Resilience-Building Cycle for Smallholders (& Other Land-Based Projects)

I gave a couple of talks at the Green Gathering this past weekend, focusing on what I am calling ‘Pastoral Permaculture’ (to follow in another blog post) and ‘Resilient Smallholding’. It’s the latter of these that I’d like to focus upon in this post.
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06. August 2014 by admin
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Shearing By Hand

Dora Shear

It’s about three weeks since shearing was finished, but here is a photo of ‘flock-leader’ Dora half way through her clipping; we use Burgon And Ball hand shears (hand-powered shears – not hand-held electric clippers). With only a small flock, it is not worth the outlay on electric equipment.
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02. July 2014 by admin
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Last Lamb

The last lamb birthed this morning – a strapping ram-lamb to Chubby. That’s 3 pairs of twins, and 3 singles, with a mix of ewe-lambs and ram-lambs. Here is a photo of Brownie’s tiny twins – the smallest of the lot:

Brownie twins

That’s lambing over for another year. Pretty uneventful (perhaps not for the ewe’s, who were all first-timers); as far as I was concerned though, another success for the approach of ‘maximum observation, minimum intervention’ (although the kit was ready just in case). Now fingers crossed for their first few weeks and months …

29. May 2014 by admin
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Adapting the KSOP for Resilient Smallholding in the UK

This is the first of what will be occasional posts most likely to be of interest to the broader ‘permaculture community’ rather than customers of my produce, who might follow my blog to see what’s going on at the smallholding – although of course there’s no knowing who (if any) will find it interesting. It concerns a framework, or ‘tool’, often used – or at least often mentioned! – in permaculture circles: the Keyline Scale of Permanence (or KSOP). The KSOP was developed by PA Yeomans in Australia from the 1950’s onwards as part of his work towards helping agriculture on that continent become more sustainable, particular with regards to water management, protection of soils, and cropping productivity (especially grass/pasture), in what Alan Savoury would call more ‘brittle‘ environments. Keyline is credited with being a forerunner of permaculture, recognised by both of permaculture’s co-founders (Mollison and Holmgren) as having influenced their work.
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29. May 2014 by admin
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Soy Bean Trial

Soy Bean Bed

The soy beans for the Permaculture Association trials were put in the ground on Wednesday afternoon (21st May – a little later than they should have been, thanks to Post Office shenanigans claiming extra cash before letting me have them).
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23. May 2014 by admin
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In case you need cheering up …

In case you need cheering up after voting in this Thursday’s European elections – or maybe after purposely not voting – then why not head to Exeter for a Transition Exeter event, breezily titled: Planning for Emergencies and Preparing for Disasters! From the blurb:

According to the Met Office, the recent devastating storms are the outcome of climate change and will get worse. In their words, we should be “making ourselves more resilient to flooding in the future.” (February 2014)

Pretty much what I have had in mind while preparing my Resilient Smallholding courses – and while planning water-management and other developments at Arcady. For more details see here.

19. May 2014 by admin
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Late Lambing – 1st Lambs

first lambs

Here is a picture of Harley – or is it Quin? – with her twins, born on Friday. Ram-lamb on right, ewe-lamb on left. Click on the photo to expand. Five more ewes to lamb.

Back in last Autumn, when planning this year’s lambing, I made the decision to put Lancelot the ram in rather late (in December), with a view to lambing in May of this year. I did this largely as a response to the situation last Spring, which really didn’t happen here properly until very late: a weather pattern of dry and cold easterly winds set in and did not shift (another example of weather patterns getting stuck of late), meaning that the pasture did not ‘get away’ until very late. As it happened, I did not lamb last year, since I am keen to not let livestock numbers get too large for the acreage available – if I had planned a Spring lambing last year then I would have been in a fix with no pasture available for lactating ewes.
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19. May 2014 by admin
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Glyphosate (Roundup) & GMOs in Your Food – A Retired Expert Speaks Out

Professor Ron Huber is a retired award-winning, internationally-recognised scientist and professor of plant pathology. Because he has retired and has no fear about his future career development, he is able to speak out about important issues concerning the safety of food that is widely available. These issues include:

  • glyphosate (the main poison in Roundup) being a more powerful toxin than DDT – and not being neutralised on contact with soil, as is claimed;
  • how the other chemicals (especially surfactants) in Roundup multiply the toxicity of glyphosate by up to 1000 times;
  • the powerful negative antibiotic effect of glyphosate on plant, animal and human health;
  • the reduction in nutrient availability in food resulting from glyphosate use;
  • the damage that new proteins created in Genetically Manipulated Organisms (GMOs) do to human health;
  • the myth that GMOs are needed to feed the world (rather than leading to yield gains, GMOs have been aimed primarily at allowing crops to soak up more glyphosate and other toxins so that the crops do not die while insects and ‘weeds’ do – this extra poison, once soaked up, goes into the food chain – oh, but that’s OK because the solution is just to raise the levels of poison that are allowed in food by the regulators!);
  • the role of glyphosate in honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder;
  • the effect of GMOs and glyphosate on the human immune system.

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16. May 2014 by admin
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Biochar Soil Ammendment Trial

Biochar Test Beds

I am taking part in the Biochar Experiment run by the Centre for Agroecology and Food Security at Coventry University. This aims to assess the effect of biochar supplements to soil when growing root vegetables. The trial and control beds that I prepared have now each been sown with 2 rows of the carrot seed supplied (Nantes 2). I had not judged the amount of seed accurately while sowing, so the final row was sown a little more thinly compared to the others – since the carrots will be thinned to the same final spacings once they start growing I hope that this should not cause too much of a problem. Both the trial and control beds are 1 square Metre in size (200x50cm) and one (on the left/South side) has had the biochar incorporated. I had to record the soil texture (silty clay loam) and pH (5.75). The instructions for determining the soil texture were not at all clear (and were headed ‘How to Determine the Structure of Your Soil’ – a different thing entirely!), but fortunately I have access to a reliable method of determining soil texture (I use the method in the Earth Care Manual, but see also the bottom of this page for the method).

I will record progress of the experiment in due course …

UPDATE 23/5/13

Both beds now have seedlings emerging – although they are rather small. I am suddenly reminded how I love buttered organic carrots – time to prepare more carrot beds!

12. May 2014 by admin
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Potato Beds with Comfrey

Reduced Bed Prep

We finally got our maincrop potatoes in yesterday. The delay allowed the incorporation of comfrey into the bottom of the trench. The theory is that as the comfrey breaks down it will provide food for the potatoes – we will see how they turn out, but as there is no control bed it will not be possible to assess the extent to which this happens.
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12. May 2014 by admin
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