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record droughts in USA this year, conversation

 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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quite often quick shade is a serious problem, here shade would have probably protected some of our fruit from the killing frosts..but alas it wasn't and didn't..sometimes some fast growing things are helpful like jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers and corn, etc..or lattice or shade cloth or even some things just propped up to make shade..or even park something between the plant and the sun?
 
Posts: 37
Location: Córdoba, Argentina
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Hi all -

A few thoughts from an American expat in Argentina. Here the Córdoba province - which is in central Argentina and mainly dry/sub-tropical, there are a lot of communities that have been suffering with "record droughts" for the past five years. So while, I'm not on hand to experience what's going on in the U.S. a lot of the themes are common to where I'm at.

We always hear that droughts in large-scale crop losses go hand-in-hand. The dust bowl and the great depression of the last century provided indelible images and cultural memories of the phenomenon. Now, we are seeing that regional food supplies are again at risk because of drought and extreme temperatures.

My gut tells me that we should be looking at it the other way around, for it may well be that massive scale commodity-driven mono-cropping is a major factor behind the droughts themselves. Sure, there are plenty of other factors of which we are all aware (cars, greenhouse gasses, pollution, etc...), but we who manage our own properties and gardens around the principles of ecological design have the advantage of expanding this conversation among the general public (our friends, family, internet, etc...) in order to recontextualize the debate in terms of "where does rain come from" and "why does it disappear?".

If our permacultural thinking leads us to believe that beneficial micro-climates can be established to help humidify a region (e.g. by ecologically augmenting, retaining and perpetuating humidity on-site), than surely we can perceive that negative micro-climates created by toxic large-scale conventional agriculture also have the effect of drying out (desertification of) entire regions. By following this line of thought, we can try on phrases such as "record crop production in the cornbelt causes record drought." THis is not a perfect piece of logic, but you see where I'm going.

We only have to look at the once "Fertile Crescent" of northern africa to see what can happen under the influence of widespread commodity-based agriculture over many years. It's now a vast desert which imports, consumes, and evaporates more water than actually falls upon the ground as rain. How long people can last in these areas is now also determined to a great degree by the availability of cheap oil and that's not a situation any of us can feel comfortable about.

I was playing around on my twitter account (@doom_control) trying to phrase this issue in terms of short chunks or sound bytes which can be used as conversational memes, updated models for thinking about this issue etc... Again, I know that there's a lot of factors at work, and these are probably overly simplistic, but I think it would help a lot of people to wake up by turning the concept of commodity based petroleum-dependent food production completely on its head. Here's some of the twitter-sized chunks I came up with:


forests create rain - massive scale mono-cropping with toxic fertilizers and pesticides produce drought - #wake up and understand the #earth

los #bosques generan #lluvia - la #soja genera sequías - yo vivo practicando la #permacultura y rechazando los productos trangénicos

la destrucción masiva de diversas bio-regiones para el cultivo masivo de #soja y maiz transgénica es un factor que promueve las sequías

massive scale destruction of diverse bio-regions for the purpose of cultivating #gmo commodity crops is promoting large scale drought

it's not that the drought is merely AFFECTING the corn and soy belt - #GMO corn and soy monocultures are probably CAUSING the drought


- Scott
 
pollinator
Posts: 11694
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
901
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I agree, Scott. Poor land management practices have made drought in my region much worse than it might have been. 100 years ago this region was full of running creeks and springs - in fact there was briefly a small industry of health spas at some of the springs around here. But overgrazing and cotton farming ruined the watersheds and dried up most of the creeks and springs. This sort of mismanagement is common throughout the Plains and Southwest, a vast area turning to desert primarily because of human activity.
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I, also, agree. My area of Michigan has been plagued with searing temperatures and very little rainfall since our unseasonally early spring broke. I've been managing my native grass pastures intensively for the past several years. I am happy to report they are strong and still showing plump, glossy green blades of grasses and forages under a protective cover of of dried seedheads. The ungrazed pastures have a stockpile of healthy green forage more than 8 inches deep. A blessing since I've recently heard the hay auctions on the western edges of Michigan is at $12.50/bale!

All of my established peach and plum trees are showing no stress from the drought. I lost a couple of young cherry trees, though and have had to water my blueberries. Everthing I started early in my Hugel is doing fantastic. The roots have had time to dig deep and tap the water within. Other things didn't have the time and tamped-off. I am building many more large hugels this year.

One very positive side effect of the drought is, my management practices are being noticed by my conventional farming community. A good accomplishment for permaculture given I live in big farm country. It is kind of funny, in one drought I've made the "social transition" from being "one crazy loonie" to "maybe being on to something." One my neighbors even mentioned he would be a fool not to learn the techniques I'm playing with! So keep it up, "crazy loon" compatriates... people are seeing what we're trying to do and starting to consider alternatives to "generally accepted practices."
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 11694
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
901
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That's great Susanna! Good work!

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i totally agree as well, we had several very large trees die from the emerald ash borer this past year we removed them and that also removed the shade that they had given..the areas where there WAS shade but isn't now, is where the drought has shown the worst..

We are quickly allowing trees to regrow in the areas where the large trees were removed to ..as quickly as we can.. replace the shade.

thankfully we have gotten enough rain this past week to week and a half to raise our ground water table enough to fill our pond back to the normal non drought level, the sprigs of green are beginning to sprout here and there among the dead hay like areas, and I found baby hazelnuts on 4 of our hazelnut bushes that are only 4 years old, and a medlar on the baby medlar that I planted this year..so it give me hope.

there is rain in the forcast here again possibly tomorrow and again this weekend, so hopefully our drought has been averted, but it could return, and I'm beginning to think of water conservation and holding rather than too much water (as we generally live in a super high water table area that for the first 35 of the 41 years we lived here was always wet, but has had increasing drought over the past 6 years)

You definately cannot say it is cause there aren't enough trees here as I plant trees by the dozens each year, when we moved here there were less than 10 trees on our entire property near the house with a small woodlot in the far north rear, now it is nearly all wooded.
 
Posts: 9
Location: Kenyucky
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I wanted to build a western exposure frame this year but didn't have enough time. My plan is for a heavy framework with lath horizontal on the framework. At the base of this I want to plant hops. Some varieties can grow 25 ' in a season. If I want to start my own brewing that's just a bonus.:)
 
pollinator
Posts: 147
Location: Missouri Ozarks
20
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Trees can actually lower the water table through transpiration. I wonder if that's part of the reason that your water table has lowered, Brenda, if your tree cover is greater over a large enough area.
 
Posts: 74
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Well my barrel garden that I planted is doing very well. I am getting a tremendous yield & have not had to worry about watering as much as a traditional garden. I planned it so that if the rain was excessive I would have ample drainage. However put the barrel on blocks so if it was dry I could drop it to the ground and It would retain more water. This has worked very well, I don’t have any run off at all. Even with the extreme drought here in WI I use gray water only about every 3 days. I have learned a lot by doing this. FYI no tilling no weeding. I used 50/50 manure to dirt and I have never had a garden come up so fast. I will be expanding my entire back yard (.5acr) next year to a barrel garden. I have to say it may not be pretty but It saves so much work and the barrels are free for us. Still having trouble finding hay, but we are very lucky to have loving friends that are helping out. Blessing all.
 
Scott Jackson
Posts: 37
Location: Córdoba, Argentina
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Stacy:

I have to say it may not be pretty but It saves so much work and the barrels are free for us.



It sounds pretty to me.

- Scott
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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well we are starting to see here and on the forums many signs that things are going from bad to worse..people have had their stores of maple syrup, some cattle and truckloads of hay stolen in the past few weeks in several areas..our neighbors are havinig to GUARD their hay supplies here in Michigan, and people have begun to drop off their horses where they see horses pastured, cause they can no longer care for them.

we did get rain, but then it dried right back out again quickly, we got a little more rain overnight thank God ..it appears that we are getting just enough to keep our trees alive so we might get a crop next year.

with all the stealing of food already and people giving up their animals..one wonders how much longer it will be before starving people in THIS country begin to come to steal food from our houses?

My son has been out of work for 3 months after 20 years at the same place..and has been constantly putting out resumes and going on interviews, but so for no job. I've been feeding him and paying for his gas as he is using the savings he has left to make house payments and has enough for maybe 2 more months..no unempl.

Michigan is really hurting..the droughts here have been going on for about 5 years, highly unusual as we generally have a lot of water here.

I am still positive regarding the future, but you better believe I'm putting in as many privacy hedges as possible to hide our property from the road..would rather it look like a forest than a garden..for many reasons other than just a food forest.
 
Posts: 7434
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Brenda,....I love your method of protection....planting trees.....I remember a new neighbor in the seventies who was all set to protect his home with guns during the last food/gas crisis (from "jayhawkers" he said)..........
This summer they say half of the cattle in our county have been taken to the sale barn...I don't know the price of hay but I think most folks here put up their own and just didn't have the cash to buy enough.
You are lucky you have had forty years to "dig in" in the same place and your son is lucky to have you!
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
Posts: 143
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Judith,

In my area of Michigan, farmers are having to make the tough choice of choosing to feed their $40K worth of livestock $150k worth of hay. Even for those who grow their own hay, the hay's sale price is better than the income from the cattle. I am seeing more hay being shipped out of my area (big dairy country) than I've seen milk trucks or livestock trailers.

This is going to be a difficult winter for so many. Brenda, I am so sorry to hear about your son's difficulty finding work. It must be truly heart-breaking for you all.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 11694
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
901
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
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A lot of people don't seem to know they can feed tree leaves and branches to cattle and other plant-eaters. I've seen photos of farmers in distress with their cows in a dry field with beautiful green trees in the background.....It seems to be more common to feed tree branches to cattle in Australia than in the United States. If sufficient quality of fodder trees isn't available, the health of livestock might suffer, so it's best to use trees as a supplement to purchased feed rather than as a complete diet. That's what I've been doing with my sheep.
 
🐔 steward
Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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Tyler: What kinds of trees are you feeding your sheep? How much can you take from a tree before it suffers too? I often give my chickens ash tree leaves as a treat and they go nuts for it. Then again, chickens seem to eat just about anything.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 11694
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
901
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I've been feeding oak, hackberry, elm, and persimmon, with a small amount of juniper. We have more tree than pasture, so except for the physical labor aspect of hiking around trimming branches, we're pretty well off for this fodder. I only take a few from each tree, using an extendo-pole lopper. I don't do this every day, but try to cut some every few days. It's difficult to cut enough because the leaves are so much "fluffier" than hay, it is hard to estimate how much the sheep will need. They also eat a good deal of the bark from the branches.

 
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Hello

My name is Danny Boosten i Have a farm in south Hungary poesta means flat gras plains and i am looking for ecological ways to harvest water i already found lots of information grey water roof water swales etc my question is does any one have experiance with windmills as it is now most of my mony goes to the electric company to power the pumps are windmils financiale better than electric pumps and storing the water is a big decision to
metal tanks large pond ?i can't make up my mind

Any help or information wil be welcome
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 7434
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
1328
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I've been feeding oak, hackberry, elm, and persimmon, with a small amount of juniper. We have more tree than pasture, so except for the physical labor aspect of hiking around trimming branches, we're pretty well off for this fodder. I only take a few from each tree, using an extendo-pole lopper. I don't do this every day, but try to cut some every few days. It's difficult to cut enough because the leaves are so much "fluffier" than hay, it is hard to estimate how much the sheep will need. They also eat a good deal of the bark from the branches.



I don't know what tree leaves cattle would eat but most folks here have edges where their cattle can get into the woods so I'm guessing anything edible within their reach is already gone. I would be concerned about causing more stress to trees that were already stressed (as ours are here) from drought, ice and late freezes and white oak fungus and red oak borers. Farmers here don't do feed lots...usually just enough cows and calves on rotating pastures for their own meat and hay and some calves to sell for some income. I wonder if anyone cutting firewood over the summer is feeding stock the tops?

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 11694
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
901
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
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I think each person needs to weigh the value of keeping the livestock versus keeping all the trees, if there's any concern cutting branches might weaken the trees. Some kinds of trees naturally shed branches in drought, so it might possibly relieve stress on the tree to cut some branches.

 
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