Another gorgeous day on the farm.
The land is turning emerald green … the second ‘cover’ this ground has produced since we arrived nearly one year ago.
The earth on this property has been hammered, not a word I have used in the past to describe property often but it fits with the history of this place.
A horse and a little pony walked over what was left of this land when I first saw it … it was bare and dead, not a blade of grass, no insects, no life in sight. The manure from the horses just sat, like rocks on the ground.
I knew instantly the land had been ‘conventionally managed’ or more simply put, poisoned.
I, and I am sure many of you have seen the results of suburban house yards ‘cleaned up’ with weed killer … baked, bare earth, left cracked due to nothing now protecting the soil and the nutrients locking up. All life disappears, the earth worms, the fungi, the lot!
Now imagine 5 acres that has had the same intense treatment, plus the compaction of two horses for a dozen years, add on previous use as an intensive horse agistment business and prior to that, a pony stud and before, used as a dairy.
To sum it up for at least the last 50 years this land has been, as I first stated, hammered!
One more little thing, we are in a very small pocket of rare earth known as ‘cracking clay’ or ‘dispersing clay’. A very fragile type of soil which at the first sign of mishandling with set like concrete in the dry, a quicksand like bog in the wet, hold no moisture, prone to salt issues, high pH and I am sure it has left many a gardener and farmer in despair!!!
Oh and have I mentioned the rabbits, they are everywhere, little tails bop around the paddocks all day long:)
So this is what we have done for the first year to bring life back to the land here.
Basically by doing nothing that harms and by trying to do what will enhance the earth healing itself to give it a chance to make top soil and replace what was lost over many years.
Our budget didn’t allow for bringing in 1000’s of truck loads of top soil and outside compost, so the idea has been to give the land a hand to heal itself. This is how …
Paddock Paradise System
Our livestock have been kept off 4 of the 5 acres.
With the one acre left we have created lane ways, the beginnings of our Paddock Paradise.
In naturally managed farms, when the droughts hit, you might allocate one paddock as a ‘sacrificial paddock’, meaning you house all the livestock in one spot, hard/hay feed them there and leave the rest of the land to rest and wait for rain, rather then have every last blade of dry grass and its roots ripped out of the ground over your entire property. This means the sacrificial paddock is compacted to dust and might take ages to recover but it is a smart way to save the rest of the farm… I believe though that a Paddock Paradise System is an even smarter way.
Paddock Paradise Systems are an area used by the stock all of the time and if designed with thought, the ‘compaction’ of the lane way can be taken advantage off by designing any runoff, rich in manure, to irrigate and feed the grazing paddocks and fodder belts.
The big plan for our land is for a ‘Paddock Paradise’ to wrap itself around the whole property, passing stock yards, connecting fodder belts and leading into intensive grazing paddocks.
Paddock Paradise Systems are a very simple but brilliant idea first promoted (that I am aware of) by Jaime Jackson in a book he published in 2006 aimed at improving the care of domestic horses.
As soon as I understood more about the system I could see how it could be beautifully applied to general livestock keeping, actually I think it would be a great solution to the keeping of any domestic animal, including canine, felines, poultry, sheep, pigs …
The idea, if I could do it justice, in just a few lines, is that you create a lane way (of at least 3 metres wide) that house the livestock full time. Food and water are put at opposite ends of the lane to encourage the livestock to move around their environment. The lane way surface changes, from sandy to rocky, muddy to dry, rises and ditches, to encourage good hoof and muscle development. Natural shade and shelters are also a feature, allowing animals to seek protection from the elements, for their comfort and to reduce stress.
By putting in a lane way around your property … you are saving main paddocks from heavy compaction and leaving them to be used as high quality grazing areas, add to this fodder tree belts and you start to have a system that dramatically increases the quality of life for livestock, decreases feed costs and helps improve the land, rather then destroys it.
Holding true to my love of Permaculture, our Paddock Paradise is planned to be multi purpose, not just for animals but for people too. The finish product will be used as a walking track for our family and the dogs, a place to safely ride the ‘pony’, as a pretty amazing bike track and the poultry will have access to sections of it when we need them to do their job of cleaning up manure and weeds.
The first few sections of the Paddock Paradise have been set up using electric fencing and star pickets. Our Dexter cows, Garland and Custard currently live in the first section of the lane-way. The additional sections will be added as time permits.
What About the Weeds?
There is a famous quote ‘a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong spot’. So true.
As far as I am concerned, the weeds here are in the perfect spot!
We have been informed that in the past, the land here was continuously sprayed to keep it ‘weed free’. What resulted was nothing at all grew. Here is an example of what I mean by nothing.
When we first arrived, we had a little family of guinea pigs, one male, two females (and yes there are a few more now). There was not one bit of any thing green on the ground OVER 5 ACRES, nothing, not one blade of grass, or weed, I have witnesses who were just as shocked as I, at the lack of anything and with the broad scale destruction of what could be fertile ground.
The types of weeds that could grow (and are still growing) here, were all that could survive on nutrient staved, compacted, lifeless soil.
By killing these weeds with poison, all that was achieved was to leave dead bare soil.
I ‘love’ our weeds, they are out doing the rabbits, millions germinate after light rain and they are covering the ground, saving it from baking under the hot sun.
Bring into the picture my ‘red convertible’ Ms Fergie, a 25 horse power tractor with a slasher and in just a few laps of the paddock, we have fresh green ‘free’ mulch laying over the soil, adding nutrient, a feast for insects and soil life and the cycle repeats itself, until the nutrient and life levels of the soils increase enough to support a wider range of herbs and grasses, trees and bushes.
I am looking forward to the next laps around our paddocks!
The Good Spray
We do not use a poison spray, but we do apply a good spray that feeds the soil. I mix up Apple Cider Vinegar, Bull Kelp, Crushed Fish, Manure (hope you are not in the middle of a snack) left over beer, molasses, in fact anything that is natural and has good nutrients or has the potential to feed the soil or the life that should be living there!
The potion is strained and put into a spray unit and we give the ground a good cover. After rain is best but really, whatever time you have available, is time to apply the good spray 🙂 Again for us, Ms Fergie comes to the rescue, towing a 500 litre spray unit with 8 metre boom and 30 metre hose does make the job of feeding 5 acres of soil a more simpler task.
Photos coming soon …
More updates to come, stay turned.
Off to dream up more garden designs,
Deborah from Deliciously Inspiring Gardens