The web of life – land and water health taught at Montesino Ranch Open Gate
HMI Program Manager Peggy Cole filed this report on our most recent Open Gate Learning Day….
The October 25th Open Gate at Montesino Ranch was an amazing exploration of mutual aid among people, plants, soil and water systems. HMI Program Manager Peggy Cole welcomed the group and explained the various HMI programs in service to our mission to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future. Holistic Management Certified Educator, Peggy Sechrist facilitated the day and opened with a short talk about the role of Holistic Management in creating a well-functioning water cycle necessary for the resilience needed to withstand drought.
Betsy Ross was her always-dynamic self in teaching the microbial balance by having the participants play the roles of bacteria and fungi, reacting to management decisions by dying or thriving (dramatically!). The results on the remaining web of life were obvious – we need all in balance to create a resilient landscape.
Betsy joined ranch manager Pam Mitchell Gayler on a tour of the ranch, describing the role of the weeds relative to soil needs and the microbial balance, while Pam talked about the various enterprises at the Ranch. The market garden at the farm is operated by Sam Woodward. Peach and fig orchards and blackberries dot the 9-acre farm. Guest-stays in the studios and the event production add income, as does hunting and the grass-fed beef operation, all managed by Pam. Chickens, eggs, a kitchen garden and recreational hike and bike trails have been added primarily to enhance the guest experience of local, organic foods and clean country activity. Sheep and goats have been added to the beef operation as meat and as landscaping tools. Scenic but rustic buildings provide an atmosphere of functional beauty.
Tracy Litle showed a few slides of her Faith Hollow Ranch in south Texas, demonstrating the improvement over the past 3 years since she began her practice of Holistic Management. Livestock and compost tea have made great strides in turning her “Thorn Forest” into beautiful grassland.
After a delicious Thyme and Dough sandwich for lunch, we turned our attention to water. Lauri Celella used the rainfall simulator to emphasize the benefits of deep-rooted grasses in optimizing the water cycle. Biodiversity adds variety to the depth and place in the food web of the various root structures. Litter eases the raindrops’ fall and protects from evaporation.
The group of 70 participants walked down to the river for a lesson in assessing water health by identifying the macro invertebrates and their ability to live in polluted waters. Lindsay Sansom from Meadows Center for Water and the Environment helped us understand the food web in rivers and streams and let us go fishing for critters to identify (we found that the Blanco River hosts pollution-sensitive organisms, which means it is a clean environment).
NRCS plant specialist Ricky Linnex gave a short talk about riparian function and the best vegetation for stream bank stability. He answered questions about NRCS programs to aid in riparian management. Peggy Sechrist led a discussion about the take-aways from the day. Though it was hot and very sunny, most agreed it was a great day of learning and networking.
“Very positive. This is my second HMI event. I brought my brother and mother along to introduce them to these ideas which excite me.”
“I loved it! Very well put on.”
“I enjoyed being with land owners interested in a holistic approach to managing land.”
“It was very enjoyable and intensely educational. I began the day knowing close to nothing about land and resource management. I left with a lot of new and exciting info!”
“Great event for newbies.”
“Exciting, informative, great networking, good knowledge shared.”
“Great opportunity to learn and meet people interested in managing holistically.”
|Overall Satisfaction (Rated good to excellent)||98%|
|Would you recommend this event to others||100%|
|Expand your network today be meeting new people or learning about resources available to you?||98%|
|Intend to change management practices practices/apply ideas you've learned.||79%|
|Intend to pursue biological monitoring on you land.||80%|
|Understand the role of soil biology in the water cycle||89%|
|Understand how the use of grazing can influence soil health||89%|
|How to assess the water quality in streams||77%|
|Understand critical monitoring criteria to build biological wealth and mitigate drought||84%|
|Why riparian areas are managed differently than uplands||82%|