So my wife and I have bought a small chunk of land and we would like to plant walnut trees out in Zone 4, the lowest and farthest point from our house. We have sandy loam soil that perks great but for several days after large rain event water sits at the lowest points on the property.
I always see in the nursery catalogs "needs well drained soil" but what does that really mean? Can roots be wet during the dormant season? This is California, it's for sure going to be dry during the summer.
BTW. The plan is to over plant a bunch of native black walnuts and train them to have straight trunks with no knots...and then graft butter nut, heart nut and thin shelled European walnuts to the most vigorous specimens about 10-12' up so we have high value saw logs too. I just want to be sure this is a viable option at all.
The Power pallet from All Power Labs is unquestionably the best gasifier in its power range for the money. APL is really close to having the unit just be a plug and play appliance and they are still making improvements that can be added onto earlier models. They just lowered the price for the 20kw unit to about $25k. It will run continuously at 16kw for days at a time and the units can be grid tied or paralleled for larger industrial power needs.
That kind of investment pays back quickly if you are:
a. off setting 20-30 gal/day of diesel for a 20kw diesel generator
b. already buying power at peak hours
c. having shutdowns from an unreliable source of electricity
d. you're paying for the transport and disposal of a woody bi-product (nut processing plant, stone fruit cannery ect).
I'm originally from Berkeley and Oakland so I've got a little pride.
If you only need to run your water pump at 3 hp once a week or it's for home power outage the power pallet might be over kill
Charcoal Gasifiers are also very cool, look up the crossfire.
Rub a chunk of char between your fingers if it has been "cooked" long enough you should be able to wash your hands clean with just water. If there is a streak of black grease on your palm the char isn't ready for the soil.
Also to correct some of the numbers getting thrown around here...at 165 degrees you are starting to drive off water, you can't say all of the water is driven off until the internal temperature of the wood is at or above 212 degrees f.
You will start to see torefaction of wood at about 280 degrees f. You can think of torefaction as caramelizing the wood. The lowest temperature volatiles will start to gasify, the wood will be bone dry and the wood will start to become brittle.
Wood will combust at 435 degrees unless you control the amount of oxygen to prevent the off gasses from flashing.
The "best char" for use in soils is made between 450-550c or 842-1022f
Best is determined by fully driven off volatiles, cation exchange capacity and surface area of the internal pore structure.
You can make charcoal or carbon black...you can not make biochar. By definition biochar has to come from clean organic biomass, wood, nut shells, fruit pits, bamboo, arguably manures. The standards have been set by the international biochar initiative to prevent big moneyed interests to char all kinds of crap and sell it as biochar.
You can make carbon black, which is used in dies and as a filtration medium, from used tires (tires are loaded with carbon), but it will never be biochar.
The earthpit technique is basically a Kon Tiki in the ground. Do not confuse an earth pit biochar burn with old world covered and smouldering techniques to produce cooking fuel. It's a whole other technique. Observe your burn days...don't put beans in your ears ect.
The lowest tech way to do it would be to make sure the material was all good and dry. You might consider restacking the pile. You'll want the pile to be as tall and peaked as possible and at least 5-6' tall but bigger is better within reason.
You'll light the pile on fire and let it burn down to just charcoal and then quench the char with water and a rake. Light the fire at the very top of the pile and let it burn down towards the ground.
The heat will radiate downwards gasifying and igniting the wood below, but the smoke created has to pass through the flames fully combusting the gases and making an almost smoke free burn.
Avoid wood much larger than 4-5", or be ready to pull out the unburned stuff and add to your next pile.
You'll know to quench the burn when the flame turns from yellow to blue and you start to get a layer of white ash forming on the char.
The Kon Tiki cone kiln is also great tech, just do a google search.
So after ten years of slaving away building my business and after meeting a beautiful woman with a huge heart and enough patience to marry me, we are looking to buy a house with a little land in Sonoma County, CA. I am looking at two properties that each have their own benefits and drawbacks for planting fruit trees.
The first property is on sandy loam with very low water holding capacity. Soilweb says about 10 cms available water per meter. There is the potential to take storm water off of the highway into the area I'd want to do the food forest, but our rain is highly seasonal and recently very inconsitant. The land has been a horse corral for many years and the ground it rock hard at the moment.
The second property is Laguna bottom land. It has been used as cow pasture for decades and according to the Soilweb app, is very poorly drained but it has more water available. 85 cms available water per meter.
So two properties within 2 miles of each other with vastly different soil characteristics. Which would you choose and why?
I should add that I run a tree service so I have a virtually unlimited resource of chips and wood for mulch, hugulcultures, biochar ect.
I would love to use California Valley Oak as the long term native tree in the system with mulberry, chestnut, avocado and persimmon as food baring long term elements. Then putting in shorter lived smaller trees, shrubs ect.
You really don't want to use charcoal intended for cooking. The process for making the charcoal is different and there is a substancial difference in what you're getting.
Lump charcoal (I won't even get into briquettes) is loaded with tars and creosotes. This is where the smoky flavor comes from. Well made biochar has cooked all of those chemicals out.
When you make charcoal you are heating up organic woody material in a low oxygen environment, (there are thousands of different ways to do this). The low oxygen environment allows for processes that wouldn't happen with oxygen because the wood would simply burst into flame. So...you apply heat to wood with limited oxygen, the "volatile compounds" will "gassify" into flammable gases and liquids. While the stable portion, the carbon to carbon bonds that make up the structure of the wood will stay intact. This is the charcoal. Biochar is free of volatiles and will have no taste or smell and you can crush it between your fingers without any oily residue. Traditional lump charcoal allows the volatile compounds to redeposit into the pure carbon. Lump charcoal is often much denser than biochar because most of the pore spaces are full of those tars. Many of these volatiles are toxic and will negatively effect your plants.
Now that this is clear as mud...do a google search for a double barrel retort or the Kon Tiki kiln to learn how to make your own biochar.
If you need the space or want a project then stacking wood is fine, but it's really unnecessary. Stacked wood by it's nature has less void space and thus less air flow than a jumbled pile. Also, wood gets more expensive every time you handle it. Maybe you're cutting and splitting for yourself, but how much do you value your own time?
You can put a tarp or several pallets down, make a tall pile of your split wood, tarp when raining, uncover when it's sunny, wait for 18 months if you can.
If you're using large quantities of wood or selling, make your piles in wind rows at right angles to the prevailing wind. Evaporation is largely a function of air flow rather than heat.
If you are able to cut the trees and leave them in the woods for a month or two with the branches and leaves on the wood will dry out much faster. Trees have 150 million years of evolution giving them a very efficient mechanism for transpiring moisture, be permie and take advantage of natures plan. (Be careful if you're in areas with invasive pests. Pine beetles would love to come into your wood lot if you leave trees laying around in the wrong season)
Wood will only dry to the average ambient humidity. If you live under redwoods it doesn't matter how long you store your wood it will never dry to less than 30% moisture content.
Fresh green wood is 40-60% MC depending on the species and the season it was cut. 20% MC is considered seasoned, 15% MC can really be called dry, kiln dried wood gets down to 12% MC any less than than that and you're getting diminishing returns for the energy invested in the kiln. The wood will quickly absorb water from the air again anyways.
A moisture tester can be purchased for less than $20 and is a fun toy.
I think I'm going to propose a couple different methods. Along the swales, where we have a line of trees it makes sense to fence these areas off for a few years to let the trees get established. But we are also trying to establish an Oak Savanna with broad spacing over large areas. Individual trees will need to be caged. By my numbers it's almost $20 a cage for the materials, but if we spread the planting out over a decade, some of those cages can be reused.
I like the idea of using bone sauce or eggs or any of the follky methods for preventing browsing, but I wonder if the repeated applications make this less economic in the long term? I also question how effective they will be if 30 sheep are penned in with the young trees for 24-48 hours. It's not just the browsing, rubbing is a major concern as well.
Alder...true. Perhaps I should have been even more specific. Older oak trees and trees in general do not adjust as readily to change as younger trees. So young trees that were established in wetter environments may well thrive but older trees are set in there ways. Going from 300 years of seasonal drought to full summer irrigation has caused many of these great trees to rot from below ground and tip over. Sorry if I hijacked this thread with my oak agenda.
One thing to consider if you're going to be doing gardening or landscaping around California oaks is they do not do well with irrigation. Oaks like to have dry roots through the summer. During hot droughty conditions the occasional deep soaking is appreciated, but regular water, especially sprinklers, within the drip line of many California oaks will support rot decaying fungus and shorten the lifespan of the tree.
I'm working on my PDC design project. We want to establish many hundreds if not thousands of young trees across 55 acres of grazing land. The problem is...it's grazing land. I had originally thought that we could use heavy gauge welded wire and T-stakes as a physical barrier but the cost will soon become prohibitive and it wont be the most beautiful design with all of the wire cages everywhere. Anyone with real experience have any input?
We want to plant out Black Oak, Valley Oak, White Oak, Blue Oak, hazel nut, elderberry and black walnut trees. Some of these trees may take years to reach a point where they will be relatively safe from sheep browsing and rubbing.
I've never managed Black Locust as a coppice per say, but I've cut a handful of them in my years running a tree service.
They will always sprout like crazy, but they are often root suckers instead of stump or root crown suckers like you're going to want. Meaning, we've cut down one small tree which quickly sprouted a thicket through the whole yard. This is a tree that can take off on you, so make sure it's in a location where the trees can stay, black locust is really hard to get rid of once established.
If you are managing for short rotations you want as much of the growth as possible focused on the main trunk to minimize the labor involved in handling and processing. So thinning and pruning from a couple years to final harvest will be really helpful.
I personally wouldn't use black locust unless I had a goat to help with thinning the most stunted stems and to prune back the lower limbs.
Hey folks. I'm posting to a few big earth moving forums about using bulldozers for desert swaling.
I thought this might be of interest to you guys. I'll come back and share if I get any useful responses from actual bulldozer operators.
I am new to the board and new to heavy equipment.
I am a licensed contractor. I own and operate a tree service, climbing and taking down large hazard trees near houses. I use a compact track loader and small excavator for my work. I also design small industrial wood processing equipment. Although, at 35 years old I am looking for a less physical way to make a living.
I am very interested in broad acre restoration work and I would like to learn more about harnessing the power of large equipment to do earthworks for long term, large scale water retention in the landscape. One idea of particular interest to me is using a bulldozer in the desert to cut swales, exactly on contour, to intercept surface water flow and hold the water back from flooding so it can soak into the ground. (I know that big ag tractors now have satellite tech for plowing on contour to reduce erosion, so that tech should translate fairly easily.)
There are many examples of this work being done around the world including some projects done (by hand) in the Arizona desert by the CCC some 70 years ago that are still working well today.
Here is a small bulldozer being used for this purpose.
I would be interested in figuring out how to do this work in a single pass rather than going back and forth 3 or 4 times.
I'm hoping someone with some practical experience will indulge me in helping me to find the answers to a few questions. In turn, if anyone is interested in this stuff, I would be happy to share all of my resources to point you to more information as well.
1. A typical desert swale is usually built with an excavator measuring about 3' deep and about 10' to the back of the cut. The excavated earth is loosely piled on the down hill side. In desert systems the longer the swale the better, even running for miles and miles. What sized bulldozer would one need to cut a swale in one pass that is 3' deep and 10' to the back of the cut, in severely compacted desert soil conditions? D6? D9?
2. What speed could an appropriately sized bulldozer do this work? I imagine this number would be represented as a range.
3. Roughly, how much fuel per hour would be used?
Around the globe there are approx 2 Billion acres of degraded or desertified land. (lots of opportunity for improvement)
A mile of desert swale set at dead level (so the water doesn't flow but just soaks in) will intercept and soak in approx. 1.8 acre feet of water per rain event!!! Even in some of the harshest deserts in the world they will still get a small handful of rains in a year filling the swales several times.
In the right environment a dedicated bulldozer could cut swales for it's 20,000hr useful life. (bullshit numbers here) If the dozer could cut 1/4 mile an hour for 20,000 hrs that's 5,000 miles of swales. 5,000 miles of swale filling 3 times a year is approx. 27,000 acre feet per year times the number of years the swale is in service. Based on the evidence in Arizona that maybe well over 100 years.
1/4 mile/hr x 20,000hrs=5000miles
5000 miles x 1.8 acre feet/mile=9000 acre feet per rain event
9000 acre feet per rain event x 3 rain events per year=27,000 acre feet/year
27,000 acre/ft/yr x 100 years=2.7 million acre feet
Imagine that...one bulldozer and perhaps one operator, storing 2.7 million acre feet of water
I find that very exciting and I think it is perhaps the most potent use of our current technology to heal our planet.
I welcome all comments and questions...even those calling me a crazy dreamer.
I was camping at The lake skinner camp grounds for the permaculture voices conference in temecula. I'm trying to connect with a young dude I met. He travelled I think from Tennessee and was taking a grey hound to Texas right after the conference. If anyone even knows his name I can probably check in with Diego for his contact info. And if your reading this message I'm the one who let you log into your email with my phone. Thanks everyone for an epic conference.
It occurs to me that chestnut is an excellent source of both nuts and wood and I would think, provide the highest yield of both per acre if the site was appropriate.
There are excellent timber and nut varieties available if you live OUTSIDE of California which has me a bit bummed.
There has been extensive research and development done with crossing Chinese chestnut resistance to blight into American Chestnut. I believe they have back crossed the strains to 95% American Chestnut genetics and maintained the resistance.
I would love to experiment with an acre or two of chestnut. Even if you only used it for firewood and pig fodder the yield rates look incredible.
The maple and the hickory tree should be left uncut in my opinion. Cutting one may have a negative effect on the other if they have formed a relationship in the roots. The remaining tree will likely be bare and will look malformed on the side that had been shaded by the other tree. This would matter to me if the trees were located in zone 1 or where I would see them daily.
The white spruce trees are a different situation. When conifers grow they will often shed their lower branches and will decline in value as a visual barrier. In that case you may benefit from thinning the row for diameter growth and then plant another row of young trees about 20' in front to take over as a visual barrier.
Then again if you don't care about yield from your row of spruce trees and the trees are getting light from at least two sides you may not need to cut anything.
Are there any problems in New Zealand with native trees that hamper efforts to replant with commercial species. In California bay laurel, tan oak, madrone and a variety of other oaks will quickly occupy the site where conifers are desired.
With adequate pruning and thinning for desirable form these "weedy" trees can become an asset.
Can I assume that you are not interested in Radiata Pine? As I understand it, Radiata pine does extremely well in New Zealand climates with limited frost.
Douglas fir has a huge range in the US. I'm pretty sure it's range is second only to Ponderosa pine.
Douglas fir can be adapted to fairly dry sites in southern California, Arizona and northern Mexico but it can also grow to be one of the worlds largest trees in both height and volume in the wetter parts of it's northern range. A Douglas fir was cut in southern Oregon in the 1920's that was recorded to be over 400' long while laying on the ground.
In Sonoma county and other parts of northern California, Douglas fir is considered to be native invasive or a late successional species, meaning that without a disturbance like a fire, Douglas fir will eventually over shadow many of the other native species. In logged over redwood land, Douglas fir competes with redwood sprouts attempting to form a dominant canopy.
You will need to examine the historic and current composition of the stand of trees you wish to manage as well as your own goals. Douglas fir responds extremely well to thinning and will dramatically increase in diameter growth with thinning performed from the understory.
As a rule I never eliminate any particular species from a site, however young douglas fir should be managed. Prune off lower limbs for light to the forest floor for clear wood, control of ladder fuels and to reinvest that woody organic material back into the soil.
If you can provide pictures of the stand you want to manage I can offer more specific advice.
If you are going to manage a copse of black/honey locust you should start by taking the tree stump down to grade. In the video posted here the new shoot has a very poor attachment to the old stump. There is perhaps 8-12" of included bark between the new shoot and old stump. If the shoot was allowed to grow without being cut, it likely would break away from the stump before reaching maturity.
You can avoid the thorns grabbing you by pruning branches to above head level on stems selected for ongoing growth.
After a few years of sprout development, the funkiest, malformed, stunted sprouts should be thinned (perhaps stored or fed t livestock) and the most desirable sprouts should be pruned for form.
A pruned and copse can produce more wood per acre of straighter material, while letting more light into the understory and limiting ladder fuels where wild fire is an issue.
I love managing trees in this fashion. The work done in one morning can be felt for many years depending on the length of rotation used.
Gadgets are kinda fun if you have the time, money and space but if you are going to be out in the woods a regular round file and a little technique is all you need. I recommend using gloves to save knuckles. Remember you want a sharp point on the tip of the tooth and a smooth edge along the rest of the tooth. Avoid making a hooked tip that can fold over on the first use by pulling up slightly on the file. Only file in one direction, away from the point, or you will ruin your file and dull the tip.
You didn't say where you are located. I'm in Northern California where many of our oak forests are dieing from Sudden Oak Death (Phythoptera Ramorum). If that is the case you shouldn't count on that firewood being there in a couple years as it will be rapidly consumed by hypoxylon, oyster and turkeytail mushrooms.
Black walnut is likely a good tree species to plant for wildlife, firewood and in the long term a highly valuable timber species. White oak, Valley oak and white/valley hybrids are resistant to Sudden Oak Death and will maintain many of the species that would die out in the absence of native oaks.
I'm not entirely sure what your motivations are...firewood, canopy cover, biodiversity?