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Coaxing Paul Wheaton Out Of The Barn - where do I start with permaculture?  RSS feed

 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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OK, that title was a ploy. Paul has the best picture of a hairy little calf that I've ever seen in his world domination corner of the website.

WHERE IN THE WORLD DO I START W/ PERMACULTURE
I just bought 10 acres of NE Arizona highland hill country at 7K feet. I get EXCITED when I read all your posts. My land is mostly hilltop, gently rolling off, covered in Juniper, Pinion Pine, and native grass. I have some nice rainfall, for AZ, at about 24"/year, with only two summer months near 1/2 inch/mo. I can see that catching it would do wonders to keep it green. I'm struggling in my mind with laying it out. I have enormous amounts of dry and green wood to trim and make into mulch, fence posts, and some slope to make a few swales.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO DO FIRST
How Do you envision what it could be, or what would do well at your altitude

Permies are as rare as Leprechauns in these parts...so you are my support group.

Thanks,
Knobby Tires
 
Marianne Cicala
gardener
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Location: south central VA 7B
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Hi Fred - spend time with your new land - walk it, make notes and observe how areas change with temp changes, rain, lots of rain, no rain etc. You are in a great place to learn - check out the permaculture design forums as well as the reviews on books (which may help you narrow down which may be most appropriate). Don't be in a great hurry; patience will be pay you back. There are 100s of podcasts that will benefit you greatly.
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
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Do you have an aerial map or picture of the property?

not sure if I'm being helpful, but it really is up to you. What are your goals for the land? What is the most important to you? What needs to be done to reach those goals? Then organize from there.

It might help to go through one or two permaculture design client questionnaires to organize your thoughts, motives, and collect your data. If you need help on websites to find data, feel free to ask.

For visions, I suggest looking at what other people are doing, deciding what you like and don't like and then making that vision your own. There are many great videos on YouTube, good pictures of permaculture systems online, etc.

What do you currently know about permaculture?

If you would like recommendations for online resources, I'd be happy to point some things out for you.
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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As another beginner, I would suggest you read gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway as an introduction to permaculture process - how to think about things, what to look for as you observe your land (standing and staring at a pinon pine won't tell you much if you don't know what you are seeing ), places to start your design process. It is a pretty easy read ith good information well organized and well presented.

Brad Lancaster has a fairly new book out on water harvesting in dry landscapes. I believe Brad is in Arizona. I would think he might have some useful information for you there.

In terms of where to start, the first thing is to learn enough to recognize what you are seeing as you look over your land and what questions you should be asking.
geoff lawton offers a number of videos that offer some helpful information, but are all sort of "teasers", just enough to make you want more. Lawton is another dry lands expert.

It is a daunting prospect and you cannot do it all at once. So one helpful exercise might be to write down what your long term goals are for the property/yourself/family, and then think about what steps you might take to get there from where you are. Take some time working up such a list, let it bounce around a bit. Then you can start breaking down one of the initial steps into component parts, down to the scale of 'action items' that you can line up, think about some more, consider in relation to your land and finally start knocking them down one at a time.

 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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M A...I don't know if I'm patient... I just want to dig in and go...
DB, I will try to post a pic. I'm very much aware of Ben Falks work in restoring unusable land, Bill Mollison, Jeff Lawton, and the gang. I have much to learn, soaking it all in. I love the idea of swales, diversity, growing what you need, plus a little to share. RMH, growing without chemicals, big AG methods. I guess I need a push in a direction for the particular climate I'm in, for growies, farms, critters, homesteads, etc.
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Top of the hill
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Lava Field of Dreams
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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I think you might find some inspiration in Geoff Lawton's High, Cold, Dry, and Windy video if you have not seen it before. The location of that video was in situation similar to yours, except that they are probably one or two hardiness zones colder than you.
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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I always enjoy a good Geoff Lawton video. He enjoys spreading the word. And I mean to support those that educate, write, experiment, and share... Thanks.

My new books came in today:

The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk
Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard
Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist by Michael Judd

~Why direct water away, when you can invite it to stay? ~

Knobby Tires
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.

(Posted here... and in Greening The Desert)

Knobby Tires
 
Marianne Cicala
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Location: south central VA 7B
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Fred,
I hear ya - Patience is my challenge, but over the years, growing has forced me to slow down. My normal M.O. is a mad dash and after so many do-overs, I've had to remind myself to slooow dooown. In the long run, it saves me time and re-doing things vs observing during seasonal changes first, makes such a big difference while planning. I literally spent 2 years walking an area that I wanted to expand to (I was also doing plenty of other stuff aka testing our terraces, swales, berms, hugels on a much smaller scale) and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I forced myself to really get a good feel of the land. What I had initially thought was a great approach would have been sheer disaster.

I'm a fan of google earth's overlaying with our regional topo. Even being so far out in the sticks, where google earth does a 2-3 year update only, the lay of the land doesn't change much. Using google earth allowed me to map out, with surprising success a pretty big bank of terraces as well as swales. It also firmed up where a couple of ponds went in, to capture rain runoff. 1 of the ponds is approx 1/2 acres and 10' deep at it's deepest point; it filled within 3 months. Granted I was dealing with about 15 acres future food forest. I too am very curious about handheld GPS since it would be so beneficial on a micro vs macro and would be an huge advantage for final decision/tweeking.
 
John Wolfram
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Fred Patrick wrote:Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.

Have you visited your county government offices yet? At least in my Midwestern county they have nice topographic maps of the whole county which are detailed enough to give a rough idea of where the various water controlling features should go. You'd probably want to eventually do your own measuring to fine tune the placements, but at least in the early planning stages don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.
 
Will Meginley
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Location: Concord, New Hampshire
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Fred Patrick wrote:Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.

(Posted here... and in Greening The Desert)

Knobby Tires


The altimeter on handheld GPS units is not accurate enough for this purpose. (As an experiment: turn your GPS unit on and just stand in one place for a bit. You'll probably notice your "elevation" shifting up and down a 5-20ft range of values.) A survey-grade GPS might have an accurate enough altimeter (I've never used one so I don't know), but if you don't already have one an A-frame level would be a couple thousand dollars cheaper... And about as fast if you factor in reading the manual and figuring out how to make the unit work.
 
Helen Gilson
Posts: 38
Location: Zone 6 Ohio but interested in Zone 6 Southwest
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We are planning to retire in the same area of the country, maybe a little lower in elevation. I'm soaking in all the knowledge, reading, researching, and experimenting while I can now. I've thought the same questions though, how do you know what to do first? With urban property, I've always heard, "don't do anything with your landscaping for at least a full rotation of seasons to learn the plants and water behaviors" - Does this conventional wisdom apply to large tracts of desert as well? It seems like it would. How can you decide where to build if you don't know where the flash floods are, for example. If you don't build or change for a year, what do you do for that first year while you are observing? Map the topo of the land? How much does it change in a year?

I've also heard of large tracts in that area that have sink holes from mining. How do you survey for that?! What do you look for when you are buying? So many questions!?!

Helen
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
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Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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I think this thread about formign swales contains pertinent information on how ways to find the found of the land, especially the video posted by Jennifer on the bunyip.
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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Helen Gilson wrote:We are planning to retire in the same area of the country, maybe a little lower in elevation. I've always heard, "don't do anything with your landscaping for at least a full rotation of seasons to learn the plants and water behaviors" - Does this conventional wisdom apply to large tracts of desert as well? It seems like it would. How can you decide where to build if you don't know where the flash floods are, for example. Helen


Sudden name change here... Fred Patrick was so confusing. I'm thinking a future ex-wife would maybe call me Dean Howard.

I'm nothing if not a hiker, dirt biker, and observer. Whether traversing fast, or slow, you have to read the land so as not to become an appetizer. Luckily, I don't have a lot of elevation change in 10 acres...maybe 5 feet. I'm out daily, and have watched how mushy/boggy things are, how much sticks I throw down will sink into the soil when stepped on, or how quickly things dry out. Not so much mine... but, most desert gets it's water too fast, and it's gone before you know it...so all this talk of Slow, Spread, and Saturate is really important. Yes, flash flooding will occur and even undo your efforts, but generally you can look at the signs (sand bars, caving banks, piled up debris/rocks/logs, creeks changing paths, ruts in the road, even wash outs on your way in to a property. I guess I can see the big stuff, but the subtle run-off is much harder to follow and figure out how to direct the flow, I'm thinking.

One of my main goals is to change the weather, Muaaaah, just kidding...but, I have been shown here, that a well placed hedge row, retaining wall, living fence, swale, pond, or group of out-building can be a mild localizer for bumping your zone a little, allowing you to grow things that bump it even more... and to have cooler spots, dryer spots, etc. I'm a believer...

Knobby Tires
 
Ed Sitko
Posts: 51
Location: Bitterroot
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Maybe these references will help
sketchup
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 126
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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Pretty cool, Ed!
 
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