Reforesting With Goats

Reforesting With Goats /2014/10/08/reforesting-goats/
Geoff Lawton
Photos: Ingrid Pullen

At Zaytuna Farm we have been using our Boer meat goats to fast-track the weed-tree-infested forested
valleys’ succession and reforestation with a diversity of high quality tree species. This is being done around
the pasture edges of the valleys and the gullies between our pastures, which are dominated by weed tree
inundations of small and large leaf privet, camphor laurel and lantana.
We realise that if we let the weed species go through their successional sequences that they would over
time give way to large native forest canopy species — the latter eventually pushing through and shading
out the weed trees, and taking control of the canopy. This natural process takes time — in fact, about 90
years to complete canopy dominance back into native tree species — and in the interim it is very difficult to
work amongst these weed species to physically cut and clear tree planting sites, using them for mulch and
spot planting high quality forest trees of choice, along with the ongoing maintenance of holding back the
dominance of weed species to advantage our plantings. We have done it and we have had some results
and know how much hard work it takes to achieve.
I have always spent a lot of time thinking about the earth care ethic, and that intrinsic to earth care is the
life ethic that all living things have an intrinsic worth. As goes the words of advice that I received from my
long time friend and mentor, the great herbalist Isabel Shipard, “if you look out at the environment and hate
anything it will haunt you forever”. Goats are often hated for their destruction of trees and their effects on
landscapes, especially drylands, towards extending desertification, so I was curious as to how I could
design goats into a system so they had the opposite effect — of being a major help in reforestation
We have kept both milking goats and meat goats for many years and we know they are definitely ideally
suited to 60% mixed pasture herbage and 40% tree forage. They are happiest and healthiest if they have a
good mixture, and they will eat many plants and tree leaves that are considered toxic without any health
problems. They will stand as high as they can on their back legs and stretch their necks and extend their
tongues to reach every last leaf they can, so as to digest a great variation of foliage. So it is true that goats
will eat a great diversity of elements that most other domestic animals will not eat, but their preference is a
balance of elements starting with the most dominant and prolific leaves within their fenced area.

So we converted a car trailer into a mobile goat house and invested in four lengths of electric net fencing
— 50m long each — connected to a solar-powered electric fence unit, so that we can encircle an area
2,500 m2 in size, and proceeded to fence our goat flock into areas with 60% pasture and 40% weed-treeinfested
forest edge. The goats then get to work and within a few days the sight line through the lower
forest edge starts to clear and a few days later they start to stand on their back legs to reach up and eat the
weed tree leaves. At this stage, before they run out of reachable leaves and begin eating the bark of the
quality trees in their enclosed area, we start to cut some of the weed trees down for them to get extra
forage, starting with the easiest and smallest trees first.

The goats quickly learn that each morning from this point onwards we are going to arrive to cut food down
for them. As we do this we start to accumulate large amounts of small twig mulch on the forest floor, and
large amounts of piled up larger branches and trunks which we allow to dry before using as firewood in our
wood ovens, rocket stoves and biochar production. When we run out of weed trees to cut we move the
goats on to the next section to start all over, and the first stage of the cycle is complete. We also do a final
cut of all the stumps, close to the ground, with an abusive cut to stress the weed trees’ root systems, to
discourage their re-sprouting as a coppice. Despite this, many will re-sprout, and within a few months they
are at a height of around 2m, which is a good foraging height for the goats. So we then bring the goats
back for a second cycle, which is quicker than the first, with no requirement for us to cut manually, except
once the goats have eaten everything that has re-sprouted, and we have moved them on again, we
abusively trim the weed tree stumps down again.

This cycle is repeated three or four times, at which stage the weed tree stumps start to get so weak and
stressed they start to die. At this point we can stop the goat cycles and intensively plant in the forest trees
we desire to take over, while continuing to slash the ever diminishing coppice re-sprouting — using it for
mulch on our high quality emerging forest.
The goats do their job well, converting the weed trees into manure and goat meat, and, with some help
from us, firewood. And those nutrient cycles, along with the weed tree stump abuse, speed up the
successional cycles towards the high quality forest trees of our selection and choice.


Hugelkultur vs. Swales

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture is for everyone.

In Permaculture design one design element is water management. We want to maximize water usage on our land. As the saying goes when talking about water we want to “slow it, spread it, and sink it”. Two techniques in permaculture to accomplish this is swales and hugelkultur. In designing my property who would win swales or hugel? First lets have a look at swales. Swales are a ditch, but a special ditch. A ditch dug on contour. When it rains water flows through the land at 90 degree angle on contour. A level swale will hold water allowing the water to seep into the berm down slope. A sill or overflow is installed to control how the water flows across the land. A series of swales directs water across the land very slowly then sending it on its way when we are done with it. Hugelkultur is a wood core mound or berm. I’m on a fairly small scale ( 3 acres), so I chose hugelkultur. Why? Well let me tell you. Note this is my observations on my property and may be different for you. Other than a few months in the summer my land receives fair amount of rain, so drought isn’t normally a factor. When looking at swales is decided that only with a shovel and such it was a lot more work than hugel beds. Since I put my hugel beds on contour it acts similar to a swale. Mounding up tree limbs and leaves from several live oak were very easier for me. Much easier than digging a ditch. But now finishing the berm comes the down side of hugelkultur. To finish the berm I need to add more organic matter; compost, straw, and fill dirt. Basically any organic materials I can get my hands on. Those are coming from another spot. This material must be imported from another part of my land or brought in. Even with this hugelkultur was easier and a better option for me. Let me know your thoughts on this. Leave a comment of email me  . As always may the blessings of liberty be upon you.

Create a Hugelmound Landscape


From via Alisa Alonso

Hugelmounds are a truly amazing regenerative landscaping technique. They could be your preferred
method of soil re-building and regeneration, and here’s why.
There’s a lot to consider when understanding the best and most environmentally balanced way of creating
your new forest garden and permaculture landscape.
Hugelcultures, or “hugel mounds”, are a way of creating raised beds, which over time break down into
mounds of fertility. They work on the principle of mimicking how a forest works to regenerate itself — the
dead wood falls and begins to decompose, fallen branches and leaf litter begin to accumulate on top. Year
after year, rich soil begins to form because it creates a diverse habitat for decomposers, fungi and bacteria
to thrive.
When re-creating this “forest technique”, you can use logs as the base for the mounds, and top with any
organic matter you have easily accessible or close to your site: branches, leaves, straw, hay, wood chips,
any green vegetation, grass clippings, etc. Layer the mounds using the coarser material below and the
finest material on top. Top with a fine layer of soil or compost and mulch again and they are ready.
Mounds are a great permaculture technique because they create a dynamic landscape with varying
elevations and shapes, increasing the diversity of animal and plant habitat niches. Since they are raised
mounds, they are also naturally easier to tend to.
Besides mounds there are several other options you have to build the soil up to become fertile and well
drained. We consider hugelmounds to be the best option in a temperate climate, especially in the
Compare it to another option: tilling the field and sowing a cover crop. This method uses gas powered
machinery, and is not so gentle if you consider the disruption of the wildlife and the organisms that are
there to begin with.
We experimented doing that with a small area, and it didn’t work as well as I thought it might. Because we
are dealing with what’s mostly subsoil, aka very little/no topsoil left, the cover crop didn’t take right away. If
you have poor soil on your site you may have this issue as well — most permaculturalists usually do…
that’s the whole point to rAegenerating a site.
We don’t use machinery, so there was no easy way to help it along, till it in or even “chop and drop” it. So
we can’t really call it a cover crop, but thankfully each year, the “cover crop” does better because there is
also natural succession taking place in the area and we are allowing nature to restore that zone. In the
more “maintained” garden area, we plant comfrey along the borders, as well as other nitrogen fixing
species like clover, peas, sea buckthorn and Siberian pea shrub.
If you have wood, brush and other organic materials on the land, we would consider hugelmounds the
most ‘organic’ and low-impact way to build up your soil on a bigger scale.
It worked for us because we are low-tech and don’t use gas-guzzling machinery. Also it was a new site, so
no available compost piles, and any large amounts of soil we would have to buy/acquire elsewhere and
have it trucked in (more gas-guzzling activities).
Greensand, lime, bonemeal and other soil amendments are also products of industrialization, so we don’t
consider them fully sustainable options. They are no doubt mined or created in large operations,
packaged, and trucked around, so it’s not a truly low impact or ecological way to go about your gardening.
However, adding amendments does produce ‘results’. Our style of permaculture is less about results and
more about learning a natural and harmonious way to get along with the earth.
Back to hugelmounds! Creating them is a simple terraforming art; you pile or bury logs, dead wood, pieces
of branches onto the ground in any shape you desire to create.
We created an artistic shape that would influence the beauty of our garden in years to come. The
pathways, water flow and contours are central elements of our natural design.
Many of our hugelmounds are curved and arched to act as “berms” which capture the water as it flows
downhill. There are endless possibilities in creating practical and beautiful flowing shapes with your
hugelmounds. You can create a “u” as a suntrap open to the south (or north, if you’re in the southern
hemisphere), or even use them as the foundation base of a terrace. Because our site has a slight slope,
we also dig small swales before or behind them to help with water catchment and flow.
The best place to position your mound is in a dip or lowland, that way it will continue to get soakage.
Staying wetter will just make it decompose faster. Hugelmounds are ideal for wetland type spaces where
you would like to grow on drier terrain. However, you can make your mounds anywhere, and by digging
smart and using the swale technique, it will still hold some water.
When using dry wood, it is recommended to thoroughly soak (or let the rain soak) your logs before you add
the other finer organic materials on top. Depending on your site, you can choose to dig and lay the logs into
the ground (about half a foot is fine), and then add the dug soil on top. This is helpful because the more
soil you have on top the faster you can plant in your hugelmounds. If you are digging into lawn, flip the turf
over and cover the logs with it before you add on more leaves/organic matter, and finally soil.
You can grow potatoes and shallow rooted crops (like greens or lettuce) on your mounds the first year.
Each year with the seasons and rains it will decompose more and get juicier – with soil life that is! You can
grow veggies or hardy perennials. Every year you can try something different, since the soil layer will get
deeper. It’s fairly easy to maintain and tend to, and if mulched well your mound will stay relatively weed
By creating a hugelmound, you are creating a legacy. You are repairing years of damage to soil and
creating a regenerative spot of earth for decades to come.
So next time you’re thinking what to do with that pile of branches on your land, I hope you will consider this
wonderful project!

Permaculture and Beyond.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture can be overwhelming and involved. When I first heard of Permaculture is was in a book called Self Sufficiency for the 21 Century by Dick Strawbridge. I read that book in a day and have been hooked ever since. I read many books on Permaculture and recommend you reading. One Straw Revolution, Gaia’s  Garden, and of course Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Design Manual are a must read for anyone searching for Permaculture knowledge. Also, I absorb many online sources. and are two great sources. There are lots of different areas people concentrate on from food forestry to rocket mass heaters. Its was very confusing. Until I heard Paul Wheaton say that people chose to specialize in aspects of Permaculture but implement the basics. Academically speaking I think I’ve gotten most of what I need from lessons and study( books and such). Time to step into the advanced stages. Put on my big boy pants as it were. Start hitting the design and restore my homestead. Plant my trees, build my hugle beds and grow food and as a person, father, and husband. Time for real learning to begin. Get your hand dirty kind of learning. Discover how beautiful I can make by land and my life. May the blessings of liberty be upon you!

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Goal Setting.

Goals Make Success.

Goals Make Success.

Goals are an important component to success. Clearly defined written goals are the map to your dreams. It’s very important to put you goals on paper to maximize its effects on your subconscious. Just like your initial design for you food forest you must make a life plan, and spend your life energy and time completing the design. I even break down my goals into subcategories: finical, health, and life. So my goals are as follows: Finical: 1. become debit free 2. Build freedomfarmtv to a successful business. 3. Increase my rainy day fund. Health: 1. Improve overall health by losing 20 pounds. 2. Cut carbs from my diet. Life. 1. Increase personal freedom. 2. Spend more time and have more fun my family. 3. Implement Permaculture into my life.

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A little more on goal setting.

No Till Gardening

I have implemented no till raised beds on my homestead. I like no till because its gives people like my dad who had a stroke and cannot use the left side of his body well a chance to grow their own food. I’m planning many more raised beds of this kind very soon. I will be filming that and posting that soon. Until then enjoy this short film. I like that Masanobu Fukuoka was mentioned, and partially narrated by Larry Korn. I you don’t know who these guys are read “One Straw Revolution.” It’s a must.

And a little more how to.

Why Choose Permaculture.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture is for everyone.

Permaculture can be used in all aspects of your life. Build your life with ethics. Design your life how you like using the prime directive and the three ethics. Taking responsibility for yourself and your children is the definition of ultimate freedom. Place value in the earth. All wealth comes from the earth. Everything we consume today finds its origins from the earth. Value people. When your down an out have people you can lean on. Family, friends, and community are so important. Create a surplus and manage that surplus for those rainy days. Return some surplus to the earth, and build for tomorrow. We take and take and give nothing back we mine our future for today. Manage our lives void of the systems that enslave us. Enjoy life. Be free. Design of life or land are personal creative designs, but principles of Permaculture are the paint. Life is the canvas.  Value the edge. Abundance is at the edge. The ultimate protest is taking responsibility for yourself and that of your children. Take the power from those who seek it just by refusing their hold on you. I shall not comply.  May the blessings of freedom be upon you.

Keep the Focus

Focus on your Dreams.

Focus on your Dreams.

Keeping focus on your dreams can be a daunting task. For instance myself. I told myself I would blog everyday while on vacation last week. Did I no. Vacation was just to much fun. I realized I needed to decompress. Re energize. Now that I am re energized, I must focus back my life work. Living life with the most Freedom! Always remember as in Permaculture as in life, after the first initial design. Spend the rest of your life on the implementation.  Permaculture is life. Permaculture is Freedom. It’s the road map to paradise. Focus on the design of your life. Use morals and ethics to build the life you want. Keep your eye on the target. You will live with the blessings of Liberty.