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This was made shortly after doing soil advocacy at Kiss the Ground. Inspired by the tenets of regenerative agriculture I set out to make a graphic of their famous adage "Its not the cow, its the how". Meaning, it is not cows which are bad for the environment and it is not cows which degenerate the earth's soils, but the way they are managed.
The design shows the convoluted path of the grass through the cows gut and how the dung ends up feeding the cow by stimulating grass to grow. It also shows a pattern of movement, and how the cows (or any other grazer) can only regenerate land if they keep moving.
If cows are left too long to graze in one spot they repeatedly browse from the same plant until it dies or experiences such a setback that it can't recover till the next grazing period. When the plant dies you have naked earth, the sun hits the ground and it heats up and the biology in the soil is killed as the soil is sterilized by the light and heat. Without soil life the soil compacts, losing its sponginess, and lack of retention of water and nutrients follows, with erosion,flooding, soil loss, fertility loss, and drying up of rivers.
If you have no grazers at all, however, grassland goes into atrophy, grasses cannot sprout under the weight of dead foliage. In drier zones nothing replenishes and feeds the soil life and it deteriorates.
But with properly managed cows, which are moved frequently and never kept too long in one place, even huge herds can regenerate the land. Their grazing and waste stimulate regrowth of the grasses, which can then reach maturity and seed before they are visited again. Their waste fertilizes the soil, and the strong root growth of the plants stimulates microbial life at significant depths, and the soil sponge becomes deeper and deeper every year, holding rain, keeping the land hydrated, avoiding flooding, causing rivers to run again and bringing on ecological abundance and diversity with the higher water and nutrient levels and resilient biology in the soil.
I could also reinterpret this regenerative agriculture design in the context of regenerative gardening. In the city we don't need a herd of cows in the garden, but we can try and imitate the benefits they bring for soil regeneration. "Its not the cow, its the how" now means not having the cow, how effectively do we replace the ways she drives regeneration.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or stories to share on gardening, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests, natural gardening, do nothing gardening, observations about pests and diseases, foraging, dealing with and using weeds constructively, composting and going offgrid.
Check out our selection of ecological designs printed on T-shirts, accessories and decor items. The designs are about soil regeneration, indigenous Cape wild flowers, wild African animals and other fauna, as well as bible quotes and geometric patterns.
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