Temperate zone Permacultures need animals

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by PeterFD, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Anyone who followed Purplepears advice and downloaded the PC course from North Carolina State University, may have noted that the lecturer, Will Hooker, makes a special point of mentioning the relationship between plants and animals in a temperate zone permaculture.

    He gives the example of the Buffalo’s being reintroduced onto the grasslands in order to stabilise the ecosystem and promote biodiversity.

    As he puts it, ……. the grassland doesn’t mind being eaten by the Buffalo providing he pays for it with his manure.

    He goes on to say that permaculture thought (well, ….. back in 2003 when they made the video), is tending to evolve in the direction of needing a guild of both plants and animals to make it work in a temperate zone.

    I’ve still got a lot of video’s to get through but, so far, he makes no further mention of this startlingly, non purist, approach to the type of permacultures that would exist here in Northern Europe.

    Anyone out there with more information?

    Thanks
     
  2. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Not too sure what you are talking about Peter. Temertate zones are of interest to me but there are no buffalo in the Hunter Valley.
     
  3. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Purplepear

    I need to go back through the video’s and find the reference so perhaps you can give an opinion.

    For those of us living within temperate zones, and here I include France, this is a very important evolution of the permaculture concept. If the word has indeed derived from “permanent agriculture”, then animals would appear to be as equal as the plants …….. although to the permaculture purists animals would appear to be of a secondary consideration.

    Watch this space!

    Thanks,

    Peter
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Where are you getting that idea from Peter? Permaculture has always seemed to me to be integrative of animals. i.e. it's normal to include animals.

    The issue of grazing animals isn't about climate, it's about the historical natural ecosystems. Buffalo and the prairies in the US co-evolved, so the land and the plants are adapted to herds of hooved animals with migration cycles. In those parts of the US it makes sense to look at grazing animals and how they can work in with plants and soils to create a system that is sustainable. From what I understand the prairies need grazing animals to function well. Where I live, in NZ, that has never been the case. We have had moa (a very large ground bird), but no hoofed animals. So large scale grazing here on this land, with the kinds of plants and soil we have is a disaster. What we need to do here is reforest.

    I think it also depends on whether you are trying to maintain biodiversity within a native (-ish) system, or trying to grow food and other useful things.

    Do you have a link for the video? It sounds interesting.
     
  5. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    As I understand it Peter - animals have always been a very important part of the permaculture concept. I know that here at purple pear the chickens and ducks do a huge amount of important work and the system would not easily function without them. The cows and horse give manure and other things. snakes and spiders control pests.
    I may be reading too much into your response but it is important for me to always see permaculture as a design system and not a method of gardening - with the principles equally as important in economics or settlement planning as garden layout and food production.
    It is a known fact (and you can quote me) that pasture grasses do rely on grazing as part of their cycle. The wholistic farm guy from South Africa highlights this often (wish I could think of his name) shows that cell grazing as part of pasture management gives better results for animals and pasture but that overgrazing especially constant access to pasture is detrimental.
    I know I should be better researched but those are quick comments and thanks for the thread. It seems a worthwhile discussion.
     
  6. abdullah

    abdullah Junior Member

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    ps. note i wrote this post before refreshing and didnt see the above two more qualified posts, respect to purple pear an pebble, keep up the good work.

    well permaculture systems are often based on natural systems, or at least placing natural functions of various components that will complement each other, and many natural systems have animals, not to mention insects, birds, fungus etc, so if you can be productive by incorporating animals then go for it, i know i would.

    maybe we dont have buffalo but we have cows, goats, sheep and horses that can all be incorporated for various benifits.
     
  7. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Purplepear

    I found the reference on the North Caroline State University Permaculture Foundations course video set for distance learning. It’s on video 3; about 1 hour and 20 minutes into the video. If you let it run a few minutes you’ll get to the reference.

    The lecturer, Will Hooker, talks about one of their permaculture reference sites run by Harvey Harmon. Apparently it’s a market garden at somewhere called Bear Creek.

    Harvey’s place is used as an introduction to Companion planting and the lecturer goes on to describe Harvey’s observation; “Harvey has the notion that Companion planting works great in the sub tropics where it was set up by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. However, in Temperate regions it is that Companions almost require a partnership amongst animals and plants.”

    The lecturer, then goes on to describe the re-introduction of Buffalo’s to Tall Grass Prairies in Oklahoma, and the various uses of chickens in fruit orchards etc.

    There is an intention to visit Harvey’s place as a field trip later in the video series so perhaps more will be learned then?

    Hi Pebble. I got the link to the video course from Purplepears posting; FORUM / Jobs, projects, courses, training, WWOOFing, Volunteering / Update! 36 hour Permaculture Course - online and free!

    I don’t think the word Update! was originally included so there may be another entry elsewhere. Essentially, I followed the instructions, downloaded iTunes, and the lecture series.

    Although created in 2003, it was designed for distance learning and a lot of the time, about 50%, is spent dealing with the classroom students and general observations that are peculiar to the University campus.

    However, after the first couple of hours, you feel like a student actually in the lecture room so its good fun and you get the Permaculture Foundation course.

    The lecturer seems to have a Love-Hate relationship with Bill Mollison but certainly favours David Holmgren. He sets reading tasks and assignments which you can join in with. I did skip ahead a couple of times and noted that the students do actually present their work so it’s good to get a comparison if you do the assignment.

    This may be a good introduction to Internet based PDC certificate courses offered by such organisations as PermacultureVisions, etc,.

    Anyway, got anymore “hard” information or observations on Companion Plant/Animal Giulds in temperate climates?

    Stay on target everyone (…….yeah, I know that was Star Wars but we don’t want any Death-Stars wandering around do we?)

    Peter
     
  8. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Maybe I'm not understanding what you are meaning. I've not heard the term guild used in the way you do - guilds are usually seen as small units of multiple plantings where species are chosen to fulfill different, complementary aspects of the niche. So you might have many guilds in one permie design. I think animals are inherent in that in terms of small creatures (birds, insects, reptiles, rodents etc) but large animals aren't simply because guilds are small-ish in size. But what you are referring to is classic permaculture design. Placing animals in larger contexts is a normal part of permaculture.

    Can you be more specific about what you are wanting examples of? Is it that you want to see designs that have included animals? What scale (balcony, home garden, lifestyle block, farm)? Have you looked on the PRI blog? There is alot of information posted there on different projects. Also, do you consider Purple Pear's system to be what you are meaning?

    If you're wanting examples of high animal use check out Joel Salatin: https://www.polyfacefarms.com/
     
  9. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    You might want to ask on the UK permaculture forum too, if you want strictly temperate climate examples.
     
  10. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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  11. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Pearplepear. Sorry for miss quoting you as the person responsible for the link to the NCS Univerity distance learning Permaculture course. I simply pick-up the last known reference, however I did mention that there may be an earlier posting.

    Well then, … all settled and no harm done?

    I understand all the general comments about Permaculture being based upon both plants and animals.

    However, I was intrigued to learn that plant guilds/companion planting (associated just with plants) may be dependent upon the presence of animals to guild properly. Unfortunately, the lecturer at North Carolina State University did not give any solid references other than his mate with a permaculture market garden.

    The whole fulcrum of the thread rests upon the need for animals to be present to allow plant guilds/companion planting to function properly within temperate zones …….… I’m not questioning whether or not animals are included within permacultures.

    If you prefer; we’ve move from the generality of permaculture, to the specifics of plant guilds/companion planting; to the specific sub-division of such guilds/companions existing within temperate zones to a sub-division-specific of an need for the presence of animals.

    As for a comparison with Purplepears site, I think it’s more a question of scale. Purplepear has about 14 acres of what appears to be fairly flat well irrigated land, whilst I have 34 hectares of dry mountainous zone land.

    Originally, I could support all the forage needs of 130 goats using traditional farming techniques but had to buy-in concentrates to lift milk production to a commercial level. After a large building fell down and brought my farm to a halt (no goats hurt thankfully), and a French compensation system that takes on average two years to pay-out, I had the time to really revue what I was doing and where I wanted to go. Unfortunately, until the compensation arrives, I don’t have any money!

    Hence I discovered permaculture which seemed to complement everything I had learned on my Ecology degree course many years ago.

    If I could feed 130 goats using traditional farming, what could I achieve with a permaculture?

    I haven’t put all the pieces together yet, however, I must say that the future has never looked better. …….. I've even got my first, slightly off-contour, swale operational and it works fine!

    From this you will understand how important the idea of plant guilds needing animals in Temperate zones is to me.

    Thanks to everyone for the input,

    Peter
     
  12. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Isn't it great Peter? When you have that moment when you get a glimpse of something that you didn't know, that has the potential to rearrange the way you view the world? That's one of the many things that I love about permaculture. It actually works!
     
  13. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi eco4560

    I couldn’t agree more. Despite the many problems and the total lack of any money, I must say that from an “internal wellbeing” point of view, I’ve never felt happier!!

    I hope we can keep the thread going and pull as much information together as possible concerning this idea of a dependence between plant guilds and animals within temperate zones!

    Thanks for sharing your experience, it means a lot!

    Peter
     
  14. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm subtropical, and on a standard suburban block. It's chooks and worms for me I'm afraid. Not enough room for a buffalo here! I'm always happy to have my horizons expanded though.
     
  15. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi eco4560

    At the risk of “loosing the thread” of the debate, I would point out that buffalo’s where reintroduced to Tall Grass Prairies in Oklahoma. I’m assume that to acquire an equivalent land mass would require that you give-up most of your kitchen, so I can appreciate the limitations you’re working to!

    Again, the point of the debate is the declaration that for plant guilds, or companion planting, to work properly within a permaculture design for area located within temporate zones, it is necessary for animals to be present.

    So far, I’ve had great difficulty in tying together a Plant Guild/Animal scenario.

    At this point, all you extra smart Permi’s, with years of experience, post back and say something like; ….. hey Peter, I’ve got one of those, you need XXXXXXX, or check out this reference XXXX, it explains everything.

    Failing that, anyone up for an interesting research project and we can write the book?

    Thanks everyone

    Peter
     
  16. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm using the Linda Woodrow system which is based around a chook rotation - So I guess they are the first part of each plant guild that subsequently goes in the ground. Maybe you aren't getting much of a response because many of us are so used to animals in our system that we can't see them as being there if you get my drift. Like fish can't see water....
     
  17. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Maybe we need to focus on brainstorming for your situation, rather than debating if plant guilds work without animals in temperate climates ;-) (it's obvious to me that they do work without animals, although it makes sense that in some situations the system works better with animals).

    I was just reading an article about herbal pasture leys, where a mix of deep, medium and shallow rooting plants is used (to bring up the different minerals from different depths). Multiple species, including ones with specific functions like fixing nitrogen. Stock are rotated on and off, and traditionally the ley is cut and left to replenish the soil (every 4 years?). Leys can also be harvested for silage etc. Cattle will preferentially browse the herbal ley rather than conventional paddock. And the leys are considered important not just for the stock but also for maintaining soil fertility. Google 'Newman Turner'.

    That's organic practice. In a permaculture system I would expect a focus also on mixed tree crops for forage, shelter, and water conservation.


    My understanding from the buffalo example and what happens here in NZ, is that some soils are not well adapted to browsing herds and some are. The prairies are, and the native plants there do better with buffalo because they are adapted to browsing and periodic trampling. But other places, herds of hoofed animals do alot of damage to the land.

    If I were in your situation I would be looking at what that land has sustained historically (although this is tricky in Europe because you have had high human population and intervention for so long). You say that traditional farming was working except you need inputs to raise milk production, which suggests that the land doesn't easily sustain the numbers of goats you have. Whether it's possible to design so around that, or whether it's not possible to graze that many animals and make the kind of living you want sustainably I don't know - essentially you are asking the land to produce a high excess so that you can export milk off the land. Is that possible in a permaculture system? It may be that you need to change something about how you are wanting/needing to make a living, rather than trying to get the land to meet that need in that specific way.

    For me permaculture is about taking cues from the land, and asking how can I work with this land, what does this land offer, rather than trying to impose an idea about what should work. I also think much of permaculture at this point in time is about groundbreaking. So there are no instant answers. It's a design system, but it's also a particular way of thinking, where one applies ones knowledge and experience specifically to the site in question and finds the answers from that process. What I'm saying is that I don't think there are ready made answers for you (sorry!). Having said that, I'd be looking to local goat farmers, and local (France and nearby Europe) permies because they will have the direct knowledge you are seeking.

    If you want some ideas about plant guilds that incorporate animals, maybe you could tell us a bit more about the land in question eg rainfall, soil types, aspect, what plants are there already, is it fenced, what grows locally wild etc.

    Did you look at Joel Salatin's work? He farms in an intensive way, rotating different stock in ways that are beneficial to the animals and the pasture.
     
  18. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I'm not a goat expert but did spend some time as a teenager playing goatgirl.

    One thing that I always remember from this time is that goats liked to browse on trees and shrubs given the opportunity (as well as stealing the neighbours turnips).
    Compared to cows and sheep which seem to prefer to graze lower ie grass level.

    Perhaps you could look at what trees and shrubs have high protein values that are either native to your region/country or at least noninvasive.
    Or what trees your traditionalist neighbours let their livestock browse on and when.

    You could then look at using these as the basis for your guilds.
    I would also look at including as, pebble said, herbal leys either in your fields or the edges of them if you are rotating your grazing with cropping.

    I dont know where I got this next bit of info from but I recall someone reccommending pruning trees such as Apple,Ash and Oak(?) - cant remember the others, so they are multi branching.
    By doing that when plant them, you can lessen the impact of ring barking killing your trees.
    Goats also use tree parts to self medicate too(again cant remember where I got that info from but probably a herbal vet with a french name which I also cant remember, sorry to be vague it might be Julie something which is really helpful I know.She got alot of knowledge from the oldtimers including the Gypies or whatever is politically correct to call them now)

    What do you consider to be commercial levels and what were you achieving prior?
    Ready access to water has alot to do with milk production too.
     
  19. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    That would be Juliette de Bairacli Levy, mischief :) She has written a number of seminal books on herbalism including one on farm animals. Well worth having.
     
  20. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi eco4560 – I don’t know the Linda Woodrow system but it did remind me of the “Cell Grazing” used by the holistic farm guy from South Africa mentioned by purplepear ……. I keep hoping he may get back with a name or reference. After all, if you can rotate with chooks and have a chicken tractor, why not goat cells?

    Some sort of idea is starting to crystallise, but it would probably take a lot of “goat-proof” fencing which can be expensive …….. which is not too bad because I’m just looking at a form from our “Chambre d’Agriculture” to apply for financial aide to replace or introduce new fencing. Talk about prophetic or what?

    Hi pebble, I was afraid someone was going to say that! Hope springs eternal only to crushed yet again beneath the solid heal of “So there are no instant answers”. Does anyone ever get an instant answer to anything? However, I was particularly inspired by your comment “I also think much of permaculture at this point in time is about groundbreaking.” ………. so we’ll overlook the initial minor indiscretion.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about taking to other goat farmers and historical considerations. However you would need to understand something of the farming system that has existed since the Second World War, and possible before. Because of the Common Agricultural Policy, most smallish farms (and many big ones) operate at subsistence level or even run at a loss. However, each year we all mark-out on a satellite Arial plan the location and type of land we have, and the numbers and types of animals on our farm. A couple of months later a generous cheque arrives in the post. Voila!

    The system was originally set-up to encourage farmers to stay on the land, however, it still depends primarily on traditional farming methods. For example, if you have a mixed forest type of environment you don’t get much per hectare. However, if you chop down all the trees and create a prairie or meadow you get more. If you “plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land” and create a monoculture of corn, you’ll need Securicor to bring your aide cheque round!

    If you’re looking for some gnarled old goat-keepers who’ve struggled against the adds and who know how to squeeze the last blade of grass out of impoverished land ……….. well, you wont find any in France!

    Hi mischief, love the goatgirl thing!

    Someone mentioned Tree Luzerne (which is evergreen) on another posting so I’m waiting for the piggy-bank to look a bit less bony then I can order about 10,000 seeds. I think they will do well here and will replace the traditional luzerne (Alfalfa), which is not evergreen and needs cutting and bailing equipment!

    I will try and check-out Joel Salatin's work but at the moment I really need purplepear to come back with a name. The idea of goat cells with plant guilds/companion planting has really caught my imagination!

    France calling Purplepear, come in please ……..
     

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