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Critters in permaculture

 
Gilbert Fritz
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What is your opinion on the use of domestic animals in Permaculture designs? No animals at all? Minimally? Only for company? Only wild animals? Hunting, yes or no? Poultry? Fish? In tanks, or only in wild ponds? Veganic permaculture? What about leather, wool?

Can grazing systems be used successfully, or are there better options?

Is the permaculture idea of only using animals to eat wastes/ items that are not otherwise edible for people a good one? Or are there really any such wastes? Many inedible leaves can be made into leaf curd for protein. Is this superior to turning them into an animal?
 
Su Ba
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My viewpoint :

Permaculture = permanent agriculture. If a permaculture design system can be perpetuated for thousands of years without depleting a finite resource, then why should domesticated animals or annual vegetables be excluded? Man is an active part of a permaculture system, right? As I see it, if man is taken out of the scenario, then it's not permaculture anymore. It's reduced to a wildlife scenario.
 
Tyler Ludens
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So far I'm finding it very challenging to provide sufficient food for my critters with my permaculture system. I think a robust, well-designed system can probably support some domestic animals, but I think many people buy feed for their animals, which may not be permacultural depending on the source.

I think domestic animals can do valuable work in a permaculture system, turning inedible or unpalatable materials into food for humans. Veganic systems are also possible but may take more careful planning to make sure the diet isn't deficient in vitamin B12 and calories.

I think each permaculturist needs to assess the land and their own needs in order to decide if animals are appropriate.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Permaculture is about rejuvenation of the planet for me.
I use our hogs for several things; they plow, they fertilize, they eat excess vegetative matter, they produce babies, finally they become food for us.
We plant, grow, harvest then chop the plants down and put them back into the soil, this completes their circle of life.
We occasionally hunt game for the table, and we go fishing when we need them to complete our dietary needs.

We graze our chickens, hogs, guinea hens and ducks. We rotate all of these animals through paddocks, each paddock is allowed time to re-grow before being grazed again. So everything is sustainable.

For me, the ideas and ideals of permaculture allow better living (of all animals and plants) use every part of every thing in ways that provide benefits to the whole.

We view this as one of the sacred hoops of life, nothing is wasted, nothing is killed without it all being used and so venerated.
Thus the sacred hoop is completed in a way that sustains life, those that give up their life so we may live are thanked before hand, taken in the least traumatic way, and they are fully used, every bit is given purpose and this fulfills Creator's intentions for us and all things.

This is how nature does it, and it is how we do it.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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http://www.permies.com/t/55362/chickens/critters/Chickens-compost

Over here, Tyler is running an experiment on feeding chickens waste materials only. It at least partially failed. Could it work? How?

I know there have been big industrial scale composting operations that fed lots of chickens, but they were mostly just feeding them restaurant scraps, when it comes right down to it. Most of those scraps were edible, and in a frugal household they would have been eaten or turned into stock. Also, the giant heaps fed only a few hundred chickens. But maybe a community scale project like this would work.

I'm more interested in something like Tyler tried to do; turning lignin and cellulose into eggs, with an intermediate step of bugs. (Actually, many intermediate steps; probably bacteria and fungi to small bugs to bigger bugs to chickens to eggs. But in this case eating higher on the food chain is no big deal, since non of those other steps are particularly edible for us.

One of the cleverest permaculture things I ever saw was a guy in the tropics who turned waste paper into termites, by shoveling it into trash cans buried in the ground. Then he would shovel out the mess and feed it to some very happy chickens. I imagine wood chips could be used, though it would be slower. And don't do it in the developed world or you will get a lawsuit! But maybe a big, contained, building in every neighborhood, full of all the rotting woody debris from the area, and producing freeze dried termites for chickens? And they could run a hot water loop through it, and collect methane for fuel!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Bryant, I think that is the right way to use livestock. They are part of the toolkit to help our design; if there are enough of them that they are hurting our system instead of helping it, then there are too many of them.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Man is an active part of a permaculture system, right? As I see it, if man is taken out of the scenario, then it's not permaculture anymore. It's reduced to a wildlife scenario.


Su, I think that is right.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I would like to see more examples of truly regenerative critter raising in permaculture, that is, systems in which there is sufficient surplus to return to the system and by that surplus, raise domestic animals. The examples people typically present rely on outside inputs. I'd like to see some closed-system examples.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Yes, the closed loop thing, it is difficult. But necessary in the end. The larger the system, the easier it is, but smaller systems are better from a global standpoint. Of course, with a bunch of people running a larger system, I think it would be easier then the same number of people running many small systems. Sort of like the community composting operation I mentioned, or the goofy public termite facility. Or a communal pasture type system. I think there was a reason that animal systems tended to be commons in times past.

I'm actually thinking that rabbits, geese, and other small grazers are better in permaculture the graminivorious animals like chickens. Grass is easier to grow, even in dry climates, and they don't need any grain/ seeds. And they don't beat up the area. A patch of grass cut with hand shears or a sythe and dried in the sun could support rabbits in hutch, while at the same time providing lots of habitat for wild critters, so long as the area was not cut all at once. It could also serve as a recreational area.

Now chickens eating bugs from compost piles is a great idea, one I have thought about a lot. Tough organic matter can't really be eaten by anything, so if we could convert it, we would be coming out ahead. But it all depends on how many cubic feet of the stuff we would need per chicken.

And then there is always fish. I've heard anecdotal evidence that some fish will eat straw grown fungi, but when I tried to find more information, I couldn't. Anyway, they will definitely eat bugs, and some will eat algae, which is a mess in a habitat pond.

Carol Deppe feeds her ducks cooked potatoes and squash, along with azolla water ferns. That sounds doable in a permaculture system.
 
Su Ba
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How do you define a closed system or closed loop? Must all inputs come from the physical boundaries of the farm itself, or would regionally produced resources be acceptable? For example, say you produce 100 head of beef cattle on your ranch. You can produce for all their needs except some grain to get them through the winter. But your neighbor produces barley and corn. He trades some of his excess grain for some of your excess manure. Now, the grain is coming from a different farm, but its production is aided by your manure. Your farm doesn't give everything to produce the grain, but the manure is one additive that helps.

Ok now, is this a closed system because the farms are side by side..... Or because the farms trade resources? Or isn't it aclosed system? Why? In not being critical here, but I often get questioned about what a closed system means and what local means. I'd like to hear others' thoughts on the subject because when it comes to practicing permaculture, bringing in outside resources is often questioned.

In my opinion, if resources are restricted to the property boundaries of the farm, then only the smallest of food systems may be possible for a true closed loop, unless of course the farm consists of a large number of acres.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I think a system could include any number of properties, so long as there are minimal "sinks." Nutrients shouldn't be flowing away. Similarly, Nutrients should'nt be imported as an ongoing need, but should cycle in the system. A town could count as a system.

In fact, I think we can only get it to work at a larger scale, such as a town; no one is an island.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Su Ba wrote:How do you define a closed system or closed loop? Must all inputs come from the physical boundaries of the farm itself, or would regionally produced resources be acceptable?


Personally I would like to see examples in which all inputs come from the permaculture system itself. The necessity for resources produced off-site indicates to me that the farm is not producing surplus sufficient to support domestic animals. For instance, purchasing grain for chickens indicates a need for resources which have been produced using a great deal of petroleum - tractors, fertilizer, harvesting and cleaning equipment, packaging, transportation, etc. So I'm not convinced it's even sustainable, forget about regenerative. Also, I'm not asking for hypothetical examples, I'm asking for real examples. If someone has a real example such as the one you present of the one farm swapping manure for grain, I'd like to see the details about these farms. I'd like to see more examples of people raising critters without buying conventionally-grown (or even organically grown) feed at the store.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I think Tyler has got it right. So long at the animals are fed off the site, they are unlikely to do a lot of damage, since the density can only be so high.

But, are there other things we have to take into account?

I will try to research and find some closed loop examples.

Of course, I would guess some grass fed beef operations come close.
 
Neil Layton
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I've been asked to comment on this.

The problem is that you're always going to be fighting physics (and not even Scots can tamper with the laws of physics*).

Here is a list of foodstuffs by edible protein per unit area of land: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_protein_per_unit_area_of_land

Hemp (mentioned but not listed) will provide 33 grams of protein per metre square of land, followed by soya beans (29 grams), rice (25 grams), other legumes (average 11 grams) milk (8.4 grams) and so on down to an average for 4 grams for meat on average and 1.7 grams for beef.

The source is dated (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02860775) and systems such as SRI and better-yielding crops will have changed some values (maize yields per unit area are now much higher), but not out of sight.

I'll happily throw around figures from ecology about trophic levels and efficiencies, but Vaclav Smil (credit) has actually run some numbers:

LW - Live Weight; EW - Edible Weight; MJ - megajoules.

These numbers will be a bit off in a permaculture system but, if your goal is either energy or protein you are invariably going to be better off doing something other than raising nonhuman animals. This is probably the root of your problem, Tyler. It's not your fault: there are physical constraints to overcome.

They are going to be different again when you graze. Ruminants are able to covert more primary productivity than humans, but this is countered by low energy conversion efficiency of ruminants, and there have been reasons why meat, historically, has been eaten mainly by the rich: it's a status symbol showing you can afford the land ineffiencies involved (and keep the plebs on their ever-shrinking plots).

As soon as you feed "crop wastes" to nonhuman animals you are immediately going to be cutting in to your mulch and compost supplies. The best evidence I've seen says that such "wastes" can provide up to about half the diet of some nonhuman animals, but this seems to apply to pigs, and nothing was said about the other half.

I think it's plausible to have chickens do land clearance, but we've had discussions about moonscaping elsewhere. In terms of habitat management it's considered bad practice, but that would depend on your goals. Chickens or ducks could be fed on agricultural pests but again, I have no idea about the proportion of the diet involved. The few people I've spoken to about this complain about very expensive eggs: they won't buy them from a supermarket, which is understandable, but still feed the chickens on the same grain the supermarket chickens are fed on, typically from the same mass-produced monocrops I thought we were trying to get away from.

Fish - again, what are you feeding them on? Answers are going to vary depending on species and diet, but you still have to fight physics: as soon as you add supplementary feed you have the same efficiency problem.

It is plausible? In the case of ducks or (less likely, because they scratch and do lots of damage to your other crops) chickens - maybe, at a very low level. Can you do any more sustainably at a local level? Maybe, but the realities of feeding current human populations while maintaining wild habitat mean that you're pretty much invariably better off, in terms of providing protein or energy more generally, doing something else from a global perspective. Assuming the figures above are still in the right ballpark, you could set aside one seventeenth of the land used for a cow to grow soya beans, and have the remaining sixteen seventeenths to grow something else. It's true that this will depend on land quality, but that opens up a whole other can of worms: if the land is that poor, it's probably overgrazed. The figures are less grim with other meats and with different grains and pulses, but you still have to fight physics.

Hunting is a more complex issue, but the ecosystem functions involved in human hunting differ wildly from those found with other apex predators. You also run the risk of either overhunting or with keeping numbers artificially high (often with deliberate removal of predators) - and I see what that does whenever I go for a walk in the hills. Again, the actual quantities of meat involved per human are unlikely to be high. In Africa most bushmeat goes to feed rich people who can afford it, not the poor and hungry.


* Cultural reference: joke.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hi Neil,

No problem. Part of the fun of permies is all the different viewpoints to run across.

So, let me try to state your view, to make sure I've got it correct.

1. Domestic animals should not be fed food that could have been eaten by a human, because there is not enough room on earth to feed everyone at a higher tropic level. Instead, the food should be eaten by humans directly, thus feeding many more people.

2. Domestic animals should not be feed inedible (to humans) organic matter because a. they will still need some human edible food, and b. the inedible organic matter is better used as compost or mulch.

3. Wild animals should not be hunted and eaten because this will tend to mess up the ecology of the area, and because there are simply not enough wild animals to feed everyone.

4. This holds true over the whole world; there are no or few exceptions.

5. Given the above, any animal raising will mean costantly importing resources, constantly degrading wild or cultivated land, or both.

6. Therefore, we should all be vegan, or nearly vegan.

Is that a correct statement of your position?

And a question; what about non-food uses of animals? Wool, weeding, pest control, draft, guard animals, etc. I want to know where they fit into your worldview, or if they fit at all.

So, if the above is your position, I think there are a few weak points in it. But I will list them when you've had a chance to make sure I understand you correctly.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, Neil. This is a problem (problem as in a puzzle/challenge to solve) I am really trying to deal with in a serious way here in my permaculture system. I can definitely agree with you that unless we're bringing inputs from outside the system, which means our system is not regenerative (regenerative means producing more than it consumes), meat will (probably) need to be a very tiny portion of the diet if we eat it at all. I hope we can see some examples of truly regenerative animal raising. I'm nowhere near that level, my system simply isn't returning enough to itself to have the surplus needed to raise chickens, who I consider the easiest critter to feed on things considered inedible by humans. To me it doesn't make actual sense to feed them grain which I could eat myself. I'm doing so because my household isn't yet vegan, and realistically I think it would cause a lot of stress to insist on it at this point. So for my own part, I would say my personal animal raising is merely "less bad" but not by any means "good." It is less destructive, but far from regenerative.
 
Neil Layton
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@ Gilbert

I'm sure we can all come up with specific exceptions. I can come up with specific exceptions. Few of them apply to me, are likely to apply to me, or apply to anyone I know. I'm not Maasai and I'm not Inuit and I don't know anyone who is; nor are they likely to be practising permaculture. Of those exceptions that do (or might), we are talking about stocking densities so small as to be negligible.

I don't want to get drawn into another of those discussions. I have way too much reading to do, and they tend to end up pushing people's buttons.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Of course, any rule can have exceptions. But I think there are some flaws in the position I summed up above. I'm not sure if the position is Neil's, but I do want to point out the flaws.

I think there are two main flaws.

1. As a permie, I don't think shipping food from one country to another will continue indefinitely. As a realist, I don't think all the arable land on earth will be divided up into nice little plots, one per person, with the population even spread over the globe. Therefore, it is not particularly relevant to my situation if the people in India don't have enough land per person to eat meat; people in Colorado do. That sounds hard hearted and callous, but in reality, we are all typing on computers other people don't have access to, living in houses most people could only dream of, and eating three meals a day. If we didn't, it wouldn't necessarily mean they could. So, if raising animals gives us an advantage as far as local self sufficiency, then they fit into the local scheme. (I do think we can improve the access to land ownership, but only locally.)

2. I don't understand why organic matter is better used as compost or mulch. If that were the case, we should exclude all animals from all ecosystems, so they could mulch themselves. And mulch themselves they would; into a tinderbox.

So, as long as our local community has enough land for raising meat without starving the local people, and animals give us an advantage of some type in raising local food, and we are running a closed loop system, I think animals have a place in permaculture.

I would posit that on the dry plains of Colorado, raising grazing animals confers a certain advantage. There is plenty of room; and I think it could be done closed loop.

 
nancy sutton
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Hoping this hasn't been mentioned already... sorry, if so. But Lion Kuntz researched this closed loop idea with alfalfa, rabbits and worms. There's a lot of information here

http://plenty.150m.com/IBS_ECOSYN_01/IBS-ECOSYN-01.html

"....Effectively, the original rabbit manures provided a one-to-one return: one acre produced one acres' worth of fertilizer. This is the basis for a perpetual fertility system. .."

And more....

http://plenty.150m.com/IBS_Flowchart/IBS_Flowchart_01.html


 
Gilbert Fritz
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Nancy, nobody has. Thanks for the links.
 
nancy sutton
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Oh... and don't forget Black Soldier Flies! ;)
 
Tyler Ludens
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nancy sutton wrote:Oh... and don't forget Black Soldier Flies! ;)


To me, they seem the key to a possibly regenerative chicken system. I would like to know if there are examples of people substituting 100% of purchased inputs with soldier fly larvae (and other onsite materials) to raise chickens. It looks as if geoff lawton may be doing that at Zaytuna Farm, but I don't know it as a fact, and I also don't like to use his work as my only example of a robust permaculture system. I feel like I spam him around enough as it is! :p
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:

1. As a permie, I don't think shipping food from one country to another will continue indefinitely. As a realist, I don't think all the arable land on earth will be divided up into nice little plots, one per person, with the population even spread over the globe. Therefore, it is not particularly relevant to my situation if the people in India don't have enough land per person to eat meat



This argument could be used to not change our behavior at all, except as it will directly benefit ourselves. It also almost seems as though saying "because the world can't be perfect, it doesn't matter what I do." To say more would veer off into the discussion of philosophy and religion.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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No, but all permaculture is local. I still don't see why in a country with abundant land we shouldn't raise meat, since we can't send the land to India.
 
Devin Lavign
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My feeling is nature does not exclude animals out of ecosystems typically. So in permaculture if we are doing things right we are finding ways to mimic nature with animal use. Both domestic and wild animals should be incorporated into the system.

That said, at this point I think we are still mostly in the testing and experimenting phase of learning how to incorporate animals properly. There is some good head way, and a lot of the tough basic starting steps have happened. But being able to fully set up the right symbiotic closed loop systems I think we strive for is not an easy thing yet to achieve. There are a lot of variables that make it difficult to make it work again and again. But I do think more and more folks are working on this and trying to find the blueprint, or recipe or what ever you might want to call it of how to get a good closed loop system thriving.

I feel in another decade we will have a much easier time explaining how someone could build from the ground up a permaculture system incorporating animals in a if not 100% closed loop a very close to closed loop. Where the inputs coming in are small maintenance things like mineral blocks for livestock, rather than constantly needing to bringing feed in.
 
Tyler Ludens
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For people who want to raise animal protein just for protein, and not because they want to eat a particular animal or animal product, a system of forests and ponds producing fish is a much more efficient use of land in a moist climate than trying to maintain grassland/pasture in a forest region.

Mollison discusses aquaculture in the big book, and says "Given the same inputs in energy or nutrients, we can expect from 4-20 times the yield from water than that from the adjoining land." Chapter 13, p 459

It's my dream, even though I'm not in a moist region: http://www.permies.com/t/55535/permaculture/Forests-ponds
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Tyler, I think that is a great point. And low density aquaculture lends itself to closed loop cycles. Algae on the water can be all the feed a low density pond needs. For higher density, water critters of various sorts can be cultured in smaller ponds or tanks and dumped in to the main pond.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:No, but all permaculture is local.


Not according to the guy who invented it.

“Although initially we can see how helping our family and friends assists in our own survival, we may evolve the mature ethic that sees all humankind as family, and all life as allied associations. Thus, we expand people care to species care, for all life has common origins. All are 'our family'." Bill Mollison, Permaculture A Designers Manual, Chapter 1

For Mollison's comments about "abundant land" see this thread: http://www.permies.com/t/56225/permaculture-design/Mollison-Permaculture-Zones-happened-Zone
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Sorry, all permaculture DESIGN is local, I should have said.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Sorry, all permaculture DESIGN is local, I should have said.



Permaculture is a design system. Design is what permaculture is. So, back to what Mollison said about his design system:


“Although initially we can see how helping our family and friends assists in our own survival, we may evolve the mature ethic that sees all humankind as family, and all life as allied associations. Thus, we expand people care to species care, for all life has common origins. All are “our family”. Bill Mollison, Permaculture A Designers Manual, Chapter 1
 
alex Keenan
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I think you need to match your system to the animals.

For example geese are grazers and can get 80 percent of their food from grazing in a good pasture or short cut lawn. Geese do not like tall grass or wooded areas, open areas are for them.

I know of a few people in Eastern Europe who use a scythe to cut grass for rabbits, big rabbits. Rabbit shit is used to raise worms and blueberries.

People rent out goats to clear land.

Take a look at Scottish Highlanders. They have been kept in wooded area's for century's and are a heritage breed. The are not only graze but they browse as well. so they will help open up heavily wooded area's and remove brush as well.

Idaho Pasture Pigs, Ipp's for short, are a new breed of pig. They were designed specifically for pasture based systems. They were designed with the small farmer, homesteader and hobby farmer in mind. Through selective breeding and unique breeding, we have developed a friendly, pasture based, meat hog.

Naturalists have also noticed that squirrels don't bury acorns infected with larvae, but eat these high-protein treats immediately. So creating a squirrel stash is a way to get good nuts for growing trees. Just have to feed your squirrels that store those nuts.
 
chrissy bauman
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I moved into my little place about 5 years ago and it was nothing but a cement block shack on a worthless 1/10th of an acre of sand, surrounded by similar properties. I put in a small decorative pond {$100} and 3 small rabbit pens made from dog crates, mesh fencing, housed by corrugated aluminum and 2 by 4s {$250}. With the addition of some money invested in permanent plantings {$50 plus gifts} I now have the most prolific, productive back yard in my area. I use the pond water to keep the growies happy during the dry season, and collect produce, manure, and kits all year long. I can't even give the rabbit babies away (dang FDA rules about inspected butchering sites), meanwhile eat all the greens I can stand. I do struggle with buying alfalfa or rabbit pellet from the local store (they need a certain ratio of protein that I am too lazy to provide on my small gardening area) but more than half of their diet is growies harvested from my yard, mostly native. I have more organic manure than I know what to do with. The pond is beautiful, with 2 free and 2 {$0.19} goldfish that look like giant expensive koi that eat nothing but mosquitos and the very infrequent bites of cat food when I can get one of the kiddos to feed them. The kids deny the fish actually eat any food, paradoxically, but I have seen the fish gobble the cat food (20% protein, not bad). Recently I have been busy with career stuff, but have been getting more involved with the outside, and it would be awesome to trade or sell my extra edible growies and rabbits locally. It what I am doing with my spare time these days, trying to trade with locals, which is not so simple. I built the pond then the rabbits after I learned about permaculture, and I wouldn't have done it differently I could. Ain't no way no how I could grow enough grains for chicken or ducks, or enough bulk for other animals, even if it was allowed. Theoretically if I really tried,I could easily grow enough of what meat pen rabbits needs on my small lot. So it was an easy choice for sustainability. Permaculture was just a theory, using the ideas behind permaculture is the critical point that most can't actually stick to. I myself am having trouble kicking the mass ag habit and going permits, more raw, more meat, more egg, less carb. Working on it though, which is why I am here doing and not just reading.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Alex,

I think that small true herbivores such as rabbits and geese are among the easiest closed loop animals.

Thanks for your thoughts!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Chrissy, Thanks for posting your experience!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Tyler,

Yes, the ethics and principles are universal. But they are differently applied to different areas. I would say that one of the differences to be looked at is population density. There may be no problem doing something in an area where everyone owns hundreds of acres, that would be very problematic if done in a village where everyone had tiny little plots.

I think that one of these things is raising livestock; in some areas, this might violate the people care ethic, as well as other principles, but not in other areas.
 
Jim Gagnepain
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:

Now chickens eating bugs from compost piles is a great idea, one I have thought about a lot. Tough organic matter can't really be eaten by anything, so if we could convert it, we would be coming out ahead. But it all depends on how many cubic feet of the stuff we would need per chicken.



Our chickens go berserk when I start digging in my compost piles. If I'm doing the job with the front-loader, they will hardly wait for me to get out of the way. I have to be careful that I don't hurt the little creatures. I was kind of sad though, when I unearthed a beautiful toad, only to see one of the chickens nab it.

Maybe I'm imaging it, but it seems that the more vegetarian they eat, the better tasting the eggs. One week I unearthed a lot of slugs, and the chickens did their thing. it seemed like the subsequent eggs weren't quite as good (a little sulphury).
 
Tyler Ludens
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: There may be no problem doing something in an area where everyone owns hundreds of acres


Mollison points out a problem with the idea that if everyone has hundreds of acres they can do whatever they want:

“There is more than one way to achieve permanence and stability in land or society...The peasant approach is well described by King for Old China. Here people hauled nutrients from canals, cesspits, pathways and forest to an annual grain culture. We could describe this as 'feudal permanence' for its methods, period and politics. People were bound to the landscape by unremitting toil, and in service to a state or landlord. This leads eventually to famine and revolution.

The second approach is on permanent pasture of prairie, pampas, and modern western farms, where large holdings and few people create vast grazing leases, usually for a single species of animal. This is best described as 'baronial permanence' with near-regal properties of immense extent, working at the lowest possible level of land use (pasture or cropland is the least productive use of land we can devise). Such systems, once mechanised, destroy whole landscapes and soil complexes. They can then best be typified as agricultural deserts.” Designers Manual Chapter 1 p 5-6

We have in other threads discussed the peril of using vast areas of land for human purposes rather than for support of the biosphere on which we depend. Just because the land is there for us to waste doesn't mean wasting it is a good idea.

 
Nicole Alderman
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I wonder if stocking rates is really the key for this question. I have ducks, for example. Eleven of them, ranging over probably 2 acres (they like to stay close to home and far from predators). In my area, ducks are a native fauna. They live and thrive in this environment. I do not see why, if I have 2 acres of zone 1 & 2 that I'm intensively managing, I can't also manage some ducks in there. They do help a lot in making compost and eating slugs and spiders and reducing pests. If I didn't have ducks, I'd be out there stabbing slugs every night, or adding sluggo, and I'd still probably lose a lot of food to slugs...and there'd be a lot of slug life wasted. They also "mow" my lawn and eat my weeds. But, I do still have to feed them about 6 cups of feed a day to keep them fat and healthy.

In nature, in my area, how many ducks would likely live on my five acres? Probably two. If I intensively manage and help harvest food for them, I can probably keep and feed four ducks on those two acres I'm already managing. I'd then get 2-3 eggs a day. Eggs are good and useful and yummy and a good source of B12 and protein and omega 3 fatty acids. And, in the summer/fall when the ducks hatch out ducklings, I can feed extra potatoes or grass seeds or other foods to feed them up until I harvest some ducklings and maybe an older duck or two to keep my layers fresh. This way I get some animal protein. But, it's not much! I'd get maybe 3 or 4 dinners and some cooking fat and broth from that harvest for my family.

The eggs are a more sustainable and abundant source of protein on my land than eating duck meat. But, I don't think duck meat shouldn't be eaten--it just might be a whole lot less duck meat than I'd like! Perhaps that's something we need to get used to.

Perhaps what we need to do is look at how many and what type of animals live best in our areas, and the amount that live there in a given acreage, and see if we can double that though intensive management, and be okay with how much meat we're getting.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Nicole Alderman wrote:it just might be a whole lot less duck meat than I'd like! Perhaps that's something we need to get used to.

Perhaps what we need to do is look at how many and what type of animals live best in our areas, and the amount that live there in a given acreage, and see if we can double that though intensive management, and be okay with how much meat we're getting.


I think this is a good attitude, and it will require some menu changes for people used to eating a lot of meat from the store. In my household we're not entirely limiting our meat intake to what is produced on the land, but usually we have one meat item a week - a small portion of chicken (all my chickens are small, and I make a few meals from each one) or a small piece of Axis deer. We're nearly out of deer meat, so the meat consumption will go down even more. I'm gradually thinning out my old hens (some several years old) to get ready for the next generation, so we may have a little more chicken than usual, but nothing like the "two 4 ounce servings per day" that someone here on permies said he thought was a good reduced amount of meat for the average diet. I don't plan on buying meat when the venison and chickens run out. To me personally, meat is a luxury, not a daily necessity. I'm sure my husband would like to eat more meat, but he isn't a hunter or a farmer. He seems pretty ok with trending toward a mostly vegetarian diet, but I think he "sneaks" a hamburger when he goes to town.

Diet is a very personal thing, and it's difficult for some people to change the diet they were raised up on, and the attitudes toward meat that they learned as children. I think many of us were taught the "balanced diet" which included meat every day, and might even worry about getting sick if we eat differently.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I agree; I think, especially in many areas, we might have to eat less meat. And I certainly don't thing we should waste hundreds of acres per person. But I don't agree that the only way to be sustainable is to be vegan, due to space saving. I agree that a vegan diet would save space; then again, so would giving up flower gardens, parks, baseball fields, cultural sites, etc. We could grow food on them and or rewild them, to shrink our footprint. If we don't support that, then I can't see why we couldn't have some animals, even if they are not the most efficient use of space.

Remember also, efficiency is a weird thing. We always have to ask "efficient in what?" Efficiency can be in money, time, space, nutrients, water, bought components, etc.; and each will look very different. Also we should remember that efficiency is the opposite of resilience. For instance, we could all do the vegan One Circle diet on 2000 square feet a person, which includes all the seeds and compost necessary to keep the system going. We could rewild all the rest of the land, and live mostly on just the 14 core One circle crops. But this would be both boring and dangerous; a very bad year might easily push our communities to starvation. Perennial plants, which are a less efficient use of space the annuals, are more resilient. Some animals, which are a less efficient use of space then any plant, annual or perennial, also are more resilient.) So I only back efficiency so far.

(Besides which, I've yet to see anyone do an actually complete full circle biointensive farm/ diet. And I don't know if anyone on earth could stand continual meals of sweet potatoes, collards, and turnips.)

How many acres do you think the footprint for each human ought to be? That would include food, fuel, clothing, shelter, entertainment, transport, and everything else we use. I think I will start a new thread on this. But if we came up with a figure, then we could have an easier time seeing how many animals of what kinds could fit inside it.
 
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