I was planting out wheat seedlings today, and looked over at two of the unplanted beds. A couple of days ago I had needed to empty a compost bay, so had tipped two wheelbarrow loads onto a series of unplanted beds. Having just written a post on Crop Rotations, Soil Fertility, and Digging, I realised that the two barrow loads of compost on the beds was three times the level needed to maintain soil fertility needed for the Grow Bio-intensive system of Jeavons. (As explained in the earlier pos)t. I started to think about the actual amount of compost that it takes to feed two people. What follows might make you think twice.
It’s funny how ideas, or inspiration, comes into us. This one relates to my Chicken Scavenging System. I have been using a shredded Miscanthus product for chicken bedding. It is about the same price as a bale of chopped straw, but is grown without chemicals, is a perennial, and most importantly works well. My long term aim is to house a single flock of chickens, and possibly another of ducks, on a deep litter system, with the raw materials coming from on site. Probably a combination of Common Reed harvested from gray/brown water systems and Swale, along with tree and shrub prunings, straw from my grain growing, and bamboo. In the medium term, I have two deep litter systems, along with two conventional poultry houses, and another house due to be used soon.
Yesterday evening I read ‘Growing Green’, by Jenny Hall and Iain Tollhurst, which had been recommended to me by a friend, Nick Vowles. There was a lot in the book that I already knew, but, as always, there is always something new to learn. The book is about Stock Free Organic farming, and much of the book is devoted to listing the standards that you need to adhere to to be registered. The book deals with farming at all scales, so quite a bit of it, the bits that dealt with machinery, were of little relevance, but there was enough new information to have made the purchase worthwhile. The main topic that caught my attention was the recommended amount of compost to use., which was one wheelbarrow load per 10 sq meters, for most crops, dropping to 5 sq meters for Nitrogen fixers, and some other crops.
This post has been a little while in the making, and is a result of a telephone conversation with a friend of mine. She had been worried that despite working long hours, she never seemed to get everything done, or even achieve very much. Initially I was going to list all of the things that I didn’t get done this year, but the list was so long that I would never have finished the post. Instead, I’m going to go through some of the stuff that I did around the smallholding today, and then the stuff that didn’t get done.
A while ago I reviewed The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. It’s probably one of the most important books that I’ve read so far. In the book, Carol frequently refers to another book, Buffalo Bird Woman’s garden, particularly when discussing food preservation. Buffalo Bird Woman’s garden is an account of Hidatsa American Indian gardening techniques, as told by a Hidatsa woman, born about 1839. The techniques were told to the author of the book, Gilbert L. Wilson, in the early 1900’s. I found another reference to the book recently, so ordered it, and what a gem of a book it is.