New Partners in Regeneration

Since last update, there have been numerous significant developments at Q-VdL – and none more important, in terms of Regenerative Agriculture, than what we’ve been up to with the animals. On that front, news in brief is as follows.

Backyard chickens

CONTEXT:
The EcoResort at Q-VdL -more specifically, the SweetSpot Garden Café, the compost bins adjoining the garden, and -just behind- a citrus orchard with some 100 mature (late middle-aged?) of assorted citrinos -oranges of several varieties plus a few of tangerines, to provide breakfast fruit most of the year round (in principle!).

THE PROBLEM:
Three problems in fact, being treated separately up until now -essentially:

* Composting of organic wastes stream from kitchen (busy, esp. in high touristic season) is not keeping up with flow (messy!

* Soil in the orange orchard is poor; trees are suffering from lack of fertility, and accompanying pests and weeds

* Clients (some -a small but vocal minority :-) )want eggs for breakfast!

THE SOLUTION A Backyard Chicken System
In keeping with one of the most oft-quoted permaculture principles (The Problem IS The Solution), and considering also the model of Holstic Planned Grazing that works so well on larger scale, we adapted the age-old rural tradition of backyard chickens to our own particular situation, featuring:

* 17 lovely laying hens, +1 lucky rooster

* a portable paddock (50m of electric netting energized by solar-powered battery)

* a home-built “chicken mobile” with tight security (i.e. contra-predation) provisions and integrated feeder, waterer, nest boxes and roosting rods.

RESULTS:
Though it is still early days (birds only arrived at end of August), we can say in terms of problems stated above:

- COMPOST: they are processing all organic waste from EcoResort kitchen (quite a lot!), plus that of my own household (family of 4) -easily, with little additional feed;
- FERTILITY: fertilizing/ mulching (the rotted bales we throw in as straw gets thoroughly spread and scrached-in), and -tho it is early days- signs of improved fertility are already quite obvious;
- FOOD: though our hens arrived too immature to lay, they are already producing some 7 eggs/day (November average to date), and the quality (and size! see photo “maeGalinha”) of eggs is truly without compare!

Details of implementation and results are beyond scope of this post, but will be given to all interested parties at our upcoming Recolher festival (see “Conclusions” at bottom of this post)

Donkey rescue:

THE PROBLEM:

A long sad story of donkeys abandoned (read here, if interested; thanks to Gonçalo Teixeira for the heads up on that).

Bringing one home proved to be not so easy… But kudos to Sandra at Sundance Ranch for rounding up the whole lot and bringing them all to her wonderful farm, pending adoption.

Moreover: since the last donkey we rescued (“Catarina”) died some years ago, our dear long-eared friend Levinho (adopted by Q-VdL in 2008 -what gives him #1 seniority over all farm residents :-) )has been pining for asinine company for far too long.

HAPPY ENDING: Welcome, Cegonha!
A young female (2-3 y/o?), she arrived just 3 weeks ago -still quite skinny, but much better than when we first met some months ago (thanks to Sandra!) than when we first met some months ago.

After a day or few of stepping cautiously around the paddock-boss, Cegónia is now a welcome companion to Levinho -who, (at well over 20 now, is “a bit long in the tooth” as they say, but still appreciative of a young female’s attentions).

Together, they do a great job of grazing/ trampling/ manuring the tall grass, getting it ready for lower-grazing herbivores (see below)

burros_blogpost

In other news, on the Ruminant front:

A bit of trouble with our “Wooly Weeders” :

Owing to a government inocculation program gone wrong, we were visited by a touch of “Blue Tongue” disease, resulting in 1 infected animal, plus 1 suspect, needing to be put away from the others.

That, plus problems with electric containment system (broken posts, frayed netting, lack of good connection on dry ground -numerous lessons learned!) knocked the heck out of our Holistic Grazing Plan

GOOD NEWS IS:
Thanks to reasonably quick and assertive intervention (yay team!), it seems that the 2 sick animals have recovered.

Moreover: we did over last season engage a new partnership with a local cow-herd, a young fellow who -being receptive to our ideas- agreed to run his 30-head of “Limousine” cattle through our 20ha of open pasture, according to a rotational grazing plan that we co-created and implemented with him.

SO NOW:
Given the unusual combination of early rain AND sun (rinse and repeat several) that we have enjoyed this fall, grasses have come back quicker and stronger than ever.

Conclusion:

If you find inspiration in this story and would like to know more, then you must come to the “Recolher” festival on Sat. Nov 26, when Yorgos, our Regenerative Farming leader, will be giving a little show&tell on animal operations at Q-VdL, and the regenerative role they play in our AgroSilvoPastoral system.