Sustainability is very important for us. We are certain that this is the best and should be the only way to go to keep Mother Earth in balance. In a way, it means, that you never take more than you (can) give back. Sustainability is maintained through biodiversity. Biodiversity means the variety of all living things making up our environment, including the soil, which is the basis for life and health.
Under our feet are more living organisms by number and weight than we can see above the surface! Despite all our curiosity and knowledge about space and physics, we don’t even know 50% of these critters and even less about their functions.
We know for sure that healthy plants can only grow in a balanced soil environment.
Balance is also the key for biodiversity. Ideally we like to see 50 % utilized, leaving the other half for nature to create the necessary balance. A network of large shelterbelts and forested land frame the pastures and hay lands on Big Bear Ranch.
They provide habitat for birds and other wildlife but are equally important for beneficial insects and spiders (e.g. Yellowjackets are excellent predators of flies, bringing in over 225 flies/hour to a single nest!). There is a lot of research available about the benefits of shelterbelts regarding wind break, temperature, moisture and plant growth, however few have looked into the advantages of supplying fields with beneficial microbes and fungi out of this undisturbed, uncompacted, shaded and moist soil! We do not know for sure how far these benefits reach, but educated guesses are around 100 meters.
The area covered mostly by woody plants is roughly the same size as the forage areas. By grazing lightly in the forest, we are able to rest some of our fields for a full season. This is beneficial for the soil and as habitat. The standing forage can provide late winter grazing and the carbonaceous material is integrated with the soil by hoof action. This creates humus to feed the soil food web, which in turn makes nutrients and trace minerals available to our forage.
The following enumeration is just an overview about the actions we implemented so far, but we are always getting new ideas and trying them as soon as possible
- areas for wildlife and as habitat
- wetlands and riparian zones
- nesting sites for ground nesting birds through grazing control
- wildlife corridors
- wildlife trees
- wildlife friendly fences
- fields rested for one season
- woody debris as protective ground cover (instead of burning)
- predator balance by using guardian dogs
- livestock watering systems to conserve water for wildlife
- bird boxes