LAST week saw us too busy elsewhere that we seldom visited the planting site. As usual, our main concern if we could not be physically present was on the feeding of our farm animals.
Chickens and ducks, we observed, can stand not having corn or rice thrown for them to feed on. They forage on grass, vines and the leaves gathering under the trees. They also turn mulch inside out to pick whatever creature may be creeping or strutting inside the decaying matter. .
What I like about my chickens is that they seem to know where I have been sowing little seeds and they leave the growing seedlings alone. Ducks also look for their own food like chickens. They stay most of the time in the spring where they go after fish and tadpoles, including even the eggs. They also catch low-flying insects.
My dogs also find food in the planting sites. They just keep digging dog holes looking for some edible creatures underground.
Our cats must be hunters. They catch birds when there are no rats or mice around.
However, we are happier when we call them near to feed on some cracked corn, porridge or extra table food. Nanay voluntarily gives leftovers from her plate. She adds new rice, broth and fish for the cats. My Kuya Raul usually collects soy-bean scraps from a local taho vendor and he happily scatters this for all the garden animals to feed on. It is heartening to see dogs, cats, chickens and ducks gleefully waiting for his tricycle to stop with a bag or two of the creamy stuff.
My partner shells out a hefty amount to buy corn grits, bird feeds and broken rice for the farm animals. He also moves around the public market for fish entrails, small mulmol (fake tilapia) or chicken heads to feed the dogs and cats.
One time we left the garden for an important errand for four days. When we arrived, all the chickens, ducks, dogs and cats came hurriedly to meet us, getting restless as we struggled to open the gates as fast as we could. What a great feeling it was to see all these lovable creatures wanting a share in the fortune that we brought home. Pasalubong (token from a trip) might have originated this way. The giver is happier in seeing that someone is as eager to receive the bounty.
I am just wondering how despite the availability of food, there seems to be times when all of them seem to be competing for the food on hand. Everyone wants a fair share of the fortune, but no one seems ready and willing to wait for its own share of the food. It is like a queue for a food ticket where a million shows up only to learn much later that there are not even a thousand tickets on hand.
Then the dogs also eat cracked corn, cats get porridge too and the fowl scamper around the doggie bowls. What a chaotic scene! Or is it more shameful than worrisome?
Worse, dogs get duck eggs from the nests. Cats chase chicks and ducklings. Chickens feed on African night crawlers and the ducks eat cassava and gabi.
Nanay would say, these are the signs of the times of the great famine. Even animals show some wanting. She would then advise us to plant some more. If there are more than enough cassava, we can share our harvest with farm animals who also like it raw, boiled, grilled or steamed. Fowl likes to feed on young corn or sitaw seedlings, too.
Ah, food crops may be shared with farm animals, and that is the essence of a food forest. It feeds everything inside and around it, especially the birds, insects and worms, which no one else feeds.