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newbie permie looking for design evaluation  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Anderson
Posts: 3
Location: North Central Texas
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I've been lurking in the background for a while at permies, reading posts and listening to Paul's podcast, but this is my official first post.

I just finished geoff lawton's online PDC. During the course he recommended that you don't do the design exercise using your own property. He said that is was best to do a few designs first so that you could figure out the design process and see your own property clearly. This makes perfect sense, but the whole reason I took the class was so that I could design my own property. So, I went ahead and did the design for my own property anyhow.

I thought I'd go ahead and post my design out here at permies and see if anyone was willing to look it over and give me some feedback. I probably went way too in depth on some things and way too little detail on other stuff. Bear with me, I'm new at this.

Quick summary: I'm in Greenville, TX. We get a good amount of rain, but it gets pretty hot and dry in the summer. The soil is serious clay. I've got 40 acres outside of town that I want to develop (eventually) into a homestead. The design has some swales, some ponds, some grazing areas, and some forested areas.

Anyhow, let me know what you think. Thanks!

Filename: New-Concord-Farmstead.pdf
File size: 3 megabytes
 
Ben Bowman
Posts: 8
Location: Hoover, AL
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Jeremy, congratulations on finishing your PDC. Your design presentation looks great!

Soil Improvement:
I would consider using 'Tropic Sun’ sunn hemp www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_053283.pdf to fix nitrogen and add organic matter to the poor clay soil.
Daikon radish is also an attractive option for organic matter and soil aeration.

Water
I would suggest digging ponds A, B, and C deeper than 6 feet to increase your water holding capacity in the dry months. The initial cost is a little higher, but you may have to cope with serious drought conditions in the future. I didn't see any mention of what water plants you plan to introduce in the ponds, but i suspect you have given it some thought.
 
Jeremy Anderson
Posts: 3
Location: North Central Texas
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Thanks for the response Ben, I appreciate it. Do you have any experience with this 'Tropic Sun' sun hemp? Nitrogen fixing is great and it looks like it produces a pretty good bit of organic matter, but I'm not sure it would be a good fit for my property. The pdf says that it's not well adapted to dense clay. I definitely have dense clay. Also it recommends, "seed should be broadcast and covered or drilled about ½ to 1 inch deep in a well-prepared, weed-free seedbed." I don't think I have anything that would qualify as well-prepared or weed-free. The open spaces of the property have pretty thick grasses. It seems counter-productive to till and plow the existing grasses just to plant an annual nitrogen fixing crop.

I think I need to do some experimentation on things to plant for soil improvement. I definitely want to try out daikons. They seem to be one of the go-to de-compactors. The ideal plant would be something that was perennial (or self-seeding), willing to compete with grass, and able to be sown on top of existing grass thatch. That's asking a lot, I know. Maybe seed balls. That might give seeds a chance to get going even if the seeds don't manage to fall through the thatch to the soil below.

How deep do you think I should dig the ponds? When I was saying 6 feet, I was talking about 6 feet average. I was thinking a general step shape, with steps at 3, 6, and 9 feet. It's vague, I know. Honestly, I kinda want to get the first pond dug just to see how the water behaves on the property. I'm leaving the pond plans vague for now because I'm not all that confident on the assumptions for runoff and catchment. I'd hate to spend a bunch of money on a 20 foot deep pond that I can only keep 4 feet of water in.

The pond plants are in the same category in my mind. I want to make sure I can hold water in the pond before I put a lot of effort into planting aquatic plants. By the time I'm ready to finesse the ponds toward production I'm sure some some volunteer plants and animals will have shown up. (At least I'm hoping...)
 
Ben Bowman
Posts: 8
Location: Hoover, AL
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Jeremy, I do not have any personal experience with Sunn Hemp yet, but i will be planting it this fall. I cant recall the source, but i read elsewhere (maybe Auburn website) that it produced decent results when it was tested in alabama red clay (ultisol) soil. if you can get it to grow there, it provides a number of benefits including weed prevention, nitrogen fixation, and a nice amount of organic matter. I wouldn't rule it out just yet. Most of the USDA documents will list the preferred soil type and give the same planting instructions: well prepared area, weed free, seed drilled etc. My experience with other crops has been that the USDA guidelines are fine, but not necessarily what is required. I would add that the government doesn't always provide the best advice when it comes to farming practices. you can likely hoe some rows of it into weedy areas or along borders to test it in your soil.

Your soil is similar to ours. Daikon grew really well in our red clay and reseeded heavily. We got around 3 five gallon buckets worth of seed pods from 30 or so plants this year. It definitely out-competed the surrounding plants on the hugel beds. I wanted to cut it back, but we were after the seed. Peanut may be a decent option for you as well.

a 3/6/9' stepped pond should work. I should have been more specific in my previous post. I can tell you from experience that its worth the extra money to dig the ponds a little deeper than you originally planned. A few extra feet may allow you to irrigate for another month during the summer, buffer against evaporation, and keep your fish alive. I really wouldn't worry about the ponds being able to hold water either. You have more than enough clay there to get a pond sealed. it looked like you had significant earthworks to capture most of the water that would run off. I suspect your plans will work just fine.

We are in our second year of design implementation here. I will offer you a little more advice for what it is worth.

1. When you have heavy equipment brought on site, make sure you pressure wash the weed seeds and dirt off the tracks before you let them drive it off the trailer. its well worth the extra hour it will cost you.

2. Buy a good transit and double check all your elevation readings.

3. keep a farm journal and take a ton of pictures to document your progress.
 
Jeremy Anderson
Posts: 3
Location: North Central Texas
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I definitely need to do better with my records. While I haven't really broken ground on any major projects, I really should at least be keeping some sort of a log of my observations. For instance, I'm pretty sure the bois d'arc and honey locust held onto their fruit later last year, but since I didn't write anything down it's tough to be certain.

I don't think I really have enough hands on experience with survey tools to go out and drop a lot of money on something. The current plan is to rent a couple times to try to get a better handle on what I really want/need.
 
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