Libbie Hawker

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since Feb 04, 2017
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hugelkultur chicken food preservation
Hi! I'm a historical novelist living on 9/10ths of an acre on San Juan Island in Washington State. We've just begun developing our property into a little permaculture mini-farm and are looking forward to seeing what the future holds!
Friday Harbor, WA
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Recent posts by Libbie Hawker

Thom Kelt wrote:

Libbie Hawker wrote:Bison are ... awesome at repairing land

Would you be able to elaborate some on this?  I'm curious to know how exactly they repair land.

Are you familiar with the benefits grazing and browsing hoofed animals provide landscapes, if properly managed (rotational grazing)? It's the same general principle for all hoofstock--cattle, sheep, goats, etc. Bison included.

The long and short of it is, when landscapes are subject to periodic disturbances, like pressure from big grazers, they respond with a massive rebound of fertility and diversity. Grazing stimulates the growth of grasses and many other plants. Manure and urine deposit lots of nitrogen into the soil, supporting faster and more varied plant germination and growth. There are even plenty of species' seeds that don't germinate in the absence of crush pressure, as from a large animal stepping on/compacting the soil they're resting in.

Basically, hoofstock--especially large hoofstock like bison and cattle--are an integral part of prairie biomes, and our domestic pastures attempt to mimic prairies on smaller scales. As with any other permaculture system, when you bring animals into the picture you create greater and more sustainable synergies that reduce the need for inputs and increase production. But the pressure from large grazers applies to musk oxen and bison equally. Either species will be great for your land, if you rotate them with care.

This article focuses on bison's benefits for prairie/pasture landscapes specifically.
3 years ago
Bison/buffalo fiber is known as "prairie cashmere," so you might have some luck researching current prices by using that search term.

It is soft and nice (and I understand it doesn't shrink when washed, unlike sheep's wool) but you don't get a lot of it per animal, so I'm not sure how profitable it would reallly be. Especially when you factor in all the extra man-hours you'd have to put into harvesting it from range/semi-wild bison. Or, you'd have to harvest it at the time you slaughter the meat animals, and that means doing your slaughtering and dressing during the coldest part of the year. That might not be ideal in the Yukon.

If you want fiber production to be a major part of your business model, I'd lean toward musk oxen, just because they're usually more docile around people. Muskies also yield MUCH more fiber per animal than a bison ever will. Bison are great meat critters and are awesome at repairing land, but although their hair is nice, they don't seem like the most economical fiber animals out there.

P.s. Bactrian camels are also superb fiber animals, and are adapted for very harsh climates, including extremely cold winters. That would be another one to look into...but there's no market for their meat.
3 years ago
If you're in a cold pocket, would hawthorn work for you? That stuff makes the craziest living hedges!
3 years ago
I think it's a great idea. Reindeer are better suited to that environment, and have a very long history of domestication.

I'd also consider Icelandic sheep instead of cattle in far-north environments, for both milk and meat.
3 years ago
Of course, it's hard to say just from pictures. She does look underweight, though, and soft green stools mean something digestive is going on.

Goats are browsers, not grazers. They don't eat grass--or not grass and similar plants alone, like sheep do. Goats go after brushier/woodier feeds that tend to have lower moisture content and higher cellulose and other indigestible fibers than grass has. If you don't have enough browse on that pasture, they might need a little hay to keep the right fiber balance.

Have they been ruminating (cud-chewing) properly? Have you found any regurgitated boluses (little wads of chewed-up plant material, usually smelling very strongly) lying around their spaces?
Cool! I remember playing with ant lions on the recess field as a kid. We used to try to trick them into coming out of the bottom of the trap by tickling the sides with grass.
3 years ago
I'm glad to hear they're doing better!
3 years ago
This is the first I'd seen of this post. An excellent consideration of land-buying, all around.

One thing that can make it much easier to achieve self-sufficiency is switching from cattle to sheep. Sheep require far less land and can finish beautifully on pasture that's of lesser quality than cattle require for decent health. I happen to think sheep's milk (and butter and cheese) taste even better than cow's milk. None of the gameyness of goat dairy products, twice the sweetness and creamy texture of cows'! If you select the right sheep breed, you get two to three births per ewe, so your herd increases faster than with cattle, and you can milk most sheep while they are still nursing their young (plenty for you and the lambs at the same time.) The right breeds of sheep also taste almost exactly like beef to me, especially when fully grass-finished without the use of any feedlots. In fact, I like Icelandic lamb better than even the best beef I've ever had. Not all lamb tastes "lambey."

Don't rule out sheep, guys! They're excellent permaculture critters.
3 years ago
Crows are the natural enemies of bald eagles. You can attract crows to your property--of course, then you've got the problem of crows mingling with your chickens, eating their feed, attacking your corn, etc. :/ But they will drive your eagles out of their territory, for sure. If you don't have crows in your area, you can attract other corvids--magpies, jays, etc.
3 years ago
The sores on the feet look like bumblefoot to me--a bacterial infection (staphylococcus) that gets in through cuts or scrapes on the bottoms of the feet. It's very common--staph bacteria is everywhere! There are topical treatments (both sprays and ointments) that can help a lot. Often, just getting the birds out of any damp environment and standing on nice, dry, smooth ground for a week or so will allow their immune system to clear it up naturally. Occasionally an abscess might form, and then you can lance it, cover it with an anti-bacterial salve like Neosporin, and wrap the foot with gauze and VetWrap. You'll want to keep that animal in a confined, dry space while healing, too, of course. If you need to confine ducks away from access to ponds or tubs of water, keep a close eye on their nostrils, eyes, and uropygial gland (the oil gland on top of their tail, near the base of the spine) for signs of inflammation or irritation. If they are getting irritated or if the gland seems blocked, remove the foot bandage and give them supervised time with a shallow tub of water so they can preen and get their skin and nostrils back to condition. After they've had a bath, dry the foot thoroughly, re-apply the salve, and re-bandage.

Your mention of birds keeling over dead overnight, and birds with stiffness, also has me suspicious of botulinum toxin. This comes from eating something that has spoiled, and has grown clostridium bacteria on the surface. All birds (and humans) are susceptible to it--I've even seen a dog paralyzed from botox poisoning--and yes, it's the same botox some people inject into their faces to prevent wrinkles! But waterfowl, particularly ducks, seem to have extreme susceptibility to botulism poisoning and paralysis. So be sure you're inspecting their food and their enclosures carefully for signs of spoilage. Mid-rotation, walk their enclosures daily and pick up any dead rodents or songbirds you find (a prime source of botulism), any really old fruit that may have fallen off trees, etc.
3 years ago