Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeClimate and GrazingBetter Soils, Better Grazing, Better Climate (and Toads!!!)

Better Soils, Better Grazing, Better Climate (and Toads!!!)

This past Saturday I got to see the impact of improving soil health in our yard: Toads!! Drawn out of the ground by the sound of thunder and rain (we got 2 inches in just 50 minutes), they hopped around the yard. Our neighbor stopped by to visit and said, “Oh, you’re so lucky! You have toads! I’ve never seen ones this big before.”

I think that our hard work had more to do with it than luck. For the past ten years, we’ve been working on improving the desert soil on our acre. We started by spreading a 1/4 inch layer of compost and covered it with gravel. Our goal was to cover the soil, and based on research that shows compost increases carbon in the soil, we hoped to build healthier soil as well. To hold it in place we spread pea gravel to mimic the natural desert landscape. Then, my husband studied the lay of the land and built swales and water catchments to move water through the landscape in a way that would minimize erosion and increase water holding for plants that needed it.

We started with a barren half-acre and focused on soil health. Today our backyard is covered with native vegetation. We have hawks that sit in our larger trees to hunt the round tailed ground squirrels and rabbits who live in our yard. A curve billed thrasher couple has fledged two sets of babies from a cactus nest and is going for a third. All that and the toads are Nature’s way of saying, “Well done!”

Here’s 24 seconds of the toad in our fountain saying “Well done!”

What does this have to do with On Pasture?

If I can have this kind of impact on my acre, just imagine how much greater your impact can be! This week’s collection focuses on articles I based my soil health management on to help you in your work. This is a “deep” topic (no pun intended) and you’ll find plenty of links in each of these articles to explore further.

Keep the Soil Covered

I ran a five-part series on soil health principles. This is Part 3 where Buz Kloot discusses the importance of cover to soil health.

Soil Health Principles Part 3 – Keep the Soil Covered

Here’s How One Grazier Does It

James Matthew Craighead has some pointers on how to graze to meet the five principles of soil health. You’ll see quite a bit here about keeping the soil covered.

The Four Principles of Soil Health Applied to Forages

Why Compost?

Research shows that not only does compost have the capacity to double forage production, it also dramatically increases carbon sequestration in the soil. Based on my reading of the research, I decided to try it on our acre and it had just the results that research demonstrated elsewhere.

For More Forage, Improved Soil and a Better Future Just Spread Compost

Compost application is also eligible for Technical and Financial Assistance via Conservation Practice Standard 336. You can read more about that here.

How to Spread Compost as a Climate Change Solution in Your Community

Finally, here’s my best advice on how to work toward healthier soils.

Five + Five Things You Can Do For Healthy Soils

And of course, the funnies!

On Pasture Will Have You Singing All Day Long


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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. Hi Kathy.

    Many, many years ago I had a conversation with an older, very traditional ranching neighbor. He was mostly complaining about his pastures, his hay, his weeds. Eventually, he told me what he really thought:

    “Well, I guess you’re just lucky enough to have really good grass.”

    I’ve thought of this often as I look at our admittedly beautiful pastures. And now, I will think about your toads and how lucky you are to have them.

    Keep up the good work.

    John Marble

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