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no till field crops  RSS feed

 
Leah Sattler
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I want to plant a few acres of millet. the area I want to use is shallow soil with shale. because there is not much soil there already I don't want to damage it by tilling it even once.  (I am a not till vegi gardener already) here is my idea. because millet is short season i think I can reasonably wait till most spring seeds have germinated and then burn them off. then scatter millet seed and spread a light layer of composted horse manure to cover them. I know that they will not push through much soil over them but they will do better with a little 1/4 or so cover and I probably need it to protect them from bird raids until they germinate.

I know feild cropping isn't really very permie but I am concerned with our ability to produce our own food in the relatively near future for both our animals (that feed us) and ourselves directly. millets tolerance of poor soil, drought, lack of problems with prussic acid and aflatoxin as well as good protein profile and rapid maturation make it my (so far) crop of choice. I want to start the learning curve now so that I have got something figured out asap.
 
Leah Sattler
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anyone? surely my original thoughts on this could use some tweaking....... I'm contemplating using spent hay instead of compost due to accessibility reasons. although I know it wouldn't contibute much in the way of nutrients the first year but should help build the soil over the course of time. would half composted stall cleanings or spent hay be better?
 
                    
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i have seen some broadcast crops covered in liquid manure but not millet or solid manure. weeds would be the big issue!
 
Susan Monroe
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Do you happen to have any red clay soil around there?

Why not make and sow some seed balls, using clay, compost and seeds, as per my post on seed balls?

The balls won't break down until there is enough rain, so you wouldn't have to worry too much about them sprouting and drying out.  And the balls would protect them from birds.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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I don't know if the seed balls would be worth it. I really want to cover a pretty large area in exclusivly millet, it would be alot of seed balls.
 
paul wheaton
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Leah,

You've grown millet before?

I've been attending the sepp holzer workshops ... where he doesn't buy feed for his animals.  They find everything they need right on his property.  And what he plants is more like 50 types of seed in one big gob. 

 
Matt Ferrall
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Sorry for the delay;hope the response will make up for it.So Im just going to reply to this as if we are talking about grains in general.
  I think my first step would be to find out which grains ,in general,work well where I live.Personaly,Id start on cultivated ground just for the initial research and later move to "no till" using the "best of"from the initial trials.Ultimately,working with the best genetics for your soil/site will yield the most promising results.
  I would look around your area for tips.Example:There is an amaranth farm in a similar but drier location within 100 miles of me
  I wouldnt overlook weeds.Example:Lambs quarters can be quite productive of a small black seed or grain.
  I would check out unconventional models.Example:Wes Jackson has done some amazing work breeding perennial grain crops at his Land Institute in Salinas Kansas.Tim Peters of Peters Seed & Research also has bred some amazing grains.Also check out Rhodale Research Center and their work with OAHE (Elytriga intermedia)
  I would peruse pertinate literature.Example:Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon and Whole Grains by Sara Pitzer
  I would work with nature and the seasons.Example:I cant get eggs from my neighbors right now because they dont use electric lights but I did just buy some homade pickeled eggs from a friend.(pickeled with beets so they turn purple inside!)
  I would be willing to make some cultural consessions.Example:puting one degree of seperation(feeding the grain to a bird first)between you and the grain will lessen these effects but if grown for personal consumption,the most effecient action would be to adapt your diet to what grows good where you are at.
  Finally,I would be open to models that are completely new and/or ancient.Example:This winter as the snow fell,I noticed the lambs quarters often stayed upright.The rising snow provided ever changing access to more and different seeds by the wild birds.Could this model be used in conjunction with Wes Jacksons research?
 
Leah Sattler
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great ideas and suggestions!

paul - no I haven't grwon any yet, on purpose at least, the pearl millet in birdseed seems to go nuts when It is allowed to. I haven't grown any grain crops except corn and that is not something I want to bother with again.  that is why I said I wanted to start the learning curve now! so hopefully I will have got it figured out after a few years if the economy continues to plummet.

I'm hoping to use this mostly for chicken feed. and although I prefer a grain free diet for my goats, dairy goats have heavy feed requirments and right now alfalfa pellets are perfect except that alfalfa is rarely grown here because it doesn't like the climate and because of blister beetles and it is finicky even in the climates it likes so I don't expect to be able to provide that in even in the event that it becomes unavailable to purchase.

to  my research so far has turned up that millet doesn't mess with the fats in the eggs negatively when used as layer feed and is suitable to feed as and energy supplement to dairy goats. and considering I would be processing and storing it on site the lack of problem with alfatoxins is a huge plus for me another big plus is the ease in threshing myself. free ranging birds is important to me and they will be running in my orchard as well as utilizing all the pasture to dig up some of their own yummies but I want to be able to grow enough to over winter them and get fast growth on meat birds in the summer. and possibly to supplement some pigs in the winter also.

amaranth is on the list but I expect to use that more as a summer forage crop rather than a storage crop. buck wheat is up there too. both would provide lots of compost material for me too. wheat is very hit and miss growing here. there are some organic farms that have limited supplies of local wheat but I am assuming that if experienced people have trouble growing it then I should stay away! lambs quarters sound great and they are definelty easy to grow! I wonder what the calcium content is in lambs quarters? that is a big problem with the dairy goats, the are prone to hypocalcemia and a big worry if I was unable to buy alfalfa pellets and of course calcium for egg production would be needed. so I am on the hunt for calcium crops too.


 
Susan Monroe
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Leah, looking at the list here http://www.citracal.com/Calcium/Foods/Cereal-Pasta.aspx which sow the calcium content of grains, it looks like barley, buckwheat, oats, rye and sorghum are fairly high in calcium.

Looking up alfatoxins, Wikipedia says "Crops which are frequently affected include cereals (maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice, wheat), oilseeds (peanut, soybean, sunflower, cotton), spices (chile peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, ginger), and tree nuts (almond, pistachio, walnut, coconut, brazil nut)."

FWIW

Sue
 
Susan Monroe
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I read your response to seed balls, and I was thinking that you might be able to make pelleted seed using the same ingredients (seed, red clay, compost) mixed with water to make a sticky-moist mix and press it through an 1/8" mesh onto some trays and let them dry in the sun.  When dry, break up any chunks.

This should still keep rodents and birds from eating the seeds, but you could produce a larger amount than you could with the one-at-a-time seedballs.

Distribute, and when enough rain falls, they act like seed balls, with the rain softening the clay and allowing the seeds to sprout.

Maybe.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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alflatoxin can be a problem in many things but I have found many remarks similiar to the following and it seems to be one of the 'safest' of the grains, there are no gaurantees of course but I want something that reduces the risk since testing for aflatoxin at home (like in graineries) is just not feasable....I dont' think.... but  I should look into that, it may not be as hard or technical as I think...

" Palay, soybean and millet however, were noted to be poor substrates for aflatoxin production (Ilag, 1984)."
http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5036e/x5036E1e.htm

that might work with the millet crumbles! I think they sell grass seed in a similiar fashion it didn't even occur to me to try and make my own but why not!
 
                              
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I have little idea as to whether this is relevant to your climate as I'm from the UK, and know little of Oklahoma, but I am going to grow grains using the Bonfils method this year. Perhaps you could adapt some of it's principles. Basically, the Bonfils method involves sowing white clover as a perennial groundcover, and once it's established you sow the grain through it. The clover fixes nitrogen, suppresses weeds and prevent's erosion. It is claimed that if you return all crop residues to the soil as mulch, cereal can be grown year on year on the same spot of land whilst fertility continually improves. Should this be true, you'd only have to clear the land of weeds once to get the system up and running, and from then on you'd only have to do a bit of maintenance weeding.
    If white clover doesn't do well in your climate, perhaps you could use an alternative weakly competitive groundcover instead of white clover.
    Grains aside, I have been wondering if one could grow other crops through a weakly competitive groundcover such as white clover. It definately would save a lot of mulching.
For further info see: www.metafro.be/leisa/2000/164-13.pdf
If you want to know more, I can send you another, more detailed pdf on request.
 
                              
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have you seen this detailed article on "Feeding the Flock from the Homestead's Own Resources"

http://www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Growing-Poultry-Feeds-1.html
 
Leah Sattler
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those are some great links thanks! the idea of growing crops through clover is excellent! clover will die back when summer really gets rolling here but it could still be an excellent way to suppress weeds and contribute to the soil.
 
Susan Monroe
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I have thought about using that overseeding method into white clover.  But I have not seen any actual details of doing it.

Do you just sprinkle your second-crop seeds among the growing clover?  Do you cover them?  Do you run a blade of some kind in a row and sow the second-crop seeds in it?  Do you mix seed with compost or compost/clay and just toss the seeds among the clover?

More details, please!  And I would indeed like to see the .pdf file on it.

Thank you!

Sue
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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While living in New Hampshire, we used white clover as a ground cover/green mulch in our vegetable garden.  We let the seeds sprout and get up a little bit before sprinkling the clover seed around in the beds.  We still had to do some weeding, but I think it did help (we didn't start using the clover until we'd had a garden in that spot for several years, so the weeds had already been somewhat reduced).

Kathleen
 
paul wheaton
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In the Bonfils method, Clover is sown in spring (April in the UK) and allowed to establish before cereal is sown by pressing it into the soil in early summer (June in the UK). Making a little gap in the clover sward would probably help the cereal get established. This works only for old varieties of Old World cereals because they are exceptionally vigorous - old varieties of wheat being able to out compete other grasses and crucifers - and can therefore manage with the competition from the much less vigorous white clover. Newer varieties of grain have been bred for high productivity under a "conventional" growing regime at the expense of vigor and don't do well in this system. Likewise, many of the commonly grown annual vegetables have low vigour and would probably also struggle in this system. However, I expect that the big crucifers (brassicas), if first established in containers and then planted out into the clover sward would do well as they would be much taller than the clover. I intend to try out perennial kale (Daubenton) using this system next year when I've fenced out the bunnies from the clover patch. It would also be interesting to see how maize, sunflowers, climbing and sprawling cucurbitas (squashes, cucumbers), and yams would do in this system. I've had American Land Cress self seed into pasture, so maybe it could co-exist with the clover. Any more suggestions anybody?
 
                              
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I was going to send out a pdf of The Harmonious Wheatsmith which is a leaflet detailing the Bonfils method, but since I only have a hard copy and would have to get the pdf off my mate, and since I'd feel bad about ripping off a fellow permie's work, I thought I best just post a link where you can pay £3 (about $5) to download it. Maybe as a compromise one of you could buy it and then email it to anyone else on the forum who's interested?

You can buy the book by clicking on "ebooks" on the authors website: http://www.moodie.biz/
 
                              
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I've used white clover some here as a living mulch crop.  I can't say it was a perfect method.  for the stuff I tried it with (other grain crops.)  If the clover is already well established and doing a good job of smothering out weeds, it will do the same thing against most seeds you try to sew in it unless they are really aggressive plants.  Seedlings or plants that are already bigger than the clover might successfully be planted into a bed of clover but the only real benefit there is the clover acting as mulch, the nitrogen fixed by the clover's root nodules isn't available to other plants while those roots are alive.

I even tried planting into a bed of clover that I mowed down before planting.  The clover still grew back before the seeds germinated and got above it and trying to mow over a deep soft bed of clover was a real challenge with my mower.
 
Susan Monroe
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I wouldn't think that seeding into an existing bed of clover would be all that suitable for true no-till.  I intend to try it sometime, but my plan was to run a small Mantis tiller a bit to make a seedbed just prior to sowing, or just to chop a hole in the runners and remove them, then plant.

TCLynx, that's not quite true about nitrogen in root nodules not being available to other plants.  While the clover plant does use the nitrogen in the clover for it's own use while it is still alive, the roots are constantly growing and dying. The nodules that are on the dying/dead roots will contribute nitrogen to the soil and then to other plants. Some roots only live for three days or so before they die and are replaced by other roots.

BTW, for anyone who is new to the term 'no-till', there is a difference between the permaculture/organic version and the chemical farmer version.

In permaculture, the weeds are kept down with mulch.

In chemical farming, the weeds are kept down with herbicides.  While they say they aren't disturbing the soil, they are still disturbing the ecosystem with their toxic chemicals.  They think this is an improvement. 

Sue
 
                              
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I expect that you are right about the lifespan of roots and such but I also came across studies that found there was little nitrogen benefit to crops grown with the white clover as living mulch.  I know in my attempt, the results were rather poor.  The white clover just seems more viggorus than the plants I was trying to grow with it.

I did like the effects of growing the white clover under my citrus trees, at least for the wet season and following winter, it tends to die off here in summer.
 
                              
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With regard to your comments on growing from seed in clover beds TCLynx, that's useful info, thanks. So unless one is growing a particularly vigorous species such as many grain varieties, plants should only be translplanted into the bed once they have grown above the height of the clover, and even then decent vigour is probably a big plus.

Your comments on nitrogen fixing are also interesting. As long as nitrogen is being fixed, its got to enter the wider system eventually as far as I can reason, but do you think that white clover is particularly poor at sharing it? I would be very interested to read the studies you mentioned if you can remember where you found them.

Perhaps it would be interesting to do a comparison between a mulched bed and a "clovered" bed for various crops to see whether the increase in yield is worth the bother of mulching. My feeling is that using clover is probably appropriate for certain crops in certain environments and situations.

Yield of other species aside though, it's worth remembering that clover is itself edible and is an insectary plant particularly good for bees and certain butterfly and moth species.

Blue skies, Ben
 
                              
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Unfortunately I don't remember where I read the negative finding about the living mulch.
 
Brenda Groth
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I'm sorry I didn't respond..but I'm not knowledgeable about FIELD crops, feeding domestic animals or millet.

around here even the songbirds won't eat the millet so I haven' grown it.

I have heard a lot about it being good for animals and people..but haven't ever sown it..also amaranth, i've read a lot about it but never have grown it..might need more input before i go there.

I hope you got the info you needed
 
Anna Spangle
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   One interesting crop from the middle ages in Mangelwurtzel, also called mangel beets. ( Seeds available from JL HUdson Seedsman, www.jlhudsonseeds.net ) Sheep will forage these and also the mustard family (such as kale) over northern European winters, without the need for harvesting and storing. Cattle however, were fed chopped mangels. I do not know which the goats might resemble more in terms of how they can handle it. A friend also suggested that she was afraid mustard family plants (kale, cabbage, turnips) might flavor their milk in unpleasant ways.
   Anyway where I am, in wet Western WA there is green grass all winter. The sheep and goats start eating tree bark in the early Spring --- I assume this is some kind of nutrient deficiency but who knows what exactly. I imagine grass gets poor in nutrition after being rain-soaked for months. I do "grain" them in the winter when they are pregnant and in the spring when they are producing a lot of milk.
   Historically oats and rye were the crops of northern Europe. Millet is african, but grows madly under bird feeders, as you know. Sunflower seeds also seem to be a potential animal feed, as well as amaranth mentioned above.
   Permaculture books is offerring a new edition of Logsdon's Small Scale Grain Raising. He is cool to read because he points out that you do not need a tractor but can gather grain it all with a hand tools, like in the middle ages.  Interesting.
  Good Luck with your project. Curious to hear results. --- Anna in Olympia, WA.

Wikipedia article on Magelwurtzel:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangelwurzel
priceless photo of girl with her giant mangels:  http://www.viewimages.com/Search.aspx?mid=3141481&epmid=3
 
Leah Sattler
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I really want to have a go at this soon. I don't know if I will be able to manage this year though. I have to get  more fencing up to utilize my preferred area and get th goats off of it.  my plan is to get several loads of cow manure/hay mix that is available for 10$ a load near here and spread it thinly and seed on top of the pasture. I want to  a55gal drum to convert into a water roller and press the seeds into the thin manure mix. (hopingfully using my pony as the power) I am not going to do anything with the mixed plants already growing in the pasture. tilling them under is out of the question with the rock issue. if I had a large weed burner I would use that. I want to find out if the millet with its tolerance of poor soil and conditions will hold its own amongst the native grasses and plants with just a wee bit of a human cultivated advantage.
 
Brenda Groth
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Leah, if the millet isn't a huge expense to get the seed I'd give it a try..is it a cool weather crop? If so can you get it in now? Do you know if the seed goes through undigested at all if it is put into feed like bird droppings sometimes spread seeds that are undigested and they grow? I know one year we did have some millet come up under a bird feeder..probably spilled seed..it had a lot of competition..but i've never really used it much for feed or planted it for any reason...ut if you thin it is wise..and your heart is telling you so..then follow your heart..your gut..your spirit..and give it a try..at least in a small scale if you don't do the larger scale..then you can at least see how it fares.
 
                              
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In response to your last post Leah, I think it will be an up-hill struggle using the method you describe, although I am obviously unfamiliar with the conditions. As the perennial weeds will be well established, not to mention well suited to the environment owing to their being native, I expect they will have grown through the manure before the millet has even germinated.
    Prior to sowing my clover patch on an area which was previously pasture I removed the sod using a spanish style mattock (azada). It was surprisingly quick and effective. I then piled up and covered the sod to compost for next year. Although this would be more work per square meter, it would probably provide a greater yield for that work.
    Also, is the manure/hay mix well composted? If it's not it'll probably "burn" the seedlings.
    Sorry if the above is discouraging for you. I figure it's best that you hear all the views that the forum has for you and then you can decide for yourself.
 
Leah Sattler
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it is a short warm season crop. I don't know how well it will fare. there really isn't any sod to cut out. the area looks lush from a distance but when you are on top it appears pretty sparse in comparison to good pasture. it can't afford to have anything removed with a sod cutter. the top soil is already too shallow and the rocks would prevent efficient use of it anyway.  the manure won't be composted but I won't spread it so thick as to burn the seedlings. it won't be deep enough to be hot and will be more like a thin layer of mulch and I mostly hope it will hold the seed in place and hide it some.


I think it will just have to be an experiment. I'm aware that it might not work. but for this spot there aren't many options when it comes to traditional cultivation techniques.  ops:
 
Brenda Groth
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so have you planted the millet yet? YOu sure do have ROCKY soil..wow..I can see all kinda of rock uses..walls..houses..cathedrals..you go girl..

hope the millet does well for you..
 
                    
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wow thats hard to get with a rocky soil
 
                              
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Ah yes, I guess it is important to retain all the topsoil you can if there's not much of it to start with!
    The issue is that, as the saying goes "nature abhores a vacuum", and so unless your pasture has been recently cultivated, the herbacious plant niches will all be filled by the grass, etc. So provided that you haven't been cultivating the land, the sparseness of the vegetation should in theory be due to the limited resources (water, nutriets, etc.) all being used up by the existing vegetation. Thus, if you sow the millet straight onto the pasture, I would expect there to be no room at the Inn so to speak.
    Whenever we introduce a plant to an area, we must ensure that there is an empty niche which it can fill. While some species, such as many trees, are tolerant of competition, and are therefore able to open up niches in the most unlikely places - rising up through dense pasture and thickets - most annual crop species are adapted to germination in the low competition environment which humans create by removing the existing plants.
    As millet does not grow in my climate I don't know much about it, so it may be that it is possible to cultivate it in the way that you propose. I have heared that it is tollerant of 'poor' conditions, but such statements usually refer to the climate and soil. One must bear in mind that the native flora, having evolved under your conditions, and now being well established, present quite a challenge to any exotic newcomer. Were millet able to prosper under your conditions without significant human intervention, one would expect it to already be naturalised in the area.
    On a different note, the issue with using fresh manure is not so much that it heats the area up, but that the high levels of soluble nutrients which it contains cause plant roots in the area in which it is applied to dry up. This is misleadingly known as 'burning'. It's like what happens to slugs when cruel people cover them in salt. Whats more, I expect that your vulnerable little seedlings would be affected worse than the existing flora.
    Sorry if I'm going on a bit. You are of course at full liberty to disregard all that I have written. My opinion though is that your time and resources would be better spent mulching an area of the pasture for later use. I wouldn't reccommend using the fresh manure/hay as hay contains loads of grass seed. You could even do a 'grow through' mulch into which you could plant big annuals on wide spacings (to avoid making so many holes in the mulch that it's ineffective) such as pumpkins, etc. See http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3rd3e69BnC8C&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=grow+through+mulch&source=bl&ots=KTjWv6B0R4&sig=30UmO17Y2AFq0sELvAIzLKCvxQ0&hl=en&ei=PJQNSu-nK9SZjAe27OmtBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPA56,M1 for more details. If you use a plant matter based mulch this should eventually compost down, deepening the soil, whilst remove the weeds and growing a crop.  My experience is that chickens LOVE pumpkin seeds, and humans love the rest. Win - win - win!
 
                              
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Heck, humans love pumpkin seeds too!!!  And I've found the chickens like the flesh as well.

It might be worth sewing a variety of seed in that pasture to see what can carve out a place for itself.  If you can mix in some legumes and root crops that if you or the animals don't use them, at least they can help build the soil up.  Come fall, I know many types of kale and turnip will germinate very well.
 
                                  
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This discussion strikes me as an attempt to reinvent the wheel.  The idea of ground covering with clover and then planting through it is exactly what Fukuoka researched for decades and finally worked out.  I think the first stop on this train would be to check out his two tomes:

http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/01aglibwelcome.html

Also, look at the websites dedicated to Fukuoka farming methods, one of which follows:

http://fukuokafarmingol.info/

And finally, his 'Plowboy Interview' is also very interesting:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1982-07-01/Masanobu-Fukuoka.aspx

 
Leah Sattler
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I know it can be and has been done somewhere! great resources in the links thanks. I havne't planted any millet yet. the goats are on the pasture i want to use now. I don't know if it is worth it. once the hot weather hit the whole pasture  (using that term very loosely :winkpractically just up and died or went dormant . very little vegetation seems able to develop enough roots to withstand the temps. not even sure millet could handle it. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Mollison's designer's manual (link in another forum) talks about using a meat grinder with the blades removed, over a shaken bed of dust, dry clay, or similar.  A screed pressing the paste through a grid would work similarly.

The range of mixes he recommends sometimes includes graphite if I recall correctly...it's much less dependent on red clay than the oft-copied online recipe of 1: 1: 3: 5:: water: seed: compost: clay. 

He specifically talks about casting pelletized millet into the desert to wait for the rains.  Presumably this means they will not all cook to death in your situation.

I understand it's customary to pelletize a whole guild of seeds, so I wonder if the cheap birdseed mix would be appropriate as-is.
 
Leah Sattler
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I was contemplating the bird seed route......and maybe if i could get it in in spring I could get a harvest before the really hot weather comes in. i keep reminding myself that the point of the millet is that it is a fast crop and can supposedly be used even after other crops fail due to climatic conditions.
 
                              
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Burning is not highly healthy for the soil either. If you can not find a permaculture way of doing it, and you are doing so for your use and need no legal organic certification, some herbicides may actually be better for your land than burning, believe it or not. Burning does much of the damage that tilling produces, and will only be a short term solution.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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GCLECKS wrote:
need no legal organic certification, some herbicides may actually be better for your land than burning,


If I needed herbicide, I would contemplate harvesting tree of heaven root bark from around town and making a big tub of ailanthone tea.  But your town might be better than mine. 
 
You didn't tell me he was so big. Unlike this tiny ad:
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