Greetings from the Franconian Forest

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by Manfred, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Manfred

    Manfred Junior Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I am from the Franconian Forrest (alow mountain range in the north of Bavaria, Germany).
    Together with some friends I amrunning a small homesteading-forum: https://www.selbstvers.org/forum/
    I also have a small agricultural sidelinewith beef cattle and some acres of forest.

    My background:
    Grown up on my parents´ farm, I cameback here after my degree in applied physics and some years as designingengineer and product manager with a laser company in Munich. I didn´t like thebig town and always wanted to go back to the countryside and make my livingdoing something connected to agriculture.
    Therefore I started my own businessselling electric fences and other farm supplies. ( https://www.aforst.com/ ).
    Three years ago, when my parents gottheir pension, I was able to take over the family farm. By then it was a conventionalmixed farm of approximately 70 acres. Row crops, grassland, 15 dairy cows intie-stalls, fattening the own bulls etc. With an average parcel size of 1 hectare.
    Farming has very small structures aroundhere. And the parcels of the single farms are not rounded but spread all overthe landscape.
    By swapping lease contracts withsome other farmers I managed to have at least one 20 hectare block with Ifenced for my beef cattle.
    The remaining spread parcels (some smallerthan half an acre) are used for making hay.
    Now our farm is certified organic. Underthe direction of the Bund Naturschutz (One of the biggest nature conservation organizations in Germany) andtogether with some other beef cattle farmers and some local butchers weestablished a quality beef program for the Franconian Forest range.
    https://www.weidewelt-frankenwald.de/
    By now we have about 50 farmers (manyof them direct marketing) and 6 butchers taking part in the program. General crieriafor the program are, that the cattle are on pasture at least in the summer halfof the year, that they get no GM-feed and that at least 50% of the farms landis preservation grassland.

    Some pictures of our farm can befound in my blogging thread
    https://www.selbstvers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=61&t=2309
    and on my facebook albums
    https://www.facebook.com/manfred.eidelloth/photos(if you are a facebook member)

    Wy I am here?
    I am aspirating all literature,videos etc. on permaculture I can find since I first came across this topic someyears ago. My first contact have been the books by Sepp Holzer, soon followedby Bill Mollison and Masanobu Fukuoka.
    Now I am searching for ways todevelop my farm more into Permaculture direction. A way of cold climate permaculture (we haveapproximately 5 month of frost free growing season) on a commercial scale.

    I have read almost all the books byJoel Salatin. A lot of good business ideas. But I have some doubt whether hisway of farming can be called permaculture. I have done some calculations. Hehas lots and lots of nutrient input by the grain he is buying for his birds andpigs and rabbits. That much input, that he is coming close to or is even exceeding the nutrient (nitrogen) input that isallowed for conventional intensive bird or hog fattening enterprises here in Germany.The same applies to the animal density per acre he has on his farm.
    He put the fattening out on pasture,which is good both for the animals and for the economics of the farm, but it isa very high input business. Very high input of fossil energy, also it isdelivered to him as grain and not as diesel fuel and nitrogen fertilizer.

    Mark Shepard with his low input wayseems more appealing to me. But by now I have found no cultivar of chestnutsthat ripen here (Mark might have colder winters, but his growing season is muchwarmer than mine) and no cultivar of hazelnuts fitting to my farm. All thehazelnuts I tested lose their fruit to the spring frosts. Walnuts do get ripe,but I loose every second crop to late frosts. So I cannot do what he does 1 to1. I have to find other solutions (at least other fruits) for my farm.
    Mop grazing also seems to offer interestingchances and high yields. Some days ago I have seen a Speech of a Canadian farmerwho mob grazes dairy heifers, pigs (Berkshire) and hair sheep.
    But on our small scale and with thesmall numbers of animals connected to this small scale, it seems impossible toget paid back the working hours you need for mob grazing. If you only have 30or 40 cattle they will not need much less work than 500 for daily fencing etc.

    Therefore I am still searching forideas and examples that I could implement up here.

    Best regards
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    welcome and thank you for your introduction. :) it's great to hear that you have managed a successful transition from your parents to you and that you are thinking of various ways to add permaculture to your mix of skills.

    i am also curious about Salatin's methods and don't find them what i would consider permaculture either, but in comparison to feedlot meats he's at least many steps in the right direction. at least he is honest about what he is doing. i give him credit for that.

    as for nuts crops, acorns/oaks are hardy and there are plenty of varieties. you may not be able to eat them directly, but they can be harvested and then leached of tannins and used as a starch. there was a recent thread here about them in the food/recipe section. do you have oak trees around there normally?

    i'm surprised to hear about troubles with walnuts, look into different varieties, we have black walnuts here that survive quite well, they are not the thin shelled large meat nuts, they are very hard shelled and the nut meats are smaller, but they are very good eating if you can have the patience for getting them out of the shell. the squirrels go for them, i'm not sure pigs would, but even then, with black walnuts there is a potential problem with juglone from the shells/husks (other plants do not do well with them in combination), but they do have a great use in dyeing fabrics. so you win some you lose some.

    i've also enjoyed the works of Holzer and Fukuoka along with the other classics. all good reading to challenge a person and wake them up and to help them look around with new eyes.
     
  3. Manfred

    Manfred Junior Member

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    Please don´t get me wrong. I really appreciate, what Joel is doing. Building up soil. Good conditions for the animals. Bringing young people into farming. Etc.

    And when your farm has a lot of nutrient export (by the products you sell) you need to compensate for this by some kind of nutrient import.

    If your customers don’t bring back their excrements and urin and kitchen waste and in the end their corpses, you need input from elsewhere.

    In a book a read years ago (perhaps “Dry Land Farming” by Thomas Shaw, but I am not sure) the author wrote his father taught him only to sell the most refined products you can produce in order to keep as much nutrients on the farm as possible.
    E.g you don’t sell hay but beef. And you don´t sell grain but pigs and chicken.

    As far as I know Joel now asks his customers and visitors to bring garden and kitchen waste and he is composting it on his farm. This might be an idea many farmers could use to improve their farm´s nutrient balance.

    Catching carbon is not the problem. Nitrogen and phosphor are far more difficult.
    Most of the nitrogen we can catch now by nitrogen fixing bacteria is provided by other humans by burning fossil fuels and by conventional farmers using nitrogen fertilizer. The chemical compounds provided this way (NH3, NOx) are much easier to catch than nitrogen from chemical inert N2.
    If our world should once reach a status where fossil fuel and nitrogen fertilizer are no longer needed or nor longer available, it will get even more difficult for us farmers to catch enough nitrogen for our produce.

    Developing narrow nutrient cycles is very helpful. But in reality most people live in cities and most food is produced in rural areas.
    In Germany we are not even allowed to use our own human excrements. It all has to go to sewage works where most of the sewage sludge is burned, because of beeing mixed with industrial waste water and household chemicals etc. and therefor containing to much pollutants to use it as fertilizer on farmland. Only if you live far away from the next village you are allowed to build your own sewage system.

    Of course this can be understood from a 1950s perspective when lots of sewage and waste water was running down the rivers. But with the technology and knowledge we have today, most of the excrement nutrients could be recycled in a short loop.

    Finding solutions the keep excrement nutrients apart from chemical waste in the urban areas and bringing this nutrients back to farmland seems to be a most important topic to be approached.

    Back to my plans:
    Oaks grow well on my land. Fattening pigs and other animals on acorns seems to be one possible solution for me. But I would prefer being able to provide a balanced human diet. And I am short on the carbohydrate side if I concentrate too much on animals. Might be I will have to stay with a certain amount of annual row crops in my system, but I would prefer perennials.

    I have not tasted “sweet” acorns by know. But regarding to what I have read, there seem to be no really well tasting acorns you would like to eat and enjoy to eat without a lot of Treatment?
    As I want to do commercial farming, I need products people like to eat. I could perhaps force myself to sustain on threated acorns, but it would be impossible to convince enough customers to join with me. Some would try it once or buy the acorns as a specialty from time to time. But I don´t think they will attract a broad customer base.

    We have no black walnuts here. In the US you seem to have some crafted varieties , that are grown for food in a commercial amount?
    But if the fruit is smaller and more difficult to unshell, it would be hard to develop a market for it. If you want to grow something commercially it is much easier to select fruits that already have a market. Growing nut trees for 20 years and than finding nobody who wants to pay for the fruit when you finally have some amount of harvest, is not a very attractive perspective.

    I have already tried some varieties of walnut and am still searching for new ones. Problem is, I am really at the border of were growing walnuts is possible. You will hardly find a walnut tree in the villages further up the mountains here. And our valley gets a constant flow of cold air coming down from the higher ranges in spring. So we have late frosts until the second half of May almost every year. I still hope to find a variety with good fruit quality shooting later and therefore providing a secure harvest allmost every year. I am sure it exists somewhere out there. :)
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i agree with you about the most refined products, but that also implies you have the time/skills/materials/equipment/supplies/water/government inspections/labor supply/more government regulations around labor/etc. here i can do some things very easily, but turn it into a kitchen production line of any kind and that sets off all sorts of additional expenses. some are not worth it when you are small scale like i am. i end up giving a lot of things away simply because i hate to deal with taxes and governmental regulations. choices...

    also agree with you that efficient waste recycling is important for a sustainable farm if it is exporting a lot of things. i'm very much always paying attention to the base carrying capacity of the soils to supply trace nutrients in addition to the main nutrients. soil science is a very useful topic to add to the mix.

    to encourage recycling of materials you can provide an incentive for visitors that you will give them a discount when they bring you goodies. it makes sense for them to transport materials for you if they are already going to visit and in fact if you get enough regulars coming and going you could even avoid trips to town for supplies if you can set up a way to let them know what you need and also use them to bring goods to town.


    acorns: check out this recent conversation:

    https://forums.permaculturenews.org/showthread.php?17787-Eating-Acorns

    i've not tried the varieties mentioned, but if you are seeking a starch it sounds possible for testing out and seeing what the response might be. pigs fattened on acorns are a bit of a specialty item, so may be worth looking into. if you can figure out how to do truffles that is also a great addition and multiuse of pigs.

    walnuts/black walnuts: there is a market for black walnuts here, they are distinct from other walnuts often found. bakers of certain cookies/treats will prefer them. the taste is similar to if you add a bit of almond extract to a walnut. foodies would call that cheating. :) slow foodies would not mind if they have to crack some nuts to get the meats. i can get a cup of nut meats in two hours and i'm not that experienced and using primitive methods (hammer and wire pick). takes some practice and the right tools. see if you can find them to taste :)... the wood is also great for furniture making. these trees are not planted for the current generation, they are for those who come later. at least at my age any i plant will not be for me to harvest.

    another nut crop to consider is hickory nuts. i've not actually had any in a long time to describe them, you'll need to research them, but they do survive our winters here so they are hardy. our winter weather can go until late May and even a frost in early to mid June at times.

    that is really too bad about the hazelnuts, as they are very good, have you tried the reflective ponds, rocks/rock walls behind and shelter trees (Sepp Holzer describes these well in his works) for them to avoid the frost damage?
    keep looking for the late bloomer, someone might have one someplace... i'd plant some anyways just in case you have an easy spring sometime. they are so yummy.

    the other perennial crops are some grains they are working on now. all sorts of edible greens. artichokes, cattails, asparagus, ... many choices other than nut crops. i focus a lot on beans and peas because of their many different forms/uses and that they are annuals. those are a good basic starch, also can be sprouted for greens.
     
  5. Manfred

    Manfred Junior Member

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    Yes. The government regulations can drive you crazy. And our officials are really good in inventing new ones every day. Some people say only North Korea might have worth regulations then we have. But reading all the US stuff, it seems to me, you have your fair share of stupid (or more likely economic interest driven) regulations, too.

    Why are we citizens treated like little babies? As if we would not be able to make our own decisions on what food we want to buy and what kinds of hygiene management we expect from the farmers, bakers, butchers etc. producing our food.

    If we could but up a sign “no food safety inspection” or alike every customer would be informed and could decide by himself whether to buy this stuff or not. And who does not want to buy it goes to the supermarket and buys inspected stuff there. Everybody would be happy expect some big guys making their money be keeping small producers out of the market.

    Eatable acorns as well as black walnuts, hickory, heart nuts etc. are all looking interesting to me. The problem is to get these trees here in Europe. You might find seed or plants from botanic gardens and even some specialty nurseries, but you don’t get any pedigree plants selected for fruit quality or even grafted varieties.
    And none of the North American nurseries I have found by now seems to the shipping to Europe due to the plant hygiene regulations.
    Rhora´s for example have a very interesting assortment of eatable frost hardy nuts:
    https://www.nuttrees.com/index.htm


    Regarding truffles: Do you have a certain species in mind for feedings pigs?

    In the spruce forests around here we have underground fungi called Hirschtrueffel (deer truffles, Elaphomyces spc.) that are not good for eating, but very much liked by wild boar and red deer. But these “truffles” tend to accumulate 137Cs from the Tschernobyl fallout. In some regions in Germany that received the highest fallout (due to rain in those days of the reactor accident), the hunters have to bring meet of their wild boars to inspection. If the meet is above 600 Bq/kg, it has to be disposed.

    Some people are trying to cultivate high priced luxury varieties of truffle. For most of the high priced truffles it is too cold in Germany.

    But growing Burgundertrueffel (Tuber Uncinatum Chatin) is possible if you have the right soil and climatic conditions.
    They need a chalky soil with a ph above 7.5 and a rather warm microclimate suitable for growing grape-vines and 600-1000 mm of rain per year. Therefore mostly abandoned vineyards in the shell lime regions are used for those plantings.
    There is a specialty nursery offering hazelnuts inoculated with Burgundertrueffel mycelium:
    https://deutsche-trueffelbaeume.de/
    They also offer testing your soil whether it is suitable for growing these truffles. The price for one sample of soil is 70 Euros. The costs for the inoculated trees, plant protection etc. is about 17.000 Euro per hectare. I know this form a report in our weekly farming newspaper (Bayerisches Landwirtschaftliches Wochenblatt) on an experimental planting by the regional office for viti- and horticulture in Veitshoechheim. https://www.lwg.bayern.de/
    The planting was done in 2013. Therefore it will take some time until results are available. The nursery says a first truffle harvest can be expected after 5 to 10 years.

    As I have a low ph soil and my climate is too cold there is no future in growing luxury truffles for my farm. I could perhaps try some plants on a spot after adding a load of lime. But just for fun and for the own kitchen, should there ever be a harvest.

    Heat traps like used by Sepp Holzer are interesting. But I only have a view spots were I could use them. My own ground is mostly a north slope and the south slope land is only rented by now.
    Building a pond on farmland requires an expensive approval here. Therefore I will not start building any ponds until my design ideas are mature and I have the land required in my property. Then I can get approval for the whole thing at once, to save money. You have to get ground surveys, soil static calculations, riparian rights, approval by your immediate neighbors etc. etc. Costs of several thousand Euros before you even have seen the excavator…
     
  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    sorry to hear about it being difficult to get the trees mentioned... i've not studied varieties to know which is more suitable or for flavor of the nuts, size of shells, etc. giving ideas of things that come to mind.

    for truffles, you know much more than i. the other pig use for truffles that i was thinking of, is that they can be trained to sniff them out and dig them up. yet it does sound like your climate may be too challenging for the most obvious truffle crops.

    also, it is so sad about the Chernobyl disaster and the poisoning of the soil and animals.

    do you do much with apples? those are somewhat native over there so there should be many varieties to choose from. also they are a good future site of morel mushroom growing if your soil/sites would work.

    here for early and summer crops the strawberry and blueberry are very good. if you have high pH soil that would not work for blueberries. obviously, not tree crops, but useful crops for consideration to add to the mix if you don't have them already. rhubarb is also an easy crop here and is good because it too is fairly early (cannot pick too close to frosts, but a few weeks after a frost the stalks are ok).
     
  7. Manfred

    Manfred Junior Member

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    I see. I misunderstood you regarding the pigs.

    In the warmer regions of Europa we have an old truffle culture. Italy, Spain, parts of France, Croatia etc.

    Some people there are training pigs for searching truffles. The problem is: Pigs search them because they like to eat them. And you have to be damn fast to get the truffle once the pig has found it. And you are losing a lot of money with each truffle the pig manages to swallow.

    Therefore most people use dogs. Dogs can be trained to search their beloved toy that smells like truffle (because you put one into it) and they will be happy to present you what they have discovered.

    Some people say before the world wars there has been a (know forgotten) truffle culture in Germany too, mainly around the Burgundertrueffel. They can be found wild but you are not allowed to collect them for nature conservancy reasons (also there might be far more of them than one might think). But if you cultivate them yourself you can harvest and market them.

    My trials to cultivate mushrooms have not been too successful by now. There is lots of space for improvement.

    Apples and bears grow well here. I have an orchard with several cultivars. They will sure be part of my bigger design. The problem is to produce marketable fruits without protective agents. Even organic farmers are using several sprays to get the fruit quality needed. No merchant will buy a fruit with a single little stain on it, except for processing.

    And processing apples are paid very low. 100 kg apples for fruit juice cost about 10 to 15 Euros, in years with a good apple crop sometimes far less.
    So producing apples without pesticides does only make sense if you direct market them or make juice etc. yourself.

    You can choose from literally hundreds of apple and pear varieties. There are a lot of people around sustaining old varieties and breeding new ones.

    In my garden I am growing some scrubs of American high bush blueberries. They got quite popular during the last years and there are several commercial producers. Mostly they are grown on turf substrates. Some farmers have good results growing them on conifer saw dust. . (The wild European low bush blueberries taste better but are too difficult to cultivate and have to little crop for cultivation.)

    I also grow plums, cherries, different rubus species, currents, gooseberries, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb etc.. Even some early grape varieties. All interesting stuff for producing it on a larger scale, if you can direct market it.

    All these fruits are nice, and will be part of my system. But I am missing starch and oil producing crops. I think I really have to get deeper in that nut business…
     

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