Hi Farmsteaders, Recently I have been studying permaculture and thought I would summarise what the principles mean to me and some real life applications of them in my life.
Observe and Interact- We have a mixed herd with 4 sheep, 2 horses, and 1 cow in it. Every day they are moved to a new paddock, to give them fresh grass and making sure that they are not grazing over their own manure. As the amount of feed that they consume depends on the grasses present, I need to observe their previous days paddock and adjust size accordingly. This ensures that all grasses are eaten evenly, and helps to improve the pasture.
Catch and Store Energy- To catch and store energy we have 50 solar panels on the roof on our shed as well as a battery system to ensure that all our electricity that we use is is powered by the sun and we do not need to use coal-burning electricity generating systems. You can read more about off-grid solar system here
Obtain a Yield- As our chickens free range they defecate onto the ground improving the fertility of the soil, and also at the same time benefit from the grass and bugs they collect, laying eggs which we can then collect to eat/sell.
Apply Self-Regulation and accept feedback- I recently built a duck cage to house our 24 ducks. The cage was however too hard to move easily, so I replaced the old wheels with bigger wheels to provide more clearance so the cage didn’t get hung up as much. This duck cage needs further modification as it is still too heavy to move easily. I am continuing to assess this cage and make changes as needed.
Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services– Another way to reuse waste is that our local tip makes compost from all the green waste that they receive. It helps reduce the amount of wasted resources, plus it is also a big benefit to us as we are able to purchase compost in bulk quantities that we would not normally be able to produce easily. When we planted the lawn around our house we purchased 25m3 of compost and used it to top-dress the lawn to promote growth.
Produce No Waste- The fruit and vegetable store in one of our nearby towns receives their produce in polystyrene boxes and then simply dump them out the back as they don’t need them any more. To sell we have made wooden planter boxes, and then placed the polystyrene boxes inside the wood to hold the soil. This is a simple way to reuse something that normally would just go to waste, as well as providing us with a little bit of income.
Design From Pattern To Details- When we first moved onto our farm we had no buildings on our farm and no way of collecting water. We did have a windmill connected to a bore so we got that repaired and had a trench dug to deliver water to a tank about 700m away, near our house site. We then left the trench uncovered in order to give us more options. When we then got our horse and cow we ran an electric fence next to the water line and then cell grazed off that fence. We are now planning to install taps at 100m intervals along the water line in order to provide water to the animals easily.
Integrate Rather than Segregate– Currently on our property we have 1 cow, 2 horses and 4 sheep run together in a mixed herd. We get several benefits from this: – Less work, simply move every animal at the same time – Have the same requirements in terms of water and food – All eat different grasses e.g the sheep eat fireweed which the horses and cow don’t eat. – Fertility from manure
Use Small and Slow Solutions- On our property we have numerous lantana bushes. We could push it out with our tractor (as we have done in some situations) or we could have goats and then pigs to get rid of the lantana. The goats would eat the lantana, while the pigs would root up the lantana. You could then reseed it with grasses.
Use and Value Diversity– Many farms these days focus on one single enterprise (e.g beef cattle, wheat). This means that if there is a problem with their enterprise all their eggs are in one basket and they can suffer serious financial problems and at worst a complete loss of livelihood.
On our farm we aim to have multiple streams of income. For example, we are raising pigs for meat, have chickens for eggs, raise ducks for eggs, hatch duck eggs and sell ducklings, have sheep for meat and a dairy cow for milk. This means we have greater security if one enterprise fails, as we have income from the other enterprises. We also have much more varied work in our day to day life as we interact with the other different animals. Another benefit is the fertility that these animals add to the soil, or the compost if we add their manure to it.
Use the Edges and Value the Marginal- At one of the local Aldi stores we collect their out of date/ spoiled produce. Normally this produce is not valued and simply thrown in the bin. Instead when we get it it is fed to our animals, who we then get food from the animals. This is turning an undervalued product into an extremely valuable product.
Creatively Use and Respond to Change– On our property we have now had nearly 5 months with barely a drop of rain. All of our house tanks are empty and we would have had to buy water except we have had our bore pumping into the house tanks. This has encouraged us to look at drought proofing our property, and looking at ways to reduce water usage and waste.
Till next time Farmsteaders.