|By the end of September, the doe pasture was sparse and sorry-looking|
Why not? Because that straw is valuable homegrown goat feed, and I would rather my goats eat our own hay than purchased hay. We've been having our soil tested for microminerals and slowly adding them, so I know our own soil and hay are healthier than anything I can buy. I needed to figure out something else.
When it came time to plant for winter forage for the goats, I decided to modify the Fukuoka method as an experiment. That experiment is to plant the seed and then mulch with goat shed cleanings. Usually we muck out the shed and use it to make compost piles in the chicken yard, where the chickens help turn it into gloriously lovely compost.
|Our chickens help us make faster compost with less work on our part.|
Click here for how we compost with chickens. (I'm now up to 3 bins.)
This time I decided to skip the composting step and use it directly on the pasture. I use the deep litter method, so the goat stalls contain a gold mine of straw, wasted hay, manure, urine, and barn lime. There are different kinds of lime (for more on that, see my "Amish Whitewash" post). Barn lime (calcium carbonate) is also called agricultural lime, garden lime, or lawn lime. This is the stuff that's used to mark the lines on sports fields. It not only helps with odor control in the barn, but also helps with insect control because it is just alkali enough to deter insect eggs and larvae. My soil is acidic and could use a little sweetening, so its addition is good for my pasture soil.
I spot-planted the seed fairly thickly in the bare places and then spread a thin, airy layer of straw over the seed, just enough to hopefully hide it.
|I like doing this in the rain for several reasons. One is that it keeps |
snoopy goats out of my business; I don't want them eating the seed!
The idea is to sprinkle, not smother. This is something Mr. Fukuoka stresses in his book. The seeds are somewhat hidden from hungry birds, yet still receive enough light to grow. Clumps are shaken out and spread widely, especially if urine saturated. The straw first mulches the seed and then breaks down to feed the soil.
I'm planting for the best variety I can, because goats thrive on variety. I have found that deer plot forage mix seed is cheaper to buy than pasture seed, but contains exactly what I want for a winter pasture. This year I bought a mix of wheat, oats, and Austrian winter peas. To that I'm adding annual pasture rye grass, also ludino clover and orchard grass (previously purchased perennials), plus garden and herbs seeds I've gathered on the homestead: radish, chicory, turnip, yarrow, parsnip, oregano, and echinacea. There are also pasture grass seeds in the wasted hay and straw.
How's it doing so far? I gave you a glimpse in my "Around The Homestead" post.
|This is from seed I planted at the end of September.|
We usually get a dry spell in autumn, so I'm hoping the light mulch will also help retain soil moisture for the newly emerging seedlings. I should also add that chickens and pigs are strictly banned from this pasture at this time, because they'll eat the seed! The goats probably would too if they could see it, but they tend to avoid the smelly wasted hay and straw.
The first photo in this post served as my "before" picture; here's my "after," two weeks later.
|There are still some patchy areas that need seeding, but I'm pleased.|
Forage plus soil building all rolled up into one. I'm going to declare this first experiment a success!