Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Farming With Nature, Rebecca from Village Farm in Devon UK, explains how there are two common grazing methods which observes and respects nature and it’s beings whereby they will ensure that the grazing animals do not disturb ground nesting birds, at certain times of the year, for example. Their goal after their first year on that farm is to convert the part that they share into pasture with the eventual goal of a manageable woodland (Perhaps Agroforestry?).

”Modern industrial farming is locked into the mantra of more and more, productivity is promoted while health, well-being and the biosphere are cast aside. What might Farming with nature look like? Living with the land, a Regenerative Agriculture looks to build the soil while providing good food for everyone forever, without wrecking the rest of the world…” – Colin Tudge, Campaign for Real Farming

She goes on to explain the grazing cycles and cool down periods where a sectioned paddock will have no grazing for 4 months on a rotation before animals will be allowed back onto the site, this is similar in concept to the Chicken Tractor System. The way that this unique system of Animal / Herd management actually builds the soil is quite astonishing, so simple and obvious yet look at how the industrial / monoculture / corporate driven models are so destructive!

It’s not my saying but I will keep repeating it, ”Model / Observe Nature – Work With Her, Not Against Her”

 

Video Courtesy of Permaculturemedia on youtube. Click Here for Part1 and Part2.

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In Part Two in this series, (Click Here for Part 1) they go though the differences and advantages with Natural Building materials versus Modern Building and Construction.

Various different applications are mentioned as well as a bit of history / facts regarding statistics on worldwide usage …

Did you know that of all the pollution caused by mainstream construction, Cement accounts for 14% of all Carbon Dioxide waste worldwide? And here in the UK, you can see good useable half fill (Sometimes 100% full) bags of cement being thrown away in Rubbish Skips (Dumpsters) as they were merely extra leftovers after the construction project was complete? All of my own cement I have used over the last 6 years have been salvaged from Skips!

 

 

I will (hopefully weekly) be posting part by part, all of the episodes of Living With The Land which is a series shot by the good people involved with the Permaculture scene (mainly Permaculture Media) in the UK.

forest gardening

Just one example of how inside / part of a Forest Garden looks like

In this episode they discuss the concept behind Forest Gardening and how it is done, it includes some interview time with Martin Crawford who is known famously in the UK scene as he owns and has been maintaining a 20+ year old forest garden.

 

Follow my blog for updates when I post the following videos in the series, for the imaptient, you can view the series on their youtube channel from the above video.

veg-patch-view

Mandy and her partner run a section of a cooperatively bought piece of land and run their Incredible Vegetables enterprise, as much as I would like to explain some details about their project, I will most likely be mirroring exactly what is already in the interview. Here are a few previous posts (Post 1) & (Post 2) regarding Incredible Vegetables for those who haven’t seen them yet.

What was your inspiration to create your enterprise? did you already have this in mind when you obtained your little strip of land or was it later on?

We didn’t have an enterprise in mind when we first obtained the land. We wanted to be self sufficient in vegetables, that was our main priority. The enterprise essentially developed from sharing what we were doing on social media and people starting asking us about the plants we were growing. There is such an interest in perennial vegetables that once people heard we were experimenting with such plants we had a huge number of requests. We thought why don’t we try and grow and supply a few of the harder to find edible perennials? It all developed from there and Incredible Vegetables was launched!

What is your reason for concentrating on unusual / bizzarre vegs and edible plants?

We spent many years as  ‘regular’ growers. By that I mean growing stuff in the back garden, including all the things you would normally find in a vegetable garden. We thought there must be more to eat and grow and there must be a different way of doing it. There are a myriad of edimentals and perennial vegetables out there and once you start researching them it is pretty hard to stop. Also we wanted to move away from enormous amount of work that annual growing involves.
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Today whilst trying to get a list of Perennial Herbs which are good in most Temperate Climates (mainly for the UK climate due to locality) I came across this extensive list that is short in descriptions, to the point and advises whether the plant is annual, biennial or perennial.

herbs

I’m just sharing the link below for anyone interested, their organisation has morals too, they have a pledge to be 100% peat free in their business – take a quick read on the peat free page, it is quite interesting and might make you think twice when buying compost again. This list is a great reference you could use to decide which herbs to obtain, further research for each plant’s specific requirements is likely to be needed once you have selected species and varieties.

http://www.devongrown.co.uk/herb-list.html

Nevermind mechanical tractors, the Chicken Tractor is not really a machanical machine at all, it’s just a quirky nickname for something far better than a Petrol Guzzling Monoculture Farmageddon contraption…

Simply put, a Chicken Tractor is a Chicken Coop on wheels, without a floor so that the Chickens can forage on the ground beneath the Tractor for a day then the Tractor will be moved the length of the coop the next morning in a rotation around a pre-designed (And pre-seeded) Plot of Land. This provides natural food (vegetation as well as insects) and a more natural almost free range style environment for them!
The benefits are good, The birds rely on less imports (feed) so it is a cost saver, they are healthier, the land gets ‘scratched over’ with pests becoming Chook food, the ground also gets manured so that the perennial greens have sufficient nutrients to sprout back before the Tractor is back in the same spot after sometime.

In the below Video, Joel Slatin (aka the Nutcase Farmer) explains the concept on his industrial sized enterprise:

Some more designs:

Article on Wikipedia:

Chicken tractors allow free ranging along with shelter, allowing chickens fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs (although these will quickly be stripped away if the tractor remains in the same place for too long), which widens their diet and lowers their feed needs. Unlike fixed coops, chicken tractors do not have floors so there is no need to clean them out. They echo a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, then go on to a new area.

The term chicken tractor comes from the chickens performing many functions normally performed using a modern farm tractor: functions like digging and weeding the soil in preparation for planting trees or crops or fertilizing and weeding to enhance the growth of crops and trees already planted.

With chicken tractors flock owners can raise poultry in an extensive environment wherein the birds have access to fresh air, sunlight, forage and exercise, which caged birds in commercial coops do not have. With the coop on only a small area at any given time, the field has time to wholly regrow and more birds can be fed than if they were allowed to freely roam. A chicken tractor also gives some shelter from predators and weather. Moreover, hens lay eggs in nest boxes rather than hiding them in foliage.

In the below videos (Both less than 2 / 3 min’s each) the Guy explains the setup on day one of the tractor and birds being put into place, then day two (2nd Video) you see the area after the Tractor is relocated and the effects / benefits of Chicken Tractoring.
These two videos are what first made me understand the full reasoning and intent / benefits behind this practice a couple years ago when I first came across the concept.

Video 1; Chicken Tractor on first location:
https://youtu.be/3Er7R-AKQGg

Video 2; Result day after adn explanation of findings:
https://youtu.be/GQE0WyxgTT4

Late Summer / Early Autumn is the best time to start gathering the materials you need for your planned Hugel Bed / Mound, many Herbaceous plants which can be used in conjunction with the wood logs, branches and sticks are now ready to be chopped down and composted or used in another way. Autumn / Winter is the preferred time her in the UK to create your Hugelkultur mounds mainly due to the need for the wet season to soak the beds, the buried logs will soak up the winter rains for months until the upcoming growing season.

Two pieces of advice I can definitely lecture on about in this article to ensure a successful Hugel Project are;
1: Ensure Air Spaces inside the mound and
2: Add lots of Nitrogen rich Biomass internally to offset the nitrogen locking that the logs will create during decomposition

Air Spaces:
Although there are guaranteed to be air spaces between the logs and branches / sticks, I have found that rain and the settling down of the materials can cause these spaces to fill in, often causing or risking an anaerobic result – go explore your garden or any other garden you have access to (You may even be able to make a deal with a local gardening company – they could leave a bag of said such materials for you outside one of their customers properties so as long as you collect the bag and not leave unwanted contents at the site!) remember, you can always bargain that most companies have to pay to dump their waste at commercial specialist dumps, remind them that you are helping them reduce the need to do so, in most cases they will still have charged their customers to ”remove” the waste even though you took if off of their hands, the customer will inevitably still be charged for it being dumped.

There are many herbaceous plant species which have a hollow stem and need cutting down in Autumn, cut these stems into pieces which you will spread around and in between your logs at different levels to ensure small air cavities will remain. Cedums, Ornamental Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Young Bamboo (and old), some Hydrangea varieties and many more have hollow cavity stems which harden enough when dry to be used in this case.

Then there is dry hard leaf ”garden waste” which takes ages to decompose, these are leaves from shrubs and trees which are more on a glossy and hard / stiff texture than a soft / decidious and most likely in all cases, evergreen. Three options I have from the top of my head as examples are the leaves of ‘Magnolia Grandeflora’, The climber ‘Clematis Armandii’ , the Loquat ‘Eribotrya japonica’ Fruit Tree, Some Rhododendrons (look for the large leaved varieties) and Laurels. We have found that most of these leaves can take up to two years in an unturned / undisturbed compost pile to break down, they maintain their structure even when pressed down so they are perfect for maintaining air spaces / gaps internally within the Hugel Bed / Mound! Practically any glossy leaved plant / shrub / tree will do but the larger and dryer – the better!
In fact, a couple of these Tree / Shrub leaves will actualy curl up to form a cilyndrical tube shape with an internal hollow gap, when pressed these are strong and bounce back right away once released.

Nitrogen Rich Biomass:
Probably one of the best options are fresh grass clippings from your lawn mowing or that of a neighbour / friend. You can even clip your grass at your home twice a week for the last 3 or so weeks of Summer, keep these clippings aside in a breathable bag until ready to add into the Hugel Bed – if you obtain clippings over several weeks, you Will need to add additional fresh greens into the mix to compenate lost nitrogen.
Horse Manure is also a great option but I would suggest it be used more as an addition to fresh green waste rather than 100% of the nitrogen source
The not-so-popular option amongst people new to Permaculture, is human Urine, which has a good nitrogen content and is often used diluted 1 part to 10 in early season liquid feed for plants
If you plan on lets say December being your target month for getting your Hugel project started, I would advise Growing a patch of Broad or Field bean green manure from Late August / Early September – these will be ready for chopping down and adding into your bed around and amongst the logs as the fresh greens instead of grass clippings which won’t be available during that month anyway

Further Reading: Click Here for an article on the step-by-step making of a Hugelkultur Mound / Bed