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Looking for guidance

 
Posts: 3
Location: Pueblo West, Colorado
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Hello Permies! I have read these forums over the past and always dreamed of the things I would do if I ever got the chance. Well, life has happened to me quicker than expected and I will be moving into a new home at the beginning of the month.
My new property is in Pueblo West, Colorado. Zones 5B & 6A. Avg is 13" of rain & 25" of snow annually. This part of Colorado is a high plains desert and once I get this thing figured out I will be adding pictures of the layout.
My request today is for book or link recommendations that can teach me how to design the layout with the proper zones. And of course I would like to avoid as many beginner mistakes as possible.
I am a disabled veteran and will spend all of my free time over the next month gathering all of the info that I can so I can start this journey with a solid beginning. Going to the library later to look for permie books and will buy those I can't find there.
Thank you if you can offer any book titles, links, help or encouragement.
Best Wishes to everyone and their homes, wherever they may be.
-JJ
 
pollinator
Posts: 11799
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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One of the most important things I've learned about design (too late to save me from mistakes, unfortunately), is to design in this order:

1. Water
2. Access
3. Structures

Many or most of us pick where we want our house and then work around that, which is backwards.  Especially in a dry climate, the most important aspect is water.  The best resource I have found for water harvest design is  https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Brad Lancaster's rain harvesting book Volume 2 is the one to buy; Volume 1 is mostly theory.

This video by Geoff Lawton is also very helpful:  
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Welcome, Jj. I am glad to hear of your good fortune.

There is a booklist here of permaculture books and materials, some of which have been reviewed by the membership here. Part of the problem answering your question is that there is just so much out there. If you see it on the list, though, you know someone thinks something about it, and you can always ask further.

Mollison's Big Black Book, the original Permaculture: A Design Manual, is terrific, but a little dense. I love it, but I think that if you have more focused questions or concerns, or ideas, more focused publications might be a good idea.

Much of what determines what path is best for you depends on specifics about the site, and for what you want to do with it. If you are still at the stage where you are brainstorming, I strongly suggest that you look into and Greening the Desert projects and publications you can. Most of desert design, from what I have read, has to do with hydrology, and increasing water retention and the concentration of nutrients, and taking steps to decrease wind and sun dessication.

If you can tell us more about the land, about the soil, and the surroundings, there are many helpful and knowledgeable people on this site who love to brainstorm together to help others along. For every book you read, there's a good chance you'll talk to someone here about that book's hits and misses.

But let us know how you decide to proceed, and good luck.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Location: 4b
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I would second Tyler's recommendation.  I found those books to be really helpful.

The other recommendation I would make is to read everything you can here and elsewhere about building soil.  The better your soil, the more water you will hold in addition to any other steps you take.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3113
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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I would start off by saying that while it is good to gather information. Don't over complicate things, I have that problem at times and I have to take a step back. On a 1 acre lot, its so small that zones almost doesn't make sense. On 200 acres, then yes by all means have zones.

How much land are you working with?

If it was me I would start out with a vegetable and herb garden. With just 13inch of rain, it is going to need irrigation. I would also add a chicken coop and bee hive.

The next step would be water/earthworks. You are probably going to have to get a well and irrigate your food forest.
Swales on contour will capture water during rain events giving it time to soak into your land vs just sheeting away.
You might even be able to capture and soak in water that is entering property from uphill.

I would cover the swales with woodchips, this will cut down on evaporation and help establish a home for good microbes.
Woodchip isn't the only type of carbon you can add, so is cover crop/hay/bio-char/compost/etc

I would also add good microbes, compost, mushroom slury, compost tea, EM, etc.

You can probably see a trend here, the focus is on the soil and not the lustrous fruit and nut trees. I recommend reading RedHawk soil series right here on permies.com

Once the soil is taken care of, I would overplant the food forest with 80% nitrogen-fixers, and then cull them as the food forest matures so that there is enough space for the edible. I would still plan for at least 20% nitrogen fixers in the food forest at maturity. It would be nice to plant the fruits and nut trees right below the swales. Don't be afraid to make compost tea and spray the leaves of the plants in your food forest, it works wonders.

Again I am not too sure, how much land you are working with. But lets assume it is alot of land. I would make the garden section 1/2 acres, the animal section at 1/4 acres, and the food fores 1 to 2 acres. Next I would do silvo-pasture, with swales on contour. 20ft strips of trees with 90ft of pasture. these aren't hard numbers just rules of thumbs.

If you really wanted you could have a 1-4 acre to 1/2 acre fish pond right next to the food forest, but with your low rainfall I am not too sure about recommending that. Along with the swales you can build detension ponds to help water soak in, and you want the swales to overflow into a spillway to the next set of swales below it.  

If you dont plan on irrigating the land then I would use a silvo-pasture setup, that way the 90ft of 'pasture, can funnel its water to the 20ft of foodforest, Effectively tripling your effective rainfall, from 13inch to 39inch.
 
Jj Montoya
Posts: 3
Location: Pueblo West, Colorado
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Came to look at the post and had no idea there'd already be responses.
Thank y'all for being so welcoming and helpful. I really do appreciate it.
I will make a list of what's posted and I'm off to do some running around and collect some books.
And I'll figure out the picture process so I can add those later.
Hope everyone has the best day possible!
 
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Dolan Springs, AZ 86441
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Jj Montoya wrote:
Thank you if you can offer any book titles, links, help or encouragement.
Best Wishes to everyone and their homes, wherever they may be.
-JJ



Congrats on moving onto your own land!

In addition to the permie books, I'd recommend checking out Regenerative Agriculture on YouTube. I have posted extensive links in the Greening the Desert forum, but you could look up Gabe Brown on YouTube to get a quick start on these cutting edge methods. Also, anything from the Allen Savory Institute or books by Judith D. Schwartz (Water In Plain Sight) or Masanbu Fukuoda (Sowing Seeds In The Desert) will get you started.


The basic concept is that you don't need to plow or till to grow your garden. The idea is that nature has evolved a prairie ecosystem of deep-rooted grasses and forbs which work symbiotically with Mycorrhizal fungi and soil bacteria and other organisms to provide all the fertilizer and minerals needed. This is new information from the past 30 years of research. These methods actually increase the infiltration of precipitation into the soil where it becomes effective for supporting plant life.


Once you have established your diverse perennial pasture grasses, using livestock (anything from chickens and rabbits to beef cows), you can actually plant directly into the grasses when it is in it's dormant, or knocked down phase. Gabe plants a large number of cash crops (including corn, wheat, squash, beans, kale, etc.) and utilizes a mix of income streams to get profitable yields from the acreage that he farms.

Enjoy your retirement and your new adventures in Permaculture-based Regenerative Agriculture!
 
Mark Kissinger
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Dolan Springs, AZ 86441
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Jj Montoya wrote:
And I'll figure out the picture process so I can add those later.
Hope everyone has the best day possible!



To add pictures, you will need to go to the "Attachments" Tab below to upload the photos. They will upload when you hit the Submit button.
The view has West at the top, North to the right.
HermitCrabDRC_2018-12-30-Google-Maps.jpg
aerial view
A screenshot of my 3.66 acres in Northern Arizona on Google Maps Satellite view.
 
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