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

Do-nothing grain experiments

Cutting wheatBefore I tell you how to make a seed ball, I wanted to catch you up on a year and a half of do-nothing grain experiments.  The goal is to create a nearly self-sufficient grain patch using Fukuoka's natural gardening techniques but tweaked to match the southeastern U.S.'s climate. 

Experiment one consisted of leaving the chicken tractor on a patch of ground for a month in late winter 2010, then throwing hull-less oat and red clover seeds onto the bare soil.  Wild birds ate a lot of the oat seeds and the chickens hadn't really killed the perennial grasses and weeds, so I ended up with a very small showing of oats and a healthy patch of red clover (still quite visible in the yard.)

Chickens eating buckwheatFor part two of my do-nothing experimentation, I decided to move my patch to the nearly bare earth of our first, over-grazed chicken pasture.  Mark helped me root out most of the perennials left in place, then I raked buckwheat and red clover seeds into the soil in late June 2010.  The buckwheat came up well, but didn't do as much as I'd hoped because of lack of water.  (The red clover didn't seem to come up at all.)  I turned the chickens into the buckwheat paddock in October, and they ate up the bit of buckwheat that was produced in a mere four days.

Although the yields were disappointing, the good thing about the buckwheat experiment was that the combination of the crop and the chickens' harvest method deleted nearly all weeds from that paddock.  I had no trouble raking wheat seeds into the ground near the end of October, and the grain grew pretty well (although I think it suffered from overseeding and perhaps a small drought.)

Clover in wheat stubbleDespite my growing pains starting the do-nothing system, I can tell that I'm starting to develop the kind of planting Fukuoka was advocating.  When we cut the wheat a couple of weeks ago, I noticed clover sprouting up through the dead stalks, just like Fukuoka predicted.  Those red clover seeds had sat in the ground until they were ready to grow, and are now busy fixing atmospheric nitrogen to fertilize the grain field.

The wheat stubble is tenaciously holding the soil in place too, which brings me at last to the subject of this week's lunchtime series --- seed balls.  I needed a way of getting the next round of grain seeds to sprout without hoeing up the soil, so I decided to give seed balls a try.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's post to see how I went about it.

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock healthy in tractors, coops, and pastures.

This post is part of our Seed Ball lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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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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So cruel to make me wait til tomorrow....
Comment by Lisa Wed Jun 29 18:19:24 2011
I wasn't trying to be cruel. I just figured that, even with all of the photos, this post was already too long for most folks' enjoyment. Don't want to drive people away with the rambling posts I can be prone to. :-)
Comment by anna Wed Jun 29 18:56:13 2011

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