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Thorny Croft – March update

bob_corker_portraitBob Corker is an experienced permaculture designer, who has specialised in large scale landscaping projects as well developing intentional communities, using appropriate technologies. He manages Thorny Croft farm with his son Taiamai. Both will be tutoring on our upcoming four week animal internship.

Grazing Management and Transitioning into Multi-tiered Production – continuing on from Bob’sfirst blog, The Thorny Croft Vision

The inspiring vision of the multi-tiered perennial solar production system is somewhat tempered by the reality of a flat grassed paddock and a few weeds (thistles).  Our challenge is the transition, which in terms of reaching ‘full production’ will take maybe up to twenty years before the canopy trees are dropping nuts to their full potential.

First Stage  – Grazing rotations and pasture renovation
Our main aims are to:
·    Never graze for periods of more 1 or 2 days on the same pasture (preferably one day or less if we’ve got the time to manage it)
·    Establish a rotation between 40- 60 days according to season and conditions
·    Have a high stocking density so that a considerable amount of the pasture gets trodden on and generally trashed to form part of the carbon recycling
·    Trying to just graze the young tops (where most of the nutrition is)
·    Leaving enough length in the grass to foster quick regrowth
·    ‘Bank’ grass during good growing periods, and draw down on that bank during slower growth periods
·    Soil test and add appropriate fertilisers (in this case calcium bound in an organic form)
So far the most dramatic response to this has been the change of pasture species and the increased production.  When we first started, after the farm had been mostly set stocked for many years, there were almost no clovers and a predominance of yorkshire fog (which is more tolerant of set stocking), now we are seeing lots of clover, and more rye grass and others.  We are also seeing much more root depth.

IMG_0592Typical pasture under a set stocking regime. Note the lack of clover. Brix values typically 3-4

We are building fertility which will lead us into the second stage

IMG_0588Two years of rotational grazing. Lots of clover and less ‘fog’. Brix value 12 or over.

Second Stage –  Progressive perennial establishment
We are aiming to progressively establish our perennial base.    The exact proportion each year will depend on our development budget
Essentially we’ll fence off broad strips aligned with our grazing patterns, and plant these up with four categories.
·    Fast growing pioneer perennials that will handle a  40 – 60 day rotation, including, rye grass, comfrey, lucerne, red clover, chicory, plantain, and others
·    Fast growing pioneer perennial trees that will handle a  40 – 60 day rotation, including tagasaste, forage willow, and assorted acacias
·    Medium fast perennials that will produce poultry and/or pig forage and/or human food, including mulberry, apples, hazels, others
·    Slower, canopy trees (main producers), chestnuts, forage oaks, walnuts,

For the first year there will be little if any grazing, and probably only with young stock. However, we are also experimenting with an organic grazing repellant which will enable grazing earlier.  (more on that to come)

Stage Three  –   Progressive maturing
Once the whole area is planted in perennials, there will be a progressive maturing of the system, early production will come mostly still from pasture and fast growing perennial crops, as time proceeds the production of the mid height  and canopy trees will dominate.

Happy growing!
See Taiamai’s blog on the Thorny Croft sheep.

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