tank while folding clothes this morning, I could see the chickens through the window as they hunted for insects, plucked at the damp grass, and fluffed their feathers. The sun was just beginning to rise which meant that egg production would be good today. And you know what a full egg basket does to me.