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Dry land, growing zone 7b/8, Mariposa California-- pictures in post  RSS feed

 
Steven Smallwood
Posts: 12
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This is my second time posting. Last time, I was not on the property I would be working with. Now, I am here for the summer, then leaving for a short break in August, and then coming back to live here.
I have taken pictures of the property to give a sense of what I have to this forum. I would love to hear suggestions after you read what I briefly have to say.

What is here:
1. A large pond with catfish, bullfrogs, and tons of weeds.
2. An active spring, possibly two active springs.
3. Huge boulders, the size of cars.
4. Sweet potatoes by the truckload, 10 dollars for a massive pile.
5. Dry, sandy, hard dirt.
6. 3 female donkeys with their babies, two of them male and one female.
7. Mulch or compost at $5 a yard. Takes about 30 minutes to drive to get it, an hour total, so the cost is kind of high considering gas.
8. 7 acres total of land.
9. A small bobcat machine.
10. A composting barrel.
11. Some wood, not a lot of wood.
12. General tools for most tasks.
The property is intensely grazed by donkeys on one end, the biggest end. I released the donkeys to the other end yesterday to stay there for a while. It's so dry here, so my grandpa has the donkeys living here to eat everything and prevent wildfire from coming on to this property.

Questions:
1. I have lots of sweet potatoes. I got one truckload for the donkeys to eat and another that I was thinking of composting. My friend told my I should compost it in place, just laying it flat and mulching over the top. Should I put these on top of hugelkulturs or inside?
2. What is the best use for sweet potatoes that you can think of?
3. The soil here is sandy and dry and hard. When I build a hugelkultur, can I use this soil as it is? Gather wood, pile it up, and put the soil into/onto it?
4. My grandpa made a garden patch. It's irrigates with hoses and labor intensive, and it's not doing well. What should I do with it?
5. There are HORDES of groundhogs and squirrels here. I am thinking once the property is holding water and abundant with vegetation, there will be plenty of food to share, and other species will control them. What should I do? What species pray on groundhogs? It seems they love the dry rock hard soil because it makes their tunnels uniform. Any advice is great.
6. I started to rake out weeds from the pond. I am thinking of using it with the sweet potatoes to make a nice compost. What do you think about removing greens from the pond?
7. How can I improve the soil, in general?
8. I am putting my life into this property. I want to change it all into producing land. I'm 23, no health problems, just back from living in a huge city for over 2 years. I would like to get fruit trees growing as soon as possible. I am thinking of planning out everywhere I want to dig swales, and piling wood everywhere I am going to want hugelkulturs, then renting equipment to move the earth in one or two days. What do you think?

Please take a look at the pictures here. Thanks for taking time to write your thoughts down, they are extremely valuable to me right now.

Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/80529326@N07/

 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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The pond weeds are great for mulch or sheet composting. If it were me, I'd probably sell the donkeys and let the land undergo succesion to build biomass. You might consider planting drought tolerant fruit such as mulberry,jujube, and thornless prickly pear. You should have a lot of permies in your part of the country to consult with. Best wishes!
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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We have similar conditions here a county above you.

Things that work are

Swales and terraces are a must
Rotational paddock management starting in mid winter.
Dry cropping works well with some crops
Mulch is a must
Breed your own veggies for climate adaption
And more

Use the large oaks to your benefit, the south east side of them are key micoclimates.

If you can build ponds, they attract life like wildfires around here this time of year.

Also look up a member glen kansinger of something similar he's got great stuff going on in mariposa.
 
Daniel Morse
Posts: 265
Location: SW Michigan
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I want to add. Water exposed is water evaporated. A small but deep portion of the pond. Water is life. Don't destroy all of the wet ground. It feeds more than you think. Some is good. When you did a pond you do affect the water table.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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As far as fruit trees are concerned, there are many options. Some free/cheap, others more costly.

I do not consider free/cheap as the best choice for fruit trees. It takes several years to get a fruit tree into its production cycle. If you have the wrong trees, you have wasted years, and will need to start over. Start off with the right thing!

For best production, get trees as locally as possible. They are adapted to your climate, zone, pests, etc. They will not suffer (or die) trying to adjust to your summers and winters. They've already 'been there - done that'.

It is a general rule that the first year a tree fruits that you should strip the fruit, and allow the tree to grow stronger roots vs expending all of that energy trying to reproduce its offspring. You may let a few fruit form...just enough to sample (and reward yourself for your patience).

There is a well respected tree nursery near your region (they're in SLO County). They specialize in old varieties, and grow most of their trees. Those that they grow themselves are all certified organic. (For others, read the fine print if 'organic' is important to you.)

http://www.treesofantiquity.com/
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Steven, what a beautiful piece of property! You have water, rocks, trees -- all of the things that I am trying to introduce into my landscape.

I'm not sure that I would want ALL of the donkeys but I have had neighbors in years past that kept at least one with thier other livestock - even cattle - as watch dogs from predators. Could be good protection for some goats/sheep/poultry. And, since they are yours then you have a good source of manure that you can use since you will know that they haven't been eating feed contaminated with herbicides.

Where did the sweet potatoes come from? Are they grown there?

And as someone else said already, the pond weeds will be great for enriching soil and mulching growing areas.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing your progress.
 
Steve Flanagan
gardener
Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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It's exciting to see someone on here that doesn't live too far from me. I live in North Fork on 5.63 acres. I don't know if you live higher then the town of Mariposa or in a micro climate but according to the usda you and I are in zone 8b, although my microclimate puts me in zone 9. My place slopes and faces west and south west. It doesn't get as cold as the rest of North Fork.

My wife and I just bought our place last July, so we have been here almost a year. I've planted quite a bit, yet there is so much more I want to grow. I think we have the same soil. My soil is a hard clay. I'm trying different techniques to improve it. I wish you the best with everything!

I've been told cherries, apples, peaches, and pomegranates do especially well here. I have one apple tree planted and four pomegranates. I have plenty of other things growing, some experimental, some that are suppose to do fine here.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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What a place Steven, you've even got water
I'm sticking my nose into people's designs at the moment; I live in the 'burbs, but sometimes I go "trees, space... a spring! and fantasise a bit
Here's a couple of current design threads that may help:
layout thread
principles stuff
A few questions: do you need to factor your grandfather into things? You mention him a couple of times and relationships can get difficult if something, eg; a garden, is changed, even if it doesn't work.
I may have missed it, but what's the house/building situation?
Do you have contour maps?
Are the donkeys part of the deal? Do you think the benefits, ie load-carrying, manure, clearing to reduce fire-risk etc, outway the negatives like damage to land/plants?
Would fewer donkeys do the job?
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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Try spraying the garden down with a non-chelated zinc. May give you a dramatic improvement there.

How much rain do you get in summer? If it is only light rain, you are better off mulching with flat stones instead of biologicals, rock with lichen on it is even better. It is an amazing nitrogen fixer.(who knew?)
They did a study in the Salton Sea area, and mulch actually soaked up all the rain, before it could leach into the ground at root depth. Mulch in the winter rainy season for worm and soil life, by summer it should be broken down.

I wouldn't put in ANY hugels, would dig long, extra deep pits, as swales, and fill THOSE with buried wood, and any chunky gravel you come up with digging other places.
Oh, those are beauty pits you have already, just make sure there is buried wood and chunky rocks in all the new ones, and that the land topo feeds them extra runoff water.

Try and find an older cabinet or ceiling hanging laser. Can sometimes pick up a line generating Gizmo laser for a hundred bucks right now. You don't need the spinning function if it is a line generator.
Would concentrate on swales and your property topo right now. As soon as the swales are in, plant a strong mint on em, and at the base. Think horehound and licorice and bloodroot will work too, if you want to mix it up. Will keep the squirrels from moving into the buried beds. If you build Hegels, you are basically building squirrel and rabbit condo's. They are perfect habitat for them. The hegels will dry out too, you need to be putting in pits instead. I would also be tempted to lay in a line of drip line , even if you only need it in july and august. If it is buried down at least 6-8 inches, it will water perennial roots, but not surface weeds.

Would try to sell the baby donkeys now, and plan on bringing in some goats later instead. lighter on the land, and will still eat the browse for fire control. You can also lease them out as a fire control program to neighbors and even the Govt in Cali, i think. There are folks using a short coated sheep for this right now. Keep your eyes open for temp fencing and fence panels, so you can do intensive sections too. If you go to sheep, you will need dogs tho. If you do chickens, consider putting them in the center of the paddock for the donkeys and goats, to keep predators away from them, everything in the neighborhood wants to eat them.

Some folks were talking about millet as a fabulous dry cover crop.
If you have another dry canyon next to the one that feeds the pond, would put in the millet, and some taller bunchgrass, along with a couple BIG (deep, not tall) branch piles. They will turn into fabulous quail gardens, and quail will eat grasshoppers, when they come.

Dry stacked walls attract snakes, but that is usually rattlers around there, and donkeys will stomp ALL snakes i think. I would put up lots of t poles and clean up some snags to draw in raptors. But that means you need chicken protection. Which means roofed chicken yard. Can do that with string or bird net tho., if you make it tall enough to walk under. Check out aussie parrot exclusions.
Flat stacked rocks attract lizards. Would border garden areas with em. Lizards will walk to water. Don't water on the walls or they will be snail habitat.

try and keep the dry canyon that feeds the pond all pines and other natives, don't let the cottonwoods and willows get started there, or they will suck up all the water....
 
Steve Flanagan
gardener
Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
8
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Steven and I get almost zero rain in the summer. Every once in a great while a thunderstorm coming off the mountains may drop a little bit of rain. The summers here are hot and dry.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Steven Smallwood wrote:This is my second time posting. Last time, I was not on the property I would be working with. Now, I am here for the summer, then leaving for a short break in August, and then coming back to live here.
I have taken pictures of the property to give a sense of what I have to this forum. I would love to hear suggestions after you read what I briefly have to say.

8. I am putting my life into this property. I want to change it all into producing land. I'm 23, no health problems, just back from living in a huge city for over 2 years. I would like to get fruit trees growing as soon as possible. I am thinking of planning out everywhere I want to dig swales, and piling wood everywhere I am going to want hugelkulturs, then renting equipment to move the earth in one or two days. What do you think?


Nice looking place, Steven. I am just a ways up the coast from you, across the border in southern Oregon. The type of land looks pretty similar to our 80 acres.

I think your plans/thoughts sounds great. My suggestion would be to start small. Focus on a half-acre to an acre your first year and spend the time setting up the infrastructure, getting the plants/trees in. This can become your nursery/propagation bed for the rest of the property over the years.

I did some hand clearing of trees/brush, winter before last and then had an operator and backhoe come in to dig the big trenches for burying the wood. It made the process of getting our on-contour hugel-style orchard set-up much easier.

Some info and pics on our site here:
http://wellheeledhills.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/hugelkultur-beds-part-i/

http://wellheeledhills.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/hugelkultur-part-2/

best wishes!
 
Steven Smallwood
Posts: 12
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Hello fellow farming people. Thank you for responding to my post and giving me thinking material as I get into actually doing permaculture. Here are some photos of what has been going on. Hope to get some more responses and ideas if any come to mind. So far we (my brother, my fiance, my dad, and my grandfather) have built a place to store hay and straw for donkeys and an overhang for them to take shelter in; brought in 2 truckloads of sweet potatoes; brought in four truckloads of mulch (mostly sticks and leaves, not many wood chips); gathered wood for a pretty big hugelkultur, made it, mulched it, and planted it with two kinds of mint (one found growing wild and another citrus one), lavender, rosemarry, and a flower I forget the name of; mulched the asian pear tree, dug out the creek quite a bit to match our first ideas of a layout for the area; and taken from material from the pond bottom to put around some trees and in the hugelkultur.

We started the hugelkultur before I read that it would be bad because of all the ground squirrels and gophers, so we went ahead and finished it as an experiment. The first hugelkultur is in a moist and shady area, right by the creek, but in the spot that gets the most sunlight. It seems like the gophers and ground squirrels take far less interest in the moist areas of the property. What do you think?

We are just getting into finding perennials to plant and making some orders for seeds. Our next huge step is going to be renting a backhoe for a few days to put in swales wherever we have the time to put them in.
Abandoning the hugelkultur for now at least until the gopher population is distracted with another plant (do you think there is a plant we can grow in great great quantities to pacify the gopher population?), we are thinking to make all of the swales into sunken beds. Is it better to make them sunken beds, or make them normal swales and put sunken beds between each swale? The temperature has been so nice this week. Highs below 80 all week.

Going to dinner. I will post again and reply to anything I missed tonight. Thanks again.

Rotton Log to add to pile for first hugelkultur

Eunhee (my fiance) by the unfinished hugel 1

Again by the hugel

Unfinished hugel another shot

Eunhee by hugel AGAIN! (unfinished).


One load of mulch for the hugel

Pictures of finished, mulched, and planted hugelkultur. Sorry, it's dark here.







Shed for donkey food and a shelter

Papa putting finishing touches on donkey feed shed/donkey shelter

Eunhee (my fiance) with papa's hat

Asian pear tree little fruits

Finished mulching the asian pear tree (haven't spread the mulch yet)

Digging soil from creek into hugel

Creek by hugel

 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1378
Location: northern California
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why not eat the sweet potatoes yourself? If they don't store well...like as if they are last year's, you could grate them, say in a food processor, and dry them for later use by either people or animals. I have made granola out of sweet potatoes that way. They were my staple crop when I lived in Georgia, and I'm looking forward to having some here in CA, though I fear the grasshoppers (BAD this year here!) and the gophers. And you could plant a few for next winter....break the sprouts off and plant them elsewhere, or else the same old potato will go on growing huge and misshapen. A lot of people don't know that you can eat their greens too....cooked up they are just like spinach, perfectly mild....
 
melinda abeles
Posts: 1
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Hi Steven, this is Melinda, who visits the sweet baby donkeys and hopes to bring the boys home soon! I'm coming over this afternoon with some donkey feeding info for you. How is the little girl today? I'd love for you to come see my simple place. I can show you how I compost, and my garden, which is raised beds because of the poor soil in this ridgetop. Great view though!

I can also hook you up with folks who are doing great gardening things in Mariposa. We have a great community to plug into. see you later. Melinda

p.s. I was googling to find donkey info for you guys and found you here on Permies.
 
Steve Flanagan
gardener
Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Welcome to the forums, Melinda!
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Great work and beautiful photos!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm a little concerned about putting the hugel that close to the creek if you ever get flooding rains, it could get washed away or at least undermined.....
 
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