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Law of the Farm Number 5: “A Cow eats grass and produces Manure; soil eats manure and produces grass

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 137
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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I have also posted this piece under Projects, but thought I should put it here under "cattle" as well.


Cows are beautiful to watch in the pasture as they munch away at the grasses that they seem never to get bored of. We only have two cows are Pebbeslpring farm. The land is big enough to take between 10 and 20 cattle, but right now the pasture is small with so much of the ground having been overtaken by the terrible invasive Port Jackson Willow (Acacia Saligna) and the even more nasty Inkberry (Cestrum laevigatum). The Inkberry likes the lower lying wetter areas and is poisonous to livestock. The cattle find the Port Jackson quite palatable. I will see them fighting each other to get to the port Jackson if I have just let them into new pasture. The problems with the Port Jackson, is it grows so dense that the cattle find it difficult to penetrate and the leaves grow high and out of reach because the density caused it to be too dark for leaves near the forest floor. Also, because the Port Jackson are so densely packed, grasses cant grow on the forest floor, again not good for the cattle because they like grass much more than leaves. But also with no grass or any other growth on the forest floor under the port Jackson, the soil on the steeper slopes begins to wash away in times of heavy rain. So our attitude toward the Inkberry has been to remove it wherever we find it. We cut it down as close to ground level as we can. When it sprouts again we cut it again. Eventually it stops growing. The Port Jackson however, I have been more selective with. I have begun rather to cut them in such a way as too leave behind a savannah of sorts. Trees spaced in a pasture in such a way as to allow enough light for light to get to the soil and allow the grasses to grow. I have noticed that, at least in the summer months the grasses seem to be taller and greener in that part of the pasture near the edges where the trees are. I guess it has to do with the fact that there is a little less evaporation there because of the shade. Perhaps there is extra nitrogen there because the cattle lounge there to keep out of the heat, perhaps because the Port Jackson willow is nitrogen fixing, the grasses are able to absorb this critical nutrient near the tree and grow greener. I don’t really know why the grass grows taller and greener where the trees touch the pasture, but I know that it does and my attempt is to mimic it to see if I can replicate the results.
Of course all of this stuff about pasture is quite possibly more interesting to me than it is to you. Books have been written about pasture. Entire library shelves filled. The important thing to take from the pasture is that we are dealing with a living system. In a very real way the cattle and the grass and the soil are part of the same organism. The grass has evolved to look, taste and behave the way it has because of grazing animals like cattle. Cattle have evolved size, shape and biology because they have evolved in the pasture eating the grasses that they do. In the same way the predators shape the herbivores and the herbivores shape the predators. But these are not just curious facts of anatomy and biology. These are fundamental truths, absolute laws that whether we choose to or not are a governing force in all of our lives. It may appear that I as an individual am a separate organism to the people around me and to the things that I consume and to the things that try to consume me, but in truth, with the perspective of evolution and of time I am not.

So much of what I see around me attempts to convince me that I am a separate organism, that I am able to survive even without the planet, that I am separate from the earth. The spectacular project to send a man to the moon, walk around up there and take photographs of the blue planet from that far off position, is one in a sequence of events since the beginnings of consciousness that have made us feel more and more comfortable with the argument that we, human beings, are a separate organism. Perhaps consciousness itself, in its infancy asks the question, “who am I?” Am I simply the effect of other causes? The newly conscious mind begins to see that it has a will of its own. It sees that it is not like the birds of the sky or the fishes of the sea. The conscious mind chooses what it will do. The newly conscious mind may then begin to see itself as independent completely of the ecosystem, of the environment of the earth. “I can fly to the moon! You see! The earth is not an organism, and I am not merely a cell or a piece of tissue of that organism. I am separate.”

Of course the illusion of separateness of those on board the Apollo missions is evident to any 10 year old who may ask questions about food, water and oxygen, but somehow the illusion of separateness endures.
So when I sit in the pasture. When I observe the earthworm, when I appreciate the cattle, I let the picture remind me of who I am. I let the picture remind me that I am a part of an organism, an organism that is beginning to show signs of disease caused largely by people, very much like me, that they have somehow come to forget the obvious truth that they are a small (yet very important) part of a big organism. Perhaps the disease afflicting the planet is like the disease of cancer that afflicts so many of our bodies. A disease that killed my father. The doctors say that a cancer cell is a cell that has forgotten that it is part of an organism. It consumes energy and replicates, but it has forgotten its function in the organism it grows and grows until it kills the body that it forgot that it was integrally part of. The cancer cells form tumours that are fuelled by excess sugar. People form cities fuelled by excess fossil fuels. Tumours and cities behave in this way because they have forgotten the Law of the Farm Number 5 “Cows eat grass and produce Manure, soil eats manure and produces grass”
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Your essay sounds familiar.

“As the small trickle of results grows into an avalanche — as is now happening overseas — it will soon be realized that the animal is our farming partner and no practice and no knowledge which ignores this fact will contribute anything to human welfare or indeed will have any chance either of usefulness or of survival.” Sir Albert Howard

"The first duty of the agriculturalist must always be to understand that he is part of nature and can not escape from his environment." - Sir Albert Howard
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 137
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Scott,

Yes Albert Howard is on my reading list, I have not got to him yet, but I have really enjoyed the work of writers that have been inspired by him.

There is of course nothing new under the sun.

If what we are saying to each other does not sound familiar, if it sounds foreign, if it sounds "new": it is probably bullshit! : )
 
Mathew Ritchie
Posts: 25
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Many decades ago a researcher from the C.S.I.R.O. did a study that found pasture was most productive when 30% was tree covered,it turns out that plants stop respiring when their leaves get to warm,a little shade means they can continue photosynthis more of the time.
 
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