There's this funny little verse in Proverbs that I came across awhile ago. I just keep coming back to it, and wondering what it means!
"Where no oxen are, the grain crib is empty, but much increase [of crops] comes by the strength of the ox." Proverbs 14:4 (amplified version)
So, I've thought and thought (and prayed some) about it, wondering what connection it has to my life. To my gasoline powered, electric lighted, supermarket shopping life. Anyone know someone with an ox or two? Nope, not me. At least not personally. My sponsored kids might, I guess. Maybe. They'd be lucky, anyone with an ox I imagine. So, what are oxen, what do they do, and why do they increase crops?
My theory is that oxen work the soil. They prepare for planting. You can plant without them, but I imagine planting a paddock (field) of maize or barley might be just a tad difficult if you had to plough it all yourself. Hard work. Very, very hard work. I imagine it might take too long and that you'd struggle to get the soil friable enough for seed to germinate and grow well. I have no proof of this, of course. I'm just imagining. Oxen pull a plough. So my theory is that if you own an oxen or two, you are able to plough a much larger area than you could do by yourself. Heck, I imagine an oxen drawn plough would do more work than an entire family of strapping young men out there shovelling dirt!
So now that I've thought about what oxen are and what they are for, I'm wondering what I have in my life that could equate to an ox. My breadmaker perhaps? Considering I'd otherwise have to knead bread by hand which means I just never would, maybe!?
Then I realised, I do have oxen. I have three. Only they are a bit smaller than a real ox. But then, our garden isn't exactly huge either. My chookies are my oxen. They till the soil for me. They also eat scraps, poop lots, and improve the soil fertility. And I don't have to stand behind a big baulky plough encouraging them to do so (like I imagine you do with oxen!). I just give them greens, grain, water and some hay or wood shavings, and they do the rest. Oh, and the occassional cockroach, leftover fruit, or worms from the compost bins also goes down well. They like that. They are three very happy chookies when I come calling!
What I theorise is that crops do not grow well of their own accord. You have to prepare an ideal environment. My chickens are helping do that, with as little direct effort from me as possible (plus, I get the bonus of fresh eggs in a few months time! Beat that!!!). I think that EVERY backyard suburban gardener should have a chicken tractor on their vege garden. I know, I know, I am biased. I LOVE chooks. But seriously, they are amazing animals! And don't go telling me you don't have room. There are always bantams. You might not get a tonne of eggs, but they still dig and poop enough for your lettuces and beans to be pleased you have them.
So, meet my (recently named!) oxen:
Autumn. My mother-in-law's idea. So named because her feather colour reminds me of autumn leaves. Rusty red and tan. Only this Autumn is fluffy too!
Ember. You can't tell in this picture, but Ember's eyes are an amazing golden yellow. Like embers. Beautiful.
Tui. After discarding all manner of names related to black things, I had an epiphany. This little black hen isn't really black at all. Her feathers shimmer and shine with hues of blue and green. So I named her after the shimmery shine of a tui's feathers. Black and green and blue. Just gorgeous.
Ah. It feels good to have finally given my girls names. They have grown so much since these photos were taken! It is just rather tricky getting pictures of them, they hardly ever stand still long enough (plus there is the small matter of the toddling boy trying to throw oranges, eat strawberries, and play in the birdbath!).
So, do you have any oxen in your life? What do you think this proverb means?