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Natural farming in the temperate Pacific Northwest

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  • T Fox
    Hello all, How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field crops, for
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 29, 2010
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      Hello all,

      How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by
      horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field
      crops, for instance dent corn production?
      What is the timeframe and process?
      How does one begin?

      It rains and drizzles for 6 months of the year here with a dry warm
      summer, to the point where the clay soil will form 1 inch wide cracks
      if left exposed and unprotected by vegetation.
      The rains usually continue steadily until mid May.
      The saying is 'April showers bring May flowers'.



      ----------



      Any advice is appreciated.
      Thank you,

      Tereza




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Linda Shewan
      Hi Tereza, I have not had direct experience of the size of a field just small areas but what I would do is quite heavily hand broadcast broad beans into the
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 29, 2010
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        Hi Tereza,



        I have not had direct experience of the size of a field just small areas but
        what I would do is quite heavily hand broadcast broad beans into the field
        in autumn (or early spring but then you have another season of cover crop
        prior to the actual harvest crop) and then mow the field over the top of the
        seeds. Broad beans seem to have the best success in grass according to all
        of the past messages on this list and they are also what I have had most
        success with, although I also had good success this year with buckwheat sown
        in early summer. After the beans have grown and are about to flower then
        hand broadcast the seeds or seedballs of the intended crop and slash the
        broad bean crop on top of that. Seed balls are probably the best option if
        the weather does not do exactly the right thing for you (ie. rain at the
        time of or very shortly after seed dispersal). The broad beans have fixed
        nitrogen into the soil and the rotting mulch protects the seeds from birds
        (but not from mice and rats!) and feeds the soil from the top.



        I would repeat the process but perhaps with different cover crops each year
        to revitalise the soil and provide stand in place mulch for soil
        improvement. You can also bring in huge amounts of straw to start the
        process. Cracks in uncovered clay soil are essential for allowing any rain
        that does occur to penetrate into the soil during those months instead of
        running straight off. If you have growth of some kind on the fields all the
        time and a build up of mulch beneath that then the moisture will be able to
        penetrate and that is the situation you want to prevail across your land. So
        the slashed cover crop / mulch is critical for many reasons.



        Where I have a few acres there has been no rain and therefore no grass cover
        to slash over seeds and no water to germinate the seeds so although I have
        broadcast many many kilos of seeds I have precious little to show for it...
        at home I have much smaller space and a little more moisture so I have had
        much better success there. I will be honest though and say I did not get
        great germination until I moved soil around to level some ground for a
        greenhouse and create paths. Then massive germination in all of the
        disturbed soil areas and some in the surrounding areas but not as heavy...



        Good luck, hopefully more in the field experienced people will answer your
        questions also...



        Linda







        From: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of T Fox
        Sent: Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:45 AM
        To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Natural farming in the temperate Pacific
        Northwest

        Hello all,

        How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by
        horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field
        crops, for instance dent corn production?
        What is the timeframe and process?
        How does one begin?

        It rains and drizzles for 6 months of the year here with a dry warm
        summer, to the point where the clay soil will form 1 inch wide cracks
        if left exposed and unprotected by vegetation.
        The rains usually continue steadily until mid May.
        The saying is 'April showers bring May flowers'.

        ----------

        Any advice is appreciated.
        Thank you,

        Tereza

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Tom Gibson
        Cracking clay soils are what agronomists would consider to be middle age clays in the prime of their life for adsorbing and releasing nutrients and water to
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 30, 2010
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          Cracking clay soils are what agronomists would consider to be middle age
          clays in the prime of their life for adsorbing and releasing nutrients
          and water to plants. The CEC or cation exchange capacity is enhanced by
          the amount of surface areas in such soils. The life cycle of the field
          you described isn't really consistent for either use, horses followed by
          field crops. If you had large livestock that weren't allowed to graze
          for too long on any one piece of ground, no more than 2-3 days at a
          time, and were continuously moved to new ground each day then they might
          help to improve the soil over a long time. Giving them access to the
          whole field for six months of the year means that the soil is being
          severely compacted which is especially bad on clay and even worse when
          that is done when the clay is wet. This schema is not inducive to
          natural or any other kind of farming as part of a rotation.

          I am curious about your selection of corn. Although corn is an important
          commodity crop because it is so versatile for all the chemicals we can
          make from it, it is mainly an energy crop that is low in nutrition like
          protein, vitamins, and minerals. Beef fed in confinement are fed lots of
          corn to fatten them up but they also get sick from it and have to be fed
          antibiotics as part of their ration. Most of the food you see in US
          supermarkets are simply rearrangements of corn and people that dine
          exclusively on processed foods-the American corn based diet, are all
          obese and have a high incidence of diabetes. This came to pass because
          Midwest farmers are now addicted to USDA subsidies that make it far
          cheaper to buy processed food made in a factory thousands of miles away
          than it is to buy real fresh local food. Corn isn't very good as a
          ration for animals either, although a lot of animal feeds contain a
          large amount of corn, but mostly because it is cheap and the corn is
          sold at the same prices as meat based feeds making the feed
          manufacturers look pretty smart and people that buy this corn porn not
          very good consumers as there is no literature that supports feeding
          animals the amount of corn currently in circulation.

          I would consider getting some portable fencing on your pasture land and
          mixing some other animals in. Horses, followed by pigs, then chickens
          ala Joe Salatin. Horses will knock the big stuff down, pigs will dig
          things up helping the tilth of the soil, and chickens will clean up all
          the bugs and organic matter left by the other animals. Set some other
          land aside for growing field crops. I would start with a small enough
          piece that you can work with whatever equipment you have. If you are
          doing this by hand by yourself then I would try 100 sq ft the first year
          to see how that goes and expand it from there.

          Tom Gibson
          www.camaspermaculture.org <http://www.camaspermaculture.org>

          --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, T Fox <tereza_fox@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hello all,
          >
          > How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by
          > horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field
          > crops, for instance dent corn production?
          > What is the timeframe and process?
          > How does one begin?
          >
          > It rains and drizzles for 6 months of the year here with a dry warm
          > summer, to the point where the clay soil will form 1 inch wide cracks
          > if left exposed and unprotected by vegetation.
          > The rains usually continue steadily until mid May.
          > The saying is 'April showers bring May flowers'.
          >
          >
          >
          > ----------
          >
          >
          >
          > Any advice is appreciated.
          > Thank you,
          >
          > Tereza
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • T Fox
          Tom, thank you for your prompt response and insight. Oaxacan Green Dent Corn ( http://www.seedsavers.org/Details.aspx? itemNo=934 ) is to be grown without
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 30, 2010
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            Tom, thank you for your prompt response and insight.

            Oaxacan Green Dent Corn ( http://www.seedsavers.org/Details.aspx?
            itemNo=934 ) is to be grown without supplemental irrigation.

            Personally, I have always found eating hominy satisfying and
            delicious, especially when it's made from corn grown at home, dried
            and then boiled with wood ash (and then rinsed, of course). To grow
            a complete and varied vegetarian diet is a wish I have for myself and
            dent corn may be stored for winter consumption.

            What you suggest below, the animal grazing rotation, reminds me of
            what Sepp Holzer teaches and I am willing to try it.

            The situation on this particular piece of land is that it is quite
            low in areas, pooling water after extended rainfall, and drying
            rather late in the season. By the time the soil dries enough to allow
            horse passage without major compaction, the grass grows high and
            green and horses founder repeatedly on it. So, perhaps two hours a
            day, for 3 three days, and then on to new ground? How much area per
            horse per day might you guess to be appropriate, as a starting point?

            We have the portable fencing, the horses will arrive in May, and the
            chickens live on site. Pigs... that sounds like trouble but I do
            want attempt the roto-tilling action of the pig.

            What would be a possible succession?
            Horse grazing, pig roto-tilling, chickens picking and then what?
            Broadcasting a cover crop? (Fava beans was suggested by another on
            this list.)
            And then what? The same animal rotation?
            Would this be for preparation of growing field crops? Of general
            soil fertility building?

            Do you have personal experience with type of system?

            Thanks a bundle!
            Tereza





            On 2010, Mar 30, , at 09:39 AM, Tom Gibson wrote:

            >
            > Cracking clay soils are what agronomists would consider to be
            > middle age
            > clays in the prime of their life for adsorbing and releasing nutrients
            > and water to plants. The CEC or cation exchange capacity is
            > enhanced by
            > the amount of surface areas in such soils. The life cycle of the field
            > you described isn't really consistent for either use, horses
            > followed by
            > field crops. If you had large livestock that weren't allowed to graze
            > for too long on any one piece of ground, no more than 2-3 days at a
            > time, and were continuously moved to new ground each day then they
            > might
            > help to improve the soil over a long time. Giving them access to the
            > whole field for six months of the year means that the soil is being
            > severely compacted which is especially bad on clay and even worse when
            > that is done when the clay is wet. This schema is not inducive to
            > natural or any other kind of farming as part of a rotation.
            >
            > I am curious about your selection of corn. Although corn is an
            > important
            > commodity crop because it is so versatile for all the chemicals we can
            > make from it, it is mainly an energy crop that is low in nutrition
            > like
            > protein, vitamins, and minerals. Beef fed in confinement are fed
            > lots of
            > corn to fatten them up but they also get sick from it and have to
            > be fed
            > antibiotics as part of their ration. Most of the food you see in US
            > supermarkets are simply rearrangements of corn and people that dine
            > exclusively on processed foods-the American corn based diet, are all
            > obese and have a high incidence of diabetes. This came to pass because
            > Midwest farmers are now addicted to USDA subsidies that make it far
            > cheaper to buy processed food made in a factory thousands of miles
            > away
            > than it is to buy real fresh local food. Corn isn't very good as a
            > ration for animals either, although a lot of animal feeds contain a
            > large amount of corn, but mostly because it is cheap and the corn is
            > sold at the same prices as meat based feeds making the feed
            > manufacturers look pretty smart and people that buy this corn porn not
            > very good consumers as there is no literature that supports feeding
            > animals the amount of corn currently in circulation.
            >
            > I would consider getting some portable fencing on your pasture land
            > and
            > mixing some other animals in. Horses, followed by pigs, then chickens
            > ala Joe Salatin. Horses will knock the big stuff down, pigs will dig
            > things up helping the tilth of the soil, and chickens will clean up
            > all
            > the bugs and organic matter left by the other animals. Set some other
            > land aside for growing field crops. I would start with a small enough
            > piece that you can work with whatever equipment you have. If you are
            > doing this by hand by yourself then I would try 100 sq ft the first
            > year
            > to see how that goes and expand it from there.
            >
            > Tom Gibson
            > www.camaspermaculture.org <http://www.camaspermaculture.org>
            >
            > --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, T Fox <tereza_fox@...> wrote:
            > >
            > > Hello all,
            > >
            > > How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by
            > > horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field
            > > crops, for instance dent corn production?
            > > What is the timeframe and process?
            > > How does one begin?
            > >
            > > It rains and drizzles for 6 months of the year here with a dry warm
            > > summer, to the point where the clay soil will form 1 inch wide
            > cracks
            > > if left exposed and unprotected by vegetation.
            > > The rains usually continue steadily until mid May.
            > > The saying is 'April showers bring May flowers'.
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > ----------
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > Any advice is appreciated.
            > > Thank you,
            > >
            > > Tereza
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > >
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Tom Gibson
            Tereza, Animal rotations is what Joe Salatin is doing on his farm but not with horses. http://www.polyfacefarms.com/default.aspx I would check this out for
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
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              Tereza,

              Animal rotations is what Joe Salatin is doing on his farm but not with
              horses. http://www.polyfacefarms.com/default.aspx I would check this out for
              more detailed information about animal rotations. I would also find any
              video or interviews you can with him. He is a great advocate for local food,
              naturally grown food, and farm to consumer agriculture.



              As far as that variety of corn goes Oaxaca is in a very tropical area near
              the equator that has pretty reliable rain in season. I would look for local
              varieties that are successful in the PNW and only do trials on exotics from
              completely different climates and soil types in small plots to see if they
              are locally reliable. Chances are you can find something better closer to
              home.



              It's hard to answer so many questions except to say that with all the
              science knowledge in the world agriculture is as much of an art as a
              science. Trust what you know, remember the soil is a living thing, and above
              all other things care for your soil. You described a very unique situation
              that will take some trial and error to reach an optimum solution. I look
              forward to hearing future reports about things you tried and how it worked.
              Almost everything I know I read or know because I made a mistake. But the
              mistakes usually ended up with more food than I could eat and a lesson
              learned about how to produce even more. Everything else I learned came from
              spending time with friends and neighbors and seeing what mistakes they made
              as well as their successes.





              You can see what is going on in our food forest at
              <http://www.camaspermaculture.org> www.camaspermaculture.org
              <mailto:tom@...> tom@...
              Tom Gibson



              Why does Congress authorize the US Department of Agriculture to subsidize
              toxic industrial chemicals like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but not
              fresh vegetables? Nancy Pelosi took agricultural subsidy reform off the
              table so Democratic Party members from states that have large corporate
              agribusinesses can get re-elected (to keep representing large agribusiness
              concerns). Tell your Congressman and Senators that you aren't going to vote
              for them if they don't level the playing field for local, fresh, and
              nutrient dense foods





              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Steve Grannis
              Tereza, I have successfully used this method with Calias Abenaki dent corn from Fedco seeds. I m in the north east. In the spring I choose a section of
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
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                Tereza,

                I have successfully used this method with "Calias Abenaki" dent corn from Fedco seeds. I'm in the north east.

                In the spring I choose a section of ground
                I wish to grow on. This would be in early May when the grasses are starting to
                grow but the temperature is still too cold to plant. I use a scythe or a push
                lawn mower w/bag to cut the area once the growth is starting to speed up. This
                first cut should be cut very low, almost earth level. These cuttings are then
                piled where I intend to grow, either rows or beds or whatever you choose. These
                piles of mulch will remain in place for two to three weeks. When the planting
                conditions permit pull back the mulch and cut the ground covers back quite low
                one more time. The seeds are then placed on top of the ground and gently
                pressed to the surface to get some contact. I have also just broadcast seed
                with good results as well. I then apply a small amount (1/2") of finished
                compost or sifted soil over the seed. I mainly do this to hide the seed from
                birds and to retain moisture. Over this I lay a thin layer of grass cuttings
                from the last cut I made. When the seed sprouts and primary leaves are out, I
                start to move the previously removed mulch back up close to the plants. The
                plants are thinned to appropriate spacing and then mulched more closely. Here
                to note that the mulch layers I use are never over 3" or 4"in depth.
                I will continue to cut the paths and apply the cuttings through out the season.
                I will also apply small amounts of chicken litter on top of mulch layer two or
                three times. Some areas are only mulches with no chicken and they also do well.
                Your growing season work is mainly cutting and applying the cut materials.

                Steve G



                ________________________________
                From: T Fox <tereza_fox@...>
                To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Mon, March 29, 2010 7:45:18 PM
                Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Natural farming in the temperate Pacific Northwest


                Hello all,

                How is it suggested that a pasture, accustomed to being grazed by
                horses and mown each summer, be transformed into a stand of field
                crops, for instance dent corn production?
                What is the timeframe and process?
                How does one begin?

                It rains and drizzles for 6 months of the year here with a dry warm
                summer, to the point where the clay soil will form 1 inch wide cracks
                if left exposed and unprotected by vegetation.
                The rains usually continue steadily until mid May.
                The saying is 'April showers bring May flowers'.

                ----------

                Any advice is appreciated.
                Thank you,

                Tereza

                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]







                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • ross.gigee
                I just wanted to chime in with my experience growing Oaxaca Green corn. While it s very good advice that Tom Gibson gives about growing locally adapted
                Message 7 of 7 , Apr 1, 2010
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                  I just wanted to chime in with my experience growing Oaxaca Green corn. While it's very good advice that Tom Gibson gives about growing locally adapted varieties, I've had nothing but success growing Oaxacan Green here in NE PA, where we have about a 4 mo. frost-free season and many cloudy days. The ears are fat but very short (6 inches is about as long as they get). The kernels are large and they're easy to shell by hand... Of course there's nothing that guarantees that an heirloom variety from two different sources is the same thing, even if the name is the same.

                  --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Tom Gibson" <camaspermaculture@...> wrote:
                  >

                  > As far as that variety of corn goes Oaxaca is in a very tropical area near
                  > the equator that has pretty reliable rain in season. I would look for local
                  > varieties that are successful in the PNW and only do trials on exotics from
                  > completely different climates and soil types in small plots to see if they
                  > are locally reliable. Chances are you can find something better closer to
                  > home.
                  >
                  >
                  >
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