Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Crazy Scheme, Part 2: Little Tiny Steps

Last time I outlined the Big Hairy Problems I wish to solve with my Crazy Scheme. This time I want to look some starting points for solving them.

To be honest, I can't change the world. Maybe you can. I don't have the right skills for it. You probably already knew that though.

Imagine me, surrounded by concentric circles - like a giant target, with me as the bullseye. (No, I haven't been chasing black helicopters again.) In target practice, the bullseye is the highest point total, with the rings decreasing in points as you get farther from the center. That's how I imagine my ability to change the world. I can make the biggest differences closest to home.

So with that in mind, I've cobbled together ideas from my favorite authors, my own experiences, and concepts other people have had success with to form my own Crazy Scheme. There's nothing particularly original about any of the pieces. Maybe not even the combination of pieces. But it's a combination that makes sense to me. It's gonna take a while to get where I'm going with this, but they tell me patience is a virtue.

So our first order of business is to expand our ability to feed ourselves in our back yard. That gives us healthier & better tasting food, smaller grocery bills, a lower carbon footprint, and even a little extra exercise in the bargain.

In the garden, I want to adopt some of the tools and methods used so successfully by Elliot Coleman, as described in great detail, in The New Organic Grower, and Four Season Harvest. I don't need Coleman's scale at this point, but I like many of his ideas, from starting seeds with soil blocks to specific crop rotation techniques. I'll throw in some adaptations from other gardening methods and personal experience.

In an area adjacent to the garden, and of roughly the same dimensions, I hope we can raise some chickens, using some of the techniques described in Chicken Tractor by Andy Lee and Pat Foreman, again with variations to suit us.

To the north of the garden, I want to grow grains on a small scale, both for our own use, and for the use of our livestock. I hope to use techniques described in Gene Logsdon's Small Scale Grain Raising, with variations on the Three Sisters technique thrown in.

From there, the garden and chicken areas can alternate, year to year, providing continuous improvement in soil quality. Looking ahead, perhaps we can even scale up to the point where we can do rotational or strip grazing with the other livestock, where the donkey hits the pasture first, followed by the goats, followed by the chickens, followed by the grains and/or vegetables. But that's getting a little too far ahead of the game. For now, let's think small.

Now if all goes well, we'll have added a lot to our plate, figuratively and literally. The goat's milk, the garden, the eggs, and possibly the birds will feed us. The grass and grains and weeds and bugs and slugs and garden remnants will feed the birds. The manure from the birds and the livestock, along with judicious use of legumes and cover crops, will feed the soil, which will feed the garden. The grains will act as a slight windbreak for the garden. Mutual benefit all around.

So that's the starting point for my Crazy Scheme. Marginally ambitious, but not too Crazy. And not really world-changing. Not yet.

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At 11/29/2006 6:05 AM, Blogger Beo said...

In today's world I think that any act that reduces commitment to the Consumer Machine is a Moral one.

That whole parellel life thing again: I am consiering resigning as HOA President so I can smuggle in 3 laying hens next year to eat cabbage worms...

At 11/29/2006 7:40 PM, Blogger Madcap said...

Well, it sounds pretty darn reasonable to me. Live small to make a big difference. Amen.


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