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Permaculture: A Designers' Manual - Chapter 11 DRYLAND STRATEGIES  RSS feed

 
Burra Maluca
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Chapter 11 DRYLAND STRATEGIES

11.1 Introduction
11.2 Precipitation
11.3 Temperature
11.4 Soils
11.5 Landscape features in deserts
11.6 Harvesting of water in arid lands
11.7 The desert house
11.8 The desert garden
11.9 Garden irrigation systems
11.10 Desert settlement - broad strategies
11.11 Plant themes for drylands
11.12 Animal systems in drylands
11.13 Desertification and the salting of soils
11.14 Cold and montane deserts
11.15 Designers' checklist
 
Janet Dowell
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I am having. a. tough. slog. through this chapter.

The first 40 pages or so were fine.

Now I'm just feeling overwhelmed and confused. So many new terms. So many things that can be done.

I'm not expecting anyone here to have instant answers for me. Just need...to....keep.....reading......................................................
 
Erica Wisner
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Definitely a long one.
It's one of the dominant climates of Australia, though, so this is Bill on his home turf. Or red rock mulch, so to speak.

I'm a little frustrated about the inclusion of speculation in a chapter that's already full and rich.
"One thing that could be tried...", some of the illustrations even seem to be proposed techniques, at the expense of more detail on proven methods.

There's some hints that the aborigine know a lot more than ranchers about how to maintain an edible desert... except their use of fire is called destructive ... but not a lot of detail on what or how they managed. There's a scant paragraph about a successful reclamation gardening in Ceduna, Australia, then full column(s) about proposed methods. At least there's a lot of detail on the WISALT project, which I would love to see photos of now that it's been 20 or 30 years.

And then we get to the section I've been looking forward to, about cold and montane deserts.... and it's a scant column of information. "fuzzy plants... wear furs... try to find something that grows fast enough for fuel." Hey! At least there's some tree names, but "almost all plant species are different" and then no further info....

I'm hoping there will be more evidence in the chapter on cold climates for cold, arid climates.... at least, they have more about ice, snow, and fire, definitely climate factors I'm keeping an eye on.
I have a prejudice about trying to re-invent appropriate tech from 'design principles' when it may be possible to find evidence, or living practitioners, of things that actually work and have been proven sustainable.

Next self-assigned homework: look up local and similar-region tribes, find out more about how they live.

I just got a info packet with some tribal cultural info from the local Colville Confederated tribes. It includes photos of famous tribal members, hereditary territories, and technological one-liners like "winter housing was earth-sheltered" or "semi-subterranean winter homes with reed mat roofs." Differences between tribes - more hunting vs. more salmon-eating - but not much detail. About the level of detail that I knew about my grandparents when I was a child, from fragments of big family gatherings, or what a stranger might have understood from a high-school yearbook. Nothing like what my grandmother wrote down in detail, or discussed with adult descendants.

I suspect that by the time people were asking about quaint lifestyle details, a lot of the folks that were being interviewed were almost post-apocalyptic refugees in their own land. How long could you maintain traditional gardening practices over 400 to 500 years of plague, intertribal re-alliance, waves of new species like horses and disturbed migratory cycles .... All that before the military and treaty betrayals of the recent century?

What are the chances of intact transmission of the little details that make the difference between a leaky shack and a serious winter home, the kind you would make if you expected to raise your children in the place your parents raised you? Do we even know and preserve the ancestral village sites?

What are the chances they would consider telling me?

Maybe my chances are better further from home... other montane cultures, high plateau peoples...
I think I know more about the yurts of Mongolia than I do about an inland Washington winter home.

...
On another thought: Bill mentions a lot of trees throughout, and species categories. After looking them up in the index by scientific name, and finding common names that are entirely unfamiliar, I am left with "another plant that doesn't grow here" as my most relevant ID.
But it would be lovely to have a chart of the functions these trees serve (nitrogen, high shade, dense shade, mulch, etc), so that we could look for analogues in related climates.
Do we know of any such chart already available?
Toby Hemenway did a lovely chart for the Pacific NW in the back of gaia's garden, but are there similar charts for widespread growing regions? Could such a thing be reconstructed from any of the university databases, perhaps?



-Erica W
 
Janet Dowell
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What is an edge-insulated floor? (Pg 367, left column)

Also, I just don't understand paragraphs 3&4 on pg. 366, right hand column ("As well as these cooling devices...." to "to provide sufficient heat on to cement slabs or trombe walls." I know nothing about house building, so perhaps it's just my lack of background knowledge, but I really feel that more pictures/diagrams here would have been helpful.
 
Ann Torrence
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Janet Dowell wrote:What is an edge-insulated floor? (Pg 367, left column)

Also, I just don't understand paragraphs 3&4 on pg. 366, right hand column ("As well as these cooling devices...." to "to provide sufficient heat on to cement slabs or trombe walls." I know nothing about house building, so perhaps it's just my lack of background knowledge, but I really feel that more pictures/diagrams here would have been helpful.


If you imagine a concrete slab, there is tremendous heat leakage out the sides/edges of the slab unless insulated. The earth below the slab is actually pretty insulating, but the convection of air around the perimeter causes massive leakage. This is easily dealt with during construction with some thick cheap foam. Not so easy in older construction to retrofit. Here's a wikipedia description with picture of a trombe wall
 
Ann Torrence
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Erica Wisner wrote:
And then we get to the section I've been looking forward to, about cold and montane deserts.... and it's a scant column of information. "fuzzy plants... wear furs... try to find something that grows fast enough for fuel." Hey! At least there's some tree names, but "almost all plant species are different" and then no further info....

I'm hoping there will be more evidence in the chapter on cold climates for cold, arid climates.... at least, they have more about ice, snow, and fire, definitely climate factors I'm keeping an eye on.
I have a prejudice about trying to re-invent appropriate tech from 'design principles' when it may be possible to find evidence, or living practitioners, of things that actually work and have been proven sustainable.

hear hear!
Erica Wisner wrote:
Next self-assigned homework: look up local and similar-region tribes, find out more about how they live.

I have studied a bit about the local tribal culture here, and it was deeply impacted by trade with the Spanish for centuries. The balance of power due to the intertribal slaving for markets in Santa Fe had been so disrupted that all of the knowledge was lost . Here we probably need to look even further back, to the archeological record of Fremont and Anasazi cultures...and the Hopi who assert their descent from the Anasazi. I do know that the first traders on the Old Spanish Trail wrote that the grass was as high as the bellies of their horses, which is almost unbelievable now.
Erica Wisner wrote:
...
On another thought: Bill mentions a lot of trees throughout, and species categories. After looking them up in the index by scientific name, and finding common names that are entirely unfamiliar, I am left with "another plant that doesn't grow here" as my most relevant ID.
But it would be lovely to have a chart of the functions these trees serve (nitrogen, high shade, dense shade, mulch, etc), so that we could look for analogues in related climates.
Do we know of any such chart already available?
Toby Hemenway did a lovely chart for the Pacific NW in the back of Gaia's Garden, but are there similar charts for widespread growing regions? Could such a thing be reconstructed from any of the university databases, perhaps?

Eric Toensmeier has a list I've found helpful for Colorado, linked from hre, especially in combination with a local plant guide as I look for analogues.
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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My very few thoughts from a very long chapter:

I am struck by how many recommended solutions in this chapter have political barriers in the US, everything from gray water recycling to appropriate range stocking rates. I can't even have more than 100 gal of rain barrels above grade (with a permit I can get 2500 below ground). Even in my low precip area, I could probably provide ALL of my own culinary water if I could legally do so.

I wonder if Mollison read any of John Wesley Powell's descriptions of the Colorado Plateau explorations or his recommendations for settlement patterns beyond the 100th meridian. So much desertification could have been prevented if politics hadn't trumped good sense. Not much has changed there in 150 years.

The numbers on increased evaporation due to wind are shocking if true. Combined with the USDA datapoint that livestock on pastures with shelter belts require 15% less fodder makes me want to guerrilla plant windbreaks along every alfalfa field in the county. Instead of becoming the crazy trespassing lady, I will just plant 200' of dense windbreak this spring for the new orchard and try to be an evangelist by example.

I am surprised at any recommendation of even slight raised beds. My experience has been that any elevation is drying, even an inch or two below grade retains more moisture.

The section on Cold and Montane Deserts was descriptive but lacking in specific strategies. Do you know that snow can be so dry that you don't shovel, you sweep? We rarely see black ice because the snow just evaporates before it has a chance to freeze. He is right about the diurnal temperature swings. 30 degrees or more is normal, every day all year. No wonder the wind always blows here. Proper home design in areas north of Prescott should be able to eliminate any need for air conditioning.

Does anyone else see the chicken and egg problem of generating mulch when you need mulch to get mulch plants established? Bill has lost his mind if he seriously believes that tumbleweeds are a pioneer source of mulch.

My ultimate benchmark of success will be if we ever see an amphibian on our property.
 
Janet Dowell
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Location: Kennewick, WA
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Thanks for the info on the insulation and trombe wall, Ann.

I live in an area that has 7" of precip a year, received Dec - March mainly. I so hear you on the tumbleweeds and amphibians. I wonder if it is even possible to live here sustainably. Natives here were transitory and largely relied on salmon.
 
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