Category Archives: permaculture

A Few Notes of Interest from the 2011 Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas

The artist talk this year was by Lisa Grossman and it did not disappoint, as she so eloquently described to us her zen like approach to plein air painting of the Kansas prairie and sky landscapes and likened the process to haiku. Originally from Pennsylvania, she now lives in Lawrence, Kansas. [more of her art here]


For those who are not aware of the fact, the Land Institute is now using marker assisted breeding technology, which became possible with the completion of their new building a year ago, and the hiring of Dr. Shuwen Wang. This should accelerate the process of breeding useful perennial grains, which they feel could help to provide the resilience needed for our world which is facing both peak oil and climate change while using unsustainable methods of industrialized agriculture.


Stan Cox, senior scientist at the Land, was just interviewed on NPR about his newest book, “Losing Our Cool” which says that air conditioning in this country is unsustainable.


Wes Jackson began this year’s talk with this, “Agriculture, in my view, was the beginning of global warming….” Then, he described to us, welcomingly, an outline of the Land’s new long range plan to ramp up research across the globe to speed up production of perennial grains. They have spelled out, in a new paper, a thirty year plan which will cost $55 million per year and use eleven sites around the world to do their research which would be conducted by a specified number of PhD scientists and would include a training program for new scientists. Some of the sites include Minnesota, China, Australia, Kansas, and Uruguay. Jackson reported that interest in the area of perennial grains is growing as several projects are now working on perennial corn and there are around thirteen institutions studying potential varieties of sunflowers, sorghum, rice, corn and wheat.


In a talk by David Montgomery, a Washington State geologist who has written the book “Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations” I took note of his prediction of the three regions of the world which have the longest lasting food growing potential based upon minerals deposited from glacial activity in the form of loess soils (not topsoil). Those three regions are portions of the U.S. Midwest, Eastern Europe, and Northern China, according to Montgomery.

There were other great talks, too, by Brian Donahue, Kamyar Enshayan, Naomi Klein, and Richard Heinberg. And I was thrilled to finally see a screening of “John Muir in the New World.”

Thanks, Land!!——K.M.

Raising Pigeons, and Examples of Pigeon Houses

History of Raising Pigeons

Pigeons were one of the earliest domesticated livestock and their importance as a food source continued until the time of the industrial revolution. It is believed that they were domesticated starting 10,000 years ago and are mentioned in 5,000 year-old Egyptian hieroglyphics. Pigeon houses exist throughout the world but some of the oldest are found in the Middle East. The birds have been valued for their eggs, meat, and dung, which is an excellent fertilizer.

As compared to chickens, pigeons are easier to care for and can be eaten sooner. They forage for their own food and are edible in 28 days. Their houses protect them from predators.

Many nations including Scotland and the Middle East continue to house pigeons. Pigeon houses were found on plantations in the U.S. until the early 1920’s. A few centuries ago in parts of Europe, pigeon meat was important especially for the winter months and only the aristocracy were allowed to raise them.

In the sad tale of the North American Passenger Pigeon‘s extinction, the bird went from being one of the most abundant birds in the world during the 19th century, numbering in the billions, to extinction in the early 20th century. Unregulated hunting, loss of habitat, deforestation, and use as commercialized cheap meat for slaves and the poor were contributing factors.

Examples of Pigeon Houses from around the world

A pigeon house may be referred to as dovecote, dovecot, doocot, pigeonaire, pigeonnier, colombier, tour-fuie, culvery, duivekot, columbaria, colomendy, or palomar. Many are free standing, from small to large, but others are built into tops or sides of barns or other buildings.

See the large variety of house types from around the world in the photos below:

photo ~ The Wadlington Pigeon House was built in 1857 on the Oak Grove Plantation in South Carolina. This house held 55 breeding pairs and had 112 access holes.

flickr via lori5871 ~ Virginia, USA

flickr via lydiashingingbrightly ~ Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK


photo: wikipedia

The island of Tinos, Greece has 1,000 artistic dovecotes (photo)

photo wikipedia ~ Doorn, The Netherlands

photo flickr via dynamosquito ~ 2008 ~ Midi-Pyrenees region, France

photo wikipedia ~ Glasgow, Scotland

Pigeon house for 4,000 pigeons in Iran (photo)

photo flickr via sarahemcc ~ Uganda

photo wikipedia ~ modern pigeon house in Brasília, Brazil

flickr via jay galvin ~ 2008 ~ Egypt

photo ~ Egypt

photo ~ Masada

Utility Pigeons

Some pigeons have been bred to be larger, specifically for their meat, and this group is called the “utility” pigeon. Breeds of pigeons preferred for meat are the King, Carneau, French Mondain, Homer and Swiss Mondain.

pigeon eggs

Young pigeons, or squab, become very large in their nests prior to flying and these are used for their meat which is tender, rich, nutritious, and mild-tasting.

King pigeons (photo)

Squab is served at some of the finest U.S. restaurants such as French Laundry. Examples of squab dishes are breast of squab (French salmis), Egyptian hamam mahshi (stuffed with rice and herbs), and Moroccan pastilla.

photo: Darin Dines

The greatest volume of U.S. squab, however, is sold within Chinatowns.

Raising Squab

Pair bond parents, beginning around eight months of age, incubate eggs for 17-19 days, and brood their squab for four weeks. Both parents produce a “pigeon milk” to feed their young. One pair can produce 15 squabs per year and ten pairs can produce eight squabs per month without being fed by their keepers. They forage and return to their dovecote to rest and breed. Mates will produce young year round for five to six years. In addition to foraging, pigeons can be fed bird seed, Flock Raiser, and corn.

Pigeon Dung or Guano

(N 4.2-6.5; P 2.4-3; K 1.4-2.5) Pigeon guano has higher nutrient values than other fowl manure. It should be composted prior to using. The usefulness of their manure has added to the overall usefulness of raising pigeons throughout the ages.


Also see: Japanese Quail or Coturnix: Protein from Small Spaces

Recommended reference for information about how to raise pigeons: Mother Earth News

Gravity Drip Bucket Irrigation Systems for Vegetable Gardens Enhance Food Security for the Food Insecure

source: double in Kenya

With growing water challenges and a changing climate, one simple technology that is gaining a foothold for subsistence farmers in Africa, India, and at least 150 other nations, is that of drip irrigation. According to Ezemvelo Eco Campus Blog, “Studies in Kenya have shown that two of these kits can provide the water needed to produce enough vegetables to feed a family of seven during the dry season.”

The following instructions for setting up a bucket garden in Africa, are from chapin living waters.

Location of Bucket

  • Make a stand with two posts and crossbar.
  • The bottom of the bucket must be at least 1m (3.3 feet) above the ground. Place crossbar higher if bucket is suspended.
  • Set up bucket at one end of the garden; if not level, place bucket at the high end.

source: bucket detail from chaplin living waters

Preparing Garden
Make raised beds of soil 1m (3.3 ft) wide, 15cm (6 in) high, and 15m (50 ft) long for 2 rows; 7.5m (25 ft) long for 4 rows; or 5m (16.5 ft) long for 6 rows. If the garden extends into the rainy season, raised beds allow for water runoff.
  • Dig a 30cm-deep (12 in) trench down the middle of the area where the bed will be.
  • Place organic matter (banana leaves, grass, maize stalks) in trench.
  • Cover organic matter with manure (80 liters (20 gal) per 15m (50 ft) row).
  • Pour several buckets of water (80 liters per 15m row) over manure.
  • Fill trench with soil and level off, making bed 15cm (6 in) high, straight, and flat.
  • Break up large clods of soil so that drip tape lies flat.
  • Proceed with setting up bucket drip system which should last 5-7 years, if taken care of.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve put together some photos to illustrate how bucket drip irrigation works.

source: chaplin living waters


source Kenya: green empire farms

source Kenya: green empire farms

Also, see Drip Bucket Irrigation for additional simple, inexpensive and innovative ideas for setting up a gravity drip irrigation system.