The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

And does eat oats

Goats eating oats

I've been intrigued to realize that the beds of oats that our goats have repeatedly nibbled throughout the fall and early winter are staying green longer than the un-nibbled beds (which are pretty much dead by now). I wonder if the nibbled beds are producing more underground biomass as well as regrowing their leaves repeatedly? After all, I've read that, when grass is grazed, the plants slough off a proportional amount of root mass (although I've yet to see a scientific study to this effect). If the root-sloughing is more than a permaculture legend, then you might actually add more Goats in a tangle of brushbiomass to the soil by letting goats graze your cover crops a couple of times than by simply letting the oat plants mature and then die in situ.

Of course, even re-nibbled, there's only so much oat growth at this time of year. So I've been taking the girls up in the woods every day or two to hunt down honeysuckle. This week, we found a huge tangle not far from their pasture, where a fallen pine held honeysuckle branches high enough off the ground that deer were unable to dine. Enter the biped and the caprines! Artemesia thinks that humans are pretty darn awesome because we can pull vines down from way up high with our flexible fingers and opposable thumbs. But Abigail gets sick of waiting, so she simply hops up onto the trunk of the fallen pine (three feet off the ground) and chows down. If our local deer were as agile as Abigail, there would be no honeysuckle left at all!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hi Anna and all,

I have read books about this effect. One professor measured over 3X. The latest AcresUSA has a Joel Salatin article that would seem to imply even more of an effect?

This BIG question at least for me is WHY?? What is the animal doing that makes things grow so much better? Adds biology? Adds biologically bound minerals?

You can read many articles about using 'night soil' and producing the same if not a bigger effect?

Maybe it really doesn't matter?

Maybe the real questionh is: What do we need to do to make our system healthy, productive and well?

Happy Holidays to all.


Comment by John Thu Dec 11 10:37:19 2014
Go look at hunting web sites such as Bass Pro Shop. They sell blaze orange vest for large dogs like a lab. You could dress the girls in them during hunting season while they roam around.
Comment by Anonymous Thu Dec 11 12:56:57 2014

I noticed you referred to taking/leading your goats into the woods. How do you get your goats to follow? Do you have very many? I have twelve. They do not always follow...even with a bucket of food. I want to rotate them on pasture, but for their safety, we have to pen them at night (coyotes, neighboring dogs, etc.). Let's just say, I have 8 children and when we try to get them into the pasture/pen it can be quite the prospect for America's Funniest Home Video. I would love to know if you have a trick. Thanks, Kristi

Comment by K Hill Thu Dec 11 14:42:08 2014

I know the ditty, but I also learned a rhyme when I was a child... Does eat oats and goats eat oats, but little lambs eat ivy. I spent some time in the NC mountains and the person that taught me the rhyme said it was to remind folks not to let their livestock eat mountain laurel which is also called ivy. Just wondered about your title.

Comment by Tee Sat Dec 13 09:56:16 2014
Tee --- Apparently the song was made up in 1943, based loosely on an English nursery rhyme with different words: I like your folk legend, but I suspect that came after the fact rather than beforehand!
Comment by anna Mon Dec 15 18:28:37 2014

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