Friday, December 20, 2013

Be present this Christmas

I haven't blogged recently because I've been really down of late. The calm I brought back from Bali has definitely left and the only saving grace is my Christmas holidays start at 4pm today.

It is tough being an emotional species, all around me are people who are excited, stressed or depressed and Christmas seems to be a catalyst for emotional extremes: the highest highs and the lowest lows.

This year I'll be having Christmas at my parents house, for what will most likely be my dad's last Christmas. His myeloma seems to be progressing faster than originally expected so the pressure is on to make this a 'happy family' Christmas for everyone to remember, and there is nothing like emotional pressure to add to the festive season!

This week I have also forcibly changed my sleeping pattern from late-to-bed-late-to-rise to an early-to-bed-early-to-rise pattern by going to bed an hour earlier than usual and getting up nearly two hours earlier in the morning. The reason I'm doing this is our summer has already started with a heat-wave and I've found it WAY too hot in the evenings after work to go running. 

Now I'm awake at 5am and have an hour and a half of cool air to exercise in before the temperature starts to soar (that's the plan anyway, so far I have only managed to walk my dogs that early). But I've only had about 5 hours sleep each night as it takes me hours to fall asleep when I go to bed earlier, until the exhaustion kicks in that is. Last night was the first night I fell asleep within an hour so at least my body is figuring out what I'm doing. 

So with the end of the year in sight it's a natural time to reflect on the year that has past and look forward to the next year coming. Having said that, after a little reflection I need to bring myself back to the now, lest I lose myself in fantasies and nightmares. The calm that returns when I'm consciously in the present is fleeting, but with practice will become less so.

That is my plan for Christmas, to be present, as much as possible.
Have a Happy Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Allan Savory and The Kimberley Project

Mike and I would like to contact Australian Aboriginal cattle ranchers in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to see if anyone is interested in trying Allan Savory's method of cattle management. Do you know any? :-)

If you haven't heard of Allan Savory before, he has done a famous and controversial TED Talk on an alternative method of cattle farming, called holistic management. His method has three basic points:
  1. Put a herd of cattle in a small paddock (about a quarter of the size of the usual paddock OR four times the herd size in the usual paddock). This 'crowding' causes the animals to replicate herding behaviour; in nature, a group of animals will herd together tightly to protect themselves from predators. Cattle in Australia are not generally predated, but you can condense the animals together to replicate this natural phenomenon. 
  2. The herd are grazed over grassland in the paddock for a short period of time (up to a few days, depending on herd size and food available). Over that time the grasses are eaten and trampled and the ground is covered in urine and faeces. As soon as the paddock is eaten and 'fertilised' then the herd is moved on to the next paddock. 
  3. The grazed pasture has now been naturally turned and fertilised, and is left to re-grow the grassland. The herd rotation continues over an area large enough so that the first paddock is not revisited until the grass is at the optimum level to be grazed again.
This methodology has been tried and tested in various countries in Africa, in the U.S. and in Australia over the past 20 years, and there seems to be very good evidence that the land under this management scheme has healthier soil and plant life as well as increased biodiversity.

What I haven't been able to find is any detailed studies or research that proves that the benefits outweigh any deficits. Critics of Savory's method claim that increasing cattle stock does more damage than good by increasing methane gasses released by the herd and by causing ground compaction. I can imagine ground compaction being an issue where the soils have high levels of clay, but in the sandy soils of Western Australia this would not be an issue.

In fact, I think the sandy-soiled grasslands of the Kimberley region would be perfect for Allan Savory's holistic management, and that the aboriginal owners of the land are best placed to profit from these methods. Since the cattle need to be regularly moved over a large area of land then ideally a mob including men, women and children could move with the stock, keeping aboriginal cultural practices alive at the same time.

I would love to discuss this further with the aboriginal pastoralists of the Kimberley region but haven't found a direct way to contact them. I will keep trying and report back how I go.