Episode 192. Notes From The Field.

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 28th of October 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

We have hit the turning point of the growing year in Highclere, Tasmania. The first of November is, allegedly, the date when frosts are over. We will see. I had to scrape ice of the windscreen last week. Note a killing frost but a frost nonetheless. 

The pears have lost their petals and the fruits are taking shape. The raspberries are about to flower and the apples from early through to late varieties are in the process of blooming. In orchards I’ve managed previously, the buzzing of honey bees has been almost overwhelming. I have spotted no such activity this year. To be fair, we are still a month away from our one year anniversary on the property so this level of bee activity may well be normal. That the pears are developing would suggest I may be worrying about something I shouldn’t.

On the animal front, one of the geese wandered back from the nest with seven goslings. One looked a little undersized and recycled back to nature at some stage Wednesday night. The second goose was not successful. One dead gosling and five unhatched eggs. She joined the gander and her sister goose to look after the remaining six goslings. A short video is embedded in the blog post accompanying this podcast, link in the show notes.

Our neighbours are slowly de-stocking. We have two Wiltshire Horn ewes and they had a yearling rm and ewe for sale so now we have a tiny flock of one ram and three ewes. Again there’s a short video on the website showing how these are basically ignoring each other. They’ll come together eventually. The plan is to put them into the paddock rotations three units ahead of the pigs and one ahead of the chooks. This will, in theory, make better use of the feed, the droppings and the limited space we have. The Whiltshires are much cheaper than the dairy ewes we eventually plan to have as part of the system. A home dairy production of some sort is almost critical for a small holding. 

We’ve decided to go with sheep because the only dairy cow breed we could sustain without buying excessive amounts of feed would be a Dexter. A single cow is more difficult to get mated than sheep. And a Dexter would require a Dexter bull. Anything bigger would cause calving issues, possibly. With dairy sheep, any old ram will get the job done. Obviously we’d have a dairy sheep ram but if he keeled over unexpectedly, even a merino ram would still get the job done.

The dairy plan means buying three ewes and a ram in April 2020 after selling off the Wiltshire Horns. Three ewes would provide six litres a day for 7 months. Sheep’s milk is much “stronger” than cows in that six litres will make one kilo of cheese whereas ten litres of cow’s milk is needed for the same kilo. The other advantage sheep’s milk has over cows and goats is that it doesn’t separate when frozen.

Now if we hit a dry spell or even a drought, we can dry off one or two ewes and still have sufficient milk for the household. With the six litres a day we’ll be separating cream and sending the skim milk to the pigs. In a drought we’d dry off to the one mentioned above and put the pigs into the freezer. To  my way of thinking this setup is more flexible than putting all our eggs into the one cow basket. Mind you that has advantages too but I think the flexibility wins out in a period of flux.

To add another dimension, almost literally, the individual grazing units, of which we will have 18, will have their borders planted to fruit tree hedgerows, of a sort. This will provide another form of feed and food. As I mentioned back in Episode 184, the feed under a tree line running across the middle of our long rectangular block has much more feed in the “shaded” areas than the open paddock. Taking that principle to its logical conclusion would have the entire surface covered with trees. I’m going one step short of that and having roughly 10m x 20m fields with hedges. That’s 35 x 70 feet, roughly, in the old money.

We’ll use a succession of apples from early to late, pears and quinces as the fruit component and intersperse these with hazelnuts and the occasional acacia to fix some nitrogen.

That’s the plan and steps we’ve taken so far. Everything is subject to change. I’ve just recently heard a podcast about urban vineyards so the idea of adding a few grapes around the house paddock is starting to fester in the back of my mind.

Layers and layers of food/feed producing plants and animals all adding to the complexity of the system we are building. I like to add things slowly and in small numbers just to see their effect and ensure we don’t create more problems than we are attempting to solve. The process is quite intellectually fulfilling. A good and useful way to both exercise the mind and create a physical environment that’s pleasant to the eye: Win/Win.

And on that note, I’ll pull the pin on this episode.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

We are in the process of writing RegenEarth’s second season of podcasts and I’ll let you know when they are roaming free on the interwebs. In the meantime you might want to listen to our short season one and subscribe so you’re ready for when season 2 drops.

Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next week.

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LINKS

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Topical Talks

Episode 184 https://worldorganicnews.com/2019/09/02/episode-184-20-years-and-more-we-knew/

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