Natural Farming by Pat Coleby – Review

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Pat Coleby’s Natural Farming is about understanding the fundamental tenets of soil, pasture and animal husbandry and how to use this understanding to bring about balance and health in all things.

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It is about her understandng of the whole environment – a wondeful transferance of a lifetime of observation and tested wisdom. The context of Australian soils, pastures and climate is also so very useful to the new landowner as it addresses common problems which you do not have to go far in the paddock to see.

The key facets involve the importance of mineralisation or re-mineralisation in the context of regenerating landscape. Pat conveys a real intuition based on simple logical reasoning. For example, if you don’t have calcium in the soil, you don’t have it in your grass, you don’t have it in your stock and you don’t have it in you. And, in each step in this chain, there are prevalent signs of this mineral deficiency in terms of both preferred species and disease. Not difficult logic to understand, often overlooked wood through the trees.

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And her response to nearly all problems – get a soil analysis, find out what you are missing, fix it by applying the needed applications, aerate your soils and watch them improve. In a few years time, do the same thing again. Stable mineralised soils full of activated soil flora and fauna is the goal. Just about everything else will look after itself is the message. What an intrguingly simple, bottom-up approach was my overall impression.

Getting to the pros and cons of the text;

The Pros

1. Shows you the importance of minerals and vitamins in your soil and the effect of not having enough of these. It also shows you what role each mineral plays in stock and soil health.

2. Teaches you how to use and read a soil analysis in a really accesible way to the non-scientist. This can not be overrated as it not as simple a step as one would think to draw the connection between a mineral deficiency in a soil analysis and problem in the paddock.

3. Provides practical remedies for diseases and pasture regeneration techniques – proper on-the-ground solutions and not just problems

The Cons

1. The evidence is often anecdotal. It does make intuitive sense and I personally “believe” her, but it grates sometimes how forthright she is on a method because she saw something potentially related happen in her travels once.

2.There is a healthy amount of repetition in this book, she is trying to convey a message but it is longer than it needs to be

This is a book you will read and you will pick up again and re-read. Put it in the bookcase close to hand or better yet, go and get a soil analysis and read it against the explanation in Natural Farming. It won’t dissapoint and I can personally say I look at the paddock differently now to before I read this book. I suppose in summary you could say that it explains in a homely wisdomish sort of way the connections between a lot of clearly connected things (soil, grass, trees, climate, minerals). These things are clearly connected but the explanation of the connection in a real, tangible sense is FAR from clear and that is the triumph of Natural Farming in my humble opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

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