Image credit: Permaculture Magazine
As a kid growing up in England, I occasionally used to catch a glimpse of a show called "One Man and His Dog" on TV. It was, essentially, competition sheep herding. At the time it seemed like a rather quaint, even absurd, throw back to a bygone era. Now I am not so sure. At least one farmer is staking her hopes on a return of the sheep dog as oil gets more expensive and those quad bikes become less economical. And she makes the case for livestock farming in the process too. Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green, whose preparations for post-peak oil farming and experiments with DIY composting toilets I've covered before, are in the process of relearning the skills of previous generations.
Much like the young farmers rediscovering farming with horses, part of Hosking and Green's journey has seen them building closer working relationships with the animals on their farm. In a fascinating essay for Permaculture Magazine on her experiences of working with sheep dogs, Hoskings explains that the benefits are actually much greater than just fuel savings:
Being around working dogs, you really appreciate their abilities over any machine. A dog can smell out a sheep hidden in undergrowth, they can work across wet rough ground, they never compact soil, never get bogged down or leave tire tracks.
And while she acknowledges the simple efficiency logic of advocating for a plant based diet and eschewing animals all together, Hoskings notes that their farm is not particularly suited to vegetable growing, and that sheep have an almost "magical ability to harvest low-grade biomass and turn it into wool, milk, horn, hide, tallow, lanoline and mutton."
Head on over to Permaculture Magazine for the full joys of this latest installment in Hoskings' and Green's journey to post-peak oil farming.