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Earthworks and flood irrigation?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Becki,
welcome to Permies!


sounds like we are in pretty similar conditions.
as for the recommendations you have been given - i think the chisel plow (non inversion plow) is a good idea. i would like to do the same thing really.
we hay the portions of the pasture that we cant rotate the cows through - so i assume all of that traffic has caused some compaction. a chisel plow would be a good start in helping to break that up.
im not familiar with the biosolids application.
we are working on making our own compost to spread for the time being. likely not a long term solution but we will see.


 
gardener
Posts: 1907
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Becki,

I'm your neighbor! 6 miles out of Fruita, under the cliffs of the monument.

I am taking Elaine Ingham's life in the soil online course. I've got 2 acres, with milkd goats, swales and pasture.

I'd be interested in getting together with you, taking a look at what's in your soil, talking about compaction and how to test for it, etc etc etc.

I personally would be very leery of using biosolids on my farm ground. They make it sound so safe and clean and environmentally sound, but you are getting all
the the residue from the municipality. Manufacturing, maybe this is not a big one for us here because Grand Junction is not a major manufacturing region, with the associated industrial residue, but medical is worth considering. In Europe, the body fluids from people on chemo are considered toxic, not here, they go down the drain, as does the amalgam when the dentist drills out an old filling. I may be on the fanatic side, but there are untested assumptions regarding the safety of biosolids.

I know that in California, Kern County wanted to refuse biosolids from the Los Angeles Basin on it's farm grounds, and the legalities of it played out that the county could not "discriminate" from among the various places generating biosolids. Heavily industrial areas have different wastes than rural areas, but if Kern County, a major agricultural region was going to receive biosolids from any municipality, it had to receive it from any who wanted to dispose of their wastes.

Which leads me to believe that it's not as clean as they would have us believe.

Once about 40 years ago, my sister got a load of biosolids delivered to our garden. We were young, thought it would be great. It stunk like raw sewage, and whatever treatment it had been through (and it was as modern a treatment facility as existed in the early 70s), the tomato seeds came up like crazy. If the tomato seeds were viable, what else was viable? It stunk for a long time, too.

I'll be interested to know what others think of the biosolids on clean farm ground question. You can PM me if you are interested in getting a private conversation that might lead to meeting up. I'm glad to know there is someone in Loma who shares my interests.

Thekla
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Posts: 1907
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Becki, me again,

I wanted to say welcome, and

I know an organic alfalfa producer out near the Bookcliffs who uses a fertility product he is quite happy with and apparently it is cost effective. You could probably talk to him about what he does, and see his fields if you like.

I don't know if he has used a chisel. I've heard people talk about going deep to get air down and break up compaction. In the soil course I am taking, I bet the teacher would say: First find out how deep down your compaction layer is, and when you DO get some mechanical thing going to bet beneath it, let that be the last time ever that you plow (plowing generates compaction), and introduce a balanced set of soil micro-organisms at the deepest layer, and all the way back up to the surface.

Caveat: I am a student not an expert . If we get together I'm happy to share what I'm learning and the science and research behind it.

Thekla
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
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Kelly, have you read P.A. Yeoman's Water for Every Farm? I have not made it to that one on my reading list, but it seems to be one of the most significant texts for anyone in water challenged farming environments, judging by the number of prominent permaculture practitioners, educators and designers that refer to it

As I understand it, the keyline concept is explained exceedingly well in the book. As I understand your situation, I would think it would be helpful.

And please forgive me if it has been discussed, I have skimmed the thread, rather than reading through carefully.
 
Posts: 52
Location: Bitterroot
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Here's a good primer on keyline

http://www.laceweb.org.au/kff.htm
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Peter Ellis wrote:Kelly, have you read P.A. Yeoman's Water for Every Farm? I have not made it to that one on my reading list, but it seems to be one of the most significant texts for anyone in water challenged farming environments, judging by the number of prominent permaculture practitioners, educators and designers that refer to it

As I understand it, the keyline concept is explained exceedingly well in the book. As I understand your situation, I would think it would be helpful.

And please forgive me if it has been discussed, I have skimmed the thread, rather than reading through carefully.



i am familiar with Yeomans work, and even follow the more updated version of Yeomans original ideas through Darren Doherty's Regrarians platform.
When i bought the property, the water, access and [main] structures were already in place. seems to limit the "rules of the game" a bit when designing here.
part of my problem is i have very little control over when the water will be arriving to me.

i do like some of yeomans fast flood flow irrigation techniques which i may try to experiment with.

thanks for the reply!

seems like a swale that overflows into more gated pipe is the best i can come up with for controlling my irrigation.
the cost of pipe will determine how many swales i am able to put in.
im hoping to have at least 1 completed before irrigation starts (may 1st)
 
Posts: 321
Location: Pittsburgh PA
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Water retaining, opposed to displacing french drain foot paths that run on slightly off contour. Mixed with buried hugels, alternating between said paths to hold water. There was a man in LA, who was ultimately forced to bulldoze his mound, that combusted, due to an overabundance of compost, who never irrigated. He trucked in massive amounts of wood and manure, not realizing he built the biggest hugle ever.

http://arthurmag.com/2009/04/02/the-sodfather-californian-compost-wizard-tim-dundon/

He told me a story about how during one of the worst droughts in LA, they discovered his property, from a thermal image, via helicopter. His property showed up a 30 ft deep lake.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Everyone,
i just wanted to give a quick update and to post a picture to help others understand how how we irrigate.

i havent been able to find suitable 8in irrigation pipe, so the field hasnt changed shape yet..

our irrigation water started ~ 21 days earlier than normal so we ran out of time and didnt get the swale built..

we are still looking for pipe and hope to install the swale as soon as we have pipe on hand.

in the meantime - here is a pic i took of the pasture being irrigated.
you can see the small furrows/currigations that carry water down the field.
hopefully this will help others to see how we do things here

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Posts: 1907
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Kelly,

It looks good so far! Are you looking at a pretty good water year, over your side of the mountains? I'm worried they'll put us on rationing or worse over here.

I'm putting up some photos of my new earthworks. A fellow permie western sloper brought his backhoe over and dug me some swale/channel/ditches. Thanks a million Ryan! The first photo shows the slope pretty well, that the channel on the right is lower than the one on the left. The water supply is in the back ground, up against the windbreak.

The second photo shows I got most of the extra dirt moved away, and the water is filling the top swale, and soaking in. I have more slope on my smaller piece of land, and much sandier soil, I think, than you do. I like my soil pretty well, but recently I've been learning about TCEC, and learned that clay has a much greater potential for fertility itself.

Anyway, here's another pair of photos showing "how we do it here". Irrigation water is wonderful!
new-dug.JPG
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with-water.jpg
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pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
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Hi Kelly,

That's a nice place you've got there. I have friends that use similar irrigation strategies.

What I see is some real nice looking alfalfa and infiltration channels everywhere. Why change?

It seems like you could plant long rows of fruit and nut trees tightly into the corrugations with berry bushes in the corrugations on each side of that and then leave a strip that is large enough for your swather and repeat the pattern. Since you have such a great leguminous cover crop everywhere, it seems like this would take right off.

Maybe your place is steeper than it looks, but I just don't see the benefit of digging in swales on contour when you probably don't get much runoff as it is.

My 2 cents,
Bill
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Thekla.

yeah, we have had a decent spring. im a bit worried we will run out of water in mid summer - but our irrigation companys "lake" was full so we had to start irrigating. we got 5 rounds of irrigation last year (~12 acre feet) - if we can get 3-4 this year that would be great

your new swales look good! sure wish i had a permie with a backhoe near me- id have a pond already!
i did similar swales last year when i put in some fruit trees.
these were hand dug and before the voles got to them - water would cascade down all 7 "swales" whenever we irrigated (or it rained )

i dont have any good pictures of the swales - we installed them/planted trees literally as irrigation water was at out water box...
if you look on the 1st page i have a picture of where the swales are on the property
this is all i have for pics:

and here is a pic looking along contour


i plan to dig the ditches wider and deeper this year. these swales are where i havent seen water "plume" downhill as seen on some videos. i think its a combination of my heavy clay soil and low slope.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Bill Bradbury wrote:Hi Kelly,

That's a nice place you've got there. I have friends that use similar irrigation strategies.

What I see is some real nice looking alfalfa and infiltration channels everywhere. Why change?

It seems like you could plant long rows of fruit and nut trees tightly into the corrugations with berry bushes in the corrugations on each side of that and then leave a strip that is large enough for your swather and repeat the pattern. Since you have such a great leguminous cover crop everywhere, it seems like this would take right off.

Maybe your place is steeper than it looks, but I just don't see the benefit of digging in swales on contour when you probably don't get much runoff as it is.

My 2 cents,
Bill



Hi Bill,
My main goal is to be able to control the water all the way down the pasture.
now, water will jump furrows and once this happens, rarely does the water get back into its original furrow.
so far the best i can come up with is to "swale" up the water ~ 1/2 down the field, and put it back into gated irrigation pipe.

here is a picture of what i am trying to avoid:


i was also hoping to get the added benefits of the swales/berms when (if?) rain does fall.

we do plan more trees, both fruiting and n-fixing - but in our area we plan to keep a good portion of the property in pasture.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1907
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Kelly,

Remind me how long you've been at your place? It's only a couple or three years right? and before that it was compacted by horses? I think alfalfa is very deep rooted, and that over time, you soil will get more permeable, so that it's as hard or harder now than it will get. Every year of effort is cumulative.

Wouldn't you say you are making progress? On my place I have had a thousand more ideas than I could ever follow through on. All this thinking you are doing about how to respond to the water situation is making you smarter about water and smarter about your place.

Anyway, in places where you are not planting trees and shrubs, in the places where it is just alfalfa, and projected to remain pasture, do you think there would be any benefit to putting in a companion plant to the alfalfa? Something to cover some of the bare soil, leave some residue, encourage the soil community? OK, OK, you really have your hands full, but what about getting some seeds to toss out come late fall, and let the frost get the seeds worked into the ground? Something like plantain that is a ubiquitous edible medicinal first-aid-kit-in-a-leaf weed, or a perennial grass?

just a thought.

and yeah, that was incredible luck for me. He dug a pond for me too!

Thekla
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Kelly,

Remind me how long you've been at your place? It's only a couple or three years right? and before that it was compacted by horses? I think alfalfa is very deep rooted, and that over time, you soil will get more permeable, so that it's as hard or harder now than it will get. Every year of effort is cumulative.


We have been here for ~4 growing seasons, 2 of which were pretty severe drought. alfalfa is certainly deep rooted. when we replaced our main water line, i saw roots 3.5-4ft deep as we dug the new water line trench.

We do hay parts of the pasture. so we do cause some compaction a few times a year. i havent figured out how to harvest all the pasture via a biological mouth (cows/sheep/??), while still being able to efficiently overwinter those animals. so for now, a mechanical mouth (cutter/swather) is the best we have.
We also sell some of the alfalfa hay as an income stream to complete projects around the farm.
i plan to learn about grazing plans and the like soon, and hope to at least have a half assed one done for this year. we hope to rotate through 1/2 the pasture this year and hay the other 1/2, then rotate that next year.

Thekla McDaniels wrote:
Anyway, in places where you are not planting trees and shrubs, in the places where it is just alfalfa, and projected to remain pasture, do you think there would be any benefit to putting in a companion plant to the alfalfa? Something to cover some of the bare soil, leave some residue, encourage the soil community? OK, OK, you really have your hands full, but what about getting some seeds to toss out come late fall, and let the frost get the seeds worked into the ground? Something like plantain that is a ubiquitous edible medicinal first-aid-kit-in-a-leaf weed, or a perennial grass?

Thekla



yep, you are on it!
here is a thread i did asking for suggestions on what to plant. http://www.permies.com/t/33453/plants/irrigated-pasture-planting-suggestions
there is even a 2015 update on what we see growing! let me know what you think.

i am trying to follow Darren Doherty saying of "100% ground cover, 100% of the time" - as usual im having a hard time reconciling that with a flood type scenario. though it doesnt take long til what is growing totally shades the soil.


im jealous of the pond! send me some pics via email please
 
Posts: 114
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im jealous of the pond! send me some pics via email please


Or you could post them here so we can see too.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Posts: 1907
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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My "ridge point pond/ dam"

The three photos are looking the same direction. Look for the pair of plum trees in the background. In the "before" they are left of center, then they are in bloom. It was about a month in between digging it and the irrigation water arriving.

What you see in the "before picture is what my daughter and I did with a shovel, and the big stone that we (really she) freed up. Before the pond is filled you can see that stone as a flat stone where I could put a potted plant for the season. The grey buckets are "about where I want the pond".

The white pvc pipe poking up is the cheater I put on the valve handle. That is where the irrigation water enters the pond, about a foot lower thatn the surface of the ground a 4 inch line is buried. I think you can see the spillway to the right as we face the dam in the photos.

And you can see where we began to stack the soil to build up the lowest end. The back side of the dam is as long a slope as we could make it with the soil we removed. It has held well. There is some seepage, which I wanted, it comes out and under the back side ofthe dam and travels along sometimes below the surface, but if I walk on it it gets boggy. I think I need some stepping stones... But that seepage waters a lot of ground, and I am working on getting it go even further.

Really the pictures are pretty self explanatory. I just like to talk about it.
before.JPG
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ready-to-fill.JPG
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full.JPG
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Greetings all -

Practicing Permaculture here at 7000, just outside of Norwood, where we are enjoying another killer sunset. Would love to meet up with some more western slope folks when I am passing through your way...

My solution to the simultaneously distributing rainwater (diffuse) and irrigation water (delivered all at two points on my property, fortunately two of the four high points!) through dead clay is this:

1. Subsoiler ripping in a decidedly "keyline" pattern, i.e. 1:100 ish fall from the wide/shallow valley areas toward the ridges. First pass will have to be relatively shallow (8"?) ripping, but subsequent rips will be deeper as the roots can hold the clay open.
2. "Straightened contour" swales that will purposefully deepen to cross the micro-valleys a little lower down than a true on contour swale, but with a taller berm. Mark Shepard calls these "pocket ponds" or "drive-through ponds" because they are not really for holding water, just an extra place to catch a few more gallons than a true bending with the contour swale would: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AllIjRJ0gOY
3. Level sills for the swales primarily at the ridge points, but several other spots along the swale also, with height controls like sandbags and tarp dams to decide which ridge gets the extra water right now. Think dirt-formed gated pipe almost..
4. Level-ish and on-ridge access ways... not roads, but sacrificial areas where compaction will not be fought, built up an inch or two by making ditches on either side. These ditches are to drain the road, but also to move water downhill on purpose when needed (think "bar ditch" on a county road)...

My thought is that the pocket ponds will fill in our rare large rain events (we had 3" in 24 hours a couple of years ago, and >1" right on top of the big spring melt last year), and during a big influx of irrigation water (its either big flow or no flow here at the end of the ditch system, not much in between). However, the pocket ponds should immediately start draining out the subsoiled channels created in step 1. Should being the operative word, as I am not sure I have ever seen this done this exact way, especially not in this high of clay + low organic matter environment. Wish me luck.

I have to be extra careful because our main cash crop this year is industrial hemp, to be grown between the swales. Hemp planting guides from Canada come with a lot of warnings about sensitivity to drowning until the plants are around 12" tall. Fortunately, that danger period should only be about 14-20 days... I will be sure to report back here with results.

Some of the comments about water law and answers from local water commissioners are not lining up with what I hear from the one administrating this area. I did hear a soft "3 day rule" for using ditch company delivered irrigation water. However, he was very clear that if I do not allow the irrigation tail water to hit the creek that runs through my property, I absolutely can pump this over-irrigation back to the top of the hill, if it is distributed again within three days. He was also very clear that used does not mean three day fill-empty-fill-empty cycles for the top pond, but that the top pond volume should not be so great that it cannot change over within three days. I vaguely remember something about an exception to the evaporation rules if you can keep it flowing and cool enough to not evaporate like a static pond would, but I would not confront anyone using my memory on that. I also made the statement that swales are not considered storage ponds, but rather erosion control features and therefore encouraged by the state and he said that was spot on. Then there is the whole topic of jurisdictional vs non-jurisdictional ponds, but that would be too much thread hijacker-ish for my taste.

There is also a lot of prioritization and interpretation going on with water commissioners. He even admitted to giving people different answers based on their knowledge level..."Can I do this?" "No" "Why?" "Because it is simpler for me to tell you no than to try to explain why you did it wrong later" "What?" ... Whereas I am going to put in blatantly illegal rain catchment and we both joked about how if he is coming after my few thousand gallons stored by my house and barn, we have bigger problems than my few thousand gallons can solve... A big part of the problem is the term "water rights", which really should have been "water priorities". I can do what I want / need to until someone with a higher priority cries foul (aka "puts a call on"). So, my strategy is to use and store the surplus IN THE SOIL all year long every way I can, in preparation for the not rainy days where I cannot legally take water out of the creek.

Long term, my goal is to put a measuring weir where the creek enters my property, and the same weir where it leaves my property. I want to prove that my land and hydrological management practices are putting more water into the creek than I am taking out. Then, the water commissioner and I have a tongue-in-cheek agreement that I will not be seeing him again after that...
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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David your project sounds fascinating!

I had forgotten about this thread, forgotten I had posted pictures of the pond I put in Feb of 2015. I just finished putting in a pond drain. I had to hand dig it because I could not get the ditch machine in the small space.

The drain is a 4 inch pipe coming out of the lowest part of the pond, and going far enough to drain into an irrigation ditch at an elevation just a little lower than the origin. I plan to widen and deepen the irrigation ditch below where the drain enters. i don't want the irrigation water to flow into the open drain end and deposit sediment.

Last year, I would fill the pond and keep it full for 7-10 days, while I watered the rest of the property, swales furrows and infiltration basins. Then when I turned off the water, it took several days for the pond to dry. I needed a a way to empty the pond quickly, so that the soil adjacent to the pond has a chance to dry out.

All in all the pond worked wonderfully last year, and will work even better this year with its drain.
 
Kelly Smith
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we are hoping we can get a small irrigation diversion and more piping installed in the next week or so.
we built a A frame level and have some flags.

we are cutting it close again this year. our irrigation water starts flowing april 11th - and we have 100 or so trees coming in early may.
if we dont have anything done by then - it likely wont get done again this year.... but if it doesnt get done, we wont have anywhere to plant the trees we have coming!

fwiw - below ive attached what we are planning
swalewithpipe.png
[Thumbnail for swalewithpipe.png]
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Kelly,
Here we are, beginning another season. Seems like progress is being made at your place and mine, though we have not been able to visit each other's projects yet, I'm glad to read your news.

I've got I don't know how many trees coming this spring too. What ever the amount required to get the conservation trees through the extension, I ordered that many silver buffalo berry, and that many of something else, perhaps alders, and three linden. Last year I planted a couple of English walnuts, and found a good deal on a couple of ginkos. I'm waiting for our water, April 11 they start filling the system, but it doesn't usually arrive until the second or third day.

I feel like I am about to step onto another rolley coaster ride. "Hang on, and good luck to us all" for achieving great things in our various pursuits this year!

I've just read through this thread and the one asking for suggestions on what to plant as pasture. I wonder if you decided on any deep rooted grasses? Adam suggested orchard grass and I am pretty happy with that here too. I don't know how deep rooted it is, but it is growing now, along with day lilies, little blue mustard, alfalfa, and some dock leaves, some clovers. Things like the big blue stem, sunflowers, maximillian sunflowers, and "jerusalem" artichokes (aka earth pears a name I'm trying to get to catch on) and hot weather annuals are not doing much yet. I just wanted to suggest big blue stem as a warm season grass. I like it because of how deep it will put roots down (12-15 feet), and because it has great palatability. It is slow to start, but I do have some that even flowered last season (planted in 2013). This year, I've asked my friends with a native and xeric plant nursery to grow 100 plants in gallon pots for me. I'm getting such a solid layer of growing plants covering the soil surface, that it is hard to get something like big blue stem started, so my plan is to wait til the active growing time for BBS, then make sure the soil is moist, then dig holes and plant the plants in the pots. It will give me a chance to see how deep the neighboring roots are, see how deep the transformation (red to black) has extended, add innoculants, organic matter or what ever seems indicated. BBS will grow 12 feet high, it is part of the tall grass prairie community. I figure it will be a marker species for me, indicating what else is going on in any given area.

 
Kelly Smith
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yep - here we are again. i seem to be perpetually behind.
normally our water doesnt start til may 15th, so i was hoping i would have another month!

this year we ordered so lilacs, honey locust, arpicot and hybrid poplars. i am trying to break our single pasture into 2 using a tree line. i plan to use apple, pear, honey locust and polar. maybe a mulberry or 2 thrown in there, we will see what we can find locally/have time for.

we did seed orchard grass. i like it so far. it sure is tough. the animals seem to graze and graze it down and it comes back. we have sheep now, so they are able to get MUCH closer to the ground than our cow can, but the orchard grass still seems to hang in there.

i will check out the big blue stem. i feel like our pastures would really benefit from a warm season grass - its just so hard to compete with alfalfa - especially irrigated - in the summer.

please let me know if you (or anyone) is near Canon City or Pueblo - I would be happy to show people around the farm.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Kelly, thanks for the update. I want to pass on something I learned at the soil health conference in Delta earlier this year. Speakers were Gabe Brown and Jay Fuhrer. Do you know who they are?

As you know I have the puzzle of grazing and developing/improving pasture at the same time. You say your cattle continually eat the orchard grass, and the sheep will eat it even lower. Are you moving the grazers around? Gabe and Jay said 90% of the pasture's time should be in recovery, only 1/10th in grazing. If you graze more than that what you will find is that your forage diversity diminishes, and with decreased diversity in the plants, you get decreased diversity in your soil food web community. It is helpful to me to have a guideline like 10 %.

What I plan to do this year is keep my animals in a small sacrifice zone (some folks say this is not necessary, but I feel certain my life will be easier if I do) with plenty of alfalfa, and move them about as feed is available else where on my, and my neighbor's property but try for the 90% recovery time. I will be using smaller grazing enclosures than I have before. In the past I have struggled with making a big enclosure so I don't have to move them again tomorrow or that afternoon, but that allows them to pick their favorites and then come back to them soon. In the past I have found myself thinking exactly what Greg Judy says not to do: look at the ground and say to myself I can leave them here another day or two. That is the situation in which I am NOT helping the development of the pasture.

I don't k now if you struggle with these questions as well, but it seems so easy to fall into them!

And yes, I do remember, we can plan all we want, but then we just have to see how things go, and adjust to the conditions that arise.
 
Kelly Smith
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Hi Kelly, thanks for the update. I want to pass on something I learned at the soil health conference in Delta earlier this year. Speakers were Gabe Brown and Jay Fuhrer. Do you know who they are?

As you know I have the puzzle of grazing and developing/improving pasture at the same time. You say your cattle continually eat the orchard grass, and the sheep will eat it even lower. Are you moving the grazers around? Gabe and Jay said 90% of the pasture's time should be in recovery, only 1/10th in grazing. If you graze more than that what you will find is that your forage diversity diminishes, and with decreased diversity in the plants, you get decreased diversity in your soil food web community. It is helpful to me to have a guideline like 10 %.

What I plan to do this year is keep my animals in a small sacrifice zone (some folks say this is not necessary, but I feel certain my life will be easier if I do) with plenty of alfalfa, and move them about as feed is available else where on my, and my neighbor's property but try for the 90% recovery time. I will be using smaller grazing enclosures than I have before. In the past I have struggled with making a big enclosure so I don't have to move them again tomorrow or that afternoon, but that allows them to pick their favorites and then come back to them soon. In the past I have found myself thinking exactly what Greg Judy says not to do: look at the ground and say to myself I can leave them here another day or two. That is the situation in which I am NOT helping the development of the pasture.

I don't k now if you struggle with these questions as well, but it seems so easy to fall into them!

And yes, I do remember, we can plan all we want, but then we just have to see how things go, and adjust to the conditions that arise.



yes, we are moving out animals daily from April - Dec, then we have them in a dry lot for the winter (we only feed hay we have grown) - we use sheep electronetting.
I hope to be able to get some good pictures this year - last year when standing on top of my milk barn i could see about 4-5 distinct grazing cells as we moved the animals around. im also looking for someone with a drone that can fly over and take some pics too.

the problem i have is trying to figure out how to mesh the grazing suggestions of the folks in the midwest while living with the very real confines of being an irrigated farm in the west.
i HAVE TO have my animals eat the forage all the way down to the ground, or i am not able to [flood] irrigate correctly. I also cant leave much manure pies out in the pasture as they get sucked up and baled.

i am 100% familiar with the THEORY of large pasture management, from darren doherty to gabe brown, to greg judy and owen hablutzel. we are actually looking to buy an old ranch as some older people retire with the hopes to ranch full time as some point....
until then - i have not see anyone doing anything even similar to what i am doing. adam was as close as it got, but he only did cows and chickens, he also bought winter hay.
i am grazing pigs, cows, sheep and a llama. moving them daily - not buying any hay and trying to figure out how to make it work. i am not overgrazing my pastures, but i am not sure i am building the soil like the experts i mentioned above talk about.

i wish there were more people focused on transforming the smaller irrigated properties of the west - until farming practices changes big time, this is what we do, and small irrigated properties can be ultra productive. I just wish more examples were out there or even professionals designing for such a thing.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I do think we have different challenges here in the irrigated west, and though I think it is normal to live at 5000 feet, I am becoming aware that it makes for a colder winter. Being also dryer, and alkaline, we juggle a lot of variables. Growing up in California's Central Coast, I thought anywhere that snowed had "real winter". Then I moved to Colorado, and thought everywhere from interior Carolinas to the upper midwest and on to the Sierras, all had the same winter challenges we have here. - Don't mind me, I just ignore things like the USDA planting and growing zones, IMO experts only know a fraction of what they say they know - and at last, when I began participating here at Permies and came in to conversation with people with interior, but milder winters that I have here, then I finally began to see that I went from (close to) one extreme to (close to ) the other.


The conference in Delta (Feb 2016) was mostly focusing on benefits of no till cover crops. I came home and began to try to figure out how I could no till seed the small spaces I play with, and I'd have to have a special seeder built I think. I did start my chickens on pasture a couple of weeks ago, with the premier one poultry netting. I had worried the birds would fly out but they don't. What I see is they do a pretty good job of scratching the surface of the soil. Some of the weed grass plants remain alive, which I think is fine from the stand point of keeping live roots in the ground, but that may be a s close as I will come to "no till" seeding. Once my water comes in, I'll seed the areas they've scratched up. But to begin, I'll have to use the pump and sprinkler. I've identified 3 different plots plus their original permanent fence yard adjacent to the chicken house, that they can use from the chicken house, but I want to make a traveling house for them so I can run them through the orchard too.

I am getting another potential farm sitter and back up milker, so possibly I can make it to your place, as well as the place David is beginning his earth works on in the Norwood area this year. This is the time of year for setting goals, and prioritizing them. We'll see what happens.
 
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we went out on monday and set a slightly off contour "irrigation diversion channel" (may sometimes be called a swale for brevity)

our neighbor came and tilled the line for us this morning - so we are going to go throw the dirt downhill and see how it looks. we also have pipe to setup just downhill so we can better irrigate our pastures.

our irrigation water is coming on Friday morning, so in true fashion, i will barely get this in, in time


20160413_084209.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20160413_084209.jpg]
 
Kelly Smith
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Here is our newly installed 'irrigation control ditch"
It runs at a 1-2% downhill slope towards our 'tailwater collection pit'




Here is the pic of the tailwater collection pit:


We still need to do a bit of work here, but once finished, water will collect here and be put back into pipe to irrigate the lower pasture.

pictures were taken less than 24 hours apart. gotta love farming in CO
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Oh yeah, changeable climate for sure! love seeing all that water, liquid gold.

Thanks for posting the photos!
 
Kelly Smith
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i plan to redo the berm and dig out the 'pond' portion of it by next irrigation. i hope to get the pipe irrigation all worked out by next time.

I also plan to add a few over flow pipes and one pipe that i can connect up to a pump for future use
 
Kelly Smith
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here is an overhead view of the irrigation control ditch we installed.
it slopes towards the 'ridge' at 1%
July-2016.png
[Thumbnail for July-2016.png]
 
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