Saturday, July 17, 2010
Mongolian Permaculture: Day 18 - Forest Field Trip
Grey and threatening rain again this morning. Washing is still soggy on the fence. Early start to pile into the back of a truck and head up to the surrounding hills 8km away for a lesson in the conifer forest.
What forest we have seen in our travels through Mongolia have been pretty sparse, clinging tenaciously to the steeper erosion gullys where the herds cannot easily graze. Many forest hills we passed had a distinct lack of seedlings and saplings, a sure sign of a forest in decline.
At one time, the conifer forests would have covered these hills all the way down to the river flats. The sheep and goats would have grazed the rocky hills, where they could lead from foothold to foothold, while the horses would have grazed the flats and retreated to the edge of the forest for safety. The larger grazers, yak and cattle, would
This is a landscape that has been shaped by man and animal over thousands of years, nomadic herds gradually nibbling away at the forest edges until the trees retreated to where they are today, their hooves wandering the pastures while their droppings maintain enough fertility for the grasses to recover.
Driving through the landscape today, it often feels like a giant golfcourse whizzed by outside our window, complete with massive sand bunkers and epic water hazards.
The pastures cling tightly to the sandy soils, and as we move up into the hills we can see just how precarious their grip on the landscape is... erosion gulllies twist and wind their way down to the river flats, cutting wide sandy banks that look like beach sand dunes.
Anywhere the grass species loses its grip on the land, it is likely to be washed away with the next heavy rain.
Light day today; ADRA does not conduct official training on Saturdays, so the field trip is more of a bonding exercise and informal lesson than an intensive field day. It will serve as a vaulable reference point and teaching tool for tree-cropping, grafting and food forests tomorrow.