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desert permaculture design

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Your land is not pristine. The soil has been highly degraded by cattle, that's why there are so many exposed rocks and little top soil. It just keeps washing and blowing away. It gathers around plants. There are invasive species there, including buflo grass. Around here in Saguro-land, it takes around 400 years for a bladed ecosystem to fully return on its own, but saguaro and ironwood, once conditions are set, take most of that time. You'll need to place the keys to recovery out there, but it doesn't have to take four centuries.

The top soil builds around plants. The mesquite creates islands of life under it, once it takes a hold. Go to your local mesquite and observe this. Soil builds from sheltered plants, animals sheltering there eat and fertilize. quail dig things up, churning the soil, with ants. Shade slows the loss of moister, cools the air as it moves through helping the surroundings, Everything happens under the mesquite. Just never take the lower dead wood away, like the cattle do and it will provide. Sun, snow, rain will all give increase under the the mesquite. You will have to haul water or dig a well to get them started the first few years. You could give them a start with imported soil. A catchment would work well and digging a LARGE bowl for roots to expand. This will take some time. Things happen slow it the dry desert.

The ancient peoples used to plant corn and agave in the bowls created by dams. These were rock, or just dug berms in flood planes. The rainwater will sift into the soil and come back out down stream, if your conditions are as rocky as they appear in the pics. That is better than it washing away. Before the cattle, the flow was much slower and would seep into the riparian floras, grasses and top soil, then flow into the sand below. Down stream the flash flooda won't wash away everything in its path and it can establish.

Prickly pear cactus will flourish quickly, feed you and you could make some side money with the products. Napolote and eggs are good with salsa. Mesquite beans are work, but very tasty and good for you. When you find out what is natural to eat there, you can make more, just by adding a source for water. You may have water pretty close to the ground, by the look of the terrain in the satellite photo. There is much to learn just by studying natures successes in the desert.

A local more conventional garden will probably need some back up water sources. The tubes with perforated tubes work best, but you'll have to find a source as they are generally sold by the mile. Odd plants like moringa, free range, organic eggs can be profitable like the prickly pear juices products, or jojoba.
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Have you though about "natural farming"?
Get ALL the books by Masanobu Fukuoka ( " One straw revolution" and "Natural Farming")
He has lts os information especiallyu in the first bbok ( One Straw<>>>>)
pn his thoughts on regreeing the desert.
BilMollison also talked a lot about his not sure if he wrote about his Arfica project or not)
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TheDirtSurgeon may have been abrasive but he is correct. There are few deserts on the planet that are not man-made, and deserts tend to produce more desert. The cycle of desertification takes an enormous amount of energy to reverse, and extensive earthworks are the first step. Swales aren't always the answer, but extensive earthworks are--zuni bowls, contour stone bunds, cross weirs, induced meandering (if you're on more of a flood plain), and check dams all have their place: whatever you can do to slow, spread, and soak the rain you get.

Second off, given the downward spiral of desertification--in which desert begets more desert and species have to migrate in order to survive, the soil biota dies and the land goes saline--if you can find a plant that benefits the rest of the ecology and can prepare the way for less hardy species, it ought to be planted. Can you imagine thai food without the chile pepper? yet the chile is native to central America. How about Italian food without tomatoes? Also native to the Americas. Our species has been involved in a dramatic reorder of plants and ecologies throughout our history--sometimes to our benefit and other times to our death. But when you're in a desert, especially one that used to not be a desert, but is now because of human mismanagement, you are working in a dying land that only people or another ice age can bring it back to life.
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Your land looks awesome. I just bought 5 acres near Joshua Tree in CA.  Good luck bro!
5 acres near Joshua Tree in CA
5 acres near Joshua Tree in CA
A lot of people cry when they cut onions. The trick is not to form an emotional bond. This tiny ad told me:
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