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

Tithonia, soybeans, and goats

Goat and Tithonia

Now's a good time to go out and look at experimental crops to see if they're worth growing next year. I started out my exploration by tethering Abigail between our little patch of Tithonia diversifolia and a big patch of weeds. Since Tithonia was meant to be a cover-crop/goat-fodder-crop, I didn't give the cuttings the TLC I usually offer this spring (although I did plant them in a very damp spot as instructed). Given my neglect, it's no big surprise that only about a third of the cuttings took off. The other two plants are much smaller, but you can see our largest Tithonia on the far right side of the photo above.

Did you also notice how Abigail has wandered off in the totally opposite direction? She preferred ragweed, red clover, and plantain within her tether-circle to the Tithonia, completely ignoring the latter's leaves after one taste. So while this cover crop clearly has potential in the tropics, I'm going to have to say it isn't worth babying as cuttings over the winter in a temperate climate. (At least not if you have spoiled goats like we do.)

Goat eating soybeans

Soybean podSoybeans, in contrast, have proven themselves to be not only a great cover crop but also a goat favorite. At first, Abigail picked off all of the high-protein leaves in the patch she was tethered near. But soon our smart goat learned that if she delved a little deeper, she could daintily pluck the half-filled pods off the stems instead.

While you're supposed to cook dried soybeans in some way before feeding them to animals (or people) due to phytates, our doe seems to love the raw-soybean treat at the endamame stage. I'd be curious to hear from someone more knowledgable than me. Do you think phytates in young soybeans are problematic, or are these more like green beans and snap peas --- pretty harmless and delicious when young?

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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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I'm surprised that the goats don't like the tithonia. When I sent it To you I thought they would love it. Things are scorched in the heat this time of year. Except for the Tithonia. That's the main feed for my goats at the moment. They eat it up as fast as it grows, over a foot a week. Sorry that it didn't work out as a good crop for you. On the bright side, wait and see if it flowers for you....

Comment by T . Wed Aug 19 13:54:28 2015
T. --- No worries. I love to experiment regardless. And it's quite possible in a less lush climate than ours, the Tithonia would be more attractive to goats. Even in a dry spell, though, our groundwater is so high that the run-of-the-mill weeds thrive all summer.
Comment by anna Wed Aug 19 15:18:56 2015

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