Category Archives: Musings and Reactions

A place to wonder out loud about what I’ve heard, read, or studied.

Reverse Chicken Tractoring?

Just had a bit of a brainstorm.  I’ve been thinking about a chicken forage forest for Dad’s place, and how to manage the flock to stay out of the growing annuals like peas, amaranth, or sorghum.

What about reverse tractoring?  Instead of constructing movable tractors to keep birds confined, what about movable tractors to exclude birds from certain areas?  With proper management, each plot could be available for forage, compost scratching, and soil preparation. The birds having both eaten the forage crop, prepared and processed compost, scratched and aerated the soil and fertilized would leave each plot ready to plant after 2-3 weeks of access.

Imagine a system of 10 plots with 7 cages.  Figure an average of 8 weeks growth (might need more, but this is just a thought experiment).  Assume that you’ve started each plot with a seed mix of peas, lentils, and other fodder plants with a roughly 8 week maturity a week apart for 8 weeks.  You now have 8 plots covered with cages at various stages of growth.  We’ll call plot 1 the oldest plot.

On the first week after plant maturity, uncover plot 1.  Chickens are free to poke around and basically destroy it.  The reverse tractor would be moved to cover plot 9, where you plant your seed mix.

On the second week, uncover plot 2, allowing the chickens in to destroy it.  You cover plot 1 with composting materials that the chickens can continue to scratch through.  Move the reverse tractor from plot 2 to plot 10, where you start another plot.

On the third week, uncover plot 3, cover plot 2 with compostables, and assess the ground on plot 1.  You might be able to plant in plot 1, and the tractor from plot 3 could cover it.

The question would be, is this system any better than just some temporary fencing?  Well, perhaps if you’ve got flyers – that way the tractors with tops would still exclude the chickens.  Perhaps put a few roost poles on the tops of the tractors, and resting birds could still fertilize.

The tractors could be designed so that there are wheels that would allow movement after the tractor has been tipped on it’s side (I’m guessing it would be difficult to try to roll through a thick plot of plants).  Or maybe just design some sort of dolly, tip the tractor onto the dolly, and then move it as needed.  a 4×4 or 4×6 tractor shouldn’t be too hard to move like this.  Something like the featured image could be easy and cheap to construct (though perhaps not quite as big as the featured image).

At some point, you would have the soil on these plots so fertile and refreshed that you could maybe devote them to other market crops.  Fence them off, and move your reverse tractors to other parts of the forest to begin regenerating the soil there.  Or you could just leave the tractors and build some new ones for your second plot.  Set up a biennial rotation between the two areas with the chickens on a year, off a year.

The featured image for this page was taken from homesteadmama’s blog.  Her blog can be read here.


Bills PDM Chap 1 Reflections.

Getting ready for the permaethos PDC to start, so today I read the first chapter of Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison.  Here’s my notes from the read, followed by my reactions.

PRIME DIRECTIVE: The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

PRINCIPLE OF COOPERATION:  Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival.

The Three Ethics:

1. CARE OF EARTH.  Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.

2. CARE OF PEOPLE. Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.

3. SETTING LIMITS TO POPULATION AND CONSUMPTION. by governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

Continue reading

West TX water catchment and pond possibilities

I’ve been turning some things over in my head about Dad’s acreage.  I’m pretty sure I want a large berm complex on the western edge to help with the prevailing winds, and I was toying with the idea of using those berms as catchment for either a large pond or series of smaller ponds.  The problem is, the average rainfall is less than 18 inches, and even with steps to reduce evaporation (provide shade, wind protection, and pond shape to maximize volume to surface area ratio) I’m afraid there’s no hope that the ponds will hold water for more than a few weeks.  In any event, I don’t think they would be stable enough to make ducks or fish a possibility.

Would it be better to build the berms, and then focus on storage of water in the land, and hopefully hydrate it to the point that the lower lying areas could fill of their own accord?  Or, if ponds are enough of a desire and benefit, given the water quality of the well, would that water be okay to preserve a minimum depth during dry periods?

First Post

Like the tagline says, you gotta start somewhere.  I will be using this blog space as my journal/homework for the permaculture design course I’m taking through PermaEthos.  I’ll start with some posts on useful plants for the climates that I will be designing, and also add updates on my designs as they progress.  At some point in the future, I may migrate over to a self-hosted wordpress site, especially as it becomes time to start my business dealings.  Until the second post…