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We are only looking at half the story at the moment. True, the hay has kick-started the process off and it looks great ( OK, it's better than great, I never expected this much growth) but it needs to be able to grow its own mulch and keep improving.

 

The process needs to be self sustaining from this point on, otherwise it is just another version of high input farming/gardening. I cant keep adding hay every year.

I hope I can cut it 4 -5 times before the end of October. I have some other areas that are ahead of this one fertility wise and I am cutting the regrowth every 8- 12 days and have been for a couple of months.

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Thanks Ande,

the reason i had to start early is that everything happens at half the speed in dry soils :lol:

 

I guess i better report in, it has been a strange 6 months. Basically....it stopped raining, like it had been cut with a knife.

i took the mower up to my little test patch and chopped it down. Then the sky turned blue and we had frost. Every day. For two weeks. Frost is quite normal as drought and frost go hand in hand, several mornings of ice is a sure sign that the rest of the year is going to be dry. But two weeks of it IN SPRING wow that's harsh!

 

It is no surprise that I have got the best response from the soils that were in the best condition to start with, the poorest soils are in hibernation, only the trees that can reach down into the deep subsoil are thriving everything else is a sooty grey colour.

My ornamental garden is better but still barely ticking over. I am watering to keep things alive, there is a noticeable improvement in the test areas, the water is being held in the top layer of the soil and not draining past but the composting of the bales has almost stopped. I grab a handful of material from the bottom of a bale and there is only 10-20 insects munching there way through it.

 

My vegetable garden is a completely different story, I turned my drip irrigation off last February and did not switch it back on until November. The only water it has had is from a nearby tank that  overflows when it rains. The overflow is running into a small pile of composting material then seeping into the surrounding ground.

I have hand watered seedlings to get them established and that is it , just let them go!

 

It looks like a jungle, I am letting some of the weeds go almost to maturity and then chopping them down, things like wild lettuce  and fennel get to 6-7 feet high before they are slashed. Plants that normally suffer and wilt in my 45 Celsius heat are barely batting an eyelid like strawberries and thyme. the other thing I notice is that the ground cover is literally heaving with insects at night.

 

So this dry spell has slowed thing down, I was hoping for a summer rain to give me some soil activity and greenery to chop down to keep things ticking over out in the paddocks, it hasn't happened, that's just the nature of living in an unreliable area. However having the garden thrive on a tiny fraction of the water I have traditionally poured onto it was a real surprise.

 

Some rough calculations indicate that most of the vegie garden has functioned normally on about 15% of the water that it usually gets. It looks horrible, untidy, possibly a fire hazard and I am sick of the sight of my hedge trimmers, I have used them at least twice a week for an entire year now. I'm seriously thinking I will need something motorized if this is going to continue on like this.

 

Of course next season will be completely different with a whole new set of challenges to deal with but I am still pleased with the direction it is all heading.

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Hi Yahoo,

 

I've been doing a lot of reading about Permaculture again - in recent times......and I'm amazed at the strategies that are in play in semi-arid climates like yours.  In fact, given the benefits, I'm surprised that keyline dams, swales and the various topsoil regeneration strategies aren't to be seen on every farm.

 

Gary

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Quite awesome results Yahoo.

 

Wish it were this easy to revitalize the grass around here as I know of some huge dairies would find it profitable and they would love to reducing their purchase of hay at around $250 per bale. Even weeds struggle here let alone our native grasses. Been about 12 years since I've seen any of our grasses grow like that. There is an organic dairy that tries to do the same as long as cost of hay is not too high, but they still involve significant irrigation on their grass paddocks.

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Having breakfast here with some ranchers and have used hay to stop the ground from blowing or to help reseed the native pasture that only grows due to what nature and weather provides, but they've never seen their pastures just become lush and green like that after a regiment of spreading chopped hay so to negate our lack of precipitation and high heat. Just seems like something more is going on here or there is actually more precipitation involved and lack of heat.

What part of the peninsula does your grass reside? What type of grass is this?

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Hi Crsublette,

 

I am not going to pretend this is simple or easy. it has taken two and a half years to get this to happen along with close to 40 years of previous miserable results, I have been trying to get something to grow on this area since I was about 8-9 years old. I would compare it with lighting a fire by rubbing sticks together, everything needs to be just right for it to work. I feel like I have got it to smoke plenty of times in the past but this is the first time it has burst into flames.

 

I have found a close-up photo taken at the same time as the others, of the soil 20 paces away. same conditions, same soil, same rainfall.

post-3002-0-79508900-1422666608_thumb.jp

 

the arrows from left to right

 

Spear-grass about 2 inches high (C3 perennial)

medic (winter active dryland high Ph soil legume, similar to a clover)

Ward's weed, its one leaf on a dead stick. Wards weed is an import from north africa that seems to thrive in hostile conditions and outcompete most things, if that is looking sick you know the conditions are tough.

and lots of moss

 

post-3002-0-47117400-1422669857_thumb.jp

 

in the mulched area I can see,

speargrass about a foot high

lots of medic

wards weed as high as the speargrass

some oats and mustard (from the hay)

milk thistle and bluebush (seeds blown in on the wind)

 

None of these plants would be native to this area in the past, they are all imports from somewhere else, the only thing that has changed between the two pictures is the growth, one area has made maximum use of the rain when it did fall, the other has done nothing. I have been told that the original native grasses will not self germinate without the marsupial rodents that bury the seed, to make that work I would have to introduce the grasses and the animals at the same time and eradicate the foxes, cats and rabbits that wiped them out originally.

 

I cant answer the how or why it has happened, without a lot of more thought, I have a couple of theories but nothing coherent enough to post.

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I think that what you're doing is great.  Almost anyone can farm in high rainfall areas but the peninsula is a hard row to hoe.  

 

By the way, I'm still looking for those articles I wrote for FARM magazine back in the 80's.  

 

I can still remember like it was yesterday when I went to Sam Jericho's place.  His farm has inspired me ever since…..and it was located in what I'd describe as nasty country…..savage droughts in the whole area year after year…..and yet his farm never failed to turn a profit (and nor did it carry any debt either).

 

When I visited his farm he was still burning mallee stumps in his wood stove that his father had windrowed back before WW2.  He was 70 years of age with jet black hair and he was lamenting the fact that his wife would no longer allow him to shear sheep for his neighbours.

 

He was one of nature's gentlemen…..and a deserving recipient of the Commonwealth Bank's Ibis Award for Sustainable Farming.

 

Gary

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.

Is there much nutrientional value to it for cattle?

 

 

None of these plants would be native to this area in the past, they are all imports from somewhere else

 

I think this is the reason why it has happened, that is the mixture of plants. This describes much like what has been done in my area's conservation reserve grass pastures except never have achieved those results from just adding hay mulches.

 

Mainly was curious since all of this reminds me much of our conservation grass pastures. Our conservation reserve grass pastures have some imported grasses from elsewhere, except most being native grasses, and are incredibly lush, tall, quite alive, and the pastures are quite dense, but, after a short rain during our droughts, heat, and wind, these grass pastures rarely is as green as your second picture and, to be honest, after almost 5 years in my area, I have not even seen these grasses stay green for more than a couple weeks. However, there is very little nutritional value in it for our livestock; so, these pastures are only grazed for about 1~2 months out the year before putting the cattle back on hay, cake, and other supplements. The grasses are, if at best, just enough to sustain cattle while the rancher tries to save money from additional feed costs until a harvested corn field becomes available for the cattle to graze or until hard red winter wheat fields have germinated. For us, outside of when it is reseeded, the mulching of these grasses involve the occasional shredding of them whenever they get about a foot or so tall.

 

So, I found your experience to be an intresting read.

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Hi,

 

Here's a little something that Dr Paul Olivier sent me…..for your edification.

 

"Janice Snow, in a truly remarkable thesis called Misunderstanding Soil Ecosystems, writes that we have to stop looking at soil as a material or chemical medium to support the growth of plants. She calls this the traditional static, reductionist, physical/chemical model of soil. This model relies heavily on chemical fertilizers, hybrid seeds, irrigation, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. A few large transnational companies dominate the sale of these commodities. In essence, it’s raw, crass capitalism. It’s all about lobbying politicians, making gifts to universities, and corralling and abusing science to suit selfish monetary goals. No consideration whatsoever is given to the offsite pollution of water and land or the onsite loss of soil carbon.

 

Snow also critiques the Black Box model understanding of soil organic matter and soil quality. Here soil microbial biomass is measured as a “single undifferentiated unit.†This approach, argues Snow, still portrays a “reductionist image of the diverse life in soil biomass.†For example, in the Black Box model, land is not tilled, but this no-till agriculture is promoted in the context of the “judicious use†of chemical fertilizers together with the greatly increased use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Large companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer and BASF are avid supporters of the Black Box model.

 

Snow even critiques the Soil Food Web model. This model harkens back to the thought of Charles Darwin, where notions of competition, struggle, war and survival are paramount. “The term food web suggests the field’s emphasis on who eats whom and its historic focus on two feeding (or “trophicâ€) levels: plants and plant eaters (herbivores), and predators and prey.â€

 

Instead of viewing soil in mechanistic terms, as a Black Box or as a Food Web, Snow argues that we should view soil in organismic terms. “Mutualism, not competition, is to many soil ecologists the dominant driver in natural soil ecosystems.†Here we see mutualistic networks teeming with microbial, plant and animal life. Mutualists self-organize in complex, interdependent communities. Some mutualists cannot survive for a moment in isolation. Mutualists work together in regulating the physical structure of their habitat. They communicate with one another in many different ways. They work in harmony with one another.

 

For example, plant exudates account for as much as 20% to 25% of carbon fixed by photosynthesis. These exudates include vitamins, enzymes, and complex carbons that greatly benefit soil microbes. At the same time, soil microbes supply nutrients, growth hormones, anti-pathogenic agents and other compounds to plants. These are just a few of many gift exchanges within soil systems. The complexity here is astounding: “mutualistic bacteria living at the junction of mutualistic AM fungi inside the roots cells of plants.†

 

In this mutualistic model, ancient systems of integrated crop and livestock production are encouraged. Here not a gram of chemical fertilizers or agro-chemicals is needed. Yet soil productivity far surpasses that of conventional agriculture. Snow quotes from Maser who vividly describes the soil in organismic terms as “the great placenta of the earth.†

 

If only mutualism could become the dominant force in human interactions, and in economic and political theory."

 

 

Gary

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Gabe Brown: keys to building a healthy soil

 

this is the best explanation of what I am aiming for. The video is an hour well spent. I can see the mistakes I have made very clearly now.

 

Gabe outlines 5 simple principals for soil health, then explains what the current thinking is as to why it works (so the logic can be adapted to a different climate or system) after that is the practical example of his own farm to show a working system.

My veggie patch is showing the signs of working, with no rain for 10 months and only three waterings in that whole time I have picked more than 500Kg of produce from a 10m x 18m area and there is a black layer about an inch thick formed under the trash cover.

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Gabe Brown: keys to building a healthy soil

 

this is the best explanation of what I am aiming for. The video is an hour well spent. I can see the mistakes I have made very clearly now.

 

Gabe outlines 5 simple principals for soil health, then explains what the current thinking is as to why it works (so the logic can be adapted to a different climate or system) after that is the practical example of his own farm to show a working system.

My veggie patch is showing the signs of working, with no rain for 10 months and only three waterings in that whole time I have picked more than 500Kg of produce from a 10m x 18m area and there is a black layer about an inch thick formed under the trash cover.

 

WOW!  What does that say for a place like yours (both in terms of your farm and your region) if you can apply the same strategies over a larger area?

 

I'm halfway through the video (and I plan to watch the rest of it) and there's no rocket science in any of it.  How have we allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into the destructive cycle called industrial farming.

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i have been playing with Biochar (i have a waste to energy system using fast pyrolysis, processing alien vegetation) that has been giving me exceptional results as far as soil amendment goes- i would love to post pics to show results but am unable!

 

is there anyone else out there using Biochar?

 

 

 

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What a phenomenal video! What he is doing needs to be done everywhere (I'm looking at you, Yolo County, CA with your monocropped tomatoes/wheat/sunflowers/safflower/alfalfa interspersed by fallow, bare fields on our 10th day over 95F/35C this month!).

 

Thank you for sharing this video and for doing what you're doing on your site, yahoo2.

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Hi Luke, I should have a couple of TLUD stoves built by August to burn cereal chaff and produce biochar as a byproduct, I would be very interested in your experiences so far.

 

Gary,I think Gabe deserves a medal, he is far too modest about how he turned things around, adversity does not begin to describe what they went through at the start of this. He is far more forgiving and generous with his time and intellect that I am. Implications? a couple of these techniques cut the time to get healthy microbe rich soil down to just a few years and also provide some much needed income. I am not concerned about my region it is not really something that 98% of farmers are ready to hear yet. 5-8 years time perhaps.

 

Pointing at a group of farmers and telling them that they are doing it wrong is totally unproductive, that is glass half empty attitude, it needs somebody that is not driven by ego and paranoia about what others think to lead by example. Gabe is giving the 1 in 10,000 individuals the tools to get started and do that.

 

I am guessing that most farmers would have their finance and insurance discontinued if they adopted this farming model. I certainly did when I didn't tow the line on fertilizer inputs.

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Gary,I think Gabe deserves a medal, he is far too modest about how he turned things around, adversity does not begin to describe what they went through at the start of this. He is far more forgiving and generous with his time and intellect that I am. Implications? a couple of these techniques cut the time to get healthy microbe rich soil down to just a few years and also provide some much needed income. I am not concerned about my region it is not really something that 98% of farmers are ready to hear yet. 5-8 years time perhaps.

 

I agree.  The transformation is truly remarkable.  It seems that getting the message through to farmers (conservative lot that they are) requires persistence and stamina.  People like Gabe....and I'm thinking of people like Mark McMurtry, Paul Olivier, Allan Savory, and (closer to home) Peter Andrews.....all have to suffer for their art before their ideas are accepted.

 

Pointing at a group of farmers and telling them that they are doing it wrong is totally unproductive, that is glass half empty attitude, it needs somebody that is not driven by ego and paranoia about what others think to lead by example. Gabe is giving the 1 in 10,000 individuals the tools to get started and do that.

 

You're right.  No-one likes to have their experience belittled and it's tough for anyone to confront the idea that they've been doing it wrong (often for a very long time).  The ability to communicate effectively is a core skill for prophets in any discipline.

 

I am guessing that most farmers would have their finance and insurance discontinued if they adopted this farming model. I certainly did when I didn't tow the line on fertilizer inputs.

 

There's no doubt about it......banks and insurance companies are unequivocal supporters for the status quo......a very good reason for getting rid of them at the earliest opportunity.

 

Luke, I love your biochar machine.  Have you thought about a way to use the waste heat that it generates?

 

 

Gary

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South African farmers are caught up in a vacuum, a very one dimensional thought pattern and the answer to low yield is simply throw more chemical fertiliser- it all leeches straight through and causes huge problems to aquifers. Currently cost of production surpasses yield and agri business is a debt tsunami. Using the Biochar as a soil amendment holds fertiliser and more importantly the critical gasses in the top layers. The best way to convince a farmer to change his habits is to introduce his wife to the realities, she pretty much puts him straight! Here i am doing it through the agricultural colleges, slightly political but my tact is to catch em young!

 

another great advantage is the Carbons ability to hold water and only release it as needed, in Australia i would imagine this would be of great benefit.

 

Gary, been getting huge energy from the stack emissions (syngas) especially on plastic and rubber tyres (low carbon though) while less energy and more carbon with wood (33%) and about 30000 btu per kg. 

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here are some examples of growth in same soil yet post-2084-0-12332500-1435807839_thumb.jp yet the potatoes on the rights soil was amended with carbon. The carrots are 6-7 weeks old and the results rediculouse post-2084-0-93717400-1435807789_thumb.jp

 

thanks to Ravnis for the help in posting pics

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I agree.  The transformation is truly remarkable.  It seems that getting the message through to farmers (conservative lot that they are) requires persistence and stamina.  People like Gabe....and I'm thinking of people like Mark McMurtry, Paul Olivier, Allan Savory, and (closer to home) Peter Andrews.....all have to suffer for their art before their ideas are accepted.

 

it is not that farmers are conservative it is just the nature of the mix of people in society. For a complicated concept or idea to succeed it needs to go through a number of stages of growth that cant be skipped.

 

80% of people are follower, they just copy what the leaders do, it is pointless explaining anything to them unless you are from the group of leaders

15% of people are leaders they take what is established and proven and make it their own, they are usually loud,charismatic or persuasive but still have not much original thought or logic

4% are early adopters they will take a fully working model and start to make it profitable in a niche 

0.9% are the experimenters, these guys make most of the mistakes and teach the early adopters this is the ultimate target audience for any good idea

0.01% are ground zero, the first person in a district or region to do it (these are the farmers that Gabe is talking to)

Gabe is the one in a million that can bring together all the pieces (concept, practical, science, market, potential) and communicate it

the people that you have mentioned are the geniuses that puzzled out the concept in the first place, there is no % for that!

 

the first two groups I mentioned are not motivated to learn totally new things, they will only listen to the group directly above them, it saves a lot of grief and heartache if you dont antagonize them, it is a fight that can never be won, they will jump on board when they have no other choice or peer pressure gets to them. This is one of the reasons serious conferences cost money and groups restrict membership, so people have to make an effort to come and listen, its designed to screen out the time-wasters who are there for less productive reasons.

 

this is why I say it is pointless waving your finger at the the 95% saying "they should change what they are doing"! They physically cant, they just dont have the tools for the job. When about a quarter of the early adopters are doing it, that is the time to wave the finger and take the credit for what is about to happen cos the tidal wave has started.

Edited by yahoo2 (see edit history)

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