Saturday, November 03, 2007

Permaculture vision.

How hard can it be to work on TV? I’m sure it must be money for old rope. One of the blogs we like to keep tabs on is Nick’s and Kirsten’s Milkwood permaculture project in New South Wales, Australia. They’re artists and use their talents to good use on their site, including some great little videos. Blogger have recently added a video facility and, for my first attempt, I uploaded a little video for my blog on our permaculture pigs.

I was making some seed pellets to sow clover and thought it would be a great subject for a short “how to” film. It’s an idea I’ve read about in Masanobu Fukuoka’s books, The One Straw Revolution and The Natural Way of Farming. Seeds are encased in a clay / soil ball and then sown. The clay prevents the seeds being eaten by birds or rodents and, when the rain falls, the pellets moisten and the seeds start to germinate, already surrounded by earth.

The field that we bought last year had neither been grazed or worked for a year or two and was a jungle of grass and weeds. We’ve only really been able to get to grips with it this summer, when I first cut the waist high grass with our farmer neighbour Paul’s old Massey Ferguson, fitted with a hay-cutting implement. The grass was left to rot on the floor, not being good enough to bale for hay and us not knowing what else to do with it. I then enclosed the field in stock fencing, finishing just as some neighbours of ours, Marie Laure and Jéremie, had an urgent need for grazing for some ponies. The ponies have nibbled the whole lot to the ground, leaving most of the thistles remaining as tall sentinels and thus easy to dig out with a fork, long tap root included. There are bare patches, patches of weeds like creeping buttercup and the field needs some help. By sowing white clover we hope to improve the pasture: the clover, a leguminous plant, will fix nitrogen in the soil and, if it gets away strongly, will also mulch out other, less-desirable weeds.

That’s the theory; all we need now is a short instructional video. I’ve named our production company The Blind Leading the Blind to try to convey our relative inexperience in permaculture. If you fancy a laugh, watch all three in order, if you just want to know how we made our clay seed pellets, look at the last one. And there are several other ways of making these seed pellets; have a look, for instance, at this article from Tilth Producers Quarterly. Oh, and as regards a career in television, I’m thinking that I shouldn’t give up my day job just yet.


David said...

I liked the third video......! I've not come across this technique before so look forward to progress reports. Meantime do you have any good references to read more?



Val Grainger said...

Brilliant!!! We have loads of clover............can this be used for other seeds? I think I will set our wwoofers mud seed casing duties next year.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi David and Val!

Thanks for your comments. I'm going to write a follow-up blog soon as I've just planted up some green manure, half with the seeds pelleted and half sown conventionally, as an experiment.
To read more, I'd suggest Fukuoka's The One Straw Revolution as being the more accessible of the two books I mentioned. There's a very short section on p 214 of Bill Mollison's Permaculture: A Designer's Manualotherwise, I'd just search around on the Internet.
Fukuoka uses it for different seeds, including sowing his rice seeds. He reckons that with a bit of practice, you can get one seed per pellet but I've yet to achieve that. He sows the next crop before harvesting the one before. Have a read of The One Straw Revolution to fully understand why he uses this method.
For us, it's our first time and I will report on this blog the germination rate of the clover in the rough pasture and the green manure experiment on our veg patch.

mandarine said...

I want more from the Blind Leading the Blind! This is great.

I had read about seedballs before, but had never actually seen it done. I will try it in late spring.

I have tried a different technique, inspired from home-sprouting, in which I soaked my rye seeds for one full day before hand-sowing. Apparently, germination is quicker. Now I need to improve on this because lumps of wet seeds are harder to broadcast evenly than handfuls of dry seeds.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for your comment, Mandarine. Like you with your wet lumps of seed, we're not sure that we've perfected the clay seedballs either and will post more when we get results or not.