Are we worried yet that a food system based on just-in-time delivery of out-sourced, nutrient-exhausted food products is a little precarious?  Food independence is just another way of saying that we’re using local sunlight to provide local nutrition.  Does the sun shine where you are — even sometimes?  Then you could — and should! — be raising your own food.

workshopIf ruminants are the first, best, and most efficient way of turning local, native and naturalized, diverse and perennial plant communities into food and fertility — and they are! — then we need to talk about fences.  Actually, we just need to talk about constraints, be they fences, guard animals (like sheep dogs), or just a piece of chain or rope.

Yes, really!  The simplest way to constrain a single ruminant is with a tether, and there’s no reason not to use one.  They’re cheap, they require no energy inputs, and they can go pretty much anywhere.  Park your cow/sheep/goat where you have forage, and you’re in business.  If you’ve got an area you want grazed, and it’s pretty flat and obstacle-free, a tether might be the perfect answer.

On a slope, however, a tether can become a choking issue — say your (by now much-loved and wholly-necessary) ruminant should lose her footing at the lowest reach of her tether, she could hang herself.  Perish the thought!  If your land tends to the vertical, we suggest you have  a look at some polytwine, a couple of reels (extension cord reels are cheap and they work just fine), and a fence charger (get a good one, NOT farm-store brand).  All this can be had for less than $350, sometimes a lot less.  If you want to extend your independence to the power company, consider getting a solar fence charger — we love ours.

And guard dogs?  Well, we are reading that some folks just lead their grazing animals to where they want them, then leave the Grand Pyrennees to keep an eye on them.  ‘Suggestion’ grazing, I think I’ve seen it called.   If your neighbors are 1) on board with this, and 2) have parked their vehicles during the quarantine, this might work for you.  Or maybe if you live in the Australian outback.  However you decide to constrain your ruminant, if food independence is your goal, get an animal out there harvesting your sunlight right away.