Chris Badgett wrote:Hey Amy,
Good luck with your land in Northern Utah! We filmed Michael Pilarski planting a food forest in a very dry region of Montana here:
You may get some good ideas from the intro video. The full course is here if you're interested: http://organiclifeguru.com/course/how-to-grow-a-medicinal-food-forest/
That's great you're working the land with your kids!
Paul Cereghino wrote:It sounds like you have two systems here. In your near the house system you are leveraging every bit of waste water, from roofs, laundry, sinks, showers, etc... and combining it with your suburban waste stream to develop an intensive system that maximizes output where you have irrigation. Then you have your semi-arid to arid desert landscape where you are paying attention to topography and aspect and growing what will grow without irrigation.
I'd concur that it sounds like you have too many hoofs for a small piece of dry ground. I suspect rabbits might be a natural critters that can nest into your system more efficiently.
EXTRA NOTES - You might want to check into the natural vegetation of your site... depending on your elevation, you might not be able to support forest. Wind can be a tremendous source of drying. Two acre feet might not get a single acre through the dry season. Access local knowledge about salinity... in dry lands you can salt you soils by adding small amounts of barely salty water, which evaporates, leaving salt on the surface.
John Elliott wrote:Welcome to Permies, Amy!
Adam will probably be along with the expert opinion on how to pasture cattle in the arid west, but until then I would suggest you look into some grasses that do well in your area with no irrigation. Like this crested wheatgrass from Great Basin Seeds, or this Indian ricegrass from Sharp Bros. Seeds. Those are only two examples, and there are many other grasses that would be good candidates for improving your pasture. Part of your problem is that since the land was put into alfalfa and then left fallow, there has been no recolonization by native grasses that would do well. Recolonization is a slow process, and nature may not get around to it on our timescale, so you are left looking at 70 acres that barely supports 3 horses.
On the subject of hugelkultur, you don't need trees to bury; sagebrush and moldy alfalfa will work as water retaining filler material in the mounds. You might also keep an eye on what is headed to the local landfill, and if it looks like organic material that will decompose, divert it to your orchard-to-be. What type of trees do you want to plant? Those choices will dictate how much water harvesting you will have to include in your plan.
Barry Fitzgerald wrote:Hi Amy, You sure have a lot of work to do and given the conditions that you described, I do not know how you could ever do it all. The 4 or 5 cows on somewhere around 11 acres would never be self sustaining and I hope the mouldy alfalfa hay supply is always available because 2 to 3 acres of poor pasture per cow can never be feasible with any pasture rotation plan. I see that the feed bills are killing you, I guess the up side to that is you are importing nutrients to your land. I would advise you to scale back some of your plans until you can manage what you already have.
I would suggest you focus on finding things that do not require a lot of water given the limited supply.
I don't want do discourage you, just keep your expectations realistic. I wish you the very best of luck!
Peter Ellis wrote:Amy, you are in some challenging terrain
A couple of thoughts: Despite appearing flat, it is pretty certain your land has a slope to it, generally down from the foothills toward the valley. I would strongly urge you to put some effort into determining the contours of your land. A good quality topographical map can help get you started and then some low tech surveying can help you identify contour lines for placing swales. You are probably going to want swales, as you are in an arid environment and want to grow trees. I suggest looking into Geoff Lawton, who is constantly saying "swales are a tree growing system" and who rather specializes in arid climates.
Hugelkultur is not generally recommended for growing trees. You put dead trees in them and live trees go near, but not on, them. Jennifer Wadsworth, who posts here, is in an arid region (Arizona) and has found that elevated hugelbeets are not very effective in her climate - they tend to dry out due to their large surface area. Burying the wood below ground level and working beds over the buried wood, with the beds sunken relative to the normal ground level, has worked for her.
You might want to look into the keyline plow, as a method for getting your land to absorb more of the water that does come through and for decompacting your soil.
Lots of people have opinions about lots of things, as your neighbor has about Alan Savory. I think that Savory has plenty of evidence that proves his ideas are not hogwash, and your neighbor might have some pretty clean pigs over there himself. Mob grazing has been proven to improve pasture quality. Read up on it and do some experimenting yourself.
You are in a classic situation of needing to capture and hold every drop of water you can on your land, so keyline plowing and swales strike me as high priorities for your situation. I do not know what your local regulations are about capturing your roof runoff, if it's permissible, I would say you should be all over that, too.
Remember you do not need to do it all at one time. Indeed, it is probably a good idea not to try and do it all at once, but rather to take some smaller, experimental steps, observe the results, and then adjust/expand appropriately.
Good luck on your adventure.
Cam Mitchell wrote:Amy,
Your property sounds a lot like mine. Zone 5B, and I get 9 inches of rain (in a good year) and have sand, rock, sagebrush, and a few pinyons.
"Greening the Desert" by Geoff Lawton has become very influential for me since buying this place.
May I also suggest the Masanobu Fukuoka seed balls technique for pasture seeding? It's what we're planning on doing for our pathetic pasture.
I agree with Peter. Swales and trees, totally. Cut the drying winds and increase humidity. Also agree with the arid hugelkultur beds modification of burying them.
Yep, a water level or A-frame level is a great way to survey at low cost.
Amy Saunders wrote:
1. Does meat work in hugelkultur? I could get a truckload of carp for cheap or free. Maybe several truckloads. The gov. added carp to Utah Lake for some reason many years ago, and it became invasive, and now they are removing all of the carp, to the tune of millions of dollars. Ha, ha!
2. Could I plant fruit trees under a 60' tall canopy of shade trees? I have lots of wonderful, mature shade trees in my yard. The grass growing under it is thick and lush, although it does require lots of water. Since I'm watering it anyway, could I plant the fruit trees within and around the shade trees? And could I still plant fruiting shrubs around and within the fruit and shade trees? My yard is an acre by itself, and that much lawn takes me several hours per week to mow. I'm watering and caring for all of it, I would prefer it be productive. If I could even get 50 fruit trees (enough space, if they will grow under and around shade trees) into my yard that would eliminate the need for a separate orchard space elsewhere and free up more pasture. I really prefer not to take out the shade trees, as my home and yard stay so cool and enjoyable.
Can you seed without a tractor?
Amy Saunders wrote:May I ask what you have done with your property and how well these methods are helping?
Amy Saunders wrote:2. Could I plant fruit trees under a 60' tall canopy of shade trees?
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