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Goats, gravity, landscape waste, and hugels

 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
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I'm thinking of setting up a system in which we are paid to haul landscape waste for local companies. Rather than landfill it or using heavy machinery to turn it into mulch, I'd like to see if goats + gravity could handle the job.

We would drop off the landscape waste at the ridge line, then let gravity, goats, and subsequent loads push it down the hillside. I figure the goats would take care of most of the leaves and bark, leaving the heartwood for hugelkultur. Wherever piles of wood (together with goat poop) gather in the flatter parts of the hill, we would cover with soil for a quick & easy hugel bed.

Seems pretty ideal to me. Does anyone see any flaws or concerns I should have before we start? My biggest concern is with chemical residues on the landscape waste, so I'll have to be choosy in which companies I work with.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Tree waste piled on a slope is beneficial in many different ways. It works as a mulch, traps debris which rots down to form more level spots And it slows down the flow of water. If you have no time to build swales, this is a good option. I lay branches on contour. Many have sprouted salal, Oregon Grape and trees. Mini hugelkultur beds and swales in one.

I would stick to mostly tree waste and grass. Kitchen scraps will make a gooey mess. Goats cause erosion. I would let a lot of woody debris build up at feeding sites. This will protect the soil.

With lots of small branches rotting on the slopes, much of the growth will be entangled. This could prevent the goats from cropping too close to the ground.
 
Mountain Krauss
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Location: Northern California
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That's something I forgot to mention. The land has a history of eroding into the yards of downhill neighbors. I like the idea of using the ad hoc hugels as erosion control and slowing/capturing water. I figure they'll do a good job of this immediately, though it may be a few years before they're useful for growing food.
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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forest garden goat trees
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You would need to be very careful about which trees the waste came from to ensure that it isn't poisonous to the goats.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Mountain Krauss
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Dale-- kitchen scraps for the chickens, landscape waste for the goats. Goats may come over and steal an eggplant or cauliflower leaves, or chickens may check the landscape waste for bugs, but they will be very separate piles. If there's a lot of grass coming in, I'll try to direct it to the chickens' pile, which has lots of sawdust and wood chips added to keep it from becoming stinky.

Katy-- I thought Sepp said access to some poisonous plants was a good thing. It's a 30 acre site with lots of oak and poison oak (which, despite its name, isn't poisonous to goats) and other plants to choose from, so I have a hard time imagining the goats overdosing on anything poisonous.
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
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forest garden goat trees
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It depends upon how your goats were raised. They learn about poisonous plants from the herd matriarch who will demonstrate that certain plants are not okay to eat. If they have not had this they will not automatically know. Also you will be providing the material in a different form from that which they would naturally find in the wild and this can affect their ability to discern the safety. This is why so may horses get ragwort poisoning from hay. They won't eat it when it is growing but when it has been dried in hay they do and then die.
 
Mountain Krauss
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Location: Northern California
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Good point. Changing the context in which animals encounter plants can interfere with their ability to avoid harmful plants. We won't have anything that's been dried like ragwort in hay (ragwort loses its bitterness, but not its toxicity, when dried), but plants will have been cut and pulled.
 
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