You can amend your soil with chemicals, control the breeding of your animals through A.I., order hybrid seeds from the other side of the globe, get a Ph.D. in plant watering technology–whatever you want–but ultimately a happy farm life is dependent upon divine providence. The laboratory tells us many interesting things, but once you get out on the farm or in the garden where a million and one variables all come together in ways that you can never manage, the laboratory’s knowledge goes out the window. Sure, if you want to grow 10,000 acres of dent corn, you can make it as high-tech as you want. However, if you want to run a self-sufficient small family farm that actually grows food you can eat, all year round, and be healthy…you’re going to learn real fast that thanksgiving before meals isn’t a mere formality.
The ancients surrounded their farming work with prayers, sacrifices and special rites because they knew that the success of their farms and health of their animals was not in their hands. Some would laugh at them and call them all pagans and dreamers, but I admire their honesty in acknowledging that without supernatural blessings, the natural world doesn’t work the way we want it to. God promises his blessings to good people, and his blessings are not all celestial, not-yet promises of eternity. He promises thick crops, heavy vines, multiplying flocks, rivers of milk and honey, good weather…and domestic happiness.
Few, however, think that more importantly than their soil’s sandiness or the beetles on the beans, their spiritual may be what is ultimately spoiling their manual labor–but how could we say it’s not? God says to us plainly that his blessings are very much material blessings and that, while he grants them to both the righteous and the unrighteous, he rarely (if ever) curses the good man’s fields.
Rather than worry that your goats don’t get into the cabbage and that your chickens don’t quit laying…make sure that the human beings on your farm and in your home are doing what God intended THEM to be doing. Recognize God and his angels as your helpers in the barn and gardens. Don’t neglect aesthetics and meditation–God designed these things…they are the products of his own mind. Every bug and animal and plant on the farm was created as an individual servant of God with a distinct purpose. The chickens give us eggs, the cows give us milk, the sheep give us wool, the worms stir the soil, the manure nourishes the plants, the bees give us honey and wax. What’s our role? To make it all beautiful and to order it all to the glory of God. On most farms, it’s the people who are screwing everything up…and the university laboratories can’t help them with these problems. We need more St. Francis, more St. Benedict and certainly more of Our Lady in the garden and less talk of chemicals. The world is not a machine, but a creature.
“How varied are your works, LORD! In wisdom you have wrought them all; the earth is full of your creatures. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD be glad in these works! I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my theme be pleasing to God; I will rejoice in the LORD.” -Psalm 104