I was asked what books I thought most helpful. I would say the last two books I bought just before Christmas have done more to change my way of thinking than anything I have previously read on gardening, livestock raising, and permaculture. Maybe it was because I have become so frustrated with how little is working in our own self-reliant plan. Time and money is stagnating our progress and yet it is these two challenges that have opened up a whole new way of thinking.
One of the books had a co-operative of young people working to create a permaculture and resources I could only dream about. The second book is the wisdom of an older couple, there days free to pursue their passions. Neither situation comes near to our own. We have two single daughters and therefor they need help now and then. Four grandchildren we have a great deal of responsibility toward their upbringing and financial support, and a married son and four more grandchildren who live just 30 miles away. Add in parents and siblings in the nearby area and time is something we just don’t have.
Land, climate, time, and resources for us just don’t match with either book so you are probably wondering how did I get anything out of them? I asked myself questions as I read, what is it they are trying to accomplish, do I need that, can I do that, do I have time to do that, do I have the resources? If there were enough yes answers, then I pondered on how I could accomplish the same thing with less of everything. Surprisingly, I came up with a number of answers to my problems that have plagued me for years and years.
‘The Small Scale Poultry Flock’ by Harvey Ussery.
Has a wonderful comprehensive overview on how to raise poultry. That alone is very valuable for most people and I learned a few things. But it isn’t that which I found most helpful at this time. His thoughts on integrating chickens into our gardening plans went far beyond anything I’d thought before. In that area, I’ve simply been frustrated and had resided to keeping them out. My present problem is a husband that can’t remember to close the gate. My poor garlic beds and multiplier onions after planting get thrashed by hen’s feet every year – often more than once.
Harvey tells how he uses hens to turn and break down his mulch piles, we did that once in the south garden. We hauled in loads of manure and sawdust from our goat stalls. The chickens broke it down and spread it out but there were nothing but a few trees there. And another time we used six hens to eat grasshoppers that had stormed in devouring everything in their path. They ate more than grasshoppers though and tore things up a bit though the plants were all mature. Harvey plants more and more cover crops and uses chickens to eat it, shred it, and till it in while fenced in chicken tractors or fencing. All the while they eat greenery, slugs, bugs, and poop rich nitrogen excrement. The garden benefits and so does the chickens, now that is permaculture at its finest. The problem is his way requires too much time, building of coops and runs and their maintenance for my situation. I’ve got a plan for ‘more with less’ and I’ll share with you. Later when I present it, please point out the positives and negatives. Right now it is flowing idea and I want your input before I put it into action.
‘The Resilient Farm and Homestead; An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach’ by Ben Falk.
Ben talks about resiliency and creating a regeneration design. In one section he gives you 72 points to ponder. The first is maximum output for minimum input. A model I just learned about elsewhere which is 20% input should create 80% output and can be used in everything but in business models, the point becomes very clear. When Ben Falk said “where the system is simple enough to be legible, manageable, and accessible for human participation” he had me. I had been doing 80% percent input and getting 20% output if I was lucky and feeling it financially, physically, and mentally. He further said “do not overwhelm the capacity of the human occupation to help meet those needs”. He had my full attention.
He said that if given the exact same site to five different people, that their ideal model would be completely different. That is what I’m doing with Harvey Ussery’s book, I’m taking his intents and creating my own model to fit my energy, time, and resources. For instance one of the 72 points is Increase Diversity. Since I was also sneaking peaks at the small poultry book at the same time I was using the thought models and using them on how they applied to me and chickens. How could I use their natural habits and needs to do more? Pest control, tilling, breaking down of organic materials, and growing feed for chickens fits that model completely. ‘Do more with less.’
This book I will read over and over taking the models and information to think long and hard about in all facets of my life. Want to get serious, you need these two books.