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The Thorny Croft Vision

by Bob Corker

Thorny Croft Blog –  Bob

This is my first blog on Thorny Croft, so a good time to give you an introduction to our vision.

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Thorny Croft is approx 6ha  on the western end of the Kotare Village Home block.

Mostly flat with some south facing slopes.  The idea is that we develop a multi tiered polyculture of trees, shrubs  and pasture, that supports cows, pigs, poultry for the village.  Our bacon and egg breakfast farm.  The cows milk will support both the poultry and the pigs in the early stages, until the tree crops take over this role.  We are inspired by the permaculture vision of optimising the use of the  incoming solar energy, and maximising the root depth from which we can recycle nutrients, all the while sequestering more carbon and regenerating the soil biological matrix.  Once this progression is understood, the main challenge becomes choosing the species and cultivars, while timing the successions.  Top of the canopy will be oaks (they seem to thrive here), then walnuits, hazels, pears , apples, nitrogen fixers etc. What can’t be used directly for human food will go to the pigs. Then its about exploring variations of shade tolerant berries, herbs etc.  All creating habitat for insects and duck or chook forage.  To get inspired read Russel Smith : A permanent Agriculture (one of Bill Mollison’s inspirations) and Mark Shephard’s Regenerative Agriculture, where he demolishes the arguments that Permaculture can’t compete with modern industrial agriculture.  Increasingly what it comes down is that what is important is not production per hectare, but human nutrition  per hectare, and surprisingly he shows that well tuned permaculture systems come out on top, easily.  So no time to lose, get out and plant like your grandchildren will depend on it.  But note the phrase ‘well tuned’  –  learning new systems and creating synergy will be our greatest challenge.

“It is not enough to be well intentioned, we need to become well informed”  –  Bill Mollison

Meanwhile we need to start planning for the introduction of trees.  We’ve been particularly impressed with the tagasaste we’ve planted in the drier areas, and the research we’ve done suggests that it will handle a 60 day grazing rotation well and be very productive.  Now we need a wet tolerant substitute, maybe forage willows.

This winter we did an experimental planting of one of the southern slopes, which included:

  • oaks, acorns for ducks and pigs
  • walnuts
  • mulberry’s,  hand picked, and forage for chooks, ducks and pigs
  • Croton megalocarpus, a tall high protein chook forage
  • Alnus cordata and glutinosa, coppicing nitrogen fixers/firewood
  • Maackia amurensis, nitrogen fixing coppicing of ground durable post wood
  • various apples, pears, and figs, first grade to us, the rest for pigs and chooks.
  • Tagasaste, forage for cows, and wood pigeons *(we’ll know we’ve succeeded in perrmaculture when they’re legitimately on the menu again)

Next blog I’ll discuss the grazing management and the stock, as this will be the ‘engine’ that drives the first stage of carbon sequestering, building fertility and transition into the additional tiers.

Till then happy growing  Bob

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