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Armyrick's Land Healing Farm...


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OK, A short while ago I said I would talk about how land healing, environmentally regenerative farms will/should be the way of the future.

Problem: Too much Carbon in atmosphere (Not argue it)
Problem: Population is going up
Problem: Livestock typically raised in an unhealthy manner

Solution: Farm holistically with healthy products that is financially feasible, socially acceptable and Environmentally regenerative.

There are many, many farms that practice similar methods to mine (polyface's Joel Salatin is probably the most famous and Allan Savory is very well known) and guess what? We are growing!

I have critics, yes I get it. I am too busy farming to argue with these people.

Lets dismiss the myths

MYTH ONE: This is only possible on small farms.
Reality: Small farms, large farms or huge farms can practice these principles. Neil Dennis in Saskatchewan has 10,000 acres and raises approximately 1,000 beef steers EVERY year.

MYTH TWO: This will not feed the world
Reality: Really? Hands on, farming and gardening in the methods our grandparents practice, produces WAY more food and in richer nutrition to boot. My grandfather would use chicken and cattle manure to add to the soil and grow 14 foot high corn plants in the 1940s (long before GMOs tried miserably and failing to do similar). Cattle can graze the same grass field 2-4 times in a year depending on precipitation and soil conditions. Once you try to get them by on corn or grain, the land requirements multiply 3-4 times. One acre of corn produces way less food than one acre of mature grass.

MYTH THREE: There is not enough land
Reality: There is plenty of land available that sits idle and not used or abused. Hop with me in my car and I can show you plenty of unused farms. Ridiculous mind sets such as land prices and quota systems make getting into farming near impossible. Society must change its attitude. I personally say if you own farm land, get it farmed or pay through the nose in taxes.

Thats just a few myths I wanted to scratch. Go ahead, counter my arguments, be logical though, thats all I ask.

So my livestock? I have a heard of Dexter cattle, chickens (layers) and some rabbits. The Dexters are my centre piece. Truth is any breed appropriate to your climate will do. I keep my girls corralled in tight paddocks and rotate them every 1-2 days. In this time, they eat a large portion of the grasses, sedges, legumes, forms and other green life. They will trample the rest, manure and urinate on the ground. The cow gets it nutrition and the land heals.

Cows Eating Grass/green life
Cows are a ruminant animal that have a rumen (first stomach chamber) that breaks down cellulose walls of plants before the remainder of digestion. Cows need only a small portion of seed and the rest in fibrous plant matter. Feeding cattle/goats/sheep concentrated energy in the form of corn or grain, causes the rumen to turn acidic and creates many health issues for the cow. Think of raising children, if all we wanted was a 150 LBS child, no matter how, we could feed a child twinkles, cookies, pizza, pop and by age 12, they will probably be at that weight. Is it healthy? Hell no. That is the approach we take with raising livestock. We need our animals to be raised healthy to enhance their nutritional value when we eat that tasty steak or burger (Omega 3s, Vitamins A and E, CLAs, trace minerals, etc). So lets enjoy a damn good steak and make ourselves healthy too!

Trampling the Ground
Ruminant animals that trample the ground as they walk (remember animals like cows and bison are quite heavy), they break up the top layer of soil, adding more surface layer. Some of the seeds from grass plants get pressed into the ground and naturally start growth. It makes the ground more porous which allows rain to be more effective. Hard capped soil does NOT absorb soil where as porous soil absorbs water.

Manure and Urine on the ground
To build soil, you need the raw materials. Ruminant manure is amongst the best! It is loaded with bacteria that helps attracts larger life including bugs. This is broken down and sometimes really fast to become humus (life filled soil). Seeds are also passed in some small quantities undigested through the animal or with outer seed coat broken down, allowing rapid growth of grasses and other plants. The urine adds moisture and nitrogen to the ground, naturally. Huge herds of bison on the western prairies used to be able to build half to a full inch of top soil every year! The trick? Is to hit the ground really hard with tamping, manure and urine and then rest it for a while. How long? Depends on climate. In Ontario, we have a non brittle or very moist environment, so plants can re-grow during the growing season in 4-8 weeks. In a more arid region (less rain fall) such as South Africa, you would probably want to rest it 6-12 months. Hit hard, rest, recover, hit hard. Creates a cycle of plant and soil growth!

So what are the results, Rick?

With this continuous cycle that mimics nature, you build thick rich soil that promotes amazing grass swards. Grass in thick abundance, SEQUESTERS carbon. That is a win-win situation.

My own results? So far, amazing. I trained my cows to get used to tight paddocks. The re-growth at first, was slow but then exploded. a month after the cows had been in an area, you could see dark rich grass compared to the grass in the next field. I do offer my cows some natural minerals. Its makes the cow healthy and some of the minerals are passed through the animal into the ground, further enhancing plant growth.

I have had grass get five and six feet tall this year. Grass that tall usually has an impressive root system.

Is it mean to keep cows in semi-tight paddocks? No, quite natural. Cattle are herding animals and respond better to being in a herd. Portable electric fencing and us (people) replace the role of predators. Predators in the wild such as wolves or lions would keep herds of ruminant animals in herded formations. The protection of numbers.

This is a rare night that I had the chance to do this. I will do my best to answer questions, but please be patient.
You are on target. This problem runs parallel to the blue collar shortage of workers.  People are still chasing the dream of having a shot at attaining the job of Bill Gates' assistant's assistant.  People, for the better will realize that job is taken, and they will also realize that there are many blue collar jobs that can provide a very comfortable living, especially if you're talented.

It is quite simple.  In north America, people shit, they use electricity, and they need stuff fixed/built.  They also need too eat. What we don't need is persons taking a few points off the top, in the promise (not guarantee) of producing more points for return, and having zero accountability when they fail.

Hail to the commodity producers and booooo to the fukheds that mark them up unnecessarily.
Living in the suburbs does not provide much scope for cattle raising. While I have been tinkering with some gardening (quite difficult since I am not physically here much), I wonder if you have some points for people in similar situations who are trying to grow their own veggies?
Grow your vegetables, compliment planting (Fruit veggies combined with root veggies) or get old cat litter pails, drill holes in them and make an improvised raised garden. Weed it until the plants get higher than the weeds and then let the weeds be. Weeds or forms can actually add nutrition to the soil. Need urban manure? get a meat rabbit or three. Save their manure and add it your garden, feed the rabbits clippings from your lawn and garden. My personal favourite for my bucket garden last year was tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins. I could also drag the tomatoes around in the yard to get optimal sunlight, a little effort though.

Plant a fruit tree if your yard is big enough. If your local bylaws allow it, get 1-4 egg laying chickens ('pending on space available). Rotate chickens around your yard (same with rabbits). Use pet cages, with no bottoms. Rabbits go into new spot first, followed 2-3 days later by chickens, never the other way around.

If you raise your own urban livestock, DO NOT mow your garden down to a stupid golf course 2 inch level. Your grass will die in July and there will not be enough for the rabbits to eat. Let rabbits mow your lawn. Feed chickens combination of laying mash and table scraps.

nuff to get you started?
Local bylows prevent much of the animal husbandry, but the rest is pretty straightforward, will use it to refine my techniques.

You might like this: all the principles you listed in the opening are repeated here on a much larger scale, as African wildlife is released and returns the land back to its "natural" state. As a BTW, one of the people I work with iterated many of the same ideas WRT the praries. In particular he was disturbed by the growth of forest in the Wainwright training area and suggested the best thing to do was set the area on fire (may people concur, but not for the reasons he is suggesting  ;)) and release heards of bison to "work" the land and bring it back to the natural state of grasslands Photos at link:


Vegan alert: Mass herds of meat animals will save the planet and reverse climate change.

Before and after pictures will stun you.
Massed herds of grazing animals moved to mimic nature will heal grasslands and stop desertification.
This is bigger than fossil fuels for climate change and the fix is cheap.

Big government not required.

Before is on the left, after is on the right less than ten years later.
In the second pair of photos, the broken branches are made by elephants that have returned.
In the third pair, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. Even with the arrow marking a hillock, you would hardly know it is the same place.

Desertifying lands

Some humid lands always bounce back but marginal land with seasonal rains turns into desert unless the plant growth is composted in time for the next season. Marginal land is all the sandy areas on the world map above.  Ten thousand years of small herd pastoral exploitation (goats, cattle and sheep) and accelerating deterioration in the last hundred years created most of these conditions.  Parklands set aside in the US and South Africa went downhill faster when cattle or elephants were removed. 

Fierce predators bunched grazers into massive herds.  Those herds chowed down the fresh growth, churned the soil, left dung and urine and litter on the ground and then moved on because the food was used or soiled for that year.  As kids we walked barefoot and know for a fact that bare ground is burning hot in July and grass is quite cool.  Multiply those little hot patches by billions and we have climate change.  Mimic the massive moving herds,  capture the seasonal rainfall, and transform the lands. Climate change is reversed and living plants and animals repopulate the land.  Fifteen million hectares have already switched to this grazing method.

The notes are abstracted from Alan Savory's TED Talk.  This is affordable hope for a cooler green world.
Allan Savory is one of my heroes. I trained under HMI (Holistic management International) one of the organizations he helped created. He is a very logical and well spoken man. Listen to him speak once and he will hook you onto his concepts!
A friend of mine has Red Highland cattle - raised in similar fashion, all organic but not certified as it costs some - and the meat is delicious :)  (very lean as they have a good insulating layer of hair and roam about).

Thucydides, at my Ottawa backyard, I made some 4x4' boxes and the results have been great.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening and check out the refs.

I've seen other ideas for gardening in small spaces and for restricted mobility; everything from window box, balcony, deck/patio containers, etc.

Thanks ArmyRick, very interesting info.  Some cattle would be nice but not sure how I'd explain it to the Ottawa by law officers!  Also, I can see occasionally tamping the heck out of the ground would be a good stress relief.

Thucydides, the square foot gardening works great; will dig up some links to it later, but it works particularily well in the city as it's meant with small footprints in mind.

If you have some more space you could also try this; http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

Built a small 4x10 bed to try it out this year, and so far kind of blown away by the resulting growth.  In theory this should also capture and hold water on its own, so shouldn't need much maintenance after it's established.  I left about 18 inches all the way around and have no problem reaching in for the minimal tending required.  Even though it's been pretty much a perfect growing season, it's still flourished more then the other sections of garden with the same plants, soil, etc we planted at the same time.  Can't confirm but the vegetables are also supposed to have noticeably more flavour as well.  Have a few of the same variety of tomatoes in different raised beds, so should know in a few weeks when they start to ripen.

In a related vein, you may want to try some 'pollinator' gardens (http://www.pollinationcanada.ca/).  Primarily for butterflies (I have a five year old girl that loves them) but generally a big fan of bees, so probably improves any fruit and veg you may be trying to grow.  Not really sure if it's had much effect as this year seems to be awful for bees and butterflies in particular, but if nothing else it's a nice bit of colour and good for the soul.  The downside is some of the good butterfly friendly plants are bad for livestock (milkweed, thistle etc), but not really an issue in the middle of the burbs.

If you have a really small space something like this may also work; http://www.instructables.com/id/VERTICAL-VEGETABLES-quotGrow-upquot-in-a-smal/

One of my favourite sites, if you look through there you'll find a mindblowing variety of ideas on gardening, carpentry, metalworking, and general mad scientist/tinkering type ideas.  It's kind of a virtual gathering hole for all the weird folks that like to make random things, like turning a microwave into a smelting oven.
I have been using a system based on a book called "The One Minute Gardener", which uses raised (or at least segregated) beds, drip irrigation and using mulch or some sort of tarp to cover the soil and prevent the infestation of weeds.

A few mistakes I made (and like I said, I haven't been around in person to correct them) include: not being careful with the soil covering tarp. Where it wasn't fully staked in weeds and insects infested the soil, but where I did cover it, I should have added a covering of mulch to keep it shaded and cool: the soil and plants were cooked! I also neglected the advice of the author to build a covering frame and netting; the damn bugs ate everything last year. Final issue, not investing in a timer system to add water and nutrition to the plants, the rest of the family are not into gardening and the watering was erratic to say the least. I could be moving soon, so I will be trying out some of these ideas in the new place.

The book is now out of print but can be bought used on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.ca/One-Minute-Gardener-Derek-Fell/dp/0894715844/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1375831868&sr=1-1&keywords=0894715844
How many people on here keep mowing their lawns super short? Starting in spring? Bad idea. If Grass is left to grow a little longer in the spring (and establish a better root system), then mowed on a weekly basis until the grass goes dormant (usually during late June to early August depending on precipitation and tempuratures.

DO NOT MOW grass when it goes dormant in the middle of summer! You can easily kill the grass and allow forbs (weeds) to grow in place.

Also, this is a personal pet peeve. People are obsessed with gold course green lawns in their yards. Nothing is more unnatural. I would prefer a mix of white clover and grasses (not a single grass species). This improves soil quality, tolerates heat stress better and looks better IMO.

In late fall just before snow fall, over seed with compost or do in very early spring when nights are below freezing and days just above.
I don't have this problem because I'm simply too lazy to mow the lawn every week.... :bowing:
Scale. Here is another issue I want to address. Some people go on and on about we need mega farms. With proper management keeping environmental, financial and socially acceptable principles in mind, you CAN manage livestock in these similar manners on a large scale.

Neil Dennis in Saskatchewan has 10,000 acre ranch and raises approximately 1,000 beef steers on a rotational grazing system (with some cool high tech equipment).

I would add that as the farms and ranches get bigger, its more PEOPLE employed and not fancy and expensive machinery that is truly needed to help run them in a manner as I have described. Bottom line though is it starts with a change in peoples attitude.
I haven't posted on here in a while. The rotational grass feeding of my ruminants continues to go well, as does my regular practice of playing "dodge bull" (If I can get a picture of the bull I have on two year loan, you can see why I don't like sparring with him).

Sold almost all of my first 2 lambs that I butchered (Not me personally, the abbatoir) and I now have people screaming for more. So far all I had sold was alot of eggs (from chickens living out in the field).

A few observations...
-Rotational grass feeding on a daily basis is simply awesome (I have seen excellent changes already this year)
-The meat taste like meat!!! Not like grocery store cardboard
-Chicken manure is like steroids for plants (the natural source of nitrogen works excellent)
-Ruminants (Cows, sheep, goats, bison, deer, moose, etc) manure is practically soil when they pass it out, it only needs a little time (like a few days to a few weeks) and plants grow out of it
-Cattle are excellent at trampling ground, enhacing soil drainage and nutrient absorption
-Sheep are like vapour mist. They appear on whichever side of a fence they want to
-Bulls with big horns are best given respect
-Ontario is lucky in that we have a high moisture content in the air, rain fall and what is retained in soils. Grasses can re-grow 2-4 times in a single season
-Ontario is not so lucky in that again, we have high moisture high content. Left a few large bales of hay outside for too long and they rotted out (oops). In Alberta, I have friends who said this is not quite a problem
-Looking forward to bale grazing experiments this winter (ask for more details)
-Cows with horns encourage you to be nimble and quick on your feet (I have avoided a few charges this year)
-A touch of cow manure in your composter is like putting gas to a fire (worm population exploded and biological breakdown rapidly accelerated)
-Diversity on the pasture field is incredible when you look at the insects, birds and worms that flood a naturally cared for pasture. You can not see the microbile and fungal life in the soil but its there
-Everbody should handle cattle and sheep manure on occassion, it really boost your immune system
-Farm work is excellent PT!

I am going to try and put up a few pictures, no promises.
As I understand it, you have to watch the protein intake that they get, to rich of feed can cause problems, I think Oats are at 7% protein which is fairly high.