Presentation: Free Range Cover Crop Diet Polyculture for a Mature Clydesdale Draft Horse with a Light to Moderate Workload
I’m looking to reduce the amount of hay my horses rely on year-round. By having the ability to grow forageable cover crops in both cool and warm seasons, I would be lessening my reliance on hay and increasing my own Clydesdale food production, while increasing organic matter within the soil, contributing to soil health, and sequestering carbon.
This is a polyculture designed for a mature Clydesdale with a moderate work load. The plants chosen here are suitable for the pasture rotation participants at my homestead which includes the two Clydesdales, four Romney sheep, on Shetland sheep, 8 adult geese, 10 guinea fowl, and 35 ducks. The forageable cover crops I have chosen meet the crude protein and calorie requirements of my animals, especially when free choice hay is provided in addition. They also contribute to the soil improvement needs for my specific landscape. These crops are low in sugars and hardy to my growing zone.
The forageable plants I have chosen could be a recommendation for a myriad of farms or homesteads with similar animal portfolios and growing climates, however, it is in no way a prescription diet as the needs and health of animals, land terrain, and soil type should all be taken into account. Stock density also must be considered with relation to the amount of land being sown for grazing. Too many animals would be harmful to cover crop growth, and soil improvement would not be seen. Too few animals could lead to an overgrowth of cover crops as seed heads would not be ingested or cut before crops self-spread. For this plan to work properly, horses and livestock would not be allowed to graze on cover crops until a minimum height of 8” is reached for grasses, and 10-12” for legumes. Animals would be removed at 4” forage height to prevent overgrazing and stunt regrowth.
I read an article that “self sufficient living” is a term that needs to go away. I don’t think I agree, but I see the author’s point. I completely align with taking care of myself and my family to the best of my ability. But there’s only so much time in a day. I don’t know it all. And I certainly don’t have land or the means to do it all.
“We can also begin to take some part in food production. This doesn’t mean we all need to grow our own potatoes, but it may mean that we will buy them from a person who is already growing potatoes responsibly. In fact, one would probably do better to organize a farmer-purchasing group in the neighborhood than to grow potatoes.”
- Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison
I’ve been thinking a lot on the term “self sufficiency.” I try to grow as much of my own produce as I can, but I still buy flour and other grains. If I have a rough crop season, I support a local farm. But I also buy shovels to work my land. I buy fruit trees from nurseries, seeds if I don’t have what I need, even raised bed soil if I don’t have enough growing medium to go around in addition to compost. I buy hay. I can’t sew clothes. My water is from my own well which someone else built, my home electrical is on the power grid, and I heat with delivered energy. So while I make many efforts and pour myself into a DIY lifestyle, I realize total self-sufficiency is very difficult to achieve. Is it even possible?
Perhaps “community-sufficient” would be a better goal than self-sufficient. If there was someone to grow the food, someone to be a carpenter, a doctor, a vet, a blacksmith, a baker, a teacher, a seamstress. Would small villages have a realistic shot at self sufficiency and removing themselves from mass supply and demand? 🤔
What do you think? I would love to get your take Janet @timbercreekfarm , Tammy @wingandaprayerfarm, and Ann @afarmgirlinthemaking as folks who have been homesteading longer than I and whom I have much respect for.
This is just a post to promote a discussion which is all based on a suggested article in my permaculture course. I thought it was interesting food for thought.
This is a podcast-style mini-episode called We Should Not Be Farming the Same. While fundamentals of planting a seed and caring for animals can certainly be consistent from homestead to homestead, there are way too many variables that change the nuances of daily life and systems from farm to farm. Weather, terrain, soil type, animal species, forage type, farmer personalities, energy efforts, growing zone, etc. all come into play when homesteading. And it's my belief that if you've truly been paying attention to your homestead, there SHOULD BE areas where general rules do not apply to your farm.
For example, I'm beginning to rely more heavily on perennial crops than annuals. I put more time, energy, and funding into sourcing perennial plants than annuals because my personal goals reside in soil health, carbon sequestration, and yields that require less overall work. Many farms use their animals for meat; we do not. We are a vegetarian homestead. Instead, I source animals for the functions they can contribute to the farm ecosystem. I did away with my coop for daily use (we still use it for extreme weather situations) and my flock resides in a gated pasture by night. Under the protection of my livestock guardian dogs, the flock is happier outdoors, there's less bedding costs, the eggs are cleaner, and my flock is given the ability to live more similarly to their native species.
Take a listen and find out how else we buck the typical agricultural system.
Let’s go beyond fundamentals of goose keeping and I’ll share how I use these amazing animals on my homestead. While many farms use geese for meat and eggs, their role here is more about stacking functions and taking part in the farm ecosystem. In this video I’m sharing:
Get my FREE download called “Which Breed of Goose is Right for My Farm?” here and you can also find my articles on geese Backyard Poultry Magazine.
Every year I grow hundreds of garlic bulbs. I use it heavily in cooking, it helps deter pests in my fruit tree guilds, and it is unpalatable to deer and other wildlife too. We’re in garlic-planting season for next year’s harvest and here’s my tips! Be sure to listen to the new @homesteaducationpodcast with my cohost @wildoakfarms for lots of info!
Plant in full sun.
Don’t overwater to prevent rotting bulbs. Instead, mulch the area with straw to retain moisture.
Plant cloves in fall before the freeze. Also know what you’re planting. Grow soft neck varieties for storage and hard neck for larger cloves, and mainly consuming sooner than later. Elephant garlic is awesome and easy to peel. But it doesn’t last super long.
Buy quality seed. I like:
Territorial Seed Company
Seed Savers Exchange
Filaree Garlic Farm
Hudson Valley Seed Company
A small sprinkle of slow release fertilizer in each hole when planting really helps out cloves as they establish roots. For a more permaculture approach, use biodegradable materials to improve soil quality and replace needed nutrients (i.e. comfrey, compost, etc.).
In addition to full sun and water, fertilize every 2-3 weeks with liquid kelp if you use fertilizer.
Keep weed free and avoid walking in growing areas to avoid compacting the soil.
When scapes appear on hardneck varieties, cut them before they blossom. This keeps the plant’s energy going towards the bulb and not reproducing via flower pollen.
Many sources say to harvest when the foliage of the plant is 2/3 yellow-brown. I don’t as this opens up the possibility of rotting bulbs! I harvest after a week or two of cutting scapes.
After harvesting, shake off excess dirt. Braid and hang softneck varieties in small groups or bundle hardneck varieties and hang. Air flow is key!
Make sure the bulbs cure for about three weeks in a dry, cool location.
After 4-6 weeks, de-stem, remove roots with scissors and store in braids or porous baskets.
Pro Tip: Garlic is a great companion plant for broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas. If you plant rows 12” apart, you can leave space to interplant these crops in the spring.
I’ve purchased my mare about six years ago. She had no plow experience. Over the course of our time together, I dabbled in getting her comfortable in wearing a harness and introducing her to pulling weight. She watched as I worked my other draft and had exposure to the sounds and weight of the tack. Between writing books and working the farm in the past year, I’ve become more consistent in our training. I started her by wearing the harness, then dragging the hames. Next we were dragging chains, a small weight, the single tree, and—finally—just today, her first load. I used both a lead line and long reins, choosing my method based on her comfort level.
In my last post, I shared all about my new greenhouse which I just completed construction on. Join me for a tour sharing how I address designing, heating, and ventilating my new growing space for plants, vegetables, and other crops.
This new greenhouse has been in my head for a long time. Come spring, I'll be starting and growing the majority of our homegrown produce from this new space--which I'm building 100% on my own. This greenhouse uses old windows and doors from our barn loft and will make the process of growing food so much easier.
I am currently lucky enough to have an underground greenhouse with skylights and a sliding glass door. What's better is this is just off of my living room. But I've been using grow lights for 100% of my homegrown food efforts. In an attempt to be as energy efficient as possible, and to reduce hardening off time by as much as 10 days, I'm building this new space which will require only the energy of the sun for heat and lighting. Plus, it's positioned just off the barn which will take advantage of thermal mass from a larger structure and is positioned closer to the garden itself.
Every single window and door you see here was found in my barn loft left behind by previous homeowners, and only 3 windows came from a free roadside pile. It’s also southwest facing so lots of sunshine here.
Finishing up the greenhouse has been slow going since I started school again. But I’m finally finished with the outside construction, solar lighting, and exterior white paint. Tonight at dusk I wrapped up the last coat!
Next I’ll be painting the interior trim-work black. Why? White on the outside reflects light, black on the inside absorbs heat and better retains it for nighttime temperature consistency.
Angela is the farmer and content creator behind Axe & Root Homestead® LLC. This historic six-acre permaculture farm is home to two Clydesdale horses, ten honeybee hives, five sheep, two guardian dogs, barn cats and a flock of 40 geese and ducks. The farm produces maple syrup, fruit from a small orchard and loads of garden produce for consumption, preservation and donation to the local food pantry.
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