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Working on a large scale Chook Clock System around Chinampas (Furrow Irrigation)  RSS feed

 
Martin Bishop
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I posted a project on another forum, but was not getting a lot of feedback. Would love if anyone could take the time to look over what we are doing and offer suggestions. Area is North Rivers NSW, Australia (Large Island located in the Southern Hemisphere.)

The system is designed as a passive irrigation system. A Large Dam was constructed slightly uphill from a Garden divided into 9 sections. Chickens live in the middle section and are given access to a new section at the end of the growing season. It is a rotational Chicken Mandala Garden you might say. Or a Chook clock, chinampa, successive growing, furrow passive irrigation system you might say



Water runs down furrow irrigation channels which are dug deep enough to hit the clay. Once clay is found filled back up with rocks and gravel


When needed furrows are flooded which saturates the ground around the edge and the water flows downhill into 6 banana circles


Water comes from duck and goose pond water so the plants love it.


Rows are planted weekly in each monthly garden section, so it is a weekly successive planting in a monthly successive section


At the end of each month, a new section is planted out


At the end of 9 months doors are opened to the center of the section and chickens can come in and do their duty.


At this point we are getting close to being halfway done, with each new section having raised beds being built.


The dam is a new construction and is not yet full. We have had unseasonally small amounts of rain but hopefully will see some water soon


Everything is being dug out by hand and we are using as many recyclable materials as possible including lots of Food grade pallets (HT only)


Next step is to plant Chicken Fodder for the rotating beds


Have many more photos, but looking for feedback and any ideas that we can add to the system. In one month we have gone from this

to this, so everything seems to be working ok



Then at the start of the new month, we start over with a new successive section


Fruit Trees are further past the banana circles (with strawberry as a ground cover)


And there are plans to put in more trees on the South side of garden, where tree growing swales have been dug



Please post your comments, criticisms or feedback as we really want to get this thing pumping

 
Cj Sloane
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Based on the use of "chook" I'm guessing NSW= New South Wales? Americans aren't great with non-US Geography - heck, some aren't great with US Geography! Consider adding your location to your profile.


Are the irragation furrows a very gentle slope? What do they flow into? The swales where you're going to plant trees?
 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi Martin,

I love it. Now that I've looked at it a few times, I finally get it.

So what is the slope of the irrigation channels? Is it on contour ?

If it isn't on contour, why not?

Curious, what is your climate there? Are you guys sub-tropical?

How much have you been producing so far out of your system?

Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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Cj Verde wrote:Based on the use of "chook" I'm guessing NSW= New South Wales? Americans aren't great with non-US Geography - heck, some aren't great with US Geography! Consider adding your location to your profile.


Are the irragation furrows a very gentle slope? What do they flow into? The swales where you're going to plant trees?


Yes, I noticed the AU was missed at the end of that NSW

Correct. Gentle sloping from dam to banana circles with strawberry ground cover. Then past the nutrient hungry bananas are fruit trees. Mostly Citrus. Then past that is an open canvas waiting to be planted with the latest interesting things before it drops to a new catchment area. Right now around the fruit trees are 7 bee hives. 3 Langs and 4 TBHs of Italian Bees.

The swales at the SOUTH Side are for mangoes, Avos, and Pecans, with sweet potato etc as ground cover.
 
Cj Sloane
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Martin Bishop wrote:
The swales at the SOUTH Side are for mangoes, Avos, and Pecans, with sweet potato etc as ground cover.


Shade side?
You'll have to be careful about that North/South designation as we heavily lean toward the Northern Hemisphere.
 
Martin Bishop
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Sheri Menelli wrote:Hi Martin,

I love it. Now that I've looked at it a few times, I finally get it.

So what is the slope of the irrigation channels? Is it on contour ?

If it isn't on contour, why not?

Curious, what is your climate there? Are you guys sub-tropical?

How much have you been producing so far out of your system?

Sheri


Hi Sheri. thanks for the feedback. Would love to have you and the family out soon. We have plenty of space and our kids would really enjoy it.

The slope is "gentle" I have not measured it, but take a look at this photo



The water tells the story. We were pumping directly from our lower dam, which is full right now into the furrow with a 7HP Petrol Pump with a 2 inch inlet and in maybe 10 minutes later the water was at the surface only as high as the photo. The gravel beds were taking in the water and soaking it into the landscape that much. At the bottom of the beds 8-12 inches under the gravel is a hard clay like what you see on the dam, so the water was able to soak in under the raised beds. Raised beds are built up from a base of 8-12 inches of rich dark soil from area that 80 years ago had piles of burned sawdust from an old wood mill on site to having only a few horses for 30 years. Here is some of the large pile of dirt we relocated when digging the dam
.
We have two piles. Regular Topsoil and then rich topsoil

We have not had to flood the furrows yet except to test as they seem to work passively pretty good with our rainfall. The ground is not saturated but moist when you stick your fingers down in the soil.

As for why not on contour, it is 2 parts. 1 we thought it would be good to run the water downhill and 2 this area (subtropics) can get a lot of rain. It is the main catchment area for a large river and water can be abundant.

So far, This is 02-02-2014


and this is the same spot 19-03-2014 or about 45 days later


The radish have all been picked and recently replanted, and the cucumbers and zucchini are in full production along with arugala (rocket), and other mescluns. Then there are 23 chickens of varying ages. So it is not crazy productive yet, but we have just started and about 45 days in.

Here is what I just picked this morning from the Jan planted garden. 10 lebanese cucumbers, 4 Marketmore, and 4 zucchini. Pretty average.


pretty good sized suckers


There is more salad leaf than anyone could possibly put a dent in. Any leaves that are not perfect get tossed to the Chooks

There are two more garden areas not shown in the photos, one Mandala Raised Garden and one hodgepodge raised beds and rows. In those, there are Brassica (nero di toscano, Russian Red, and Curly Kale, Broccoli, and Kai Lam) along with Peppers, Snake Beans, Tomatoes, etc) More Kale than anyone could ever use, and we take maybe a pound a day and you would never know.

Each month there is a new garden planted so it is a successive growing system. At 45 days on the first garden the next one in succession is 15 days in, and we can dig out the next garden for planting. On the right side of this photo, there are three garden sections. Each in succession. One planted in Jan, the next in Feb and the last being planted now in march

Each row left to right is planted weekly or so. It is not regimented or strict to a schedule, but that is how we conceptualized it. Looking again at this photo, in 9 months from Jan, Chickens will be able to have access to the top right garden. Then 9 months from Feb the next garden, and the Jan planted garden will be able to sit for a little while where we repair the beds and prepare for planting again

It is difficult to conceptualize as I can not articulate what is going on so well, but here is a summary:

Chook clock garden is designed in a cubic format with a centrally located chicken hen house. At monthly intervals the chickens will be give access to free range in a new section of the Chook Clock garden. Chickens will be used at the end of each quadrant's growing cycle (9 months) for use in scratching out weeds, composting and manuring garden beds in preparation for next months planting. This is equivalent to what is found in mandala chook clock gardens. Same idea, however better format for passive irrigation. Once the chickens have fully prepared quadrant for planting of the next crops, they will be given access to the next quadrant.

Think of the system as a Rubik's Cube. As shown below where the chickens during one month have access to the blue squares. The next month, that section is closed off and the nutrients from the chickens are allowed to sit, before new plantings start. Chickens are then given acess to the next area in the cube like hands around a clock.



It incorporates a lot, but basically in a nutshell it accomplishes ONE main objective. That objective is to design a self sustaining system that is incredibly productive, uses inputs and nutrients from controlled sources such as chickens ducks and fish, is protected from predators including pests and most importantly is watered by itself without any outside irrigation using a dam that is filled from a controlled catchment areas using run-off water. This design is the most eco-friendly, environmentally conscience design I can come up with and does NOT require any outside fertilizers, or pumping of groundwater based on designs that have been proven for thousands of years to be the most productive agriculture systems ever designed,... chinampas
 
Martin Bishop
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Cj Verde wrote:
Martin Bishop wrote:
The swales at the SOUTH Side are for mangoes, Avos, and Pecans, with sweet potato etc as ground cover.


Shade side?
You'll have to be careful about that North/South designation as we heavily lean toward the Northern Hemisphere.


Ok Left side of photo where the pioneer trees are located, and the area of swales


Left side in Southern Hemisphere-ian photo is on a slope with a smaller catchment sloping and higher than the garden.

sorry for the confusion. I had to turn the photos all upside down so you guys could see them without standing on your head. I apologize I just forgot the AU part in the first post to identify the region
 
Paul Cereghino
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Nice ideas.

I have been trying to figure out how to slide a forage crop into the tail end of a vege crop... something like buckwheat or maybe an interplanting of sunflower, or some other seed producer, just for the birds to get a bonus when they clean up.

I bet once the pond is running you could use it to produce mulch (both floaters and reeds). I have found sustaining permanent mulch takes some work and square footage, and mulch is important for my chickens to really prepare a site for planting. I am finding I need tons and tons of mulch to make this kind of system work. Then the primary input becomes chicken feed and mulch producing land. I have started thinking about growing more mulch crops around any areas where nutrients escape, so they get cut and thrown back in the mix. I wonder about a mulch crop around the edge.

I wonder if the chickens wear down your raised beds? I have found that chickens tend to make everything flat and scattered. I wonder if the raised beds are worth the work... But you need the furrows for irrigation...

I am ending up with something remarkably similar over time. Central chicken home, paddocks around, some become gardens. I also have mulchy food forests to put the chickens in when the timing breaks down such that they are not needed in the annual garden or there is good forage from the woody plants in summer.

I have trouble with perennial weeds in my chicken systems (perhaps I fantasize about no work!) So the making of raised beds might be just the disturbance to break the perennial weed cycles.
 
Sheri Menelli
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Martin,

It makes sense why you didn't go on contour. Although if you are having a drought would that cause any problems?

Is chook the australian name for a chicken?

Have you thought about maybe putting some nitrogen fixing bushes around the outer sides of the vegetable patch? or perhaps some other nutrient accumlators?

I don't have a ton of experience yet so I'm not sure I can add any more to the discussion. I'm really impressed with your design. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds. I'd really love to see you do a video diary so I could follow along and watch the progress.

How big is your property?

Also how much rain do you get a year and what is the temps like during the year?

Sheri

PS - We'd love to come visit one day! I don't think I've seen you since you first moved to Australia. (I have seen Carolyn but I think that was 2 or more years ago)

 
Martin Bishop
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Paul Cereghino wrote:Nice ideas.

I have been trying to figure out how to slide a forage crop into the tail end of a vege crop... something like buckwheat or maybe an interplanting of sunflower, or some other seed producer, just for the birds to get a bonus when they clean up.

....Then the primary input becomes chicken feed and mulch producing land. I have started thinking about growing more mulch crops around any areas where nutrients escape, so they get cut and thrown back in the mix. I wonder about a mulch crop around the edge.



Paul,
Thank you for the feedback. Here is the current plan. Yes, the chicken food is something we want to get past as well. Therefore our plan is to plant chook forage in the growing beds when we harvest, and 30-45 days before letting the chooks in. Asian Greens, sunflower etc. There are seed companies that actually make "chook forage mix" nearby so many of us are on the same page. poltry forage seeds Just yesterday we planted an entire section of just chicken forage that once it has grown up will give chickens access to. We feel that the chook forage is essential and working on that factor as well. In addition, there is a lot of area for the chickens to chase grasshoppers so we let them out to forarge around the fruit trees and in the grasses around the garden. The property is 37 acres so we have plenty of mulch crops coming up on their own. We are cropping around the edge as well. Anything that will grow chicken food it going to have something for these little workers growing in it.

We are looking at Kang Kong for the pond, but have not done that yet. The plan is actually to fill with fish and freshwater shrimp to help "aquaponics" the whole system as well. Just with the empty dam, we are at a standstill on that one.
 
Martin Bishop
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Sheri Menelli wrote:Martin,

It makes sense why you didn't go on contour. Although if you are having a drought would that cause any problems?

Is chook the australian name for a chicken?

Have you thought about maybe putting some nitrogen fixing bushes around the outer sides of the vegetable patch? or perhaps some other nutrient accumlators?

I don't have a ton of experience yet so I'm not sure I can add any more to the discussion. I'm really impressed with your design. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds. I'd really love to see you do a video diary so I could follow along and watch the progress.

How big is your property?

Also how much rain do you get a year and what is the temps like during the year?

Sheri

PS - We'd love to come visit one day! I don't think I've seen you since you first moved to Australia. (I have seen Carolyn but I think that was 2 or more years ago)



That is a good excuse for the not on contour and we are sticking to it

Can rain a bit, for example 60 inches of rain in 2012.
Wettest day:
94.4 mm 26th January 2012
Wet days:
162
Dry days:
204
Daily average:
4.2 mm
Total rainfall:
1537.6 mm

We are in a drought now, and the dam water is the "contingency plan" just has not filled due to the low rainfall.

Chook= Chicken correct

We have peas planted around the garden, Climbing beans on the fences, snake beans on the fences and other random ones going all around. Then inside we plant corn with climbing beans.

Would like to put in some bean trees, but have not gotten to that yet either.

Book your flight today and we can pick you up at the airport.

The location is almost exactly halfway between geoff lawton's Zaytuna Farm (The Channon, NSW) and Bill Mollison's Tagari Farm (Tyalgum, NSW) so you will be in good company.
 
Martin Bishop
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Dam is now full. Yesterday it was practically empty and today it is is full. One Day of good rains did the trick! We arrived just in the nick of time this morning to see it full. Our slipway was blocked by a root and we needed to do a little digging to direct the water in a couple of spots, but all together seems to be working fine. We will be bringing some equipment back tomorrow to make a secondary spillway as we caught SO MUCH WATER SO QUICKLY with our catchment. Plus we want to repair the dam wall a bit as we got some cracking due to the dry weather.

Once the spillway was fixed it seemed like a really good time for a swim!





 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi Martin,

Are those the latest garden pictures? For as much water as you had, those areas look dry. Is it just because they are on higher land?

Amazing how much water you guys captured.

Carolyn said that you guys were flooded in. Please show us more about your property, the water, the being flooded in and what you plan to do about it.

THanks
Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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The flooding was at the bottom of the property where no work has been done. At the top where the garden is located all of the water was caught by the dam, and any excess was directed around the garden by design. Both sides of the dam have a water redirection away from the garden, however with all of the water we had to go out there with shovels to fix small issues and correctly redirect the water the way it was intended.

The furrows performed exactly as they should. Excess water stayed in the furrows, saturated the landscape and excess escaped out of the bottom of the garden.

What you see in the yellowing is a bit of root rot on zucchinis due to the water, and it was very dry before the flood and had not recovered yet. Also on the left row or the right garden is a patch of cucumbers that were starting to die back a little bit. We have also had a little trouble with cabbage white butterfly. Those images where immediately after the flood. Within a few hours once we were finished digging some channels! In the left of the photo the furrows have not been dug out yet as we are still working around the chook clock. However we did some planting without doing raised beds, just tilled the soil and put down seeds and covered in mulch. Those beds are for chicken forage and you can see from the images that because we did not have the furrows properly made on the left of the photo, there was some flooding, and standing water where we did not want it. On the right, everything was perfect and the furrows worked to design. I was very excited to see how well it held up in the flood.

No furrow irrigation


With Furrow irrigation Immediately after flood


Bottom of property about 2 hours before other photos


 
Sheri Menelli
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Martin, I'm just so excited for you that your design did so well! Congratulations.

So was this anywhere close to being a 100 year flood? If not, is there anything else you need to do in those areas that are designed so well in case you have one?

Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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We are actually already talking to the earthworks guys about putting in another spillway on the other side. We captured so much water so quickly that we have concerns if we get that much water again but the dam is full! When it dries out we will have a 15 ton excavator and bull dozer back in to make a secondary spillway on the other side (South Side) of garden. Will keep you posted when they come by as we are already talking about a second lower dam (much smaller) being built from the spillway runnoff swale Near our banana circles.

Since we are in an area that gets a significant amount of water (edge of rainforest) all of the water is redirected AWAY from the garden except the water which we dictate to be used for the flooded furrows. The dam is directly in front of the garden and protects it from floodwaters.
 
Martin Bishop
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We have the excavator on site again today to dig another small pond at the bottom of the garden, and more banana circles. Given this layout I would love to hear if anyone has suggestions on what else to consider. Some of our banana circles are going to be papaya circles and are not dug as deep as the banana circles. Love to hear any ideas tossed out there


Also anyone have suggestions on keeping large flocks of white sulphur crested cockatoos from biting the tops off of large sunflowers??

 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi Martin,

Why would the papaya circles not be as deep?

I guess my only suggestion would be to do as many circles as possible with as much mulch in them as possible to hold water.

As far as the chooks. Are they getting the sunflowers because the heads are so heavy they are coming to the ground? Or just biting the stalks?

Do you have a ton of sunflowers (Making oil with that??) I'd love a picture so I could give suggestions.

How about a fence around them? Or grow some kind of bramble next to them so the chickens won't want to go close to them?

Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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Sheri,

We are on the edge of a rain forest, so every once in a while we are invaded by Cockatoos



The cockatoos love to eat passion fruit, and make a general mess of any fruiting plant, but just the other day they came in and landed on the Giant Russian Sunflowers that were towering 8 feet tall, knocked them to the ground and completely bit the sunflower heads right off. There were no seeds yet so they just destroyed them. Even the smaller sunflowers they knocked the tops off! We also lost some corn, and some other fruiting plants.

The sunflowers are just to attract bees as we have 7 beehives, plus we would like to give the seed heads to the chickens when they where finished seeding.

There is a fence around the entire garden, it is just attack from above!

originally my design was to have full bird/bug netting, but it is a bit of a financial commitment, and we were not ready for that just yet.
The earthworks alone have been a little costly. Just today we finished a new small dam, raised the dam wall on the top dam and changed the spillway to run from the big dam to the new smaller dam.

On the papaya circles, I honestly have zero experience in that department! I have had success with papayas growing, but never in a papaya circle. With the bananas/papayas we are doing horseshoe shaped circles to catch water from the garden and water coming from downhill. As large as the papaya canopies get here we just figured no more than 3 per circle, so they were not as large as the banana circles. Honestly it is a hunch, and not from experience that they were to be smaller. Even if they were for bananas they would only hold 3.

We already planted 30 banana plants so the new ones we dug were smaller.

 
Sheri Menelli
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Wow, misread your 2nd to last post. Cockatoos? I must have glanced at that and thought it was a variety of Chooks/chickens because I didn't realize you had those there.

A bit rude of them to destroy the sunflowers like that!

How about a scarecrow that is half hidden in the brush? (a suggestion I just read from sepp holzer - he claims when it is half hidden, it does a much better
job of scaring off birds)

If you found sunflowers to grow that weren't as tall - much shorter or compact variety, I'm wondering if they would still notice them as much?

Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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I have been thinking about a scarecrow and should put more effort into it. Thanks for the tip about being half hidden. that sounds good.

The cockatoos also knocked the tops off the smaller sunflowers as well. I just really like the giant russian ones as they are really cool. We have three varieties growing right now.
 
Daniel Clifford
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Hi Martin,

I really like your design and I am glad for you that it seems to be working well, I had a thought about your cockatoo problem. Perhaps a livestock guardian dog, or any kind of dog or maybe even a cat would possibly keep the cockatoos at bay. It would at least make them think twice about taking out your sunflowers and other plants.

The hidden scarecrow is an interesting idea, I have also heard of people hanging cd's so that the reflections apparently are not something the birds like. I have heard mixed results on this depending on the kind of birds and being form the US I have literally no idea about cockatoos.

In Paul's podcast about livestock guardian dogs he said that the northwest farm terrier, which is pretty small compared to a Pyrenees or shepherd were actually chasing and trying to fight the bald eagles trying to predate on chickens. I figure a cockatoo is easy pickings compared to an eagle so they theoretically should be able to at least harass the birds to make them perhaps look for an easier meal.

Best of luck,

Daniel
 
Martin Bishop
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Thanks Daniel,

The crows and the cockatoos pretty much ignore the hanging CDs. I think I may have to change the music genre to something else as it has not done like others have suggested. Not sure dog is the best as we have chickens, ducks (Muscovy and Indian Runners) and geese in the same area. I am sure the dog would have a blast, but the birds

I had thought of the scarecrow kite


but again, the ducks, and chickens would freak out. There is even a mylar windsock that I have seen that reflects sunlight as it flutters in the wind. Possibly I will try one of these as maybe the chickens would get used to it after a while. Or maybe I put it out of sight to the chickens and hopefully the cocktoos see if from far away
 
Daniel Clifford
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No problem Martin, happy to help in any way.

Really cool picture of the hawk kite, even though they can be a pain for farmers, Permies or anyone else raising small animals I LOVE hawks, they're like my favorite animal oddly. I have a long weird story involving a very crazy dream for why I love hawks but that's another story and probably only interesting to me...

Anyways about the dogs, although I don't have exceptional experience I have done research on this, I am kind of an animal guy, I feel like there is a damn good reason why our ancestors domesticated certain animals. Those people were smart and because of our genetic heritage we have some amazing options, if you get a livestock guardian dog like a breed specifically known for that (Pyrenees, Kuvasz and shepherds come so mind) the primary training is just to tell them who they are to protect and who they're enemies are.

So when the cockatoos come around you just encourage the dog to mess with that thing and if they ever hurt one of your birds you get really mad and the dog should learn just from that experience, they really want to make they're owners happy. Since you are raising birds and dealing with predatory birds this could get confusing for a dog without really excellent guardian instincts so I see where you are coming from the last thing you want to do is get a lab or a retriever. You could possibly make them guardian dogs but with about 1,000 times more work on your part since they were bred to kill and retrieve fowl for thousands of years...

That's my input I actually never heard of music messing with birds before but it got me thinking about those Somali pirates who were deterred by Brittney Spears music LOL... Actually though, maybe some really weird music would be good to try, like really heavy electronic music Skrillex comes to mind, I tend to doubt cockatoos are down with Dubstep


Anyways good luck Martin keep up the awesome work,

Daniel
 
Cj Sloane
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Daniel Clifford wrote:...if you get a livestock guardian dog like a breed specifically known for that (Pyrenees, Kuvasz and shepherds come so mind) the primary training is just to tell them who they are to protect and who they're enemies are.


Daniel, I totally agree with this except that shepherds aren't LGDs. They try to control the livestock whereas LGDs protect. Also, you generally need 2 dogs.
 
Daniel Clifford
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Hi CJ,
You are absolutely right thanks for the correction, I guess I was saying that a shepherd would be better than a lab or a retriever. I think I just have a soft spot for shepherds I would probably take the time to really train the shepherd to do what I wanted but you are right it will never have the guardian instinct of an LGD.

It does seem though that the German Shepherd must be one of the most trainable and intelligent breeds in the world considering how common they are in law enforcement. I also think that even with Great Pyrenees you are better off having two dogs, so they can work as a team, which you were probably pointing out I neglected to mention that. However I would imagine that one dog would be better than no dogs.

Daniel
 
Sheri Menelli
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Can you spray a hot pepper spray onto the sunflowers to keep them off?

How about hook up a water gun that you can shoot remotely. When you see the birds, squirt them with water. They might learn to stay away from that area.

I still think the half hidden scarecrow might be useful too. Never tried it myself but I have a lot of respect for Sepp Holtzer's ideas.

Sheri
 
Martin Bishop
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I think we are going to start with an owl decoy on top of the chicken coop. I am sure the chickens are going to freak out, but hopefully they will get used to it. Maybe move it around a bit to see what works best. For the crows you can play crow chasing music. Crow Be Gone But I was just teasing about the music on the CDs. The cd are hung from the chicken coop to reflect the light. The moving and reflecting theory is to chase away birds. I have not had much luck, but the cd has one side that is pink since it is an old dora the explorer CD. The other one was a blank CD that was scratched up and is slightly reflective on the label side. The crows pretty much ignore the CDs, however I hear some people have good luck with them.

Also there is a spinning reflective thing called something like a crow tornado that I have seen before. Have not tried it but it looks cool



Sheri, I will try the hot pepper this weekend. I have some dried chilis I have been saving up just for that purpose as we also have cabbage white butterfly but just have not gotten there yet. Will work on that one
 
Sheri Menelli
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Martin,

For the cabbage worms - how often do you add worm tea to the soil?

I started going last week to a local hydroponics store. They offer free worm tea.

I now know 6 people who use it all the time on their gardens who say that because they use it regularly, they no longer have any kind of disease or pest problems. (Well the pests that are insects - not cockatoos)

I'm on my second week of trying it. I'll be getting more this weekend. Very interested to see how it helps some ailing trees.

Sheri

 
Rob Rich
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Great ideas Martin,
a couple of suggestions
planting clover with current crops to add N, supply flowers to help pollinators.As your crop grows it should crowd out the clover.
increase the diversity of plantings, it seems logical that plants of the same variety are going to have the same nutrient requirements, therefore if you vary your plantings you get less competition and greater production from the same area.
comfrey & or aloe vera as a mulch/compost crop
increase the number of productive horizons you are using like your use of ground covers with bananas, how many different layers can you get in your garden area without too much shading?
e.g. putting in paw paws along fence lines, passionfruit on fences (with bird netting).
deep ripping along contours in areas you don't have under veggies (reduces runoff)
solar pump on lower dam to recharge upper dam (if you need it).
I was also thinking nasturtiums might be good with bananas to help with nematodes - haven't tried it yet.

keep up the great work

Rob
 
Michael Cox
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rob - martin's last post to these forums was back in May 2014, so we haven't had an update on this interesting project in over a year. Maybe he will check back and give us an update on how it has matured?
 
Sherman Curry
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There is one more website that helps you bait crows away from your vicinity http://www.crowaway.com/ with a CD. A unique musical way of getting rid of those creepy creatures.
 
Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
Ernie and Erica Wisner's Rocket Mass Heater Everything Combo
https://permies.com/t/40993/digital-market/digital-market/Ernie-Erica-Wisner-Rocket-Mass
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