David Livingston wrote:I must admit I had a different inturpreation of the above painting . I was alway told that it was common for the land to be devided into strips , each commoner/ serf had a number of strips in different fields that way the good and not so good land was devided fairly amongst the people .
Bryant RedHawk wrote:Great post, I have seen that painting several times.
One of the great things about that type of painting is in the small details the painter puts in.
Notice the foreground field is indeed a crowned field, the "ditches" form the function of draining and irrigating so the soil of the field is able to gather in as much water as possible during a rain.
I have a couple of ancient notebooks that were given to me by my grandfather, these were field notes made by my great, great, great grandfather who was a farmer in Eire, county cork.
He had page after page of each field, how they broke the ground, planted, trapped animal pests and the harvest totals, taxes paid and what quantity was stored for winter use.
One of the most interesting parts of these note books was how they spread the leftovers of the harvest back on the fields for over wintering.
animal manures (cattle and sheep) were stored in piles every time they moved the animals, any manure that was not easy to pickup was left where it lay.
The animals were put into barn like buildings in the harshest weather and that manure was similar to today mixed with straw that was used to cover the floor so the manures were mixed into this carbon material.
These manures were left in these piles until after the harvest, then the oldest piles were taken out and spread over the stubble covered field.
I have always considered my old notebooks as treasures, the information in them is not only a picture of how things were done by an ancestor but they also can teach the methods that were used back then.
Both of my notebooks have dates 1826 and 1831.
It's a huge problem in Canada as well, mostly in the prairies but also in the large semi forested cattle ranches here. Luckily in my valley, where land is limited and a lot more expensive than say the prairies, many of the local landowners got together to petition the regional district for a meeting. They had noticed that a lot of young people were coming by the valley looking for land, but there is no way that they can afford a 250 or 500 acre piece as a startup. The idea is to be able to subdivide, but my province created a system called the (A L R) Agricultural Land Reserve which specifically negates subdivision of agricultural land as a possibility (Put in place so that people were not creating subdivisions for real estate instead of farming). The thing is the face of farming is changing (instead of 500 head of cattle you got a guy with turkeys, lamas, and quinoa), as is the scale (you can do that on 10 acres instead of a 500 or a 1000), and the local landowners recognized it, and the regional district listened and agreed that it might be possible.
an alternative solution that would be best is, if we (as society) could somehow stop the current system of farm more acres to make more money. If we could get beyond that mindset, then we (as a society) might be able to have a host of small farms again.
I'm not sure that that is accurate. What permaculture books are you reading, F Van Roosbroek? The one that counts the most in my mind, The Permaculture Designers Manual, has plenty of information from historical cultures which had created successful long term food growing, housing, or landscape systems.
I've been thinking about whether permaculture can learn from history, and the other way around. That is to say, I get the feeling that permaculture writers (at least, the ones I've read) don't really look at historical solutions,
Bryant RedHawk wrote:In my experience ridge and furrow (tilling) has one place and that is on sloped land. The ridge and furrow should follow the contour of the land to help reduce erosion.
Most fields will have some area (s) that are higher than the rest of the field, this is where on contour furrows work best.
It should be noted that water will leave the highest area first so expect plants on the top of a furrow to need to sink roots deep quickly or the moisture will simply leave them high and dry.
This is one of the reasons soil biology is so important, with good soil biology the plant roots will sink deep quickly and then the plants will grow up quicker, regardless of the amount of rain they are receiving.
David Livingston wrote:I had a chat with a friend in the UK , who told me that many open field traces only disappeared with the event of mechanical deep ploughing, horse ploughing not being deep enough to remove the typical landscape features that were common for hundreds of years.
Travis Johnson wrote:I am not sure that is really the case. I think farmers know the value of manure as a resource, it is just that for some, availability to the manure they would need is of limited supply. The problem is not really that they do not know its value, it is that they can just farm x amount of land using chemical fertilizers and get x amount in revenue. In other words, chemical fertilizers are a cheap alternative; too cheap.
Here, we use animal manure for our fertilizer needs and years show it. Even when we grew potatoes we used chicken manure since chicken farms were prevalent in the area. As I said in the past, my soil is above optimum in terms of organic matter, iron, zinc and manganese; all properties of animal manures.
I don't think there is any farmer that would argue that animal manures are not better for the soil; the argument is simply...find enough animal manure for them to effectively farm the acres they do.
This is a challenging problem, almost insurmountable for the farmers in the mid-west. Another issue is the cost of spreading that much volume of manure. This was brought up on another topic regarding biochar. There is no denying it is good stuff, but scaling up biochar production for even the amounts I would need on my small farm is so great that all the replies here on Permies said not to even try...in other words, an insurmountable issue. I even have this problem on my farm with PH levels. I can get seaweed for $1.90 a ton, but need 10 tons of the cheap stuff to equal 1 ton of real lime. At $22 a ton for real lime, it is actually cheaper for me to spread the real lime then the seaweed because I have so much more cost in moving 10 times more of it! (Sometimes I use seaweed and sometimes I use real lime depending on the field and how the micronutrients are).
An alternative solution that would be best is, if we (as society) could somehow stop the current system of farm more acres to make more money. If we could get beyond that mindset, then we (as a society) might be able to have a host of small farms again.
Another area that needs addressing is the constricting regulations regarding manure spreading on farmland for large farms. As a society we should not make it harder for a farm to do the right thing by spreading manure, but rather make it easier. That is just not happening.
I do the right thing on my farm, but it is a field by field, year by year, basis and is extremely slow. Its a better way, but a slower way, and I can see why Permies people would tell the big farmer to "do the right thing", but I can also see why a big farmer is reluctant due to a host of factors. So yes I see both sides.
Roberto pokachinni wrote:I'm not sure that that is accurate. What permaculture books are you reading, F Van Roosbroek? The one that counts the most in my mind, The Permaculture Designers Manual, has plenty of information from historical cultures which had created successful long term food growing, housing, or landscape systems.
We should remember, as collective historians, that one of the best reasons for keeping history is that we don't repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. Just because something has been done in a particular way for centuries does not necessarily mean it was a good idea. When looking at the long term consequences, many times they aren't necessarily noticed with year to year changes or even over decades.
Certainly. I completely agree with everything you wrote. History, or the past, is made on a moment by moment basis behind our present actions; hardly static, but still an entity that should be learned from with due discernment, rather than accepted as the only way to go. Farmers are a bounty of many great innovations/inventions, and we certainly have much to gain from historical sources/examples, as we continue the process of experimentation, innovation, and invention.
...but I wouldn't look at the past as a static entity. On the contrary, farmers have been incredibly innovative in terms of designing tools and introducing new crops or new types of manure,
I'd say that we have much more in common than we differ in this regard.
The permaculture enthusiast in me wonders whether these tools would still be useful to people in a similar situation (and if they are in fact still being used); as a historian, I'd be greatly interested in hearing from users today to see how their experiences could help us understand the past a little better.
Roberto pokachinni wrote:I could not find any images of a pikhaak that match any of the tools in the image you posted above, F.VR, but the images I found do seem to match the description you gave for it's use. Do you have any modern images or links that you could show of these dutch tools? The zicht, I am confident is a scythe. The hand sickle in the right hand of the man on the left, is an interesting design that I am not familiar with. It seems that there is a wooden plate extending from the handle which looks as though it was meant to gain stability from the forearm, which might help the arm to not tire while using the tool for extended periods... or is this the tool that you are calling a zicht? At any rate, I've never seen one like it, but would like to try it on a few things. If you have any modern images ( a photo from a museum? ) of this tool, I would be very interested in seeing them. It appears (though the image is truncated on the right) that the man on the right is using a standing, or walking scythe.
Travis Johnson wrote:Very true and just like today, those in Europe in the early 1800's sought to get cheap fertilizer. They found it in New England, my Great Grandfather (some 7 generations ago) had a Potash factory here and did well regarding what is know as Potash Fever. That was where land was cleared here in Maine, the wood converted into potash, and then sent to Europe for great profit.
I looked into doing this on my farm as I have plenty of unwanted wood, but at a NPK of 0-1-3, it would have taken 1600 cords to get my fields fertilized...once. Yikes, I got better things to do then cut 1600 cords of wood!
They also said that when the Pilgrims first came here they were amazed at the fertility of the soil. They said whereas in England grass would grow to knee high, here it would grow to well over a mans head.
I am going to soon find out how true this is. I am clearing 2 areas of forest into field that have never been cleared. We can tell because there is a lot of iron in the soil, something that would have been churned up years ago if it had been tilled or pastured.
I'll keep you informed on how the growth goes.
David Livingston wrote:The angles of the zicht and the way it is held look "odd" to me as though you hold it with the stick vertically when you cut the corn more like a scythe movement than a sickle
David Livingston wrote:mmm interesting picture I assume you bring your arm in a vertical motion . Cutting a sheaf at a time or chopping a sheaf at a time . I wonder how often it was required to sharpen this tool ? I dont see any sharpening stones in the picture or paintings
David Livingston wrote:Been thinking about this and how it would work .
The technique of holding a tool high and bringing it down I have only seen used on a chain gang in the USA for chopping weeds and I suspect for obvious reasons they were not provided with the sharpest tools . and I wonder how much follow through there would be and would that not get in the way . I also wondered if money is an issue here . Scythes are made to measure to the person using them and more complicated to build with the snaith etc . The sickle and the Z can be swapped with your neighbour no problem and are much easier to build .
As for how much work you would get in a day A good scythe person can keep two persons busy stacking the corn whist this tool with I see as intermediate between the sickle and the scythe from the picture hints at one person stacking a person doing both I would suggest will cover less ground in a day.
Also a scythe need to be very very sharp to be efficient and I have been told that getting good whetstones in the past was an issue and a cost I dont know the geology of the area you describe could this be an issue ? references to stones being smuggled here https://onescytherevolution.com/whetstones.html