Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ruth Stout Methods

i was introduced to Ruth Stout when we moved to the Northern Rivers.  our permaculture guru (TerraSancta Permaculture) included it as part of how we should improve and grow our food for a very simple reason:

it's easy

there are heaps of other reasons, not the least of which is how much it improves the soil with the littlest possible effort on our part (e.g., we aren't spring chickens any more and if we can make it easier well that blast it all!  why not!).  it is an organic, healthy way to raise food which is dead easy and requires minimal effort .... how can you not give that a go!

in a nutshell, it is about building up rather than digging in.  you use it as a base and foundation on the ground .... and build up, using only straw, leaves and mulch from there.  how easy can that be!  

this quote from Homestead.Org really put it in perspective from a Creation Care point of view.

... a gardening method that she claims, properly, was invented by God.  For it was God who decreed that each year leaves would fall and cover the bare earth, and that in the spring, plants germinated and under their blanket of leaves would miraculously regenerate.  From this and other simple observations, Ruth decided that everyone should do what God does, and cover their garden area with "permanent mulch."   And then, as she had, they would discover that "There is peace in the garden.  Peace and results."

we have used this several times now and have been amazed at the results.  we were doing mandala gardens and let the chickens in their dome dig the soil and then we created our mandala's directly on top of that area.  we got fabulous plant growth and super healthy soil.

most recently i used this with our potato bed.  a 15 x 1 mtr bed full of potato's.  we started with laying down a broadcast of winter green manures .... just to give it an extra leg up on fertility.  but then we put it all under a bed of .... mulch.  covered it.  smothered it in fact.

after a chop and drop of the winter green manure, the next step was a little more labour intensive .... but by choice.  we made pockets in the straw and filled these pockets with compost.  into that we put our potato's.  and let me be clear .... i dug those pockets with my hands .... so it's not as if it took a lot of work!  

and then it was another thick layer of mulch (like 15 cm).  

as the potato's started popping through, i hilled up around them .... just like you would with straight soil  but rather than soil, i used, you guessed .... mulch.  ones that were growing too long and spindly, i gently laid them down and put mulch right on top .... this would encourage growth from those points under the mulch and more 'taters!  and who doesn't want more 'taters!

... it is not instantaneous.  this method is about letting nature do it's thing.  for potato's it is a snap.  but using this method as a primary system will take a bit more time.  perhaps adding compost between layers or chicken manure to help enrich the process as it breaks down and makes fabulous soil to grow your food in.  you will start seeing results straight away .... but your best results will be after a few years.  

we will be using this method for our entire veg patch as the season goes.  as a season ends we'll throw down some green manure and cover the lot with straw and let the earth, worms and natural systems do their good work.  it also means, btw .... no digging!  no sore backs!

here are some pictures of what we've been doing with the potato's.  a reference of some of my favorite ruth stout links is at the bottom.  frankly tho, if you simply google Ruth Stout you'll find heaps of information.
the green manure is coming on nicely!

Planting the seed potato in the hay in pockets of compost between
the smaller green manure.

mulching higher and higher!

laying the tall stems over gently and covering with mulch
to assist in further spud development!

another view on laying the stalk over and putting mulch over it.

gotta keep them mulched

one of the latest views.  i wonder how many potato's
we'll get from this harvest?

Monday, November 3, 2014

What do Lunar Landscapes and Bush Fire Season have in common?

so .... i know i don't post as much as i should.  and, frankly, i'm gonna stop apologizing.  most of you will recognise that if i'm not posting ... well, it means we're busy!

but a quick update today because it's early spring and early spring deserves a bit of a huzzah and hooroo!

here Down Under we are heading into summer .... it's arriving with all the climate change promises of dryer, hotter and drought that we are afraid of.  our place is full of trees and ground cover.  making it the ideal fuel for a bush fire to come roaring through.  you can keep the area around your house clear ... which we do .... but after that 100m clearance .... well, lets just say its quite lush and full of growth ... ideal fuel for any bush fire.

I should back up and share a diagram of what we had intended originally for our whole "pasture pig" area.  knowing they need heaps of ground cover and pasture to enjoy.  we opted for a rotational system that was around a quarter acre per pasture.  unfortunately we had been having a few problems with escape artists on just electric fence, so we opted to use traditional fencing, along with the electric fence in the new area.  this is the pig pasture area as we envisaged it originally.
our piggies have been having fun on Pasture One.  and if you've been around pigs at all, you know what they can do to an under story if given the opportunity

so, we did something that i wish i could say wasn't by accident.  we'd been nervous to move our sow and gilt out onto pasture for fear that they would get through the electric fence.  so had been procrastinating about moving them on to "greener pasture".   but i'm glad to say we allowed it.  we left our piggies in their first pasture area way too long and they created a lunar landscape that will, i am happy to say, not be of any help to any bush fires that might want to wander through!

we bit the bullet last weekend and did a proof of concept to see if we could keep them in electric fencing, with the addition of a grounding wire.  some of you are probably laughing as you can hardly believe we would've tried without a grounding wire.  remember we are still green horns in so very many ways!

but we knew it was time to move them on .... not just for our benefit and learning, but for their own health and happiness ... what pig wouldn't want to live on this?

but, i am happy to say that the piggies are now moved to Pasture Area Three... getting zapped at a 6.5 if they try anything!

Lucy, who is "in pig" already making her mark on the
new landscape!

Look closely and you'll see Susan's ear ... she is a smart
bit 'o bacon and likes to lay near the water trough.
they seem happy .... and are enjoying all the greenery and lushness that is theirs to dig and root through .... finding grubs, bugs and all sorts of wonderful little things to chomp on.

and in the meantime .... we have a quarter acre little square that will be very hard for a bush fire to take in!  and in a few days (when my green harvest and eden seeds order arrive), we will be throwing down heaps of great summer green manure.  we'll also do lots of pumpkin, sweet potato and choko.  these will not only be food for us, but yummy treats for piggies when they come back onto the area next winter.

and in the meantime, we'll keep destroying the sandy loam under story with piggies rooting digging and poo-ing.  they are adding so much fertility to the landscape! can't wait for late January when our piglets are due! they will certainly add life to the equation!