A key to understanding NSF

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duane
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A key to understanding NSF

Post by duane » Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:10 am

The key to understanding the principles of NSF seems to be a difficult thing for many.

NSF can be as complex as quantum theory or as simple as 1234. As Jerry Brunetti put it "It's so damn obvious how it works, if experts could realize that the solutions are both simple, yet holistic, which is what the "complexity" is all about."

Here is my SIMPLE take on NSF:

The trigger for the beginning of a natural, positive cycle in the Aussie landscape is a single thing....A RAINFALL EVENT.

Whether it be a storm, a downpour, whatever, ......THAT, is the trigger for all life in the Australian landscape.

The trick to nsf is that once this event happens you need to capture it and store in the landscape the maximum amount of moisture THE SOIL WILL ALLOW. This is how the ozzie landscape survived the next dry period with reserves in the ground.

Once the groundwater is full, of course, any excess will flow on, but the current paradigm which drains the landscape and gets the water away from farms as quickly as possible into dams and reservoirs is simply folly.

Remember this racing parlance. As farmers:

*you get the sunlight for nothing 8)

*you get the CO2 and O2 for nothing :o

now you have won the quinella!! :lol: BUT wait there's more

*if you can capture and hold the rain that falls on your property for nothing..... BINGO

now you have won the TRIFECTA!! :D :D :D

AND

*remember water moves fertility across the landscape for nothing

and so now you have won the QUADRELLA!!!! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

and as farmers you know that pays the biggest dividend of ALL. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

ALL OF THIS COSTS FARMERS NOTHING....this is sustainable farming as Nature intended it.

duane
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Post by duane » Mon Feb 15, 2010 3:15 pm

For those with a more scientific bent here is the NSF story in slightly more complex language.

Peter has been trying to get farmers, land managers and scientists to understand this simple, yet holistic complex.

Just remember that Nature does nothing needlessly.
The very first thing you need to be aware of when conducting agriculture is that you are farming within an ecosystem.

This ecosystem (whole system) or system for ease is GOVERNED by the rules of Nature.

Nature is always looking for balance and equilibrium.

All of our current farming systems have been badly perturbed in the past by upsetting the land management practices.

On arrival here in 1788 the landscape was rich and fertile with copious quantities of fresh water.

The stock that was brought out multiplied and flourished. The country grew wealthy BUT at a severe cost.

Vegetation was cleared in wholesale dimensions, fertility was lost at a rapid rate. Some of our soils which previously had soil carbons at 39% and up to 20,000 yrs old were replaced by present levels at less than 1% and only 2-3 yrs old.

Slow moving water courses were replaced by incised drains.

Immense biodiversity was replaced by monocultures.

Stable, agrading landscapes were replaced by a new phenomena in the Australian landscape, EROSION.

Many farmers and land managers even today when they see and face the stark reality are not attuned to the real issues.

And the real problem is that many farmers (and land managers) are continuing to LEAK these from their systems and lose their ASSETS EVERY day!!

These assets are:

1. water
2. nutrients.
3. soil
4. biodiversity


FARMERS NEED TO STOP THE LEAKING, FROM THEIR SYSTEM..... EVERYDAY, OF THESE CRITICAL ELEMENTS, IF THEIR FARMS ARE TO BECOME RESILIENT.

Agriculture and farming has been ALL about applying inputs to get outputs and this has happened at a great loss to ecosystem function.

Agriculture speaks of trying to be sustainable. Ecology speaks of resilience.

By conducting agriculture we are performing this task within an ecosystem, which is trying to restore balance and resilience EVERY time there is a major perturbation. Anytime you take something out or put something new into an ecosystem that will then cause another problem or perturbation that Nature will try and fix and you will get a different set of problems or outcomes.

We as humans need to appreciate that we must work with Nature and respect Her ability to restore balance....as farmers they need to stop these losses from happening to have any chance.

The recent rain cycle may not be the joy that everyone one thinks because after the flooding rains the result is more likely to be:

LOSS of

1. water
2. nutrients.
3. soil
4. biodiversity
and the outbreak of salinity.

What many have failed to realise over consecequtive generations is that what we are doing is conducting a man made system called agriculture to produce food, clothing and shelter. Even with rising population growth, it is in my view possible to sustain this growth by the realisation that we conduct agriculture WITHIN an ecological system, governed by the laws of Nature NOT governed by the laws of MAN.

As I said in the post above, if farmers and land managers can STOP the leaking of items 1-4 then they have won the 'quadrella' everyday.....because the Sun's energy comes in everyday for nothing and farmers are only harnessing that into a product.....if they understand ALL this, THEN they have the opportunity to win the 'multiplier' or 'accumulator' everyday.


This is the key to understanding Peter's NSF.

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Post by duane » Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:14 am

I would welcome any dialogue on the above.....

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Working with Nature

Post by Julene » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:51 pm

Hi Duane,

Here are some thoughts taken from Linda Woodrow's book, The Permaculture Home Garden (2007) which are similar to what you are saying:

Natural forces are very strong. If you are working with them, they make powerful allies. If you are working against them, they make formidable adversaries....It simply makes sense to work with nature rather than against it.

Gravity is a powerful natural force that can make moving things either easier or so much harder, depending on whether it is on your side.... The impulse to diversity is another natural force that can be friend or enemy, depending on whether you are determined to grow a uniform monoculture or not.

Trying to sterilise your soil so that there is no chance of a pathogen in it ... is like a gnat attacking an elephant. The impulse of life to invade every unoccupied nice is a natural force that it is unwise to tangle with! It is simply much smarter to ... (encourage) so much soil life that there is negligible room left in the niche for pathogens.

Nature is enormous and natural forces are much to numerous, diverse and inchoate to enumerate. The tool needed is a mental attitude of ... noticing what natural forces are at work ... and then a habit of looking first for ways of harnessing them, not for ways of overcoming them.... Our whole society has an implicit first assumption of need to dominate nature....
(p7)

I find that Permaculture has much in common with NSF (would others agree?), although there are differences: PC is more easily applied to small scale operations (back yards, small acreage) then broadscale farms; also, it therefore doesn't particularly focus much on hydrology. (There are probably other things as well.)

Duane, I think it's really good to re-iterate the basics of NSF from time to time (as you have done) to help newcomers gain knowledge and as a refresher for "old hands". :)

I notice in your post of Feb 2008 you felt that many people didn't understand the basics of NSF. Were you referring to participants in the forum, or to the larger community of farmers/land managers? If the forum participants, do you still feel the same way two years on?

Regards,
Julene

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Post by duane » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:45 pm

Thanks Julene for your post.

I used to teach Permaculture way back in 1978 at RSH in Sydney.

The principles and ideas propounded by Bill M and later together with David H were sound and supported by the science.

But at its very essence was the ability to keep 'small populations sustainable".

It never ventured into the broader scale.

It never has fully understood how the hydrology works? It has adapted from others such as Keyline.

It is looking into NSF at Mulloon Creek near Bungendore, NSW.

The TWO laws of Nature we all seem to forget as food and fibre farmers are the ENERGY from the Sun that drives practically every living process
and
the Force of Gravity.

I wonder just how how many land managers think of these processes every day? Or just take them for granted.

Take the recent rain/flooding across the country.

Water moves down and across the landscape via Gravity. As it moves it picks up all the nutrients, minerals in soil and OM. If there are NO plants and wetlands in the landscape to capture and hold these ASSETS, then they are transported away from farms into the Sea. They are lost to the Sea everytime we have a major inundation.

And what has taken hundreds or even thousands of years to produce will now take hundreds or even thousands of years to get back from the Sea.

Nature used to recycle these components. The Australian landscape did it so efficiently that it produced MEGAFAUNA and the greatest biodiversity in the world.

Julene said:
I find that Permaculture has much in common with NSF (would others agree?), although there are differences: PC is more easily applied to small scale operations (back yards, small acreage) then broadscale farms; also, it therefore doesn't particularly focus much on hydrology. (There are probably other things as well.)


I would agree to all of the above.

Julene said:

I notice in your post of Feb 2008 you felt that many people didn't understand the basics of NSF. Were you referring to participants in the forum, or to the larger community of farmers/land managers? If the forum participants, do you still feel the same way two years on?


Yes, reluctantly it pains me to say MOST people I come across haven't gelled to the simple things.

Water, hydrology and biodiversity are the simple keys that are all linked together. Sun and gravity are the processes that drive the system.

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Post by Julene » Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:02 pm

Hi Duane,
The gravity force that you are talking about (carrying nutrients etc downhill) is another principle that seems to be unique to NSF. I haven't read it elsewhere when reading about permaculture, biological farming etc.

There's that really great quote from the Sri Lankan king of 800+ years ago: No drop of water should go into the sea unless it has first been used by mankind. Since reading that (on Jan Pokorny's website, I think) I always think how tragic it is that water just rushes down these incised rivers to be wasted in the sea. And, of course, you are talking about all the lost fertility as well, so multiple tragedy.

I'm sorry you are finding that NSF basics are not gelling. It must be very disappointing. I wrote in another post about obstacles stopping farmers from using NSF (ignorance, fear, govt interference and complacency). I have since thought that another one could be: Habit.

It can be really really hard to change your mental processes, particularly when some NSF concepts are the exact opposite of what has always been preached and practiced. For example, letting weeds grow instead of grabbing for the spray pack!!

My Mum (God bless her, I hope she's not reading this!) is committed to NSF but every so often she can't resist spraying a few mother-of-millions out in the paddocks. I have to give her credit, though - she has abandoned spraying everything else (slashed instead).

(Now, to me, mother-of-millions must be the ultimate pioneer plant - they can grow on rock. All they need is a bit of organic debris or dirt in a crevice. In theory, they should then trap more debris around them, plus their own waste; eventually weeds will colonise this organic material, and finally grass will grow over the rocks. This is a theory I want to test out - I just have to give my Mum a good talking-to, first!)

Maybe a few practical tips for NSF followers would be: 1. Always STOP, look and think before undertaking any action. 2. Keep a copy of one (or both, if possible) of Peter's books handy - refer to it regularly, read it through again every so often. That's what I try to do and I think slowly, slowly my mindset is adjusting.

Regards,
Julene

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Post by webmaster » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:39 am

These are very good posts for both layman and those with a more scientific mind.

Everyone who is interested in our Australia should at least read it once.

After a few reads hopefully it will make sense even to those who are locked into the 'habit' of doing things as 'they were always done'.

So far governments haven't managed to tax us for the rain that falls on our properties, so we should at least try to keep that rainwater within our boundaries as long as we can, before it hits the rivers where they do charge for it!!

Good one guys..

Lonnie :-)
The Forum for Peter Andrew's Natural Sequence Farming

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Post by KP » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:00 am

Seems to me that one of the big hurdles for NSF is human nature. We like to see everything as orderly - straight lines, square edges and orderly rows. When we see a property that is weed covered we automatically assume that it is unkempt and that the owner has either lost control or is too lazy to tend to it properly - who gets compliments for a garden full of weeds?
Although the principles of NSF are self evident to anyone that studies them it is worth noting that no matter how rational an argument, emotion plays a big part in human decision making. If the average farmer was taught from childhood that the only way to run a farm is to control and organise it then the concept of trusting nature is a huge leap of faith.
It seems that this thread shows that there are missing pieces to the story - as even those that are dedicated to NSF still feel that they are not fully understanding the process. Imagine being asked to risk your livelihood and property on it!
Just my 2c worth - clear, well designed animated graphics, time-lapse photography and clearly illustrated case studies - including not just how but why things were done would be a very useful resource.

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Post by Shirley Henderson » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:08 am

HI KP I am glad you decided to join the forum but why so sectretive about yourself. What is your situation?
Shirley

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Post by KP » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:57 am

Hi Shirley - not (sectretive) just an interested observer. Live in Sydney and interested in those things that turn convention on its head but prove right all along.

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Post by duane » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:14 am

Julene

I was trying to find your post that asked a question, I think about the sea??

Anyway, the point I am wanting to make is this:

4b years ago the planet started.

There was NO life at all on the land. There was just the sea and the bare land.

Everything came out of the sea.....to build the landscape.

All of life as we know it today had its progenisis from the sea.

This process took thousands of millions of years to occur. The plants first colonised the landscape and the animals then followed. Apart from natural catastrophes, such as volcanoes etc., the world landscape came into balance. The great forests of the world were the world's air conditioners and influenced climate.

We don't realise that we are currently REVERSING that process at an alarmingly EXPONENTIAL rate.

We are doing the dumbest of all dumb things....we are returning everything needed for life on the land BACK into the sea.

The Fitzroy River in Qld last week was in flood. 200,000ML per day of fresh water was running back into the sea and carrying with it all the soil and minerals, fertility and OM that has taken anything from a year to millions of years ALL back to the sea.

How stupid and dumb are we to ALLOW this to happen???

Julene
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Post by Julene » Thu Feb 18, 2010 11:42 am

Hi Duane,

I think you are referring to what I wrote in the post just above. The actual quote is (I finally sourced it again in your post on Sep 6, 2008, under the topic "Water and Its Role in the Recovery of Climate" regarding a water conference in Spain - http://naturalsequencefarming.com/forum ... .php?t=309):

Motto: of the Conference
Not a single drop of rainwater
must be allowed to go
to the sea without first being
of service to people.
/Parakramabahu the Great,
King of Sri Lanka, 1153-1186/

So, an adapted motto for NSF/Australia would be: "Not a single drop of water must be allowed to carry fertile soil into the sea ever." Or something like that.

Julene

Clem
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Post by Clem » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:20 pm

duane wrote:Julene

I was trying to find your post that asked a question, I think about the sea??

Anyway, the point I am wanting to make is this:

4b years ago the planet started.

There was NO life at all on the land. There was just the sea and the bare land.

Everything came out of the sea.....to build the landscape.

All of life as we know it today had its progenisis from the sea.

This process took thousands of millions of years to occur. The plants first colonised the landscape and the animals then followed. Apart from natural catastrophes, such as volcanoes etc., the world landscape came into balance. The great forests of the world were the world's air conditioners and influenced climate.

We don't realise that we are currently REVERSING that process at an alarmingly EXPONENTIAL rate.

We are doing the dumbest of all dumb things....we are returning everything needed for life on the land BACK into the sea.

The Fitzroy River in Qld last week was in flood. 200,000ML per day of fresh water was running back into the sea and carrying with it all the soil and minerals, fertility and OM that has taken anything from a year to millions of years ALL back to the sea.

How stupid and dumb are we to ALLOW this to happen???


Duane,

We are dumb to let it happen. I came from a farming background where we always maintained good drainage - to make sure we got rid of that water as quickly as possible!
I have now returned to farming (lifestyle) and bought a farm that was in drought conditions 3 months ago. We had rain in December and it was great to see it green the place up. I also had a stream of water flowing off the property and into the flooded creek taking soil and nutrients away with it. It has happened twice again since December and I have not been in a position to do anything about it.

NSF seems long on the theory but short on practical ways to start off.
Common sense dictates that I have to stop that flow of water escaping the property and give it time to infiltrate the soil.
I gather that swales would be the first place to start on the higher ground but I am not sure if I should try to put some check dams in the stream to try and slow the flow down until I am sure the swales can trap all the water on my property. On the practical side, I guess I will be constructing my swales with a tractor and rear grader blade. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has constructed swales with similar or other equipment. I would like to make a leaky weir across my creek also but I guess that's not allowed.

I was following brettml's adventure on his farm but there doesn't appear to have been any updates in a while. Is there any other farm examples with photos? I can't seem to find any others.

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Post by duane » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:58 pm

Welcome Clem to the NSF Forum.

In-stream structures (leaky weirs) are illegal, in some states.

So, I guess you would know what the state regulation is where you live.

Once, our streams were not continuous streams or rivers as we understand to be in England. They were as Stuart described "a series of ponds or lakes interspersed between large wetland systems".

The trickle flow when this system was intact meant that the HWM was <1000-500mm below the bank. When a 'fresh' came thru the system it would bank up against the vegetation in the wetland and flood over the bank inundating the floodplain.

Intake areas in the floodplain would take in water and rehydrate the floodplain. A floodplain covered with green vegetative cover would trap and hold sediment. The Australian landscape had devised a system which prevented erosion from the minimum flood and had a capacity to also withstand the unlimited flood without causing damage or loss.

This is what you have to aim at reproducing.

The holdbacks can be rock, old logs, willows etc but prior to 1788 they were ALL biological i.e., plants.

NSF doesn't advocate swales, as does permaculture and keyline.

Peter uses contours....a line of CONSTANT level.

These contours are taken off a point or step in the flow line at the highest point on the property and then are run out into the broader landscape where they end up being higher than the land below ( some talk of running water uphill, but its only an illusion).

All of this is totally illegal in NSW and other jurisdictions.

The description above is given as an historical record. Consult with your local CMA before gaining approval.

I hope this helps.

Clem
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Post by Clem » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:33 am

Thanks Duane, but to be honest, I don't understand the bit about the contours. There seems to be a few definitions of what a swale is but I was intending the one where the swale is a ditch on the contour and running level and no gradient, Basically horizontal dams or weirs across the property.
If they are not large enough to hold the runoff then they would overflow/cascade to the next lower one.

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