Organic farming fits with our values but we are not certified yet due to being at the very beginning stages.
We discovered that the top soil on the farm had been eroded to only 25cm in some parts, with very little soil biology, organic matter and a PH that was out of balance.
Our first objective became to rehabilitate the land by;
- Minimal use of heavy machinery and earth turning
- Building levels of organic matter, fertility, minerals and life.
- Planting trees.
First to plant a diverse pasture,fence it, graze it and then plant trees.
Legumes: Clovers and birds foot trefoil
These plants are amazing green manures. Nitrogen accumulates on small nodules found on legume roots, with some of it being released as the clover plant matures.
Herbs: Plantain (rib grass), Chicory, Sheep’s Parsley, Yarrow, Burnet and our friendly weed the bristly ox tongue!
These plants are mineral miners. Their long roots pull up Copper, Calcium, Iron, Sodium, Phosphorus, Magnesium and potassium (amongst others) from the soil below. They provide micro nutrients essential for blood and bone formation and overall health of livestock. Animals including the pastured chickens can self-medicate with these plants and bristly ox tongue is anti helmatic (a natural de-wormer).
Grasses: Meadow foxtail, Ryegrass, Timothy, Meadow fescue, Festulolium, Cocksfoot, Italian Rye grass.
A variety was planted to allow a long season of grazing and add diversity to the sward.
Different protein: Carb ratios, different seeding times, some taller, some wider.
Flowering plants: The clovers and herbs provide rich sources of nectar for bees, insects for the chicken and nesting habitats.
Holistic planned Grazing
Mob stocking, with a high number of livestock grazing an area for a short time is an ideal way to manage. The contained livestock will trample all the species at once, reducing the likelihood of more dominant species out-competing the less-aggressive species. At least two leaves of the grasses should be left to speed recovery until the next grazing session.
Using outdoor, grass-fed animals to manage grassland has been shown to actually capture more carbon in the soil than set stocking. The roots of the plants get a chance to grow longer, so that when they are nibbled above ground, more of the root dies under the ground and shears off, leaving its carbon in the soil.
Our aim is to have a good balance of all 4 trophic layers of soil life: Bacteria, Protazoa, nematodes and fungi. On top of this we are measuring worms and other bugs year on year as well as the organic matter content in the soil.
Our aim is to plant a food forest in the pasture once it is fenced and the soil has improved enough to be an hospitable environment for planting trees, shrubs and the rest of the 7 layers of growth needed.
We are at the very beginning of our journey with farm animals but it is our aim that animals will be kept in this way:
- Free Range
- Animals will have freedom and space to run, play and forage and express natural behaviours.
- Fed a diet as natural as possible
- Outdoor reared
- Minimum till, permanent raise beds
- Crop rotation
- Use of green manures and animal manures
- Fixed perennial borders to encourage beneficial insects and companion planting with plant guilds.