Monday, October 31, 2016

Breed conservation, Soil Conservation and Math

I am barely into the world of permaculture, organic farming and vermiculture but what I see is wondrous. Wondrous and beyond the imagination of most people with conventional educations.

It began with a desire to reduce mud in the pastures. That simple--no more than that. It has lead to possibilities of heritage breed livestock production to compliment our Corolla and other Colonial Spanish horse conservation program.

I learned about breaking compacted hard pan to allow water to drain into the soil instead of running off or standing as mud. I learned that this can be accomplished with a one shank plow called a subsoiler, and can also be accomplished by growing diakon radishes and some cereal.

My conventional understanding of soil strength was purely mathematical--put enough pounds of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil and plants grow. Generally we used 10-10-10 fertilizers.

Wendell urged me to use organic fertilizer. It was expensive but he said that I could use less of it and get better results. I assumed that the fertilizer would have to be much stronger than 10-10-10 if that was the case. In fact, I was shocked find out that it was less than 10-10-10 in chemical strength. I did not understand how it could be more effective, especially if less was used.

The math simply did not add up.

About the same time I began to study the biome that lives in our digestive system and learning about the impact that a healthy biome has on human health. This is leading to an explosion in understanding of my own physical and emotional health. The simple fact is that there are millions of organisms living in our bodies that are necessary to keep us alive, vital and productive.

And soil is more than math and chemicals. Healthy soil requires millions of organisms to live in it to keep that soil alive, vital and productive.

That organic fertilizer provided those organisms.

So, we are beginning to work to give our soil probiotics right along with the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium that it needs. I always thought of horse manure in one dimension--as a problem that created mud and run off. Because our horses live off of grass and hay their wastes are very low in nitrogen and phosphorous. While that meant that run off was a fraction of the problem that one finds in modern feed lots, it also meant that the manure did little to provide nutrients to the soil.

But when that manure is composted with worms the result is compost loaded with the organisms that cause roots to expand and foliage to grow at an explosive rate.

So, I am working slowing in a very low tech way to convert manure of minimal value into highly valuable compost--perhaps to sell to off set the cost of our non profit reed conservation program, perhaps to spread on our pastures to make them more viable.

All the while teaching and learning along with program participants and guests how to best conserve these nearly extinct horses while help to conserve endangered soil.

Would have never guessed that my life would have taken this turn or that our program would grow in its mission so much.

This is a very good time for us. Right now my kids might not like spending time digging shallow graves to bury wood in in the pastures, but years from now they will be proud to tell their kids that they were part of the first efforts to apply hugelkulture to pasture management in our area.

They will understand that the soil is a living being and like all living beings, when not fed and cared for it will die.


Karen H said...

OH, you could do wood chip composting.....just a thought.

Dianne W said...

Have you learned about soil structure and the importance of organic matter yet? If not, look it up.