Temperate zone Permacultures need animals

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

  1. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Peter I'm sure there's info out there about rotational grazing systems using goats. Do goats respect an electric fence? Rather than spending a lot on fencing you might be able to set up one temporary paddock with electric fencing, graze the goats there, then move the goats AND the fencing. Chooks might go on next and then plant the area up, so you have something for the goats to eat when they next return to that spot.
     
  2. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi eco4560

    I like the idea of rotating cells and certainly on Geoff Lawtons DVD, Introduction to Permaculture, one of the examples he shows of a “farm type” permaculture is separated into the traditional zones by a lot of fencing.

    Whilst most goats respect electric fencing (we use the 10,000 volt system), it only takes one to catch its horns to bring the whole lot down.

    I did try with a mobile electric “mesh” fence, however, one of the young goats got its horns stuck and ripped the whole thing to pieces within a matter of minutes.

    We use a metal mesh fence as a solid barrier, which is then further protected by an electric fence that consists of three wire/plastic strands.

    Somewhere on the forum I mentioned our intention to change from the long legged “jumpy” milking goats, to the stockier, non-jumping Boer goats. The Boers are traditionally used for meat production but at present demand for this type of animal has risen considerably so they’re difficult to find and expensive. Those who do raise Boers can sell them straight off the farm for around 500 euro’s (about 700 dollars) each at 5 months old.

    Bits and pieces coming together!!

    Many thanks,

    Peter
     
  3. geoff

    geoff Junior Member

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    As I understand it a guild is any complementary mix of species, generally deigned around supporting a central element, regardless of size or range covered, so a person could plant out a forest of species, say for timber production, with complementary species, and that would still constitute a guild, as long as it fulfills the criteria of being designed to maximise the mutual benefits of each species upon the others. In many ways I think it is dependent on perspective and goals envisioned for the overall system.

    If a guild is designed around supporting a central element (which was sort of implied in the some PC works, e.g. PDM section 3.13) then it's a matter of deciding if the goats (or whatever animal) are the central element of your system or subsystem. If you decide that is the case then you would design the guild(s) around that element, so things like trees for shelter and fodder, herbs for medication, boundaries/cells/paddock units for improving both animal and land health. As many inputs to the goat are satisfied by the elements included in the design as possible.

    On the other hand if you were to decide that the trees were the central element of the guild then you might decide that the goats have more negative impacts than positive, so choose to leave them out in favour of other elements that show a better balance of positives. In that case something like chickens might better suit.

    Across an entire diverse property we would have an interaction of various guilds across boundaries, both real and conceptual. In one area an orchard of fruit trees might be the central element. We would include chickens in that guild for removing fallen fruit, pest control and fertiliser services, but they might not be placed there permanently as they can do fair damage to young trees, and destroy crops, which are negatives in regard to our central element and our desire to obtain fruit. The chickens themselves are the central member of a chicken guild, around which we'd place various elements that directly support and provide for their needs. Part of that would be including the orchard as a food source for limited rotations in the yearly cycle. At that point we have an overlap between the two guilds.

    I think in your specific case you'd be more interested in building guilds around the animals, rather than the plants, but I can see the merit in the idea of plant guilds needing animals. They provide various services such as converting biomass into quality fertiliser, pruning plants, weeding out unwanted species (if the animal is chosen specifically and the situation suits), but I also think it depends on scale. In a backyard then the major animal performing the larger, more obvious, services would be the humans, with other animals like birds and reptiles etc performing a variety of sundry services that might be less obvious. Over the broad scale lots then animals can be introduced to perform some of these services without detriment to the goals of the particular system. A sheep in the typical suburban backyard is not going to have a very beneficial effect.

    On the Boers, my FIL was running Boer goats for a while and they were a lot easier on the fences, so you might have success with rotational grazing. He was using fixed paddocks and it worked reasonably well to break various parasite cycles, as well as to rest pasture. In contrast our block where there are Boers agisted is one open block so there is no resting and constant grazing, which is good for getting rid of the weeds (well, the ones the goats prefer anyway) but does nothing for breaking parasite cycles.
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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  5. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Pebble

    Many thanks for the link.

    I read the article rather quickly, however, it did seem to add quite a lot to the animal/plant debate.

    Unfortunately, great on the big view, short on specifics, however, it may be that the basic research just hasn’t yet been done? I know that there’s a gaping hole in our understanding of plant-soil relationships so the state of our understanding concerning the further introduction of animals may be even worse!

    I will check through the references included and see if they lead further into the light, …….. or perhaps just deeper into the darkness of the forest?

    I noticed that several of the entries to this thread got deleted during the recent attack on the server. I have some entries in the e-mail system on my computer. Would it be appropriate to re-post them. Unfortunately I don’t have my response to Geoff’s in-depth overview, but I could try and rewrite it?

    Thanks,

    Peter
     
  6. Yukkuri_Kame

    Yukkuri_Kame Junior Member

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    reminds me of 'FARMERS OF FORTY CENTURIES OR PERMANENT AGRICULTURE IN CHINA, KOREA AND JAPAN' By F. H. KING, D. Sc.
    Avialable at https://www.soilandhealth.org/

    Also, important to remember that the human being is indeed an animal with various inputs and outputs and our own niche within guilds.

    BTW, I started listening to the course podcasts. I find the teacher quite boring so far.
     
  7. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Yukkuri_Kame

    At the risk of imposing further upon your time, could I ask that you elucidate a little further on the contents of this most impressive sounding book?

    The role of humans, as animals in a permaculture, alongside all other animals in their needs, is a point I have raised many times! Lots of permaculture articles place emphasis on a human village/community, despite greed, abuse and birth rate, whilst placing severe restrictions on animal populations! ……… fair share for all!!!

    At the risk of a further intrusion, which “podcasts” are you referring to?

    Thanks,

    Peter
     
  8. Yukkuri_Kame

    Yukkuri_Kame Junior Member

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    The book is 100 years old...but exceedingly relevant. Describes the practices by which asians have been able to support high population density using intensive agriculture, including the recycling of human and animal wastes to maintain soil fertility for 4000 years or so. Follow the links it is there.

    As for the podcasts, I am talking about the permaculture course from North Carolina on itunes.
     
  9. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Yukkuri_Kame

    I did spend some time delving into the e-book, which seems to be based upon the travels and observations of F.H. KING, published in 1911. I was intrigued to note that human waste was often sold by the larger cities and transported by barge to the countryside.

    However, may I contrast this glowing account with another book that was written about the same time but places a different emphasis on life in China.

    { China : Land of Famine. By WALTER H. MALLORY, Secretary, China International Famine Relief Commision. 1926. (New York : American Geographical Society ; Special Publication, No 6 Illus).

    …… This is the story of the eternal tragedy of the Chinese people – the struggle for life below the level of subsistence. “Have you eaten?” is the standard greeting of the Chinese, corresponding to our “How do you do?” This shows the extent to which the subject is uppermost in the Chinese mind. “Between the years 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in some one of the provinces. Untold millions have died of starvation.” }. I won’t continue any further because it gets worse!

    I understand the relevance to permaculture because many of the reports within F.H. KING’s e-book could have been lifted straight from a Permaculture manual. However, extreme caution must generally applied to historical interpretations of events because these are often unsubstantiated or are selectively “browsed” to support a particular point of view. The many texts on Communism are another classical example of the selective browsing of history to support a particular point of view. Often individual reference in isolation can be shown to be true, however, collectively, and placed within the total context of the period under investigation, these isolated references can be seen as meaningless or “special cases”.

    As for the podcasts from the University of North Carolina, I certainly agree that the lecturer takes a long time to get going and seems easily distracted by what appears to be irrelevancies. However, its just a Permaculture Foundation course and, for the most part, the lecturer seems to be trying to get his students into a permaculture “mindset” before he gets to the difficult stuff! For my part, due to shortage of time, I’ve only got to lecture number 10, but already I can see an improvement.

    I hope you have the time to discuss these points a little further. It may appear that China had the basics of permaculture – which we can learn from, but failed to implement them correctly – which we can also learn from.

    Best wishes,

    Peter
     
  10. Yukkuri_Kame

    Yukkuri_Kame Junior Member

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    Yes, Asia, and China in particular have had their share of famines and all histories are suspect, but the asian countries have definitely supported large populations for a long time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Countries_by_population_density.svg

    Vegetarianism, or a diet leaning in that direction certainly is relevant in the discussion. Climate is also a significant factor.
     
  11. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Yukkuri_Kame

    I would dare to say that Asia and China have had more than their fair share of famines!

    Its interesting to note that F.H. KING deplores the loss of essential nutrients by the tendency of “Western” civilisations to pump their effluent into rivers and the sea. He fails to take into account that the reasoning behind this approach was to remove effluent from centres of population and therefore reduce the incidence of epidemics. However, to be fair to Dr King, his book is over a hundred years old.

    The need to remove effluent, and the risk of contamination of food and water-supplies, still holds true today. However, thanks to new techniques, and here I would definitely include permaculture, we are learning to deal safely with effluent, without the need to pollute rivers and the sea, and to return essential nutrients to the soil. The millions that have died due to epidemics in China and Asia may bare testament to the unsafe handling of effluent.

    The lecturer in the North Carolina University “podcaste” makes an interesting reference to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when millions of Chinese were forced back to the land. Whilst deploring the “human cost” of this period of Chinese history, he does point out the considerable improvement in soil quality that occurred as a consequence.

    I don’t know if your familiar with the works of James Lovelock, independent environmental scientist and creator of the Gaia Hypothesis, however, he has suggested that in order for mankind to deal with the fast approaching environmental crisis caused by global warming, there may be a need for a “Temporary Suspension of Democracy”. Obviously, such events as the Chinese Cultural Revolution could only be implemented by a Totalitarian regime and in the total absence of democracy.

    Has history already shown us the way, and the price that must be paid?

    The lecturer at NC University also makes reference to Gaia Hypothesis, which essentially views the earth as a self regulating living organism. Very much along the lines of a living “Mother Earth”. One consequence of such a view, is that if humans continue to live beyond what is sustainable, the earth itself will act to restore the balance by removing, or reducing, the human population.

    One of the most interesting aspects of Dr Kings book is that whilst he applauds the family that can be fed from a small piece of land, a few animals, etc., he fails to take into account the millions who have died from starvation and uncontrollable epidemics.

    One view of the situation, is that China and Asia have been living beyond what is sustainable for thousands of years. Short-term gains, using principles similar to those employed by permaculture, are lost amongst the millions of graves.

    If you then apply the Gaia Hypothesis to the historical situation that has existed within China/Asia for thousands of years; ….”if humans continue to live beyond what is sustainable the earth will act to restore the balance” ……. you can see exactly what has happened. Drought, flood, epidemic, leading inevitably to war and revolution …….. perhaps the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride with us still?

    I have found your reference immensely interesting, and it has forced me to reflect upon the fact that permaculturalists, whilst patting themselves on the back and declaring that “we can save the world”, may be a little premature in their self-congratulation when a complete historical perspective is taken into account.

    Peter
     
  12. Yukkuri_Kame

    Yukkuri_Kame Junior Member

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    We cannot afford the luxury of self-doubt. Healthy critical thinking, yes, but lets not indulge in anything that prevents us acting on our best guess with the info we have now.
     
  13. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    I do like your style of thinking friend, self doubt and an over reliance on science may cause us to miss an opportunity "to save the world"
     
  14. PeterFD

    PeterFD Junior Member

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    Hi Yukkuri_Kame

    I take your point, however, we cannot afford the luxury of self delusion either.

    Permaculture many not be THE answer but it is AN ANSWER.

    Sometimes you have to make a start whilst not having all the answers, and sometimes not even knowing all the questions. However, this does not mean that you cannot start. During the process, you can learn as you go.

    Nobody knows what effect global warming will have on the planet, perhaps a massive drought, perhaps a new ice age, perhaps something else, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps! There are simply too many variables. Equally, the basic research concerning the relationship between plants, animals, and the soil has yet to be completed.

    We will be seeking to use permaculture to provide solutions to problems that, at this moment in time, are completely unknown.

    Your reference to the texts of Dr KING really opened my eyes to the reality of the problem. We can visit a Chinese family, be astonished that a system that has existed for 4,000 years is still capable of feeding the family on such a small patch of land, …….. but we’re standing on a mass grave of millions who died of starvation and for whom this amazing system offered nothing!

    I hope that you will forgive me for disagreeing, however, I feel your concluding remark risks repeating the mistakes of the past with the inevitable consequences.

    We are entering unknown territory with a very “sketchy” permaculture map that is more notable by its absences than what is actually included. By the time we’ve finished, we will probably have re-written the map …….. and wonder how we came to our original conclusions and how we came to make so many mistakes.

    The wonderful thing about permaculture is that its accessible to all and, as a consequence, we all have a role to play.

    However, lets start with our eyes wide open and our wits about us!

    Thanks for a wonderful debate,

    Peter
     
  15. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    I think I rewrite the map each day. We do, i agree, need to be careful of complacency and not loose sight of opportunities to learn as we go.
     

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