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

 

‘Backyard’ Chickens

 

• Context:

Casa Vale da Lama, at Quinta VdL – more specifically the restaurant, the compost bins adjoining the garden, and -just behind- a citrus orchard with some 1oo matured (late middle-aged?) of asorted ‘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 sparately up until now- essencially:

— Composting of organic wates from the kitchen (busy, especially in high touristic season) is not keeping up with flow (messy!);

— Soil in the orange orchard os 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 often quoted permaculture principles “The Problem IS the Solution” and considering the model of Holistic Planned Grazing that works so well on larger scale, we adepted the age-old rural tradition of backyard chickens to our own particular situation, feautring:
– 17 lovely laying hens + 1 lucky rooster
– a portable paddock (50m of solar-powered electric netting)
– 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 have arrived at the end of August) we can say in terms of the problems stated above:
– compost: they are processing all organic waste from Casa Vale da Lama’s kitchen, plus that of my own household (family of 4)- easily with little adittional feed;
– fertility: fertilizing/mulching (the rotted bales we throw in as straw gets thoroughly spread and scratched-in), and -tho it is early days- signs of imporoved fertility are already quite obvious;
– food: though our hens arrived too imature to lay, they are already producing some 7 eggs/day (november average to date), and the quality and size of eggs id truly without compare!

Doneky 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 .

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:

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 Open Day on Sat. Nov 26, when Yorgos, our Regenerative Farming leader, will be giving a little show&tell on animal operations at Quinta, and the regenerative role they play in our AgroSilvoPastoral system.

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