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Gardening without animal manure or products

 
                  
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Vegan-organic/stockfree organic broadly means any system of cultivation that excludes artificial chemicals, livestock manures, animal remains from slaughterhouses, genetically modified material and indeed anything of animal origin such as fishmeal.


http://www.veganorganic.net/


 
Travis Philp
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Jmy, do you have much experience growing this way? Ramial chipped branch wood, and kelp are not viable options for me as I don't have chipper access, and I'm much too far from the sea. I wonder if lake weeds make a good enough substitute for kelp, as there are plenty of lakes around here.

Also, what do you do for bed preparation in the first year? Plant compost and leaf mold take at least a year, I've tried growing in upturned sod sheet mulches and met with some success but the area was an old chicken run with nutrient rich soil, so I can't be sure that sod alone will do the trick in my nutrient poor soils here at the new farm. We do grow all of our potatoes successfully using only hay, and we've done well with beans in nothing but mounded soil. Not sure if those methods would work for every type of crop though.

I do use animal manure for our sheet mulches but its a one time application for the life of the bed. From there no more manure is needed in my experience, and some of these beds have been running strong 4 years without manure added. Our source is a horse boarding farm about 7 minutes drive away so I don't feel too bad about using it but I'd avoid it if I had a bed prep method that I was confident in. I will keep experimenting.

I've been thinking about making our own alfalfa meal, since we have a lot of it growing in our fields but I'm not sure how we'd process a large amount of it efficiently.



 
                    
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What about worms and insects? Does the soil have to be free of them??
 
                    
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Not mockery ... just asking where that way of thinking draws the line, and why. I appreciate objections to the many problems generated by modern feedlot agriculture and imbalance cause by eating large quantities of meat. But herbivores, carnivores, and their manure and carcasses are a normal part of most terrestrial ecosystems - I don't see such animal products as an inherent problem, though it can be if too concentrated. And worms and insects are also animals (and they play important roles in most terrestrial ecosystems and soil nutrient cycling). Is the objection only to manure from mammals? Mammals and birds? Either way, it seems rather arbitrary to me.  What if the animals are not raised for slaughter - does that make the manure acceptable?
 
Emerson White
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Well it only salts the earth if the manure is from an animal whose food is salted. Permaculture however relies on animals large and small to process the parts of the plants that humans cannot. Humans+Plants =massive fail. Humans +Plants+Animals+Fungus=Win.
 
Abe Connally
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1. Is vegan-organic sustainable?  If so, please give us some examples of long-running operations with low external inputs. It seems that many examples require trace elements or additional external organic input over time, is the usually the case?

2. Is the use of animals in organic agriculture necessarily cruel?  I see that the site promotes "cruelty-free" organic growing.  Can animal based systems also be "cruelty-free"?  (also, please define "cruelty-free"

3. What is the stance on grain consumption for humans?  I see the following phrase appear throughout the website: "A healthy vegan diet is composed of grains...."  There is quite a bit of evidence that contradicts that a healthy diet (vegan or otherwise) can be based largely on grains.

4. Where can I find information on the environmental effects of vegan-organic grain production? I am not finding any environmental analysis about the long term effects of vegan-organic grain production.

5. Are there examples of these models scaling to meet food demand?  I haven't found anything related to the maximum scale of these models of the website, but I have yet to find anything that mentions a scale beyond small.
 
                  
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Travis Philp wrote:
Jmy, do you have much experience growing this way?


We did not use animal manures / products or import any nutrients .

We have good soil and just took care of it  ...  fallow and greater spacing of plants

I have no problems with animals (my degree is in animal husbandry) , we just found it was easier to raise our own food and not have to raise the animal food on top of that.
 
                  
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velacreations wrote:

3. What is the stance on grain consumption for humans?  I see the following phrase appear throughout the website: "A healthy vegan diet is composed of grains...."  There is quite a bit of evidence that contradicts that a healthy diet (vegan or otherwise) can be based largely on grains.


Had not read that .......Link ?  Was this a medical study ?

I always thought that John McDougall MD  was well respected as a medical diet expert.

http://www.drmcdougall.com/video/starch_solution.html

 
Travis Philp
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Jonathan Byron wrote:
Not mockery ... just asking where that way of thinking draws the line, and why. I appreciate objections to the many problems generated by modern feedlot agriculture and imbalance cause by eating large quantities of meat. But herbivores, carnivores, and their manure and carcasses are a normal part of most terrestrial ecosystems - I don't see such animal products as an inherent problem, though it can be if too concentrated. And worms and insects are also animals (and they play important roles in most terrestrial ecosystems and soil nutrient cycling). Is the objection only to manure from mammals? Mammals and birds? Either way, it seems rather arbitrary to me.  What if the animals are not raised for slaughter - does that make the manure acceptable?


The line gets drawn at domesticated animals. Whether the animals are raised for slaughter is not the key issue. It is the environmental degradation that usually comes with raising animals domestically, eg. The soil compaction, erosion, water and air pollution, high salt content in manures, and inefficient land use, common as a result of animal husbandry operations.

I don't think any stock free farmer is so daft that they don't realize animals (eg. worms, insects, other wild beings) are going to be a part of the system no matter what. They just want to minimize environmental impact of their ag practices, and see veganic agriculture as the best answer.

Yes, herbivore, carnivores, and their manure and carcasses are a normal part of most terrestrial ecosystems, but not even near to the excessive degree which most farmers apply them.
 
Emerson White
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Travis Philp wrote:
The line gets drawn at domesticated animals. Whether the animals are raised for slaughter is not the key issue. It is the environmental degradation that usually comes with raising animals domestically, eg. The soil compaction, erosion, water and air pollution, high salt content in manures, and inefficient land use, common as a result of animal husbandry operations.

That's also the common result of the way people raise plants. Should we skip out on raising plants just because people are doing it wrong? When you have small acreage you want small animals.
 
Abe Connally
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jmy wrote:
I always thought that John McDougall MD  was well respected as a medical diet expert.

No, Dr McDougall isn't actually very widely respected as a diet expert.  I some circles, maybe, but not generally.  That topic has been discussed many times on this board.

It is the environmental degradation that usually comes with raising animals domestically, eg. The soil compaction, erosion, water and air pollution, high salt content in manures, and inefficient land use, common as a result of animal husbandry operations.

The same could be said for raising domesticated plants.  The typical situation is desertification, erosion, water and air pollution, high salt content in the soil (fertilizers) and inefficient land use (mono-cropping), common as a result of plant production operations.

Most permaculturists are not destroying their environment with animals or plants.  Plants or animals themselves are not the inherent problem, management techniques are the real issue.

There is no way that a pure plant system is more efficient at cycling nutrients as an animal+plant system.
 
Travis Philp
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Emerson White wrote:
Should we skip out on raising plants just because people are doing it wrong?


No, I think we should develop and promote no-till, perennial/self-seeding annual based agriculture that uses little to no inputs from domesticated animals.

And Emmerson, how can you say that humans +plants = massive failure? I'd like to see some examples of this. First of all, that simple equation could only happen in space or a lab. You're always going to have wild animals, birds, and fungi lending their benefits to the system.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Many organic farms use bone and blood meal for fertilizers.This comes from factory farms.They also import lime and rock phosphate which are mined.I totally see the point of avoiding these products and all outside inputs.In that respect,I think this thread addresses some very important issues that I have found people to be concerned about.My own method of dealing with it was to abandon over bred annuals all together.Annuals are often bred in a nutrient rich enviroment meaning they havnt been bred to survive in low nutrient soils.I spent 5yrs bringing in and researching edible perennials. These produce food without fertilizers or irrigation.These corespondently produce less yield but require less cultivation/effort.I am not willing to enslave myself to domestic animals but wild animals are part of my system and something I manage for.They poop and eat stuff.Bird poop is one of my` outside` inputs.
 
Abe Connally
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I think we should develop and promote .... that uses little to no inputs from domesticated animals.

But Why?  Why should we not include animals in the production, they are an asset?  I find that very limiting and narrow.

Domesticated Animals can be extremely beneficial to an integrated system, and they undoubtedly increase the efficiency of the nutrient cycles if managed well. I don't see the reason for exclusion, especially when something works well.
 
Travis Philp
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Emerson White wrote:
Well it only salts the earth if the manure is from an animal whose food is salted. Permaculture however relies on animals large and small to process the parts of the plants that humans cannot. Humans+Plants =massive fail. Humans +Plants+Animals+Fungus=Win.


I disagree. Animals concentrate salts in their feces, and since salts are naturally present in most soils and ground waters, it will be present in manure whether salt is added to feed or not.

Manure commonly contain 4 to 5% soluble salts (dry weight basis) and may run as high as 10%. To illustrate, an application of 5 tons of manure containing 5% salt would add 500 lbs. of salt... http://ecochem.com/t_manure_fert.html

manures contain 5 to 10% salt (50,000 to 100,000 ppm). Frequent and/or large (20 tons per acre) applications of manure to cropland increases the risk of salt injury to plants http://ag.arizona.edu/animalwaste/farmasyst/awfact8.html#salt

A survey of 156 manure samples collected in 1996 throughout Colorado indicated manures had salt levels from 3.3 mmhos/cm3 to a high of 42.8 mmhos/cm3. Many vegetable crops have salt tolerances between 1.5 mmhos/cm3 and 4 mmhos/cm3 and when high salt manures are used around these plants, severe damage can occur. http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/growing-techniques/interesting-article-manure_15345.html

 
Travis Philp
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jmy, I posed this question earlier but I think it got lost in the shuffle. What did you do for bed preparation in the first year? I'm planning on establishing a whack of new vegetable and fruit gardens next year and would like to avoid manure if I can. I'm gonna go big on fresh eating and drying beans as a companion plant but that'll only get me so far
 
Matt Ferrall
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Its not so much about exclusion.Domestic animals take alot of effort and inclusion is not(IMO)the path of least resistance.Much of the hardwood forests of the east were cut to make barns and fences.Domesticated animals are made possible today largely through cheap oil(metal barns and fences).Take away that subsidy and it looks alot bleaker.Wild animals contribute to the system without all the ecological and energy costs.They meat their own needs and are thus more caloricaly efficient.Avoiding all animals in a system I disagree with.
 
Abe Connally
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Travis - have you seen the "greening the desert" video where organic matter (compost and mulch) turned a salted land into a productive one?  That salting was due to irrigation, but organic matter created a "buffer" to the salt in the soil.

If a plant is growing in just the fresh manure, then maybe there might be an issue (I've seen tons of pants grow in manure), but the fact is that properly managed manure will be mixed with other organic matter and composted, which greatly reduces the salt concentration.  If you are experienced "salting" due to manure, you have some other issues as well, like low organic content in your soil and improperly composted manure.

I live in an area that has been continuously farmed for at least 500 years.  People have always used manure as part of their fertilizer program. We have the best apples in North America (and some say The World).

The risk of salt injury to plants from manure is very slim, as long as you compost manure with organic matter.



 
Abe Connally
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Its not so much about exclusion.Domestic animals take alot of effort and inclusion is not(IMO)the path of least resistance.Much of the hardwood forests of the east were cut to make barns and fences.Domesticated animals are made possible today largely through cheap oil(metal barns and fences).Take away that subsidy and it looks alot bleaker.Wild animals contribute to the system without all the ecological and energy costs.They meat their own needs and are thus more caloricaly efficient.Avoiding all animals in a system I disagree with.


My domesticated animals require less time than my garden.  They tend to themselves just fine, if you let them. I don't have metal barns and very few fences.  Every homestead 300+ years ago had animals. They didn't have cheap oil to make it possible, and that's why they had animals.

My point is that adding animals increases your efficiency, not reduces it.  My rabbits and chickens don't require extra planting or space, they eat the waste from the garden and provide me with food, manure, company, clothing, and tools.  Excluding them from my system increases my labor (weeding+composting) and reduces my products.
 
Travis Philp
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velacreations wrote:
If a plant is growing in just the fresh manure, then maybe there might be an issue (I've seen tons of pants grow in manure), but the fact is that properly managed manure will be mixed with other organic matter and composted, which greatly reduces the salt concentration. 

The risk of salt injury to plants from manure is very slim, as long as you compost manure with organic matter.


If my local region is any indicator though, proper manure management and field application is not commonplace. It is often spread way before it is properly composted, and without the addition of a carbon rich companion (eg. straw mulch). Admittedly I haven't seen many manure piles compared to the amount that are out there but most of the ones I have seen aren't managed properly.

And even if salt wasn't an issue, there are still all the other negative factors that go along with high concentrations of feces, and domesticated animals in general.
 
Emerson White
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Travis Philp wrote:
I disagree. Animals concentrate salts in their feces, and since salts are naturally present in most soils and ground waters, it will be present in manure whether salt is added to feed or not.

Manure commonly contain 4 to 5% soluble salts (dry weight basis) and may run as high as 10%. To illustrate, an application of 5 tons of manure containing 5% salt would add 500 lbs. of salt... http://ecochem.com/t_manure_fert.html

manures contain 5 to 10% salt (50,000 to 100,000 ppm). Frequent and/or large (20 tons per acre) applications of manure to cropland increases the risk of salt injury to plants http://ag.arizona.edu/animalwaste/farmasyst/awfact8.html#salt

A survey of 156 manure samples collected in 1996 throughout Colorado indicated manures had salt levels from 3.3 mmhos/cm3 to a high of 42.8 mmhos/cm3. Many vegetable crops have salt tolerances between 1.5 mmhos/cm3 and 4 mmhos/cm3 and when high salt manures are used around these plants, severe damage can occur. http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/growing-techniques/interesting-article-manure_15345.html




You aren't looking at a deep enough section of time. Extra salt is given to livestock in feedlots to make them eat more, live stock you grow will not need that. At appropriate stock level s the large livestock that sometimes need a salt like will not create problems because they will not be getting salt faster than it is washing away. Small livestock don't really need salt unless your property has incredibly low salt and mineral availability.

Salt is concentrated in manure, but if you don't over manure you won't over concentrate. Salt isn't made out of air, (well nitrate salts...) it has to come from somewhere.

The fact of the matter is that, on the scale of thousands of years, civilizations with beasts of burden out compete those with out every time.
 
Travis Philp
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velacreations wrote:
My domesticated animals require less time than my garden.  They tend to themselves just fine, if you let them. I don't have metal barns and very few fences.  Every homestead 300+ years ago had animals. They didn't have cheap oil to make it possible, and that's why they had animals.

My point is that adding animals increases your efficiency, not reduces it.  My rabbits and chickens don't require extra planting or space, they eat the waste from the garden and provide me with food, manure, company, clothing, and tools.  Excluding them from my system increases my labor (weeding+composting) and reduces my products.


But everything you mention can be provided by plants, for less of an environmental cost. And if when you weed you compost in place, then you save time and energy since you don't have to move the garden waste to the animals. And yes, you can just let the animals wander through gardens to get to the wastes but not in most cases unless you're willing to suffer crop loss/damage.

And though this is not an issue for people in warm enough climates, for those with a snowy winter, you have to either harvest and store food for your animals, or you buy it from offsite, the former of which can be a real pain in the ass, as well as a time, space, and energy vampire.
 
Emerson White
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Travis Philp wrote:
But everything you mention can be provided by plants, for less of an environmental cost. And if when you weed you compost in place, then you save time and energy since you don't have to move the garden waste to the animals. And yes, you can just let the animals wander through gardens to get to the wastes but not in most cases unless you're willing to suffer crop loss/damage.

And though this is not an issue for people in warm enough climates, for those with a snowy winter, you have to either harvest and store food for your animals, or you buy it from offsite, the former of which can be a real pain in the ass, as well as a time, space, and energy vampire.


Plants eat your table scraps, then produces extra calories for you to eat? A plant that gets compost will turn sunlight into food as fast as a plant that gets compost and manure? A plant will pick off bugs from other plants and turn them into calories on your plate? A plant will go into an area and root around and break up the soil? A plant will help you take out a tree stump that's in the way?

Yes it is possible to do many things with out animals, but not with less labor. So many permaculturists fail to realize that their labor and time are valuable and limited commodities. It's all about David Ricardo's comparative advantage. You outsource some work to the goats, and yes they take some calories, but the goat freeing you up to take care of business also frees you up to arrange the production of more calories than the goat was ever going to eat in the first place; and then you eat the goat! This isn't the modern economics of derivatives and complex financial interests and divining the future ramifications of the top marginal tax rate, this is the economics of production.

To top it all off there is no ecosystem that is both stable and productive anywhere on land with out several types of animal larger than a kilogram. Just keeping some sort of small fowl safe with access to your compost bin will do wonders to enrich your compost, and reduce your labor, and provide extra calories. I know I've done it. All summer you keep the birds with a pitance of scratch and table scraps and the compost pile, then in fall you kill them and eat them, if one guy in 10 saves a few over the winter with some grain he can hatch out chicks and trade them to the others for the grain that he used in the winter and start the whole ball of wax again the next year.

 
                                    
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Tinknal wrote:
If I eat only vegans who eat only organic food could it be said that I am on a strict organic vegan diet?


is a diet of vegans a vegan diet?  mind blown.

Jonathan Byron wrote:
What about worms and insects? Does the soil have to be free of them??


yes complete eradication of all life is the first step.

Jonathan Byron wrote:
Not mockery ... just asking where that way of thinking draws the line, and why.


of course not.  btw would you have the same non-mocking questions if a strict jain or buddhist posted about their growing techniques?  just curious because i am both.

THIS:

Mt.goat wrote:
Many organic farms use bone and blood meal for fertilizers.This comes from factory farms.They also import lime and rock phosphate which are mined.I totally see the point of avoiding these products and all outside inputs.In that respect,I think this thread addresses some very important issues that I have found people to be concerned about.
 
                                    
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velacreations wrote:
1. Is vegan-organic sustainable?  If so, please give us some examples of long-running operations with low external inputs. It seems that many examples require trace elements or additional external organic input over time, is the usually the case?


i think someone mentioned it before on a different, but eliot coleman uses only on site compost made from hay.  so there is one.

velacreations wrote:
2. Is the use of animals in organic agriculture necessarily cruel?  I see that the site promotes "cruelty-free" organic growing.  Can animal based systems also be "cruelty-free"?  (also, please define "cruelty-free"


of course there isnt a definitive answer to this question.  if you are asking me i don't think it needs to be cruel to raise farm type animals if they are treated well and allowed space etc.  i think dairying is cruel to the mothers.  i dont think killing is cruel.  that'd be the wrong word for it.  i wouldn't do it though.

velacreations wrote:
3. What is the stance on grain consumption for humans?  I see the following phrase appear throughout the website: "A healthy vegan diet is composed of grains...."  There is quite a bit of evidence that contradicts that a healthy diet (vegan or otherwise) can be based largely on grains.


im sure there is - there isn't much consensus on nutrition besides sugar bad, and unprocessed nutrient dense foods good.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Well I think its great that some of you have animals without barns and fences.Thats my goal.Where I live ,a forest is the natural ecosytem.Unfortunatly people with cows cut away the forest.Grass fed?yay!lets get rid of this pesky multi story production model and reduce a once lush and diverse forest to a single story grass field to be eco!One animal I brought in to our rural community that has worked for us is rats.They require no housing,fences,or feed.They eat our compost,can live in a multistory production model and dont damage our plants.They are very tasty too.The added bonus is that they moved over to the unsustainable farms that import grain and become a big pest for them!I also seed ball the local fields with noxious weeds to affect the livestock and create more diversity.Grass is great if you live in the plains!I also gotta chuckle at those moving poop around.I grew up on a farm and moving poop around is not something I want to spend time doing in this brief life.People can say that animals save time but if you are not using industrial civilization to make hay or for barns,fences,medicine,watering holes  ect.than Im not sure how little work it is.
 
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Mt.goat wrote:
.People can say that animals save time but if you are not using industrial civilization to make hay or for barns,fences,medicine,watering holes  ect.than Im not sure how little work it is.


I spoke to my old neighbour about this.  When she was younger and raising a family with her husband, they had a burro, which did a lot of work for them and enabled them to raise plenty of food to feed the family.  But the burro took a lot of time to look after.  Not fences - they are tethered here.  And not medicines either - they don't even take medicines themselves for the most part.  Watering holes are burro-powered, so not that either.  But making hay is pretty labour intensive, with or without a burro.  And the general day to day care of an animal which has to be kept in a barn at night (tethered with wild boar around is not a good idea) takes a big chunk of time each day, especially if you have to feed grass or hay each night.  When her husband was alive, the time spent caring for the burro was time well spent as the burro enabled a much greater harvest.  But when her husband died, the burro was the first thing to go.  Three kids, no income, and having to grow all their food meant there simply wasn't time to keep the burro. 

We keep one now, partly because I want one, partly to keep the grass as grass and stop it turning to scrubland, and partly to generate manure for the garden.  It's easier for us to tether her out for the day and then once a week pop down and collect all the poop for the compost heap.  We also buy in hay and straw, and make hay from unused land around the village.  But all she really does is speed the composting process up for us - we could still get the same amount of compost by composting the ingredients we currently feed to her.  You could view her as an enormous, long-eared worm bin.  And in the same way, she's useful, but not essential, to the system. 

I really don't see how you couldn't provide all the manure needed by mulching, composting and making humanure.  Anything else is just a bonus.  And, if it's relevant, I also have lots of poultry and a few rabbits.  And bees too, but I'm not sure their manure is particularly significant.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Biointensive is a system which doesn't use animal manures.  I think the mini-farm at Willits has been operating for a couple decades in this manner.

http://growbiointensive.org/
 
                    
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christhamrin wrote:

of course not.  btw would you have the same non-mocking questions if a strict jain or buddhist posted about their growing techniques?  just curious because i am both.



I don't believe that raising animals is absolutely necessary for permaculture, but it is within the normal practice of permaculture as there are often advantages to doing so and most permies do not consider raising animals or eating animal products to be inherently wrong. Permaculture is not explicitly Buddhist or Jainist; if people want to use some principles of permaculture design for a farm or garden that is in line with such religious beliefs, that is fine by me. Without a fair amount of explaining (and maybe some converting), such efforts are going to generate a wide variety of responses from different permies. 

From my view point, all soils are laden with microfauna and microfauna manure; to me, it is not conceptually different from larger animals.  I think that permaculture systems without livestock (using 'chop and drop' or 'let it drop' mulching)  will ultimately give the same results with respect to soil fertility (assuming the livestock are fed with plant matter produced on-site.

I would compare manure from well-managed livestock to the footprints of Nataraj Shiva dancing in the Trimurthi. But that is just me.

I don't see all external inputs (limestone, kelp, guano, wood chips, etc) as inherently wrong. If one is in a position to make these unnecessary, great. But if one is far inland on weathered soils, iodine makes sense. If an ounce of molybdenum rich minerals per acre can double legume activity without otherwise poisoning the soil, it sounds like a practice worth considering.  If the soils are pure sand or otherwise limited, importing other nutrients to prime a permaculture pump can make sense in many ways. 
 
Travis Philp
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Emerson White wrote:
Plants eat your table scraps, then produces extra calories for you to eat? A plant that gets compost will turn sunlight into food as fast as a plant that gets compost and manure? A plant will pick off bugs from other plants and turn them into calories on your plate? A plant will go into an area and root around and break up the soil? A plant will help you take out a tree stump that's in the way?


Plants can provide the following, which is what I was answering to:

velacreations: "they eat (Insertion: in a plants case; convert) the waste from the garden and provide me with food, manure, company, clothing, and tools."

In answer to your questions Emmerson:

Well, the plants don't eat the scraps but in effect they use them.

If you use compost teas as well as compost I think the growth rates would be comparible. Even if it took a bit longer, I think it's worth it considering the alternative.

Certain plants can be made into insecticidal sprays, or grown next to 'at risk' plants to ward off insects, without the issue of an animal messing up your garden by compaction, eating vegetable crops, and/or knocking them over. If using direct sprays the insects will die in the garden and their calories returned to the earth. Otherwise, I think there is enough bird  and animal  life cycling in the average garden to make up for a lack of chickens or ducks. When you run a chicken through your garden, there probably won't be any wild birds in the same area at the same time for example. And after observing both types of birds in a garden, I'd rather have wild birds. I could shoot them if I wanted some extra calories, and they don't bring the extra work and hassle of domesticated birds.

Yes, plants can go into areas and break up soil. Tap rooted plants are great for that, they don't wake me up at 4 in the morning, or raise my risk of cancer when I eat them. In fact many tap root plants fight cancer. I don't think you can't say that for any meat that I know of.

Now, a plant can't remove a stump. You've got me there. For the amount of stumps most of us have to remove in a lifetime though, I don't think keeping domesticated animals around is worth it. I wonder how long it takes most fungi to turn a stump soft enough that one could easily remove it. Not applicable if the stump is in a roadway or on a future building site I know, but it could be applicable in some cases. I suppose if one wanted to avoid using machinery for stump removal and digging wasn’t viable, some of us have the option of borrowing a neighbors animal. In my case, we keep horses for recreational and equine-assisted-therapy purposes and could use our half draft cross.


Emerson White wrote:
Yes it is possible to do many things with out animals, but not with less labor.


Even if this were true, which I don’t agree…I think the trade off of a more environmentally friendly farming practice void of domesticated animals is worth the marginally extra labour. I must say, it may not be the case with everyone but the people I know who have domesticated animals are practically slaves to them. And even the most violent of plants isn’t going to be able to do as much damage as a donkey stepping on your foot, kicking you in the head, or a bull impaling you. Unless of course you eat a poisonous plant but this could happen regardless. A plant isn’t going to fly at you full tilt or squawk with annoying volume and negative energy every time you walk by, or follow you around begging for food. A plant isn’t going to leave its runny shit in large quantities on the ground for you to step on, or cause you to need to muck a barn.


Emerson White wrote:

To top it all off there is no ecosystem that is both stable and productive anywhere on land with out several types of animal larger than a kilogram.


Nature can provide this in just about any ecosystem I can think of where humans live.

Emerson White wrote:

Just keeping some sort of small fowl safe with access to your compost bin will do wonders to enrich your compost, and reduce your labor, and provide extra calories. I know I've done it. All summer you keep the birds with a pitance of scratch and table scraps and the compost pile, then in fall you kill them and eat them, if one guy in 10 saves a few over the winter with some grain he can hatch out chicks and trade them to the others for the grain that he used in the winter and start the whole ball of wax again the next year.


If you want those extra animal calories go could hunt. And excluding hunting, a patch of lambs quarters, basswood, or alfalfa for example can provide calories at a much lower maintenance level than keeping fowl, and they allow you the freedom to go on vacation without having to inconvenience your neighbours to look after them.  As far as compost piles, you can enhance them quite well with comfrey, nettles, or other similar plants.
 
Abe Connally
Posts: 1502
Location: Chihuahua Desert
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But everything you mention can be provided by plants, for less of an environmental cost.

Not true.  Plants can't provide me meat. And there is no way plants can provide me with a leather substitute in the same space.  And my animals are not causing an environmental cost, they are an asset. They are helping improve my soil and nutrient cycles.

And if when you weed you compost in place, then you save time and energy since you don't have to move the garden waste to the animals. And yes, you can just let the animals wander through gardens to get to the wastes but not in most cases unless you're willing to suffer crop loss/damage.
My animals harvest the weeds themselves, saving me time and energy.  They do wander through, and I rarely loose any crops to them.  If they seem to be getting into a crop too much, I put up a small barrier, and they get interested in something else.  The key to good management is guiding things, not trying to control them.

And though this is not an issue for people in warm enough climates, for those with a snowy winter, you have to either harvest and store food for your animals, or you buy it from offsite, the former of which can be a real pain in the ass, as well as a time, space, and energy vampire.
It depends on what your winter crop is.  It costs me nothing to make hay from grass (in terms of energy), and I even let the animals harvest it as much as possible. Lots of tree crops can be stored very easily, and just require gathering (mesquite beans, pecans, acorns, etc)

But, what are WE eating in winter as well?  I have meat, so any time or energy expense to keep that food source available is worth while, mainly because it is one of the few fresh foods available in a snow-covered environment.

I also grow winter specific crops, like Kale and turnips, and of course, the animals get some of that.  They also get any table scraps.

Well I think its great that some of you have animals without barns and fences.Thats my goal.Where I live ,a forest is the natural ecosytem.Unfortunatly people with cows cut away the forest.Grass fed?yay!lets get rid of this pesky multi story production model and reduce a once lush and diverse forest to a single story grass field to be eco!One animal I brought in to our rural community that has worked for us is rats.They require no housing,fences,or feed.They eat our compost,can live in a multistory production model and dont damage our plants.They are very tasty too.The added bonus is that they moved over to the unsustainable farms that import grain and become a big pest for them!I also seed ball the local fields with noxious weeds to affect the livestock and create more diversity.Grass is great if you live in the plains!I also gotta chuckle at those moving poop around.I grew up on a farm and moving poop around is not something I want to spend time doing in this brief life.

Yeah, I try and keep the fencing to a minimum.  I basically use fencing to keep animals out of somewhere, like sensitive garden areas.  In my area, the forests were cut down to grow grains for humans.  And then for houses.  And then for firewood.  Cutting for pasture has never been an issue, as plenty of space began opening up with the other needs.

Savanna can be very productive.  And grasslands are not necessarily less biodiverse than forests.

I don't move much manure around, I move the animals around, and they manure in place.  So, the animals move the manure for me.

People can say that animals save time but if you are not using industrial civilization to make hay or for barns,fences,medicine,watering holes  ect.than Im not sure how little work it is.
It can be very little work, especially if you are smart about it and work with the strengths of the animals.  I rarely have to do any sort of medicine, watering holes, barns, or fences.  I let the animals do the work for me.

But the same thing can be said for plant/crop production.  Plowing, cultivating, planting, spreading fertilizer, pesticides, harvesting, weeding, etc.  Lots of labor if you are not smart about it.  Of course, I can let animals plow, cultivate (sometimes even plant), spread fertilizer, take care of pests, weed, and even harvest.  So, there is a lot of labor saved right there.  If I had to do all the jobs the animals do, I would be a busy person.

Getting back to the original issue, how much time and energy does it cost to farm without animals?  Making lots of compost, planting green manure crops, cultivating, weeding, planting, etc? 

It seems like the vegan approach paints a bleak picture of animal husbandry, where it is killing the environment and extremely inefficient, yet I don't see how farming without animals can be more efficient.  I know for a fact that my animals are not destroying their environment, and they are helping me renew it.
 
Abe Connally
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i think someone mentioned it before on a different, but eliot coleman uses only on site compost made from hay.  so there is one.

In the Eliot Coleman books I have, he uses external mineral supplements: greensand, rock phosphate, limestone, and micronutrients.  He does not produce these himself.

I have yet to see a vegan organic farming model that was truly sustainable and proven for a long amount of time (decades or centuries)  I am surrounded by animal-based agriculture that is centuries old and truly sustainable.

I am not saying that vegan organic can't be sustainable, I just can't find an example of it.
 
                                    
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thats why i said he makes on site compost.  he doesn't do permaculture & doesn't use dynamic accumulators such as comfrey, nettle, other weeds.  all the accumulators of micronutrients i know of are plants however not farm animals.  do animals produce micronutrients that plants cannot?
 
Paul Cereghino
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Wow... what a thread... that just erupted, with so much powefully important analysis.

Climate and setting seems to have a lot to do with the function of animals, and the condition and accessability of the surrounding ecosystem to domestics, and human population density, and your state of cultural transformation, and opportunities for humans to specialize in managing different aspects of the village meta-system (that system that operates at a scale larger than household).  When you can array these factors (or at lease put your argument in context)... they you could get closer to a useful 'animal use dogma'.

The salt example being an important example, related to precipitation.

In my temperate rainforest climate soils don't easily support some vegetables due to loss of calcium, magnesium and micronutrients from leaching.  The solution for me is obvious... capture those minerals (salts?!) at the ocean (shell and seaweed) and bring them back up hill and keep them uphill with careful carbon-body management.  (BTW this is what I understand Coleman has done - he references oceanic nutrient sources is his most recent writing.)

I found Travis' comment about observing the relative function of wild vs. domestic birds provocative.  It pushes us towards thinking about animals as partners to be preyed on midfully, selecting appropriate animals for the whole system, and evaluating energetic relationsihps between people and animals.

You are all very clever domestic animals... and I would try to feed you if your survival were in my hands, but am wary of taking that responsibility. 

 
jacque greenleaf
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I'm struck by something...

You are talking about sustainability as if it necessarily entails self-sufficiency on a particular piece of legally-delimited ground, no matter what size. In my view, sustainability encompasses the larger community. I see no fundamental issues with importing inputs to my garden from, for instance, 3 miles away. If someone enjoys keeping animals, and does it conscientiously, I'm going to be lining up for some of that manure! And if I don't have enough land to grow all the plant matter I think I need, I'm going to be looking around at my neighbors for sources. It's really not a question of doing it all just on my piece of ground.


 
                  
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Travis Philp wrote:
jmy, I posed this question earlier but I think it got lost in the shuffle. What did you do for bed preparation in the first year? I'm planning on establishing a whack of new vegetable and fruit gardens next year and would like to avoid manure if I can. I'm gonna go big on fresh eating and drying beans as a companion plant but that'll only get me so far


We just started out with thinning and spacing until we found out what the soil would support.  Hoeing in weeds and aerating the soil , leaving crop residues in the spot they came from , not moving organic mater from one spot to another.  Soil improved each year , sometimes we let it go fallow (weeds)

there is a carbon-nitrogen ratio that goes on.

We have wild animals but not domesticated ones that require our care and feeding.
 
Emerson White
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Travis Philp wrote:
Plants can provide the following, which is what I was answering to:

velacreations: "they eat (Insertion: in a plants case; convert) the waste from the garden and provide me with food, manure, company, clothing, and tools."

In answer to your questions Emmerson:

Well, the plants don't eat the scraps but in effect they use them.

If you use compost teas as well as compost I think the growth rates would be comparible. Even if it took a bit longer, I think it's worth it considering the alternative.

Certain plants can be made into insecticidal sprays, or grown next to 'at risk' plants to ward off insects, without the issue of an animal messing up your garden by compaction, eating vegetable crops, and/or knocking them over. If using direct sprays the insects will die in the garden and their calories returned to the earth. Otherwise, I think there is enough bird  and animal  life cycling in the average garden to make up for a lack of chickens or ducks. When you run a chicken through your garden, there probably won't be any wild birds in the same area at the same time for example. And after observing both types of birds in a garden, I'd rather have wild birds. I could shoot them if I wanted some extra calories, and they don't bring the extra work and hassle of domesticated birds.

Yes, plants can go into areas and break up soil. Tap rooted plants are great for that, they don't wake me up at 4 in the morning, or raise my risk of cancer when I eat them. In fact many tap root plants fight cancer. I don't think you can't say that for any meat that I know of.

Now, a plant can't remove a stump. You've got me there. For the amount of stumps most of us have to remove in a lifetime though, I don't think keeping domesticated animals around is worth it. I wonder how long it takes most fungi to turn a stump soft enough that one could easily remove it. Not applicable if the stump is in a roadway or on a future building site I know, but it could be applicable in some cases. I suppose if one wanted to avoid using machinery for stump removal and digging wasn’t viable, some of us have the option of borrowing a neighbors animal. In my case, we keep horses for recreational and equine-assisted-therapy purposes and could use our half draft cross.


Even if this were true, which I don’t agree…I think the trade off of a more environmentally friendly farming practice void of domesticated animals is worth the marginally extra labour. I must say, it may not be the case with everyone but the people I know who have domesticated animals are practically slaves to them. And even the most violent of plants isn’t going to be able to do as much damage as a donkey stepping on your foot, kicking you in the head, or a bull impaling you. Unless of course you eat a poisonous plant but this could happen regardless. A plant isn’t going to fly at you full tilt or squawk with annoying volume and negative energy every time you walk by, or follow you around begging for food. A plant isn’t going to leave its runny shit in large quantities on the ground for you to step on, or cause you to need to muck a barn.


Nature can provide this in just about any ecosystem I can think of where humans live.

If you want those extra animal calories go could hunt. And excluding hunting, a patch of lambs quarters, basswood, or alfalfa for example can provide calories at a much lower maintenance level than keeping fowl, and they allow you the freedom to go on vacation without having to inconvenience your neighbours to look after them.  As far as compost piles, you can enhance them quite well with comfrey, nettles, or other similar plants.



I had written out individual responses to each point but then at the end I figured out why your results were so different from mine. The reason is that you keep re-billing. When you break down the benefits of keeping animals into all of the little components you get a comparable amount of work between keeping them and not But the fact of the matter is that the cost of keeping them is a bill that comes just as seldom if you are doing 10 things with your animals as if you are just doing one. If you keep your chickens indoors and only give them food and take eggs that's a decent payout, but if you have them clearing your garden of insects and rooting through the soil, and laying eggs, and recycling waste calories (something plants can't do at all) and providing bedding, and flavoring and company  you have a great payout. That is why every farmstead had them. It's not that they were too stupid to figure out that it was easier with out them, it's that they knew that the animals did more for them than it cost to raise them.

As for hunting I support it up and to a point, however fossil records show that uncontrolled hunting is probably more ecologically devastating than even modern day farm practices.
 
tel jetson
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I would like to suggest that discussing the advantages and disadvantages of livestock be taken up in another thread.  the topic of this thread is being lost.

I'm interested in how folks are growing plant food without using domestic animal inputs.  I'm also interested in the discussion of livestock's relative merits, but I don't want to have to wade through one to read and talk about the other.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Well, the way I see it, you don't need to have your OWN animals to get manure if you don't want to. I'm sure you can make arrangements with somebody to get some for free. If you don't like to deal with animals, that's fine. The animals will still be around, though, so you may as well have useful animals instead of whatever nature happens to put in a given spot.
 
Abe Connally
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yeah, I am sure you can always find someone wanting to get rid of manure.

I would never get rid of animal manure.  That is exporting fertility.  I like my fertility right where it is, in my soil.

But don't forget, every single person has a large mammal that produces manure daily.  Just look in the mirror.  That manure should be recycled as well.

And that brings up a point, is the vegan organic standard against using manure from animals like humans?  Why or why not?
 
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