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Major earthworks starting -- central texas

 
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Turkeys like crawdads, minnows  and duckweed.  I put a water trough in my turkey area and added duckweed. They are eating it. The pond will end up a food source for them.

Found a split tree. When it goes it will take out my oldest planted pecan tree. I have to deal with this real soon. Its in a sheep paddock. I have been feeding sheep branches from these cedar elms everyday. I am trying to thin it out to get light in for grass. This one tree will open a big area for grass.
20190713_201826-756x1008.jpg
split tree needs attention
split tree needs attention
20190713_201951-1008x756.jpg
split tree to be taken down
split tree to be taken down
 
wayne fajkus
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The pond is shrinking in this heat. Until some time passes, its hard to tell what the normal "full line" will be. Not a big deal except for the plantings i did. Everything planted within a foot of the edge (in the water) is now not in the water.  Lily pads are looking bad, everything else (duck potato, water cress, water weed) seems to be doing ok to great.

I may pull the pads and replant a foot into the new water line.

I am also dabbling with crawdads. I started a new thread on that topic here:

https://permies.com/t/117714/Info-raising-crawdads#958715

I found my first crawdad hole.  I threw rice into the water to see if it will grow. It might be too late for rice seed heads, but in crawdad operations the rice stubble left behind after harvest feeds the crawdads. I used grocery store brown rice.
 
wayne fajkus
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A lot of dragin flies at the pond. They tend to hover above the water weed
20190721_144705-756x1008.jpg
damsel flies
damsel flies
 
wayne fajkus
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I collected seed heads from my annual garden. I spread them on the hugel. Mostly carrots, fennel, and a little lettuce. When i collect cherry tomatos later i will throw plenty of those on there as well. The split ones and the ones that fell on ground(rollie pollies half eat the ones on the ground)

Here is a close up and full view of the hugel.
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fennel and carrot seeds
fennel and carrot seeds
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hugelculture garden
hugelculture garden
20190725_103454-1008x756.jpg
hugel garden
hugel garden
 
wayne fajkus
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No rain in july and high temps. Pond is down. Zach said to expect fluctuations. It will fall faster than a typical sealed pond that loses only through evaporation. We are hydrating caverns underground. In one of Geoff Lawtons recent you tubes he quoted Bill Mollison as saying it takes (7 years? Or 3?, dont remember) to fully hydrate the ground after earthworks. So we have a little wait but i feel we are doing the greater good. Things like watering 1 or 2 year old trees might go away if planted in the correct spots, which is very intensive work outside the reach of a water hose

The crawdads will be viable during this hydration phase. They live in these conditions, burrowing into holes for several months when the water drops.

With the water lower, i can plant more lilly pads in the current waters edge. The ones i planted earlier are hi and dry and probably dead. The edge plants that Ludens sent me are doing good. The duck potatos and iris in particular. Duckweed, i put in 4 5 gallon buckets to keep multiplying. The turkeys are enjoying them.  I probably said this earlier,  but the duck weed is becoming a huge asset as a food source for them. They pick it out of the water trough. I am trying to feed them and multiply at the same time. Dry weight is supposedly 20 to 40% protien. Something young turkeys need.
20190730_174653-1008x756.jpg
pond down
pond down
 
wayne fajkus
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You can see the fish habitat that Zach put in. It's a concrete culvert i had on hand. It's 24" diameter. He chained the stumps of the trees he removed to the culvert. One of these stumps is what a scorpion and black widow floated out of while they were in the water positioning it.
stump-for-fish-habitat.jpg
stump for fish habitat
stump for fish habitat
 
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wayne fajkus wrote:The crawdads will be viable during this hydration phase. They live in these conditions, burrowing into holes for several months when the water drops.



Won't crawdads puncture the clay bottom? Ranchers in this area dig a lot of cattle tanks/ponds in high-clay areas (usually no cement or plastic or rubber liner -- no one spends money on anything like that around here), and one year my partner asked some about introducing crawdads to one, for the good eatin'. They very sternly informed him of how fast crawdads would puncture the clay seal of a well-established tank and drain it. (Almost all the tanks in our area go dry by right before the monsoon starts, but a particularly good, well-established, big tank will collect and hold enough that it may have water in late June when none of the others do.)
 
wayne fajkus
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My pond is not a sealed pond.  It is meant to infiltrate water into the ground. Once the groundwater is charged i will have this big green zone of water around and above the pond from the hydration it creates. As it evaporates away, there will be a reserve of this groundwater to replenish it. Where a typical sealed pond loses an inch to evaporation,  I may lose half that. Technically i lost it, but the underground water i capture is there to replace it.

I can make the pond longer or wider with no concerns about a clay layer seal. The only concern would be the depth. There is a natural dry clay layer under the water seam below grade. I don't want to punch through that.
 
wayne fajkus
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I had a bad realization today. The large green plants on my hugel, which i thought were sunflowers, are cocklebur plants. That's a dissappointment. A lot of sunflower seeds were scattered on it.

Poisonous to horses, cows, etc. Although they won't eat it so no real harm. So i am out cutting them down. It will be largely bare when i am done. Fall seeding should start in early september. I am looking forward to that.

Oh, they are huge. Some are as big as 2" diameter or more at the base. I started with a foken hoe which is too much for it. A skinny bladed machete would do good but can't find it. My thick bladed machete is just bouncing off. Came in to cool down and grab my cordless chainsaw.  Crossing fingers....
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cocklebur plants
cocklebur plants
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hugel garden
hugel garden
20190809_192404-756x1008.jpg
cocklebur plants
cocklebur plants
 
wayne fajkus
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Before and after. Ugggh. So sad looking now:
20190810_105708-1008x756.jpg
hugelculture bed
hugelculture bed
20190810_121507-1008x756.jpg
hugel bed after weeding
hugel bed after weeding
 
wayne fajkus
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Here is a pic with a single plant i pulled, using chainsaw for size reference.  I would guess 6ft diameter and 3ft tall. Lets just say if there was a category for best cockle bur plant at the county fair,  you are looking and the grand champion!
20190810_121326-1008x756.jpg
giant cocklebur plant
giant cocklebur plant
 
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You are the cockle burr King, Wayne, no dispute there!  On the bright side, there are a lot of roots under ground supporting plants of that size, which will add fertility to your soil when you cut the stems at the base.
 
Beth Wilder
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I'm so sorry! Something similar happened to me when I (twice) seeded a big field at my mom's place with clover to cover the ground and keep weeds from taking over. I didn't have and didn't want to use overhead irrigation, so I laid down drip tape throughout the field and installed an irrigation timer on that spigot. Occasionally there were little flushes of clover, but by the end of the summer the entire field was cockleburs, tumbleweeds, and a number of other prickly plants that we had no desire to encourage (except for the lowest corner, where I'd tried some waffle beds and three sisters, and that all did great). I wrestled all that drip tape out of the humongous prickles and we all (but mostly my poor mother -- I had moved six hours away by this point and could only come back to help so often) took turns with various manual means of weed-pulling until eventually my mom had to rent a brush hog and clear the whole darned field. So disappointing, depressing, and a lot of hot sweaty work! I am really feeling for you. I hope it goes better now!
 
wayne fajkus
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Yes. Plenty of chop and drop.  I have to admit, they did a lot of shading on the hugel. Something needed this time of year. But, wow, that would have been 1,000's of seeds. As it is, i saw plenty of the burrs dried and sitting on the ground. This will not be my only battle with them.

I need to research the why. If the seed is that big cocklebur then no way i planted them. If that big cocklebur opens and is full of seeds, it is possible they were mixed into a seed mix. They were so evenly spaced that i think they were in a seed mix.

I have done plenty of dirt moving. I know what weeds come up from the disturbance. I have never seen this in this kind of qty before.
 
Beth Wilder
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I think those burs burst and release a LOT of seed. My mom tried burning a bunch because she wanted to make sure to get rid of them, and they popped in the fire and sent little tiny seeds everywhere (around the firepit in the backyard, where they hadn't grown before). So don't burn them! I might try black contractor bags and letting them bake in the sun long enough so everything is totally dead, including those seeds. But anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if just the seeds from one or two burs would be enough to cover your hugel. I'm mentally swearing at them in full color right now.

ETA: Try covering those mounds in squash seeds and see if they can fill the same niche, shading the surface with their big leaves? One store-bought winter squash might yield enough seed.
 
wayne fajkus
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I let the cows on the space a week ago. I had a lot of sorghum with seed heads. They ate most of the sorghum to about half its original height.

It rained yesterday. Ground is wet. This is my signal to seed. I have a mix of seeds, some of which were bought in may but instructions said to plant in the fall.

Native wildflower mix
Native slope mix
Native shady grass mix
Deer food plot mix (wheat,oats,clover, pea)

I am broadcasting the seed onto the wet ground. This generally works well for me. I have much more luck with winter grasses than spring seeding.

I also planted 4 pecan trees on the terrace slope. Its something zach suggested but had to wait for the proper time to do it. He suggested 2 smaller trees planted between each pair of pecans. Some of those had already been planted.


 
wayne fajkus
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Grasses have filled in nicely accept for the pathways that the excavator took during the month it was here. My cuurent plan is to remedy it. I am working the bottom of the terrace.

I seeded with peas and clover. Ran over that with a tiller on tractor (use what i got) to bury it. I'll add other seed, broadcasted on top. Wheat, barley, clover, brassicas. Over that i will spread spent hay i pulled out of cow corral. In the pic you can see the piles of hay being staged.

20190927_104630-756x1008.jpg
tractor prepped planting bed
tractor prepped planting bed
 
wayne fajkus
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This pic shows some of the pecan trees i planted a couple weeks ago on the terrace. I spaced them about 60 ft apart. 2 smaller trees will be planted between each pair of pecans. Pecan is the base tree for this strip. My thought is that peaches will go through their whole life cycle before the pecan can shade it out. So i can get production from peaches while pecan is growing. When pecans are producing, peach trees will be dead.




20190927_124717-756x1008.jpg
pecan seedlings planted
pecan seedlings planted
 
wayne fajkus
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I had my vision for the terrace. The slopes are great for trees,  where it flattens at bottom has decent topsoil. Above the terrace is little topsoil.

Pic tries to visualize it. Take the pic and stretch it 100 yards. Top of terrace will be deer height fencing. Bottom row of fence is gonna be arbors mixed into the length. The arbors can grow grapes, kiwi, vining annuals, or use it for perrenials(blackberry, asparagus, goji berry). I will most likely alternate (kiwi, blackberry, grape, asparagus, kiwi, goji).

Doing the arbor will break the area into 2 spaces, keeping the cows out of my new trees. Once both fences are up (arbor and uphill deer fence, the deer are out of both the trees and the arbor area.

Its easier to protect from deer than cows. Deer can have a ring made of remesh or a cattle panel just set on the ground. With a cow, 4 tposts are needed because they will push on the ring.

While this fence seems huge, think of all the individual tree rings needed to protect all the trees.

Not sure the timeline, but getting the arbor fence built to cow strength is the most immediate goal.
20191010_113204-756x1008.jpg
terrace plan sketch
terrace plan sketch
 
wayne fajkus
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Starting on the bottom fence/arbor. Drilling holes with the skidsteer....

20191012_132334-756x1008.jpg
hole drilling to plant trees
hole drilling to plant trees
 
wayne fajkus
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We got 29 posts set today. The flat area to left of posts is where I can do some deer/cow proof gardening,  which is exciting.
20191012_181312-756x1008.jpg
fence polls set
fence polls set
 
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Nice! I really enjoyed reading through all your posts Wayne! Really great project! Life with a new baby I had missed this whole thread. Glad to have found it now. Thanks for sharing!
 
wayne fajkus
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The land contour on the terrace shows better from the bottom looking up.

Posts are set around the terrace. You can see the flat area on left. As stated previously, the plan is for the posts to have 4ft of fencing then turn into an arbor at 6-7' height. Think of a tee shaped clothesline pole. I planted wheat, oat, brassicas, pea mixture on the flat area. Its coming up but we are trampling it while building the fence.

Left flat will be vines, annuals, and perrenials (kiwi, grapes, blackberry, asparagus,  goji berry). First slope up is trees with pecan being the base tree. I am flinging out herb seeds and an occasional potted herb on this slope also. Smaller fruits will fill in gaps (peach, plum)


I am unsure what to do above the terrace in fenced area. Not much topsoil there.  Jujube tree, mustang grape, and lavendar would do well there. Lavendar could go outside the fence.
20191102_113403-1008x756.jpg
terace shaped
terace shaped
 
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Thank you for posting all of this! I'm hoping to move to Central Texas within the next 6 months, and all of this is very inspiring and useful for me. I won't have the funds to do these kinds of earthworks, but this all gives me a lot of food for thought about what I can do there.
 
wayne fajkus
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Nick is welding the fence. I jumped ahead on a trouble spot. I put a culvert where the terrace will flow through the fence. On the downhill side i used the leftover stale concrete bags as a bulkhead. I ran a plow that the water will follow from culvert to sediment pond. Once the water wallows it out i may add rocks to it. On the entry side i used scavenged rocks for the bulkhead.

The culvert is set so that a vehicle can get to the terrace or the flat growing area. There will be a gate on that end.
20191109_115706-756x1008.jpg
culvert set
culvert set
20191109_115742-756x1008.jpg
culvert being set
culvert being set
20191109_123902-756x1008.jpg
culvert drainage
culvert drainage
20191109_123835-756x1008.jpg
culvert finished
culvert finished
 
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Love the concrete bags! Figs are a good option in the unprotected area. Also maybe Che berry. Nothing seems to enjoy them.
 
wayne fajkus
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Figs seem ok once established. 1 gallon pot sized figs got eaten. I guess enough deer took a bite before realizing they don't like it. I think my attempt failed so far to propagate them. I will keep trying.

I did plant 3 lavendars. Its a great time to plant but the trampling from the fence assembly makes it a bad idea right now.

I ran a hose to test the culvert. Everything is flowing as expected.
20191109_134850-756x1008.jpg
culvert drainage tested
culvert drainage tested
20191109_140006-756x1008.jpg
drainage tested with hose
drainage tested with hose
 
wayne fajkus
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Gate is hung. About 80ft of fence has the stock panels and horizontal pipes welded on.  There's about 700 ft of fencing involved in closing off the terrace.
20191110_165116-1008x756.jpg
gate hung
gate hung
 
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Nice construction!
 
Tj Jefferson
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What are you using for your laser level in the first picture? Is that an optical unit? I was looking for a laser but haven’t seen one I like at a reasonable price. Ended up using the level on the dozer for my project. Speaking of I should take some pictures and show what I’m up to
 
wayne fajkus
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Tj, i am not sure which pic you are referring too. If it is the most recent pic, those are Jack stands. Very handy. They hold the pipe for cutting/notching.
 
wayne fajkus
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Sun was effecting pic quality.  Here is a better pic from this morning
20191111_094816-1008x756.jpg
new welded fence
new welded fence
 
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I’m really enjoying following along with your project Wayne! I’m sure you must have mentioned already but I couldn’t see it as I skimmed back through, roughly how large of an area are you working on?
 
wayne fajkus
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My total acreage is 16. The terrace area that I am fencing is 300ft x 50ft (approx). When done i should have 4 ponds (excluding the sediment ponds that connect to each pond) and probably 10 paddocks (6 sizeable and 4 that you can toss a rock across). My perimeter fencing is cow proof but not sheep proof. These new fences will hold in either. As of now i have not been able to run sheep thru the cow paddocks. This should help with weed control (what cows consider as weeds, lol)
 
wayne fajkus
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Phase 1 of fence is done. This keeps the cattle out of terrace area. Still need the height for arbor and box in the terrace, both of which will keep deer out. At this point i can plant trees and perennials with a little deer protection. No leafs this time of year so 3-4 sticks drove into the ground around base of tree should suffice to keep them from scraping the trunk.
20191203_093835-1008x756.jpg
cattle fence
cattle fence
20191203_093741-1008x756.jpg
cattle fence
cattle fence
 
Tyler Ludens
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Very nice fence!
 
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Wayne, thank you so much for posting your site build for us all....fantastic and inspiring!
 
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wayne fajkus wrote:Day 2 has been the most interesting(and educational) day so far. If anyone wants to guess, which pile of dirt is clay? 1,2, or 3?



I'm guessing number 1 is clay? If that's correct, what are 2 and 3?
 
wayne fajkus
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Thats what i would have guessed also. 3 is the topsoil. 2 is the clay (kind of a rusty undertone to it). Zach said that once you identify the clay layer, you can find it by using the color. Colors vary by region. I think red and blue were mentioned in other projects of his.

I think 1 was referred to as a sand layer. That term may be different than what common folk refer to as sand. It looks like(and might be) limestone. Small rocks mixed with limestone powder. I think he said it was mineral rich and could be added into planting beds.

 
Steve Thorn
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That's really neat, thanks Wayne!

Was it sorted into different piles using just the excavator, or was water used or another method also?
 
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