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What we need to know about Soil  RSS feed

 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Installment 5

Bacteria come in four groups, divided by not only what they do but also how they do it.
Most bacteria fall into the category of decomposers, consume simple carbon compounds like root exudates, fresh plant material and dying root material.
This is how they convert energy in soil organic matter into components that are useful to the rest of the organisms that make up what we call soil.
Dr. Elaine R. Ingham calls this the soil food web and this is a most appropriate, description.
All things living on earth are interconnected (a web) and one way or another, every living thing is food for something else, it is how the great circle of life exists and continues.

Many decomposing bacteria can break down pesticides and other soil pollutants, they are the beginning of nature’s cleanup crew.
Especially important is that they immobilize and retain nutrients in their cells, preventing the loss of those nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the root zone.

The second group of bacteria are mutualists, those bacteria that form partnerships with plant roots.
The nitrogen fixers are the best known of these bacteria.

The third group are the pathogens which include Erwinia, Xymomonas and Agrobacerium that cause gaull formation in plants.

The fourth group are chemoautotrophs and lithotrophs which obtain their energy from sulfur, iron or nitrogen compounds along with hydrogen instead of from carbon compounds.
Some of these are important to degradation of pollutants as well as to nitrogen cycling.

All four of these groups of bacteria are involved in water dynamics, disease suppression and nutrient cycling.
Some affect water movement by producing substances that bind soil particles into small aggregates (diameters in the 2 to 200 um range).
These stable aggregates improve water infiltration by capillary action as well as helping with water retention ability.
In a broadly diverse bacteria community, many organisms will compete with disease causing organisms in and around roots as well as on above ground surfaces of plants.

Previously we went over the Nitrogen fixers, now it is time to look a little at Nitrifying bacteria who change ammonium (NH4+) into nitrite (NO2-) and then into nitrate (NO3-) one of the preferred forms of nitrogen for row crops, and grasses.
Nitrate is easily leached from soil so some farmers use inhibitors to reduce the nitrifying bacteria’s activities, when these are suppressed it allows most of the nitrogen to remain as ammonium.
This is one of the problems with current commercial agriculture, the N is there, but in the wrong form for plant uptake.

Denitrifying bacteria convert nitrate (NO3-) into nitrogen (N2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) gas.
The denitrifiers are anaerobic, which means they need an oxygen free atmosphere instead of an oxygen rich environment to live and work.
Saturated soils like those found in swamps and marshes are their preferred habitat.

This leaves the Actinomycetes, a large group of bacteria that have growth habits like fungi, meaning they grow in chains like hyphae.
These guys are where the “earthy” smell of freshly turned, healthy soil comes from.
The actinomycetes decompose a wide variety of substrates but are most cherished for their work in breaking down recalcitrant compounds like chitin and cellulose.
They are active in high pH levels while it is fungi that do the job in low pH levels.
Actinomycetes are also used to produce a number of antibiotics such as Streptomyces.

There are strains of Pseudomonas fuorescens with anti-fungal properties that inhibit some plant pathogens.
Along with P.fluorescens there are Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas species that can increase plant growth several ways.
They might produce a compound that inhibits growth of pathogens or reduce invasion of plants by a pathogen.
They may produce growth factor compounds that directly increase plant growth and productivity.
These enhancing bacteria occur naturally in soils, but may not be present in high enough numbers to have a dramatic effect.
Research is ongoing to find ways to increase the numbers of these particular species to make them available to agriculture.

Bacteria alter a soil environment to the extent that it will favor particular plant communities over others.
This is fundamental and why the bacterial community must come before any plants in a fresh sediment environment.
If you till the soil you are at the point of having to reestablish the bacterial community before your seeds have any chance of growing.
The first bacteria that have to establish are the photosynthetic bacteria, fixing atmospheric nitrogen and carbon to produce organic matter.
They also immobilize enough nitrogen and the other nutrients to initiate the nitrogen cycling processes in young soil (tilling is disturbance which equates to new soil).
Once these bacterial processes are established the early successional plant species can grow, followed by more of the plant community.
Each layer of plants lay down their different organic materials, enabling the next successor to establish. 

The bacterial community’s ability to alter the soil structure and the environment for plants thus we end up with healthy soil, capable of sustaining those plants and moving up the succession ladder.

The bacteria are the bottom of the “food web”, they can be found hovering on and near root systems and in places with high organic matter density.
In the agricultural world, we want a bacterial base that is about equal to the fungal base.
For forests we want the ratio to be tilted towards the fungi in biomass ratios of 5:1 thru 10:1 for deciduous forests and 100:1 up to 1000:1 in coniferous forest.
In any environment, once you establish what the base is (bacterial or fungal) you can start looking for the predators of that base organism.
Protozoa will be abundant in the bacteria rich environment and you will find bacteria eating nematodes and all the other bacteria eaters in larger numbers than any of the fungi predators.
This will go all the way up to the large predators such as earthworms and arthropods.
If you have a bacterial system you would expect to find the red wiggler worm more so than the earth worm.
In a fungal system you will find few red wigglers and lots of earthworms.
Once you start getting down in predator size, you find that a microscope is an indispensable tool.
Nematodes are considered large in the world we are talking about but they can be invisible to the naked eye.
Fortunately you don’t need to spend a mini fortune to get a microscope that is up to the task, they can be had for under 300.00.
For those to whom money is no object, you might go for those super nice 2,000 dollar and up models that have every bell and whistle any microbiologist has on their wish list. 


To be continued.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 409
Location: Western Kenya
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As always, great stuff.  As I have been reading, I have been thinking about how this information could be simplified and broken down for a largely illiterate farm population here in Africa.  Perhaps turning it into a simplified cartoon.

For example, most farmers interplant beans with their maize.  I don't know if that was a historical practice or if someone has told them along the way to plant beans for nitrogen.  However when they harvest their beans, they uproot the whole plant and carry it back to their houses for further drying and threshing.  The plant matter might be fed to livestock, but is most often burned, and the ash used as a baking soda substitute.  Point being the plant never returns to the field so most of that nitrogen is lost.  Most are also applying high nitrogen chemical fertilizers to the maize.  DAP,CaN and urea being the most common.  And since they see a benefit to their maize, they tend to apply it haphazardly to everything, including sweet potatoes :/
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Maureen, what a marvelous idea, using cartoons to get points across, simply brilliant!

The three sisters were most likely taught by missionaries some time ago.
The practices you mention of taking the whole plant is something that is found in many parts of the world and one of the reasons most of the rich soil areas are becoming barren today.
This is something that can be changed but it takes a lot of effort to get folks into a new farming mind set, especially since "Big Ag" spends millions to get their bad methodology into every country.

If I can be of help, let me know, I will do all that I can.

Redhawk
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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You are doing wonderful work just by publishing this information for free. 

I still have an idea to start a farmers group here, which you might remember.  Although I shelved it, the idea doesn't go away.  Its hard stuff to watch your neighbors struggle with hunger.

This stuff you are writing about is the stuff I wish they could grasp.  Even just the concept that we WANT living things in our soil.  Another common practice here is to plow just before the dry season so "the sun can kill the bad things in the soil.". So the soil gets sterilized before they plant in the next rain.

Looking forward to the next installment.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Ah, so they are doing what their ancestors did. That is a hard thing to overcome unless you can get them to try new ideas on a small plot just to see the difference.

It is unfortunate that through out the history of farming what they are doing has been the normal method, from the beginning of men growing food instead of hunting and gathering they have tilled soil.
Only in jungle tribes do you find anything close to natural farming and that is usually only with taro plants.

I have friends that have done what you want to do. They did it by showing how much more they could grow ( a small test field grew as much as one of the normal acres ).

I will try to work up a short, very simple plan that should help you get them to see a better method.
When I get it ready I will pm you.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3293
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Installment 6

Fungal agents have been used extensively for biocontrol of both plant fungal diseases and insect pests.
Various non-pathogenic (saprophytic) strains of Rhizoctonia, Fusarium and Trichoderma,  have been used to reduce damage (root rots, wilts, damping off and bare patches) caused by their pathogenic “cousins” and other pathogenic fungi (e.g., Pythium, Sclerotium and Verticillium).
The fungi Metarrhizium anisopliae, has been successfully used to kill larvae of the grass grubs (scarab beetle) in pastures and several genera of nematode-trapping or “nematophagous” fungi (e.g., Arthrobotrys, Nematophthora, Dactylella and Verticillium) have shown potential for plant parasitic nematode control.
Currently the level of control is much lower than that which is obtained by use of nematicides but we need to get away from using chemicals so that soil health can be improved.

Even though some of these antagonists show excellent potential for wider use, they continue to be greatly underutilized, primarily due to strict regulations regarding their use and the technical difficulties associated with introducing and maintaining a specific strain of fungi in the soil.
Some technical problems with the use of fungi and bacteria being able to do what they are supposed to do, are: the identification of the factors affecting their survival rates in soils, the best strain for each crop and field conditions, the best methods of field application, the best formulation for delivery, the most appropriate farm management practices to enhance biocontrol, and the education of farmers on the use of the technology.
Besides the direct method of inoculation, indirect methods of disease and pest control using various agricultural practices that are preventive or antagonistic to the organisms such as:
soil solarization, crop rotation, use of genetically resistant varieties, organic matter and fertilizer applications, reduced- or no-tillage, natural pesticides and prophylactic control or prevention of disease introduction.

Entomopathogenic nematodes of the Deladenus, Neoaplectana, Tetradonema, Steinernema and Heterorhabditis genera have been successfully used to control a wide range of insect pests causing damage in horticultural, food cropping, natural and plantation forests: white grubs (scarab beetle larvae), weevils (curculionid beetles), termites, ants, mole crickets, armyworms, fruit flies, sciarid flies, potato, cucumber and flea beetles, locusts, turnip moths, woodwasps and rootworms.
The success of these nematodes lies in the fact that most (more than 90%) of the insect pests spend at least a part of their life cycle in contact with the soil, where they will also meet the biocontrol nematodes, that are not only naturally present, but also have a broad host range and the ability to seek out their host and kill it rapidly. They can be easily mass produced and are environmentally safe.
Regarding the role of fungus-feeding nematodes in controlling plant pathogenic fungi we know very little, but they may be potentially important.
Further work in the field is needed to confirm results with this potential means of disease biocontrol.

These methods are successful, and can be more easily implemented to promote an integrated soil health management without the use of questionable chemicals that are more and more being found to be detrimental to human and animal health.
In short, for the past 80 years or more we have been using techniques that poison the human body.
The results are that we are a self-destructing society not unlike the Roman Empire which poisoned themselves by using lead for water pipes and plates.
Until we can change the current agriculture models and get all farmers onboard, nothing will change health wise for humanity.
Many of these issues come from the high expectations of commercial farmers for a quick fix.
The farm that looks to always increase yields is one of the biggest issues we face, we need to change the “feed the world” mentality currently promoted by the government.
In the world now we have just a few countries producing food for other countries to the point of most countries being “food dependent” on those producing food stuffs.
The countries that buy all or almost all of their foods are increasing in population and so put more demand on the producing countries.
This leads to those few countries trying to provide more and that has led to the agricultural methods that have made foods which are supposed to be nutrient dense, so poor in nutrients that they are now a health hazard.
This is the exact opposite of the whole purpose of farming in general and it has produced the “factory farm” where profits are chased to the exclusion of all else.

Soils or areas in the field and agroecosystem that show greater relative resistance to disease expression in plants (despite the presence of the pathogen, susceptible host plant and favorable climatic conditions) have been termed “suppressive soils”.
Every type of soil has a potential for disease suppression and agricultural management practices can be enhanced to promote naturally-occurring disease suppressing activities.
Most suppressive soils appear to have neutral to alkaline pH values (pH greater than 7), it is probable that liming of acidic, disease prone soils may effectively reduce the severity of some fungal pathogens such as wilts.
Another strategy for increasing soil suppressiveness involves the process of isolating and selecting efficient antagonistic microorganisms for field inoculation.

As you can see, there are many field trials and laboratory studies being done as well as to be done before science can implement these methods.
We don’t need to wait for all that to happen before we can build healthy soil.
These methods, while great to hear, aren’t currently being used on large farms, except as experimental trials.
What we need is to simply build healthy soil, and we don’t need to wait on science to do it.
Nature has been doing it since the earth cooled enough for life to begin forming.
The next installments will begin to explore just how we can use soil science and microbiology to create a nice symbiotic world in our own soil so that we can grow nutrient rich, great tasting, healthy foods for our table.
We will cover amendments that work as well as how to make them or acquire them along with how to incorporate them for best success.

Redhawk

To be continued.
 
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Bryant, it has taken me until today to start reading this thread, and I have been reading since early afternoon, with other projects put aside.  It is now after 8:30 at night.  Your easy-to-follow descriptions of soil types inspired me to go on a web-surfing detour to check out my own soil (online diagnosis, sigh); like Joel Bercardin, I have a podzol--maybe a duric, ferro-humic podzol (but don't hold me to that bit), in a boreal biome. 

Your writing style is detailed enough to be meaningful and not over-simplistic, yet not require the reader to have a degree in soil science to understand.  Your explanations follow step-by-step logic, not making leaps that the less informed can't follow.  I look forward to reading the intriguing connections that you have hinted are to come, and thank you for sharing your great knowledge and experience.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3293
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Installment 7

By now you probably realize that we could go into such depth of knowledge about soil that this thread could go on for at least two years. (The amount of time it takes to earn a Master’s degree)
Since I consider that going that deep into this subject would mostly be a waste of your time, we will instead begin to understand how all the information and knowledge already put into this thread works together, how we can do simple testing to make sure what we are doing is working the way we want it to work and how to keep the soil and thus our own bodies healthier than possible through grocery store foods.

We know that minerals need to be present (there are 90+ necessary minerals for super healthy soil).
We also know that soil has to contain oxygen in gas form, along with water for the moist, transport environment for all the processes to proceed in a timely manner for plants to thrive.
We know that a soil test will give us the basic minerals, our soil type, the pH and condition.
The complete soil test will add Ionic testing so we will know which minerals are present with a positive or negative charge, organic matter quantities along with a few other niceties and both tests will come with some additive recommendations.
We know we can also have a microbiological test run that will tell us how many bacteria, fungi, nematodes, flagellates, spring tails, etc. are present in our sample.
So what to do now that we are armed with all this data?
Well, you could simply start making the recommended amendments, but that isn’t going to ensure success it is only going to load the non-edible components in quantities that create an osmotic (passive transport) condition that puts minerals in non-usable form inside the plant’s cells.
Doing this is great if your goal is to not provide your plants what they actually need, in the forms they can use, in the biology of life we call that poisoning.
 
In soil, it is bacteria that do the converting, so without those bacteria present in sufficient quantities, those amendments just sit there, waiting until they leach through and are gone.
We know that dirt is minerals, even if some are missing, according to your soil test results, at least some are present already.
Minerals are also called plant nutrients and these are mostly in the bed rock horizon but through weathering, these minerals can move up through the horizons and become available to the microbiota living in the soil.
The biota then take these organically bound nutrients and digests them, the excess processed nutrients are expelled into the soil and plant roots suck them in and transport them to where in the plant they need to go for use by the metabolic processes of the plant.
Thus the plants and soil organisms are what control the nutrient flow in any ecosystem.
This makes increasing the biota (bacteria and fungi) the better starting point.

In soil, Bacteria eat minerals, fungi and other organisms eat bacteria and fungi.
Roots are usually surrounded by bacteria which feed the roots, in the case of trees and most other plants, fungi are either encasing root hairs (the ones that actually take in nutrients for the tree or plant) or these root hair's cells are invaded or surrounded by the fungi.
These fungi eat the bacteria thus releasing the digested nutrients which are now available to the hair roots.
The bacteria that aren’t eaten, act like store houses until the plant sends the exudate that tells the microbiome “I’m hungry for (whatever, mineral, N, P, K, Al, Mg, etc.) at which point the correct bacteria becomes dinner.
In this micro world, calcium can be considered the truck that delivers the foods to the warehouses and Sulphur is the key to that warehouse.
The fungi an bacteria can be thought of as the waiter that serves up the desired meal, unless the diner (the root) needs something that is only stored in a bigger package, at which point the larger organisms come into play since their poop is the larger chain food source, which is again broken down by the bacteria and fungi.  As long as there isn’t a major influx of root eating nematodes or other bad guy predator organisms, the world goes around as it should.
Keep in mind that a few bad guy predators is ok, they can be handled in a thriving microbiome.
The point here is, that it is the microbiome that we work on first, then we can start adding other amendments since now they will actually do some good.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and Potassium will always be recommended at a far too high rate, so don’t worry if it seems to be a little low according to your soil science report.
What we are wanting is balance, not a tip of the scale to one side or the other and small additions are always better than filling the gas tank to overflowing.

Where do we get these bacteria, fungi and other critters to add to our soil?
Well, we have a few sources available usually.
One happens to be that good old friend Compost.
The problem with compost is that most of it doesn’t contain everything we want, but all of it usually has at least one component.
However, we want as much and as many as we can possibly get hold of at one time.
So what makes one compost better than another?
Well most of us build compost out of what we already have on hand, but that means we are only recycling the stuff we already have, not the stuff we really need to add to get a nice, fluffy, complete soil.
While it is very possible to build soil by just growing plants and chopping and dropping them, the substrate (that different color soil just under the top soil horizon) will be a determining factor in just how good a soil you can build with this method alone.
It will definitely be a better soil than it was prior to plant, chop and drop cycling but it may not be as complete as it could be.
It is also a known that just adding compost will not be a long term soil builder since organic matter “goes away” (actually it is used up by the microbiome).

To be Continued

Redhawk
 
Posts: 27
Location: Australia, Canberra
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Hau Kola Redhawk,

I have question about the arbuscular, ericoid and ecto-endo mychorizal fungi.

In a food forest setup we use trees, shrubs and vegetables and they all support their own mychorizal fungi listed above. Would they get into conflict in this densely populated food forest? How would they affect eachother? Positively or Negatively?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3293
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Gurkan, Since all the fungi that are mycorrhizal are root dwellers, meaning they are found very near, actually surrounding or living inside the root cells, they tend to play nice with each other.
These special fungi all act as transporters of nutrients along with completing the break down of long chain proteins so the root can take them up for rebuilding by the plant or tree.
The mycorrhizal fungi also regulate pH to the extent that they can change the near soil pH from 8.0 to 5.5 a rather large swing, it is important to understand that this swing will only be apparent in their immediate surroundings, not even 1cm distant.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3293
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
269
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Installment 8

We have a fair knowledge base, now we need to start putting that knowledge to work for us.
Plants growing will inherently improve where they grow.
The plants do this by putting out their roots and calling, through the use of those exudates we have touched on, to their friendly bacteria and mycelium to come and live with those roots.
Since we know that the bacteria and mycelium will be the ones that like each other, we don’t really need to worry much about bad guys, unless they are already established where we want to grow our plants.
If that is the case, then we can introduce bacteria and fungi eating nematodes to the area and give them a period of time to do their work for us.
The predators in a healthy soil system will be in line, everything will be in balance.
An out of balance soil system is an unhealthy soil system.

Bacteria alter the soil environment to the extent that the soil environment will favor certain plant communities over others.
Before plants can become established on fresh sediments (newly tilled or otherwise disrupted land), the bacterial community must establish first, starting with photosynthetic bacteria.
These fix atmospheric nitrogen and carbon, produce organic matter, and immobilize enough nitrogen and other nutrients to initiate nitrogen cycling processes in the young soil.
Then, early successional plant species can grow.
As the plant community is established, different types of organic matter enter the soil and change the type of food available to bacteria.
In turn, the altered bacterial community changes soil structure and the environment for plants.
Some researchers think it may be possible to control the plant species in a place by managing the soil bacteria community.
Certain strains of the soil bacteria (e.g.) Pseudomonas fluorescens have anti-fungal activity that inhibits some plant pathogens.
P. fluorescens and other Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas species can increase plant growth in several ways.
They may produce a compound that inhibits the growth of pathogens or reduces invasion of the plant by a pathogen.
They may also produce compounds (growth factors) that directly increase plant growth. 

These plant growth-enhancing bacteria occur naturally in soils, but not always in high enough numbers to have a dramatic effect.

Roots are, by their very nature, parts of the plant that grow, age and die rather rapidly, as they die they are replaced by new roots in the case of perennials, this is ever lasting circle of life stuff.
If we are growing annuals, then when the plant dies, so too the roots die and the microbiome is presented with a feast.
When we plant the new annual crop, everything starts up again.
If our soil doesn’t have enough minerals, then only certain plants will thrive and do their best.
When we notice leaves turning yellow or brown, leaves wilting even when we think everything is good, then we need to think about what amendments to make and how much of those amendments we should be adding.
It is always better to add too little than to add too much, of anything.
When we add too much of a component, we create a passive, osmotic condition when what we want is active transfer which makes use of all the good life we have in the soil, they get their exercise and grow strong and healthy this way.
Osmotic transfer allows our bacteria, fungi and all the “higher” life in the soil to become lazy, couch potatoes as it were.
We want our soil critters to be not only sprinters but long distance runners as well, in the peak of condition.
This is why we never want to make the quantitative additions our soil test results tell us to make.
The soil test results assume we want osmotic transfer and so load up the soil so the concentrations outside the cells is far higher than inside the cells, bringing on osmotic transfer conditions.
This is one of the main reasons chemical fertilizers are bad, it is also the reason that even with all the items necessary for plants to produce great taste, none of what you buy at the grocer has that great taste.
Those plants have plenty of nutrients but they can’t make use of any of them because they are not in the right forms for plant use.

The bacteria, having huge amounts of nutrients to digest, become fat then they shut down because they are so full they can’t eat another bite.
The good predators of that bacteria are overwhelmed by the high concentrations of bacteria nutrients and either run away, or the die off, leaving no way for the surplus to be called to use by the plant roots, which are over stuffed because of the concentration levels.
In short, we poison the system we work so hard to build.
So it is always best to provide small doses of nutrients when we want to help our soil be the best it can be.
Fungi will suffer the same gluttony issues, nematodes need to be trim and fit too as do springtails flagellates and all the other soil critters.
We also run the risk of increasing the bad critters, pathogens who work like parasites, suddenly the tide has turned to their favor when our good critters don’t have the fitness level they need to do combat and win the day.
This is probably the one area where good intentions can bite your butt the hardest.
I have gone to gardens where the owner will say “I got the soil tests and put in everything they told me to in the quantities they recommended”, why are my plants dying / not doing well?
When I check for microorganisims, there are very few good organisms alive if they are present at all. 
When you can dig a shovel of soil up, spread it out and not find one earthworm or red wiggler in that sample, you have dirt most likely.
It is also possible to encourage the wrong microenvironment for the plants you want to grow.
If you are growing vegetables, there should be mostly bacteria in the rhizosphere (that space right around the plant roots).

to be continued

Redhawk
 
Posts: 38
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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Wow!!  Thank you, Bryant.  I'm swamped right now, but clicked over to this as soon as I saw the Permies Daily-ish email.  I can't wait to come back and dig into this (pun intended  ).  And, truth be known, I'm commenting here so I will get updates on the post (well, at least I'm being honest  ).  I know it's been said a few times already, but "THANK YOU." 

Bonnie
 
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Thanks Bryant Redhawk for getting this party started.  You are helping to demystify the topic of soil composition and function.
 
Posts: 314
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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I must join the chorus of thank you's here, Bryant. Excellent information, well written and very digestible. Looking forward to more

A question for you regarding the soil orders: here where I'm located, we generally have a predominance of conifer (white pine, eastern hemlock, balsam fir, black spruce), a very thin topsoil and yet a 20 to 100ft depth of red and blue clay as subsoil. There's pretty much no definable horizons beyond the thin (usually less than 2") topsoil layer. We're labeled in the maps and whatnot as having spodosols, likely due to the predominance of conifer, but the huge amount of clay doesn't seem to jive with this definition. I'm wondering if the logging industry, through their purposeful harvesting of all deciduous trees and leaving only the faster growing and higher-value-at-younger-ages coniferous trees to regenerate sites has lead to the predominance. Is that a thing? I mean, is it possible that the activity of logging industry over the last 100 years could have lead to a mislabeling of the soils of my area? Or should I be considering my soils as simply best suited to conifer growth?
 
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After reading half of this thread, Bryant, I feel a decisive need to cut-to-the-chase.

Since Vilonia, Arkansas is just up the road from me, I would love to compare notes, as your garden soil may be roughly identical to my 35+ year organic blend here in Little Rock. We show the same pH and my current Co. Annex-tests reveal only a slight need for additional N.

With this in mind, I am currently engaged in helping to create several community garden 'free-food' plots down in Pine Bluff. There, my backyard jar tests reveal mostly clay suspended in a healthy (9") A-horizon of grass roots.

In this region of alluvial and loess soils, what would you seek to incorporate on a one-time till basis to build a level of porosity to support say, potatoes and carrots? Would this, by nature involve a multi-stage planting process, such as a first season with lots of soy, alfalfa and comfrey?

This issue is magnified in importance as I have recently set-up a demonstration "hugelkultur -solution" on a schoolyard for the public at large. With this program I have been petitioning the Mayor, the City Council and Simmons Bank in particular for financial support, PLUS the conventional (read Monsanto bought and paid for) daft agricultural community of row crop farmers and university instructors throughout this targeted town.

These applications persist up and down the entire Delta. Your documentation above can help me sound more fluid in my general dialogue on soil health. I'm wondering if we might be able to speak privately about the exact classifications, nutrient-levels and any suggested compost amendment ideas you may have for my issues at hand?

FYI, to all, -It's all about feeding some desperately poor people in a bleak food desert! {TSG-cell 501.952.2446.}    

  
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Hi Tom, the soils around the Pine Bluff area are almost buckshot gumbo clay if I remember right. The tell tale signs of this soil are; Dark gray, when dry almost a powder, cracks as it dries out and it is a boot sucker when wet. I've even seen it stick 400 hp., two tires per side of axel tractors tight enough so that they could not be rescued until the ground dried some.

The area is famous for growing SRW, Soy, cotton and lately Maize. The area has had copious amounts of chemicals like urea used to boost nitrogen values for years.

To improve this type of clay soil it is best to grow deep rooting items, alfalfa would work (seed for that is very expensive in our area), rape is good, daikon will work and clovers are good too when used in a mix that is broadcast seeded.
I helped improve a few fields that were this type of soil years ago. We used a blend of white, red and yellow clover, rape, buckwheat and seven top turnip. All this was turned under with a single pass and then reseeded without any more tillage.
We did this three times in one season, the results were beginning to work but the farmer decided to stop the project to put the field back into SRW that fall.
The soil was really getting nice but since he did the normal turn, break, harrow, level, seed regimen he used on all his fields, the soil was back to as it had been after just one crop of wheat.

Farmers down there love to till and I've seen them use covers like buckwheat or let a field stand fallow only to till them to death the next year.
In their own vegetable patches they till in straw, thinking it will do a lot of good, it does some good but growing roots and letting plants rot in place does more, faster. It is just hard to get them to try something they aren't accustomed to doing.

Shoot me a pm for private consultation.


Redhawk
 
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"Buckshot gumbo clay" it is. -Thanks. This gives me something specific to crow about when next I speak to the master Gardener's group at the JeffCo Annex.

I'm tilling just the perimeter of a double football field sized lot. We use what we've got. So far this includes weathered rice hulls, grass clippings and some deep black (sic) "real organic" compost from American Composting of N. Little Rock, -not the cheap stuff containing shredded PVC garbage bags that throw the pH way up.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Rice hulls will work pretty well for what you're doing I would think. the NLR compost you mention is very good stuff, I've used some of it myself with good results.
That type of clay makes great pottery (LOL) the rice hulls will capture some of those superfine particles and that will allow the compost to do its job better.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Installment 9
So you have purchased your hunk of the Earth Mother and your first year you did the water management earth works, this is primary soil improvement stuff because we want water in the soil, not running over it.
Failure to start with the water management features can slow your progress or cause you to alter your plan. It is possible to do basic work prior to handling the water completely as long as you plan for contingencies that will arise. 

Let me use my little hunk as the example since I did no water management work the first year simply because we had to re-clear the original house area and that took the entire year to complete. I’ll start with some background information.  Buzzard’s Roost was initially Hickory and Oak hard wood forest, located at the end of the Boston Mountain Range (there are three mountain ridges and we are on the northern most ridge), the area was clear cut, around 45 or so years prior (local information). When we found our land it was established regrowth furnished by the remaining original oak and hickory trees. The previous owners had cleared part of the mountain top (200’ x175’) and installed a road, along with a double wide mobile home, which burned almost as soon as they completed installation. These owners walked away from the property and since they had paid cash for it, the land sat vacant for seven years. During the re-clearing of what they had done, we found electric poles already in place for power, septic tank installed, the footing for that double wide MH and a city water line. The road had suffered some erosion as well.

Most of our trees are in the 4-8 inch diameter range with a few really large (18 inches diameter and up to 38 inch diameter) trees left behind during the clear cut. There is undergrowth, consisting of baby hickory and oaks, blackberry, wild grape and muscadine vines along with sumac trees, and wild Rosaceae. This is actually almost perfect for creating the silvopastures we have planned.  Elevation of the ridge is approximately 200 feet from the south valley road way. Soil is classified “stoney, sandy loam” but the reality is around 1.5 feet of “rocks and soil” over 1-1.5 feet of rocky red clay over fractured sandstone bed rock. The USDA says our land is not good for agriculture but is marginally suitable for livestock production. In the area, cattle, hogs and goats along with chickens are mostly raised. Garden plots are small (most being 400 sq. feet or less). We are in the process of making one to two acres into suitable garden land, and a few more acres into silvopasture, for animal use. We do not own any large machines (yet), earth works as well as everything else is done with hand tools, some like the chainsaw are powered but the main tools for earth works are matox, shovels and a long bar for prying rocks out.

The RASA program classifies our land as part of the Central Midwest Regional Aquifer System. This is important to know because it gives regional data on water movement through an area. The RASA information will tell you about the ground water; how it moves, how deep it is to get to, how thick that layer of ground water is and the type of water it is. It will also tell you about what rocks weathered down to make the soil. The aquifer where we are is 6000 feet thick and anywhere from 100 to 500 feet below the surface, one mile north of us, that water layer is only 1000 feet thick and further under the surface.  The weathering of the rock that makes up the ridge has created a medium, which is fair in mineral content and water holding when we got there was about 6 inches in depth. After three years, our water holding ability is now 1.5 feet and the clay subsoil is gaining organic materials thus becoming better at holding rain soak.

Once we cleared out the volunteer sumac trees, shrubs, poison oak and blackberry regrowth, the grasses began to make a comeback because of the new light they could get. During this phase, we took breaks by walking through the forest, it became quickly apparent that most of the older trees were sick and dying, I collected many of the fungi species fruits as we became familiar with the lands flora and fauna. Those fungi were blended into slurries and as I disrupted the soil through sumac tree and blackberry root removal, I would inoculate the freshly disturbed soil so it would not die. We also added small amounts of compost which we brought up from where we were living at the time. Since sumac spread by root suckers of the mother bush, we had a good amount of torn up soil every weekend we worked on the previously cleared area.  We were pretty lucky since we did have quite good soil biota already present from those fallow years. This took us through the first full year of ownership. We also made additions of the removed plant materials, so we were feeding the decomposition processes by letting as much material rot away as possible. The larger wood we turned into char and mixed with compost prior to spreading it in the areas we had marked for garden space, or piled it for growing mounds (hugelculture) as well as using some in each of the fruit tree holes we would dig as we acquired the beginnings of our orchard trees.
Today if you dig a shovel full of soil, you find hyphae running everywhere, the soil crumbles nicely and where it used to be possible to only dig down a few inches, the shovel sinks all the way down easily unless you find a hunk of rock. The soil is moist now too, where before it would be bone dry at a depth of just 2-4 inches after a rain. Now even a week without rain, you can find moisture down 18 inches in most places. The annuals gardens are producing high nutritional value produce, the plants grow large, are able to resist pests and diseases and everything tastes just like they are supposed to. People we share our produce with make remarks about how wonderful everything tastes. While it has taken us three years to get to this point, we could have done it faster if we didn’t have jobs an hour away, giving us just weekends to do any real work other than animal maintenance five days of the week. Our days average about 17 hours long, not so bad really for a farmer.

No pesticides are used, instead we use coffee grounds, borax and diatomaceous earth (food grade only) for pest control. Having not found anything else that works, I do have one small bottle of herbicide that is carefully painted on poison oak leaves with a brush, it pains me, but because I am hyper-allergic I really don’t have a choice so far. Our animals do not receive any non-natural helpers like antibiotics, they get DE for worming and mineral oil for other critters that might be a problem for them, like ticks. We make all our own compost and that has gotten even better ingredients since we can now add donkey poop to the heaps. All grasses that are cut are fed to the hogs and chickens. The hog and donkey droppings are mixed with organically grown wheat straw, dead leaves, spent coffee grounds, rotted wood from tree falls and the kitchen and grocery store scraps the hogs either can’t have or won’t eat, this includes white potatoes, peppers, fruit that was too far gone (total mush). I do not add dirt or soil to the heaps. I do add, dead baby hogs, egg shells that don’t get fed back to the chickens and soon I will be adding spent chicken litter. Our heaps normally will reach an internal temp in the 180 f range and I don’t turn them unless I think about it while getting ready to make an addition. I have found that it takes the dead baby hogs around 4 weeks to totally decompose in the center of a heap, nothing is left by then, no bones or hair or anything that could remind you they were there. The nutrient profile is high enough in the compost that we can use it for straw bale gardening of tomatoes, peppers, corn, cabbages and broccoli. Squashes and other vegetables are grown in ground. After two or three years we make a new straw bale garden area since the soil under the old space is really friable and worm rich from the decomposed bales. Our land is so decomposer wealthy now that a downed live tree will be rotting within two months of laying down. This is only a problem for creating mushroom logs, which I have not gotten around to being ready to do as yet.

I used our place as an example just because it shows the methods work. When I find something that doesn’t work, it is tossed out and replaced with some new idea to trial. When we started I had a five year plan, this has had to be stretched to a seven year plan because of health issues. Just this month we installed our new home and have moved from 110 sq. ft. living space to 840 sq. ft. living space, rebuilt the road up to the ridge and graveled the lower 2/3. Next I will go into the order of steps for starting from scratch, we could say we did, but we did have somewhat of a head start because of the particular property we bought.

to be continued

Redhawk


 
Bryant RedHawk
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Installment 10

I intended on listing the steps for building good soil this installment but that seemed to be a bit premature, so I’ll continue talking about our farm/homestead and the what, where, why and how of our retirement adventure that started in 2012 when we looked for land to purchase and finally found some that fit most of our desires for land.

Let’s start with a nice hunk of land (Buzzard’s Roost) that encompasses 15 acres, it has a 20 % slope facing the south that  starts from the actual ridge formation and ends 400 feet down slope in a narrow valley.
The actual ridge is 175 feet wide with a 2% slope towards the north that then steepens to 15 % and 200 feet further down it starts to level out till it is back to the 2% slope.
The soil type is Alfisol 1st horizon with a subsoil of vertisol that overlays the sandstone bedrock.
The top soil is approximately 1 foot in depth and the subsoil is approximately 2.5 feet deep with pockets that reach down 4 feet.
The sandstone bedrock is mostly fractured, water saturated in some areas and fused into flagstone in others.
The average pH has been found to be 6.8, and there seem to be rocks present all the way down to the bedrock substructure.
The underlying clay is red and powdery when dry but sticky when saturated.
The top soil tends to be what I call sandy, loamy clay, that is it is too heavy for root vegetables without lots of loosening amendments but great for tomatoes, squashes and trees love to grow in it. 
So what approaches will work on this land to create a permaculture site that will be sustainable for both annual and perennial crops?
What styles of water management will be necessary to both capture as much water as possible in the soil and by collection?

The first thing I came to realize was that the area with 20% slope will need terracing instead of swale and berm to slow the rain water enough for it to soak in and not create a disastrous water plume effect.
There is a lot of this property that will respond quite well to swales and berms as well as use of small collection ponds along those swales.
Since the ridge has no buttress structures (intersecting ridges), determining the “key point” was a little difficult.
On this property there are two subtle confluences that are the key points, both are on the north facing slope and gulley formation is in evidence at these points.
The two key points are near the top of the ridge and will be where the first swale ponds will be placed, swales can run east west at a 1 degree downhill and end with a sheeting pond at both ends.
The plan is to space these swales 10 to 20 feet apart until the 15% slope is reached, there is a line of exposed bedrock (fused flagstone) at this break line on the north face.
The south face is a steady 20% slope with no break line, this is also the face with a curving road up to the ridge from the narrow valley floor.
Our rain fall pattern is a monsoon type pattern, the heavy rains come in the spring and again in the late fall, July, August and September are mostly dry and hot.
Average rainfall is listed by the USGS as 48-58 inches / year.
Water that soaks in is held by the clay subsoil thus giving trees a reliable source of water even during our dry season.
Armed with these particulars about the property, I came up with a plan but it changed after the first two swales were installed on the wrong slope and created a water plume that resulted in a blowout.

Soil improvement started with the removal of succession growth from the seven years the property was abandoned.
It took a year to remove the plentiful sumac and blackberry canes that had taken over the previously cleared ridge top.
As we cleared the “undergrowth” grasses made their appearance and sank their roots through the topsoil horizon.
Our ripping out the sumac trees by the roots disturbed the soil but not enough to wipe out the already in place microbiome.
As we cleared the “undergrowth” that microbiome came to life and caused the dormant grasses to sprout.
The removed sumac and blackberry were composted and some were burned to create biochar, both were spread over the spaces we designated for second year gardens and dug into that soil.
At the same time, out of date multi-mineral / multivitamin tablets were dissolved and used to water seeds planted in these garden spaces.
Found mushrooms were turned into slurries and those slurries were also poured over the new garden spaces.
The seeds sprouted and flourished providing us a fair amount of vegetables per sq. ft. of garden space.
It was found that carrots, beets, and white potatoes didn’t fare well in this soil since it was still fairly heavy and voles showed up for a feast.
We expect these spaces to loosen up as we continue to make amendments for the purpose of soil loosening and grow daikon radish and rape, chopping the tops in the fall and leaving the roots in place to rot.
For the root vegetables the third year, we built raised beds and installed compost amended sandy soil so these root crops would be able to produce for us. Wire mesh was also installed to discourage any voles

Currently we have 6 garden spaces interspersed between our orchard trees which consists of three fig trees, two mulberry trees, two pear trees, two plum trees and three apple trees.
Plans are to increase the numbers of all of these orchard trees to ensure we have enough fruits, both fresh and for preserving.
We have taken to using tubs for sweet potato production since it makes harvest far easier than digging.
Our hog area has most of the water retention work completed since I discovered that if I started a swale and filled it with water, the hogs would do most of the rest of the work of moving soil.
This year will be expansion of hog pastures as well as creating at least one pasture for the donkey that has adopted us.
Being adopted as caretakers of the donkey has provided a new source of manure for compost making and required the construction of a new structure to house the donkey.
Now our compost consists of manured straw from chickens, hogs and the donkey along with any baby hogs that expire during their first two weeks of life.
These are usually the ones crushed by the sow or that were too weak at birth.
Other additions include some of the kitchen scraps that aren’t fed to either the hogs or the chickens (not much of this exists) and any leaf materials created from land clearing for specific uses. 
This year it looks like I will be able to produce around 500 lbs. of finished compost every 3 months.
We now have a wood chipper and will be able to chip up all tree branches created in the creation of the new silvopastures.
This material will be used as mulch and soil loosening for new garden beds that will be going in.

Water control construction is always ongoing since it is all done with pick and shovel work.
We also are using stacked stone construction on the south facing slope for the terracing of that slope.
Those terraces will be home to more orchard as well as vineyard and blueberry patches.
With our soil not being nearly acidic enough for blueberries I will use a combination of Ag. Sulfur and vinegar to acidify the soils in the spaces the blueberry bushes are planted.
This will start as spot acidification and as more bushes are planted in the area, the acidity will increase.
The plan allows for an over winter acidification start for that space by incorporating Ag. Sulfur with compost and soil to level out the terraces as we get them built.
Our biggest constraint is that we both have full time jobs and travel 1 hour each way, this means farm work begins around 6 pm, we eat around 7:30 pm and bedtime is usually 9 so we can be up at 5, most real work on the farm is done on weekends and when we get a day off.
I plan on retiring around the end of next year so I can devote full time to the farm, my wife will continue working her job for a few more years after my retirement. 

When we hopped onto this adventure train, we allowed for it to take us 5 years to become mostly self-sufficient, that as it turns out was optimistic.
Health issues that have arisen created the need for a modified time line to the objective goal which is now 7 years.
Our original plan of raising hogs for the sale of their meat to chefs has also changed due to a fall in prices here in our area.
We do still plan on raising our own pork but have abandoned the idea of selling to chefs, this allows us to reduce to one breeding pair and thus save most of the time currently spent on animal care as well as reducing the number of pastures to build.
If we run into any other large obstacles we have allowed for selling all breeding stock and just purchasing a feeder hog every year for meat.
Instead of being a for profit farm our end goal is now more homestead oriented and focus will be on providing almost all of our own food.

Redhawk

To be continued.

 
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Bryant Redhawk: You are amazing, I'm thoroughly enjoying this thread and learning a lot!  I always DO learn from what you say, I look for your replies on threads I'm interested in, knowing you'll have excellent information and opinions
Thank you!!! 
PS: Any advice for someone else who is going to need to terrace but isn't often strong enough to move rocks to dry stack? That would be my first preference, but I'm not sure I'll be physically able to do so. North facing slope I haven't measured, 10 to 15 degrees I suspect. Pretty deep topsoil in most of it (3-8 feet or so) some bare rock, subsoil is a soft clay mix (?) with rocks under it, rock strata lines under it that run E-W that might be useful for hooking terraces onto. Any advice/wisdom would be greatly appreciated!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Pearl,  Thank you for the kind words. The next installment will have some alternative materials for terrace wall construction, per your request.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Installment 11

So now we have Buzzard’s Roost capable of providing many of our vegetables and we are going to harvest some of our fruit needs along with half of our meat.
We still have 14 acres of woodlands, some of which will be turned into multipurpose land.
That South Facing Slope is where the plan situates lots of terraces for food growing, and these terraces will go a long way to handling rain water so it soaks into the soil, all the way down to the bed rock.
Once I accomplish that, I will have created a spring or two at the front limit of our property.
When that happens, I will be able to pump water that gathers in the pond I will have dug back up the hill, sort of a closed loop water situation since that spring will be from the already present water on site along
with the water that comes from our rains, the only cost will be the pump, pipe and solar setup to power the pump.

The oak and hickory trees that will be kept will provide wild animal foods just as they do now but I will also be able to grow grasses for pasture grazing animals along with bushes and shrubs for both our needs and browsing animal needs.
All I have to do is live long enough to get everything completed and hopefully enough years past that point to enjoy the fruits of all that labor. 
The plan for Buzzard’s Roost is to have it able to sequester tons of carbon and provide us with enough food that all we have to buy are consumable paper products, cleaning supplies, fuel needs will end up quite limited compared to most of our area’s inhabitants.
Currently, the tree situation is at the stem exclusion phase, where I need to remove some of the trees so the soil beneath can get enough sunlight for grasses to grow.
I also need to remove some underbrush that is undesirable where it is growing.

Of all the work remaining, it is the terrace building that takes the longest.
We are using the rocks that come out of the land along with those laying on the surface that are small enough for us to move (some are the size of the Stonehenge standing stones).
Since my wife and I are not getting any younger and now have some physical restraints, this stone stacking goes slow.
There are alternative building materials which we might end up needing to use for other terraces.
If needed I can purchase “land scape timbers” these are rounded edge 4x4’s that come in 8 ft. lengths, the big drawback for us is that these only come treated, though the new treatments (rot resistance) are safer that previous ones, I still prefer to not bring anything like that on our land unless absolutely necessary.
The alternative I would prefer is untreated, easy to find, 2x6 yellow pine boards, these can be screwed together with back side cleats into a wall of the height and length needed.
If it was findable and affordable, cypress would be our ideal material.
4x4’s could be used the same way but are more expensive and usually treated lumber.
By using “dead men”, which are a length of board (6 ft.) angled down and projecting back into the hill side with a T board screwed into the free end which ends up buried and will hold a vertical wall straight under the load of the fill soil, spaced every 6 feet along the length of the terrace wall.
A wall built this way and out of untreated lumber will hold up nicely, but for only a few years because of the many fungi present on our land.
It is the time limit of untreated lumber that is the draw back.
I have even considered using pallets for terrace building but I don’t have a source for enough of these to do a whole wall.
If you can find enough of them, construction of a terrace wall would certainly go fast.
Concrete blocks are another alternative, but it is concrete and you need lengths of rebar, driven in to the soil to hold these in place against the weight of the fill soil, very doable and will last nearly forever but at $1.25 or so per block (8”x16”),
for our needs this could end up cost prohibitive unless I could find a lower cost source or a free source. 
Of course terraces can be created by tamping soil, but these are going to be subject to erosion in a heavy rain event.  
In any event, we will find the best fit solution and that may be a mix of different materials as we progress down the hill face.
We are starting at the ridge, which for us is practical as we can slow the water flows where they begin their downhill race. 
Presently we have half of the first terrace wall built and we have a soil berm at the uphill side of the road cut so we don’t lose so much soil to erosion.

We have taken to building raised garden beds for easier planting, harvesting and maintenance.
My wife saw some built out of halved 55 gallon plastic barrels with legs to get them up to waist height.
She wants some of these so we will be purchasing a few food grade barrels to do that with.
She thinks they will be super for lettuces and other greens we like to eat.
I mentioned that they would also work great for sweet potatoes, since we grow a lot of those for eating through the winter.
I’ve found a reliable source for them near town.
Plans for this summer include a larger chicken house, two new silvopastures for the hogs, a pasture for the donkey, five new raised garden beds and 4 new fruit trees planted.
Now how much of this list gets accomplished depends mostly on the weather and if I take a week off from the 8-4:30 job.

Redhawk

To be continued.

 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
By using “dead men”, which are a length of board (6 ft.) angled down and projecting back into the hill side with a T board screwed into the free end which ends up buried and will hold a vertical wall straight under the load of the fill soil, spaced every 6 feet along the length of the terrace wall.
A wall built this way and out of untreated lumber will hold up nicely, but for only a few years because of the many fungi present on our land.




I found some old photos that I had posted on 5/4/2016 in the following thread:  https://permies.com/t/55962/build-long-lasting-healthy-narrow

Maybe something like these retaining walls made out of planks from your own forest?  If you were to get/rent/borrow a WoodMizer or some similar such mill, you might be able to cut planks from what you already have on the land. While you are in the midst of experimenting, you may wish to try your own treatment of the wood to see if it would resist much of the rot that would be attacking the wood: 

"The production of new generation of wood preservatives (without addition of a co-biocide) in combination with an exchange of wood poles on identical sites with high fungal inoculum, has resulted in an increase of premature failures of wood utility poles in the last decades. Wood destroying basidiomycetes inhabiting sites where poles have been installed, have developed resistance against wood preservatives. The objective of the in vitro studies was to identify a Trichoderma spp. with a highly antagonistic potential against wood destroying basidiomycetes that is capable of colonizing Cu-rich environments. For this purpose, the activity of five Trichoderma spp. on Cu-rich medium was evaluated according to its growth and sporulation rates. The influence of the selected Trichoderma spp. on wood colonization and degradation by five wood destroying basidiomycetes was quantitatively analyzed by means of dry weight loss of wood specimens. Furthermore, the preventative effect of the selected Trichoderma spp. in combination with four Cu-based preservatives was also examined by mass loss and histological changes in the wood specimens. Trichoderma harzianum (T-720) was considered the biocontrol agent with higher antagonistic potential to colonize Cu-rich environments (up to 0.1% CuSO4 amended medium). T. harzianum demonstrated significant preventative effect on wood specimens against four wood destroying basidiomycetes. The combined effect of T. harzianum and Cu-based wood preservatives demonstrated that after 9 months incubation with two wood destroying basidiomycetes, wood specimens treated with 3.8 kg m-3 copper-chromium had weight losses between 55–65%, whereas containers previously treated with T. harzianum had significantly lower weight losses (0–25%). Histological studies on one of the wood destroying basidiomycetes revealed typical decomposition of wood cells by brown-rot fungi in Cu-impregnated samples, that were notably absent in wood specimens previously exposed to T. harzianum. It is concluded that carefully selected Trichoderma isolates can be used for integrated wood protection against a range of wood destroying basidiomycetes and may have potential for integrated wood protection in the field." -- http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0174335

It does not appear that much testing has been done of this nature for below-ground applications, but may be something to look into...   Good thread!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hi John, you have brought up some really good points, thank you.

I soak untreated lumber that is destined for ground use with borax dissolved in water, I let the wood become saturated by leaving it in the solution for three days then let it air dry until it is dry, I have found that this "treatment" inhibits the fungi present on our farm and it stops termite damage too.

Those are our top issues with wood that touches soil. I have even saturated the soil around the electric poles on our land, it seems to have helped with pole degradation.

I currently use a chainsaw mill but hope to get a bandsaw mill in the future.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Installment 12

     The south slope terraces will be varied in width, wide where the land says they can be wide and narrow in the places they fit best.
If these south facing terraces were planned to be all the same width, the maximum runoff management would be lost for the sake of commonality of size.
It would also mean a huge amount of extra dirt work and equal sized terraces would not fit with the lay of our land.
It didn’t take very long to determine that an equal size terrace plan is not the best fit for our property, which does have a lot of variance even within a single acre or even a quarter acre.
This is why observation is so important.
If you don’t fully understand your land, how each characteristic interacts, both with all the other characteristics and that individual item you want to work on now, with the landscape, how can you possibly do the best for your land and your desires of use of that land?
If you only read one book on permaculture and then follow the recommendations of that one book blindly, it is probable that you are not going to make the best improvements to that space.
If you read many books, it is possible to become confused.
Most of the main proponents of permaculture land management have different points of view of what the best methods are.
Mollison, Hemenway, Holmgren, Lawton, Kendall, Wheaton, Holzer, Brown, etc., all are greats of the permaculture style movement.
Each one has methods that work, but perhaps your properties best fit isn’t one particular set of ideas from one of these greats of permaculture.
Most likely if you do the observation correctly (objectively and with a mind open to finding the best fit for each little microenvironment on your property), you might find that no one set of ideas is the overall best fit.
Most likely you will have to break your land down into small parcels and apply methods that will be the best fit for each one, with each small bit being managed differently from all other bits that make up your whole land parcel.
This is to my mind, where there can be great things done to best fit manage any property.
The catch 22 of it is; don’t think one set of ideas will take care of your property’s needs as a whole. 
It is probable that after you have taken a large notebook in hand while walking your property and taking copious notes, made drawings, taken and written down measurements, the observed and collected data will show that there is no one best fit over your whole property.
In my mind this is the classical foo-pah (corrected for spelling) waiting to rise up and show its ugly face.

    As an example of what could happen by going with only one set of ideas let’s take a look at swales.
Swales are great, for certain lays of land, types of soil and desired crop.
Change just one thing and everything changes when looking for a best fit methodology. 
If you inspect a sub parcel of your land and then ask the question “Should I Swale or Not?”
What would be your instant answer at this point in time?
Let us look at some of the things to consider when asking this question:
  
     Slope of the land  - 
If slope is 3% to 15% the answer is probably, meaning, within this range of slope a swale is a likely method to use that will work in a best fit methodology. 
If slope is under 3% or over 15% the answer is probably not, meaning, under a 3% slope a swale would probably be a waste of time, energy and money when looked at from a return point of view.
Slopes over 15% and a swale would most likely; 1) blow out, 2) create a plume that would cause a blowout at the bottom of the slope, 3) require a packed berm to be able to hold against a heavy rain event. 
All are possibilities if you put a swale in on such a steep slope.

     Soils
The type of soil also has a bearing on how well a swale will work so it must also be considered. 
Shallow depth to bedrock, relatively impenetrable or compacted conditions mean that a swale would most likely be a good fit to these conditions. 
Fertile, deep, well- drained soils would most likely not need a swale since water infiltration of these types of soil is usually good to start with.

     Hydrology
Brittle landscape, high precipitation events are both good candidates for swale use. 
Non-brittle landscape, low in severity precipitation or a high water table would probably not be a good fit with a swale.
A high water table could be made more saline from swale use, a non brittle landscape soaks in water like a sponge and if most rains are light, there really isn’t a need for swale building.

     Management of land
What you do with land has a great bearing on if swales are proper or not too.
If you are growing annuals, hay or pastures then most likely a swale isn’t needed since these crops tend to make the landscape non brittle.
These types of crops also tend to be more mechanized for harvesting. 
Perennials (trees and shrubs) are usually less mechanized for harvest and so would be good candidates for using swales.

     Ecosystem condition
Swales are usually appropriate in early succession “old field” types of agriculture.
Later succession “old growth forest” are less likely to need swales. 

     Resource base

If you have plenty of time, money, energy, machinery, skills, tools, etc. then swales might be good if all or most of the previous conditions are right. 
If you are short on time, energy, money, machinery, tools, skills, etc. then swales might not be a good choice even if all or most of the conditions are right.

     Order of precedence also is part of the determining factors for whether or not swales are the right choice.
Usually some of the conditions listed above will be present but perhaps not all, or there may be conflicting conditions so that some indicate for swales while at least one counter indicates swales as a good choice.
In such a situation, listing an order of precedence might make your best fit choice easier to make.
When I am evaluating a small piece of our property I like to first list what we will be growing in that space and work down the list from there by listing hydrology second, soil type third, slope, then resource base.
Rarely do I worry about the ecosystem since my whole property fits in the “Mid to later succession” description.

     I try hard to remember that just because you read something that sounds pretty right, doesn't mean it will always be right, especially on your own land.
For instance, I just wrote that if you have slopes of 3% or less, you probably don't need to swale that area.
Well our current hog pen starts out at a 2% slope that goes towards the north for around 100 feet, then it steepens to almost 8% for around 40 feet then it levels back out to the 2% slope again.
This weekends rains (7 inches) was so extreme an event that the hog's wallow was silted in completely and it was at the start of the 8% slope.
That means all that soil that filled in a 2 foot deep 18 foot long wallow came from the 2% slope area. NOT GOOD!
So, since the rains also were nice enough to give me easy to see humus lines that marked the contour I should follow to control the water with shallow swale/berm constructs.
Guess what I'll be doing ASAP, yep, digging some shallow and wide swales with berms to the north side of each swale.
The land showed me that I will be putting in 6 of these in the 225 foot depth (N to S) of this particular pasture area.
Most of these 6 constructs will be in a 2% slope. 2 will be in the transitional 8% slope space of 40 feet.

     One of the things I have done is to not focus on soil building as a short term goal.
I have done quite a lot of soil improvement, but usually this comes during the construction of a new garden area.
The last three years have seen two new garden builds every year along with maintenance of the other gardens and fruit tree planting.
In between I have built 3 hog houses, a doggie mansion, 8’ x 8’ chicken coop, 10’ x 18’ roof over the travel trailer, two semi swales and berms,
moved something around 3.5 tons of rocks from pebbles to boulders, cut down five large hickory trees to make room for a 20 x 14 shed (half way completed so far) and the usual maintenance that comes with the projects.
I forgot, the layering up of several compost heaps that are being left to themselves right now.
Currently we are seeding pasture areas and getting ready to put up another thousand feet of fencing to enclose those new pastures.
It seems to just keep snowballing, the work to do that is.
Part of my problem has been my wife’s tendency to think we should be trying to multitask (a total misconception spread by “they”) everything.
It doesn’t matter that I have given her proof that the concept of doing two things at the same time is a physical impossibility as is two objects occupying the same space at the same time.
The end result of her “do this, this, that and oh yeah, this too” mind set is that I get so many things started, none of them get finished.

Redhawk

To be continued
 
pollinator
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Part of my problem has been my wife’s tendency to think we should be trying to multitask (a total misconception spread by “they”) everything.
It doesn’t matter that I have given her proof that the concept of doing two things at the same time is a physical impossibility as is two objects occupying the same space at the same time.
The end result of her “do this, this, that and oh yeah, this too” mind set is that I get so many things started, none of them get finished.

Redhawk

To be continued


Redhawk, my favorite post of this thread so far.  Really excellent points made.

I don't want to derail this really excellent thread, but thanks for pointing out that multitasking is impossible.  I have made the point many times myself.  The very term multitasking annoys me nearly as much as the phrase "book smart".
 
John Weiland
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
It doesn’t matter that I have given her proof that the concept of doing two things at the same time is a physical impossibility as is two objects occupying the same space at the same time.

Redhawk



As a side note it's interesting that meditations of all stripes ask the participant to focus on or attend to some object of the meditation, like breathing in<->out, one end result being a reduction of internal and external multi-tasking.  But there may be one exception that contrasts with the notion that "doing two things at the same time is a physical impossibility".  For certain, in my research efforts, there are many experiences of having problems with a set of experiments where, for lack of a better term, my 'imbalanced' self sees attacking the problem frenetically from all angles, all efforts running in parallel, as the path to the solution.  What  typically happens is all parallel tasks get done with mediocre attention and the whole endeavor fails.  However, on several occasions, the problems were occurring just before vacation and I could not for the life of me see a logical solution before me.  Upon returning from several weeks of vacation, the solution was right there....in my mind....being offered to my more 'balanced' self and awaiting implementation.  So minimally two things were being multitasked, but not in the usual way imagined:  I was enjoying a vacation  -AND-  some other part of me was subconsciously working on the solution to the research problem.  I think this may partly be the basis for the notion that one should always "sleep on it..." when considering solutions to difficult problems or issues.

Back to the great thread, Redhawk:  The continuing discoveries of the microbial web simply give new emphasis to the notion that what was once divided into 'animate' and 'inanimate' is grossly oversimplified.
 
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the classical foo-paw waiting to rise up and show its ugly face. 

Foo-paw: Terminal part of the limb of an animal being put where it should not.
Faux pas: French for false step.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Hans,  My reference was to  foo-pah, an Irish word for faux pas

Thanks for catching my misspelling, it has been corrected.

Redhawk

 
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As for multitasking I enjoy the saying I am neither A God nor an electron to be in two places at the same time .
as for Swales  I had a neighbour " up grade " his ditch ie increase it in size over double . Result flooding on the property I care for . So I changed the ditch on my side by putting in barriers to slow the flow etc and every year I harvest the soil *deposited and add it to my compost to make new beds . Is this not a good idea ? I have very heavy clay slate mix badly over grazed and over rotavated and the whole area struggles to be more than horizontal . My neighbour has not yet realized his ditch is rapidly silting up

David

This silty soil contains a much higher carbon , nitrogen and basically everything not slate or clay content thanks to my neighbors 400+ cows
 
Bryant RedHawk
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David Livingston wrote:As for multitasking I enjoy the saying I am neither A God nor an electron to be in two places at the same time .
as for Swales  I had a neighbour " up grade " his ditch ie increase it in size over double . Result flooding on the property I care for . So I changed the ditch on my side by putting in barriers to slow the flow etc and every year I harvest the soil *deposited and add it to my compost to make new beds . Is this not a good idea ? I have very heavy clay slate mix badly over grazed and over rotavated and the whole area struggles to be more than horizontal . My neighbour has not yet realized his ditch is rapidly silting up

David

This silty soil contains a much higher carbon , nitrogen and basically everything not slate or clay content thanks to my neighbors 400+ cows


I like what you are doing with the silt, perfect example of repurposing a bad "swale" and harvesting soils that could have been lost forever.

I will say that I don't build "deep" swales, mine tend to be about a foot deep and 3-5 feet wide, the berm comes from the displaced soil and left loose. This gives me a wide at the bottom, narrow at the top berm that might be around 1.5 feet tall.
My swales are all set up for a 1% fall from start end to bitter end, the water moves slowly along so as to not erode the loose berm soil.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Instalment 13

Most people know that nutrition starts with the soil the food plants are grown in, this even accounts for all of the meats we eat as well as the vegetables, fruits, nuts, and oils we cook with. How do we know what we are eating is full of nutrition? There is an instrument for that, it is called a refractometer which is commonly referred to as a Brix meter. It’s a little device which allows us to measure sugar content. Sugars come in two forms, simple and complex. The refractometer readings of 12 and lower mean simple sugars are all that are present, numbers above 12 represent complex sugars are present. Diseases and I mean all diseases, like simple sugars, they can only assimilate simple sugars as food. Our bodies and our plants want complex sugars, which the diseases can’t process, so they can’t thrive when faced with complex sugars (carbohydrates are the usual form these large chain molecules are known by). We also want our plants to have all the minerals they need to produce their best fruits (meaning the parts we eat) which will have as much nutritious value as possible for our bodies.

We now know that, when we are starting with a new (to us) plot of land, we need to get a complete soil test but how do we get the best possible data from this test for this new plot of land? We take some string and stakes and lay out a grid pattern over the plot. Then we take a sample of “dirt” from each square in this grid, writing down on a piece of paper, exactly where that sample came from. A matching grid drawn on the paper is the easiest way to do this. We can add sample parts together as long as we know where the component parts of that sample came from, which we know because we marked then on our paper grid. How detailed you get depends mostly on how much money you are willing to spend for this testing. Usually  each sample will cost around 25 dollars U.S. at a County Extension Service Lab., remember we want a complete test not their less expensive basic test. Usually you should have one sample per 100 sq. ft. of plot, this allows for the differences that can show up in soil makeup in a plot that is 40’ by 40’ so for that size plot you would want 4 soil samples. This can be reduced if you do some of the testing yourself, such as particle size makeup (the jar test is the same whether you do it or the lab does it, but it will help you reduce the number of samples you need to send to the lab).  I like a quart size Mason jar for this test, take a portion from each of your 100 sq. ft. samples and put one per jar. Add water to cover plus two inches over the sample. Shake well and let settle, the layers will show you what makes up your soil by particle size and color will tell you humus content, clay content, and so forth. If all the jars are the same, then you can combine the remaining parts of your samples, divide this in half so you have two equal portions one for minerals testing and one for biome testing, and get a single soil test. If there are variances, then you want to have separate tests done. Your results will tell you the mineral makeup, organic matter quantity, soil type, and have a list of recommended amendments. This is a good base, you have the mineral data. Now you want the biological data. You can pay to have this done with the remaining half of your sample or you can use a microscope and look for yourself, you pull out your microbiology reference book (usually these cost around 40-80 dollars but you will use it many times should you go this preferred route) to compare what you see to the micrographs in the book for identifying the organisms. To be able to produce the absolute best soil you can, you need to be in touch with your land, it gets really expensive to pay for the microbiology tests since you will need to apply amendments then check on the progress and know bacteria and fungi counts along the way.  This is only if you really want the best possible results. You can always go by the seat of the pants methodology but your results will be subject to “shotgun” reliability.

When we get our test results back from the lab, all amendment recommendations will be based on the pH, which is not really what is important to us.
What is important to us is that list of nutrients and their percentages, what we need to do is get those into the right ranges.
There are going to be ions that are not in that right range, in fact, most of them will not be within the recommended range, they will either be to low or to high, so we will need to adjust those numbers.

Usually the first thing the test will say to do is add calcium, but you need to look at manganese and magnesium at the same time since there is a direct correlation between these three ions.
For raising Ca, I prefer to use Gypsum because it is more of a slow release product and won't change the pH as much if at all.
From there we can design compost teas that will address most of the other low nutrients, including the micro nutrients, a far better for the soil method of application of minerals.
Sea minerals are usually going to be a better choice for adjusting soils over the chemically pure forms most normally used for soil application, they are gentler on our microbiome that we are building in our soil.

to be continued.
Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Installment 14, wrapping it up.

Since the beginning of "Soil Science" the theory has been:  Soil organic matter is composed of inherently stable and chemically unique compounds and that these can be best amended with synthesized fertilizers instead of things like manures and composts.
This theory has led to all the bad ideas and practices found in the farming community, they have been promoted by Government since the 1920's and ever since the Dust Bowl they have been considered the only method to use.
This has turned farming from a sustainable agriculture to an agriculture dependent upon chemical manufacturers, and these corporations do not want to change the status quo since it would put them out of business.

However, this "modern method" touts their way works best for high productivity and soil health, which is far from what the research shows.

Research shows that humus is always in a state of decay, the organisms that feed upon and thus break down the organic materials are both chemically and electrically stimulated by plant roots which tell the rhizosphere organisms what the roots desire.
In reward to the members of the rhizosphere the roots produce sugars for the organisms to feed on (think of the roots giving treats for a job well done).
When the "modern method" chemicals are introduced to these organisms they become couch potatoes, and just like human couch potatoes they get fat and lazy and prone to sickness.
When the rhizosphere can't do what its membership was meant to do, they begin to die off and soon we are left with dirt, which is what dead soil is, lifeless and unable to provide the many nutrients plants need to give us the nutrition our bodies need.
This has now gone on long enough that we are seeing new diseases take their toll on the human organism because the foods the farmers produce with the artificial modern method don't contain the nutrients our bodies need for proper health.

There is no living organism on earth that is not dependent upon the soil microorganisms that make up the rhizosphere, indirectly or directly, it affects and effects all life.

Perhaps the easiest way to get a grasp on the whole life cycle is to picture the members of the rhizosphere as a large group of children of differing ages, each age group desiring different things as treats.
The roots can be thought of as the parents in this scenario, the parent tells the toddler age children to pick up their toys and put them away, the children do so and then get a cookie.
The roots go through this process for each age group and as the children get more able the type of reward changes to what satisfies that group.

Roots also age and then they die, at this point the members of the rhizosphere go to work dismantling the now dead root, turning it into nutrients for the new living roots as they call for what they need.

This is the soil food web, it has been at work since the first single cell organism sprang to life, it will continue until the last single cell organism dies.
The soil grows plants, animals eat these plants and then give back what their bodies didn't need as fertilizer, complete with living bacteria from their gut system.
This replenishes the soil organisms and so the great circle of life continues. Break one tiny part of this cosmic circle of life and all other life is in danger of extinction, including the "highest" life form we know, ourselves.

Our mission, is to not destroy what has been going on since life on planet earth began millions and millions of years ago.
We should all be nurturers of soil life, for it is these, the simplest forms of life, that provide us with everything we need for our own survival.
Our bodies are the home for millions of bacteria, they help our bodies function properly, some outsiders can get in and if we are not healthy they can create chaos and make our bodies sick.
Once we get our functions in balance these intruders rarely stand a chance, being destroyed long before they can create chaos in our bodies.
The same relations are viable for every living thing on earth. The base of life is soil, make it so it can't heal and all other life forms are in danger.

Take care of the soil and prosper, reduce the living soil to dirt and die. It is really that simple.

For anyone who has questions, please ask them, I will do my best to give good answers and If I can't, there are many knowledgeable people on this site that can.

Redhawk
 
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To add one more voice to the chorus:

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experience with everyone, Bryant. I have studied as much as I can about soil science, mineralization, present elements and microbiology, etc. I had a lot of the facts, and your wonderful posts gave the story that allowed me to piece those facts together. It was also great to hear more about Buzzard's Roost! I always note the name in your signature, and having the lessons you're teaching grounded in the specifics of your land really helped to flesh out many of the principles and concepts you were presenting.

I know you're wrapping up and can start another thread if necessary but I was wondering- in an earlier installment you mentioned the water plume from a swale causing a blowout downhill. I'd never heard of something like that happening, I've only ever heard of blowouts from the force of surface water. Is it the weight of the water as it moves through the soil that causes steeper slopes to destabilize?

You've also mentioned a few times that you place baby hogs in the center of your compost heaps to decompose- this seems a great source of mineral and nutrient richness for the pile, but every written word I've ever read on the subject offers dire warnings against placing animals in the compost heap. Have you had any problems with critters digging in your piles, overly anaerobic conditions, etc?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Cody, No I have never had any issues with composting animal carcasses. This is because my heaps are composed of Donkey and Hog pooh, chicken straw, green cuttings, and all other compostable farm bits.
My heaps generally get an internal temp of 160 f. some have gone as high as 180 f.
The amount of straw (chicken bedding, donkey bedding and hog bedding) tends to keep the heaps loose enough for air to enter well which allows me to not have to turn them except when I add any newly dead critters.
I do not compost certain critters such as raccoons or road kill. I do compost dog pooh but that is a whole separate compost heap away from the area used for garden composting.
when I cut pasture type areas that aren't used by our animals I add that as a layer to the most recently built heap to add heat.
When I have to compost an animal I turn the heap, half to the bottom, a layer of fresh green cuttings, the animal(s), a layer of bedding straw, a layer of fresh green cuttings, finish turning the heap over.
My current heaps are approaching 6 months old and none have been turned more than once.
When I use a heap, the soil beneath is very dark, fluffy, full of bacteria, hyphae, nematodes, springtails and all the other "good" microorganisms, making it a great amendment for the gardens.
The composting of critters adds lots of minerals, calcium being one of the main minerals of the heap. I have never had any bones survive my composting method.

The manures and the heat seem to be sufficient to keep animals from wanting to dig in them, along with the donkey chasing them away before they can get close to my composting area.
These compost heaps are not sought by the chickens, they have their own compost heaps since they are in with the hogs, they have plenty to do without coming out of the paddocks area.

The water plume blow out occurred at the valley floor (200 verticle feet below the ridge where our house is) it was caused by me trying five swales on contour on our 45 degree south slope.
Since I didn't even consider the plume effect at that time, I created a situation very much like a tall water tank (the plume) since soil makes a rotten tank wall, the water gathered and when it reached the bottom of the valley, well, disaster.
My error caused us to have to rebuild the road bed, The water plume created a fairly fast flowing spring to show up and that water washed out the road bed, creating 1.5 foot deep gullies in only one day.
We have since fixed the water plume issue and rebuilt the road along with putting down three 10 yard loads of SP2P gravel and we need to do at least 3 more 10 yard loads to get the road as wide as we need it to be and fill in some "humps" which are parts of the bed rock that show through at the ridge line.

Redhawk
 
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Location: SE Oklahoma
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:most of the information needed to turn dirt into really good soil.


I was on a site today that I think you will find of interest: http://seamineralsolutions.com/

Disclaimer: I buy their minerals for human consumption and I've spoken with the guy once by phone at length about improving pasture and soil. I have no financial connection to the site or products other than I plan to buy a lot of what they sell because I believe he is on the right track.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Hau Gail, I am familiar with that company but I do not use it since they are also selling you water, I have my own water.

I use a product called Sea-90, which is far more mineral complete than any other similar products on the market.
It comes in dry salt form, can be used directly in a salt grinder for human consumption as salt.
It can be dissolved back into sea water or a supersaturated solution to be used in dilution by humans, farm animals, pet animals and properly diluted it can be used to water plants.
In the dry form you just apply either by broadcasting or with a spreader, this way it is far easier to apply the right amount and the results are awesome.

Just about any of the "sea salt" products will work some good, but what I look for is completing the mineral content of my soil.
If I can dry apply 95% of these minerals so they become available for a long period of time, that is what I am going to use.

Giving our plants and our bodies as many of the minerals they need as we can, is always a good thing.
Every week new mineral/ health connections ae being found and presented to the scientific community and that allows us to make adjustments so we can be more healthy in body and mind.

Redhawk
 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 132
Location: SE Oklahoma
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I use a product called Sea-90, which is far more mineral complete than any other similar products on the market.


Interesting. I'll have to think about that. I use the other companies liquid minerals for human consumption because it is easier to put them into iced herbal tea than to get salt to melt and stay in solution. (I haven't tried it - maybe it wouldn't be too challenging.)

For my horses and the burros and llamas that share the pasture with them I put out big chunks of Himalayan sea salt. I found a source online that sells 55 lbs. in bulk. The horses and burros love it. If the llamas ever touch it I haven't seen them. I feel chunks would be a higher quality than any loose or block minerals I can buy at a feed store.

That company sells bulk sea salt, too. I'll have to do some comparing on price and quality. What are you using to spread the Sea-90? Are you using it to grow food, too, or only on pastures?
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