Permaculture has so many different definitions and ways of describing itself it can be hard to break down let alone practice. In very layman’s terms its a way of farming working with the environment instead of against it building soil, no waste and creating diversity within pastures or landscapes. Current farming focuses intensely on a monoculture style where only one animal grazes a given area and land is not given time to rejuvenate creating a break down in the ecosystem. The idea behind permaculture is rotational grazing animals in a system where the pasture is given time to rest. A quick example would be in the 1700s there were millions of bison that ranged over North America. As most of you know the buffalo did not graze in one specific spot for the year but had a migration pattern were they sometimes did not come back to the same spot for months or even years. Permaculture in some ways is trying to replicate a similar environment of intense grazing followed by a significant rest period.
How we are trying to accomplish permaculture on our modern homestead? We are utilizing what we call a leader follower system. As we get more into homesteading we plan on adding additional animals to fill in the gaps but here is what we are working with now. The goats are being run through the pastures first being the leaders in our system. We are currently on a weekly move basis which works for us between homesteading and working off the farm. We section off a small part of a large pasture, let them graze for a week and then move them onto a new section. The plan is to do this from spring to fall with a different plan for winter I’ll discuss in a later post.
The pig aerators come next several months behind the goats. They do some natural tilling looking for grubs but also enjoy the fresh greens as well. By giving the pasture the rest period in between animals it gives time for the pasture to recover and variety of grasses and legumes can emerge for other livestock. The rest time in between also gives plants like clover the chance to bloom which is beneficial to the bees and butterflies to pollinate.
Chickens are ran last in our system and deemed the clean up crew. They can be utilized to help spread manure reducing the fly population. We move them right behind our pigs in our quick moveable chick shaw. Many other homesteaders use their laying hens in a similar matter but currently our laying hens have a non moveable house and are allowed to free range. Each animal leaves behind its unique fertilizer leaving behind much needed nutrients.
This is our first year utilizing this system and I can’t wait to see where it goes and how our pastures will look in 5 or even 10 years. Like all things nothing happens overnight and getting our pastures into a better place will take years of grazing and soil management but we are up for the challenge!