Thank you, yes, we've had a couple good rains. This garden is made entirely of buried wood beds, with deep woodchip mulch paths, so it absorbs and holds a lot of water. Mushrooms are sprouting all over, which gives me hope I may eventually be able to grow some edible kinds in this garden.
They're all going to be drought tolerant fruiting small trees/shrubs, though I'm having a little trouble deciding exactly which ones, but probably a combination of Pineapple Guava, Goumi, Goji, and Fig.
Hi! I found your projects thread yesterday. I really enjoyed reading through it and seeing the pictures of your progress. I live in Central Texas too, and I was wondering if you give tours of your projects. I'd like to develop some ideas I have for my property, and I was hoping to get some inspiration! Thank you, Eric
Eric, thank you for your interest! I'm trying to get the place cleaned up enough to give tours. My goal is to be able to show things some time in the Spring or early Summer. I'll be posting it on the San Antonio Permaculture Meetup if I do work up the courage to do it.
Thanks for your reply! I will look forward to seeing your projects in person, hopefully, come spring time. In the mean time, you said you haven't had any trouble building hugel beds from this ashe juniper (Texas cedar)? I have plenty of it on my 3 acres. Each Christmas break I rent a chipper to make mulch out of it. It's been great for that. If it works for Hugel beds, I will rent a smaller chipper this year and put the bigger pieces in the bottom of my project beds.
Have you had any luck making swales from hugel mounds? I have about 3" of soil and then it is nearly solid limestone. I was thinking of trying the hugel/swale to see how it works out.
I've made a "swale" hugelkultur berm on the uphill side of the water garden to control run off in that area. See photo upthread. I have yet to observe the berm "in action" because it hasn't rained since I built it. This is on shallow soil over rocks.
Almost done with the pond hole, I just need to build the berm up a little bit more around the edge to make it level. The top of this berm will be the ultimate water level. The pond will be about two feet deep at the deepest part. Having a deep area helps stabilize the temperature of the water.
The bumps in the bottom are rock ledges which were too stubborn to remove, so I just smoothed them over with dirt. Some of the excavated rocks are in the foreground. Fortunately many of these were dug out by our wonderful neighbor and his tractor.
Would love to see more about your aquaponics system. Did you use plastic solo cups suspended on styroform sheets to grow the veggies? Does it work well? Neat idea. What is the growing medium in the cups? Do you have a diagram of your system and cost to make? Thanks, love what you are doing.
Unfortunately I have not had much success with the aquaponics so far. I tried growing some leaf vegetables in floating rafts and they would sprout but not grow well. Chard grew well in the flood and drain bed, and water plants grew well. But my fish got sick and died. Currently the system is down and I might not start it up again for several months because of other projects. I also need to do a big redesign of the system and move some of the tanks. I did not keep track of costs, but I think all the tanks and pump, and buying a new larger pump because the first one I bought was too small, ended up over $500. I'm not sure this is the right project for me, as it seems rather fussy with all the water testing one should do (and which I didn't do).
sad to hear of your aquaponics failure
currently my biggest issue is the damn cats... so i stuck a bunch of nails in the grow bed where they jump up with pokey bits for their little paws... hahaha *evil laugh*
i tried cloning two spinach plants and by the time i woke up after one night the cats had eaten em and damn near killed the one squash sprout lol
Another of our ongoing projects is sharing part of our land for an educational camp. We're in the development phase of clearing dead brush from the camp area, making paths, planting native seeds, etc. This is also part of our Wildlife Management plan, providing habitat for birds and a place for bird watching.
Here's a photo of part of the campground with a path we made this past weekend:
Plans are for the camp to open late Spring or early Summer.
Great stuff! I'm really excited to see the projects going on right here in Central TX. Judging by your photos, you seem to be more SW where as I am E of I35. I've got heavy clay and no limestone. Anywho, i've had some thoughts while reading through your thread that i wanted to share. I am new to the Permaculture scene, i have been practicing this stuff for a couple years based off my Rangeland Ecology degree, but i had no idea of this whole community until just this last month! I'm very excited! We have a 10 acre homestead and lease another 65 acres for cattle, i hope to start my own thread this spring to share some photos with you (as I dont want to post any on your thread ).
1.) With the way water moves in our area, i feel that you shouldn't beat yourself up over the placing of your projects in relation to the water movement across your property. In the rocky loam that you inhabit, water infiltrates and moves laterally across the limestone bedrock in its attempt to replinish the aquifer. Good luck capturing that stuff! If you want to do anything to improve your water situation, I would start by removing every cedar tree from your property. Just check to make sure that you are not in Black Capped Verio or Golden Cheek Warbler (endangered species)territory as regulation is inplace to protect their nesting sites, which are constructed with mature cedar bark. These trees capture ~75% of the water that falls within their canopy's radius, have 30+ foot taproots, and consume an estimated 20+ gals of water per day each! They essentially suck the life out of everything in the vacinity. And they make excellent fence posts! PS Im in the same "manual labor boat" as you with no heavy machinery and these can easily be done by hand.
2.) Love the HK's! I plan to replicate your methods with the buckets, as we have had many native cedar elms die from the drought(s).
3.) Have you considered a moveable chicken coop? I constructed my own out of $5 tires from Harbor Freight, an old dog pen, and laying boxes made from scrap lumber and have had excellent success (I too am on a $1-2k annual budget for improvements). It is light enough for my wife to move. I have layers that i leave locked up until about 730 AM, and they all do their laying by then, they free range all day, and go back to their coop with a small cup of supplemental local organic grain (toot toot). They are good to avoid the coyotes and hawks as we only lost 2 all of last year. We have 15 layers of various breeds. The swale area seems like a good area to move them on, or even the abandoned asparagus garden. Its a great way to integrate them into your garden and it avoids the fixed coop model which quickly becomes a "moonscape." I really feel that my gardens (veg and flowers) have benefited since i integrated them in to the gardens.
Good luck and sorry for the long post, i've got a lot of ideas/thoughts rolling around up there
PS i am open to any information that you (or anybody really) have that contridicts my statements. Everyday is a learning a day and i want to make sure that i'm not creating rumors. Thanks all!
Thank you for your interest in my projects, and for your ideas!
Regarding cedar (Ashe Juniper) we are gradually removing some of them (primarily young trees), but do not intend to remove them all as they are important bird habitat. We're losing many oaks to wilt and don't want to become entirely bald in the winter (we also have some elms and other trees, but mostly oaks and cedars). We have large mature cedars along a seasonal waterway, which might be warbler habitat.
In the past I've used mobile poultry pens for chickens and turkeys, and found them rather difficult to manage. I think I may eventually use mobile pens again some time in the future, in the swale area behind the house. Mobile pens provide various hazards to poultry, including the hazard of blowing away in a windstorm! We actually saw one of our pens cartwheel across our back field in a storm, which resulted in the loss of all the chickens (20+).
Howdy NJ, welcome to permies. I am no expert but from what I have learned here at permies, I would think that the cedars are actually helping with the water situation and doing other things we may not know about. Maybe a permies cedar expert could tell us more ?
It just seems to me that many useful plants are classified as weeds or pests to be eliminated, by folks who have some hatred for them. In my area it is usually the livestock raising folks. If cows or sheep can't eat it, it should be eliminated.
Our cattleman neighbor across the road is like that. If it isn't grass, kill it. We're trying to manage cedar as a resource; we use it for about half by volume of the wood we use to heat our home and cook with. I also use it in my hugelkultur and we use limbs for erosion control brush dams. I'm using chipped cedar for paths in my gardens. We don't have a lot of cedars near the house and outbuildings, because they can be a fire hazard. But this is mainly the case if they accumulate a lot of dead lower limbs, which they tend to do when left to their own devices. Some folks think they aren't native, but they are. They used to be less prevalent because they were controlled by fire. They're an indicator of poor grazing management, quickly colonizing overgrazed fields, but they don't tend to encroach on healthy pasture.
Thanks for the info Wyomiles. During my time at Texas A&M was the height of the cedar hate crimes, and was taught by very intelligent professors of the old school. They noted the benefit to certain wildlife and as well as their usefulness as windbrakes. So i was delighted to see this quote from a link through your provided link (that sounds confussing) as I like for my feelings about a topic to be founded in science...
"Cedars are extremely drought-tolerant, they only use water after significant rainfalls, and they have the ability to almost completely shut down when no water is available (Seiler, 2008). In July of 2008, Dr. Jim Heilman of Texas A&M University released research conclusions that show brushy species use only slightly more water than grassland, and that live oaks use more water than cedar. Further, removing cedar may be unwise because they are an important carbon sink, making them a potential ally in efforts to counter global warming. Heilman said “We’ve seen up to a six-fold increase [in carbon sequestration] with the encroachment of juniper. So, if we remove brush, we might have a marginal savings of water, but we’re losing a heck of a lot of carbon. Overall, Heilman said, the idea of brush removal to save water is a case of where “policy gets ahead of science” (Heilman, 2008)."
However, in Johnson City, TX there is a ranch called the Bamberger Ranch where we took a week long trip to for one of my rangeland classes. This 5,000+ acre ranch that had once been partially used as a quarry, was severly overgrazed and had no water to speak of. The new owner (1970's ish i believe) cleared every cedar tree off that property, and began noticing natural springs returning to the surface immediately. Creeks formed (not just seasonal or weather related, as we visited in June and fresh water was flowing out of the ground in 100 degree drought conditions). Native vegetation thrived, and the rangeland was repaired. This was an immediate result of the removal of the cedars, not a timely return based on quality land management. The was empty quarry pit, now stays near full year round, and was a popular after hours spot during our trip .
So I believe in taking a scientific approach, but as a former field researcher, i know that parameters for acquiring data are in the eye of the beholder; and that these real world case studies have their place too. I believe the ranch has a website, you should check it out.
I hope that you're not to quick to lable me a "hater"!!! I told you I love cedars, as fence posts (just being ignorant)!!!