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Using no water at all. Can it be done?  RSS feed

 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1275
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Can I not irrigate at all, what-so-ever and succeed? The water committee is going to charge so much that irrigation is not looking financially possible. Add to that our scant rainfall and I'm wondering if this is all pointless.

I think I might need to start thinking about paying top dollar for earth works.
 
Miles Flansburg
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elle, the more swales you can create means more water will stay on your property. Also the more wood you bury means a bigger sponge to hold any water that falls as rain. Planting very hardy dryland plants will also give you more mulch and composting. Plants with deep roots will tend to bring water upward. Any trees that you can get growing will help with shading and leaf mulching.
 
brad millar
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Location: Menifee, CA
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Don't forget about the wind breaks.
 
elle sagenev
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Miles Flansburg wrote:elle, the more swales you can create means more water will stay on your property. Also the more wood you bury means a bigger sponge to hold any water that falls as rain. Planting very hardy dryland plants will also give you more mulch and composting. Plants with deep roots will tend to bring water upward. Any trees that you can get growing will help with shading and leaf mulching.


I think infiltration basins would be a bit better as my land is pretty darn flat. I'm thinking I might do most of my plantings in holes/basins. I think I might have to rely on snow for water.

I'm very worried though. I always intended to not water but I figured I would absolutely have to for a few years in establishment. It is so dry here. Now to think of not being able to do that at all, or having to pay 120k a year to do that...... This looks so impossible.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Elle - I haven't read the whole history of what you want to do but every place has plants that are native to it (or an analog climate). Those plants, if they can get established, will flourish in your setting. I think the thing that people need to look at in drylands is what is your precipitation compared to your evaporation. Hot climates will evaporate more moisture than cold, windy more than calm, high altitude, more than low altitude. What are your evaporation factors and how can you control them? Wyoming has a reputation for being windy - therefore windbreaks (plant or soil) are most likely your friend. Getting water INTO the soil and keeping it there is key. I have a flat property too. I use infiltration basins. If you're growing annuals, try putting some wood in the bottom of the basins before covering with soil.

Another thing is, amelioration of the current situation is possible, but it will take some observation and patience. What those who live in temperate climates can achieve in a year or two, we might take 5-10 years to achieve or more depending on the situation. You can't compare drylands to other climates - they are their own special thing and many of us truly do love them in all their glory. Why else would I live in a place with a month of temps between 110-120??
 
Matthew McCoul
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Location: Southeast Michigan
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definitely consider hugelkultur. Holding water is essential, and they're are well suited to the task

I might, from my experience, dig shallow ditches on one or both sides of the hugels to let water pool, so that it'll be drawn up by the wood.


I'll never forget my first lesson in water retention.
I was about 12 years old working with my parents in their backyard garden.
There was a big span of dead clay soil near the house. Flat as a board and lifeless, not even weeds. It'd been that way for years.

I used the hose to blast long shallow lines in the dirt until my mother yelled at me to get back to work.


Next year, grass grew in the trenches I'd made.
Now, the entire area is covered.

I think it was Darren Doherty that said “You have to be blue before you're green and black”.
 
elle sagenev
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Elle - I haven't read the whole history of what you want to do but every place has plants that are native to it (or an analog climate). Those plants, if they can get established, will flourish in your setting. I think the thing that people need to look at in drylands is what is your precipitation compared to your evaporation. Hot climates will evaporate more moisture than cold, windy more than calm, high altitude, more than low altitude. What are your evaporation factors and how can you control them? Wyoming has a reputation for being windy - therefore windbreaks (plant or soil) are most likely your friend. Getting water INTO the soil and keeping it there is key. I have a flat property too. I use infiltration basins. If you're growing annuals, try putting some wood in the bottom of the basins before covering with soil.

Another thing is, amelioration of the current situation is possible, but it will take some observation and patience. What those who live in temperate climates can achieve in a year or two, we might take 5-10 years to achieve or more depending on the situation. You can't compare drylands to other climates - they are their own special thing and many of us truly do love them in all their glory. Why else would I live in a place with a month of temps between 110-120??


I do have a wind break already. Came with our property. Of course the wind here is worse than ever and precipitation is down. Pine trees are the heart of most of the wind breaks here and they are now dying left and right from this wind. There are 3 lines of pine in my wind break. I've lost all of the small ones. The tops of the large ones are browning. I have to water them. I simply have to or they will die. And my wind break is the best part of my entire property as we don't do anything between the rows so it has years of mulch piled up. It also shades the snow so it melts the slowest there, etc. The trees are still dying.

I feel kind of permaculture bipolar honestly. I want this. I want this so bad. But it often seems like it's so futile. I'm so busy. Then regulations are changing. Plus our land is SOOOO dead. It's a fight for sure. I'm up and down constantly. Bleg!

As far as native trees here I am not 100% positive. We have willow and cottonwood growing along the streams and aspen along the streams as well. If there isn't a stream there aren't any trees. So the answer to that might be, we don't have any.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Elle, I want to draw your attention to this long-running thread, from which you may be able to take some heart:

http://www.permies.com/t/14353/plants/Reforestation-Growing-Trees-Arid-barren

It's a long-running thread by a man in Greece who is searching for tree seeds that will sprout and survive without watering or any care. He plants many many many tree seeds and has had some successes getting some to germinate and thrive, even while many others of the same species do not. In his climate apricots and almonds seem to the be key; in Wyoming it might have to be something hardier and colder, maybe one of those Siberian olivey berryish things that I don't know much about. But if irrigation is impossible, I think I would in your shoes shift focus to a longer-term plan and start experimental plantings of very large numbers of tree seeds that seem to have some theoretical chance of germinating and growing when the rains do come. And, of course, you would still be experimenting with wind breaks and snow fences and and infiltration basins and whatever other microclimate-creating and water-collecting permie tech you can manage.

Eventually something will start to stick. Then do more of that. It almost doesn't matter what kind of trees you have; once you have trees, many more things become possible.

I was googling cactuses and succulents recently and noticed some text somewhere (sorry I didn't save it or know where now) about some cold-hardy North American cactus species that is supposedly hardy to 30 below. Maybe that would be an option too, if you get enough summer heat where you are. Thinking outside the box here, but hey.

My bottom line is, drying through Wyoming I've seen a lot of pretty bare land. But very little that's truly barren and devoid of all plant life. And I tend to believe that with wind protection, there's a tree species for any place that can support vegetation at all. Challenge is to find it.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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That sounds dispiriting! I love water and greenness.

Do you have creeks on your own property?
What are your goals? Are you hoping to be homesteading and producing most of your own food, are you hoping to grow crops for sale, etc?

Have you looked into greywater systems?
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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maybe dig a huge bowl shape somewhere on your land. easier said than done!

but i have seen an awesome garden done this way in a really dry area. like sort of amphitheater shaped, with terraced levels going up to the top, which was just raised slightly from the surrounding ground. then when it was was watered, the hoses were placed at the top, and as the water went downhill it passed all the plants on its journey.

ah some food for thought.

but yes, there are many people who do "dry farming" here in california.
some that do it on a large scale, working farms that sell produce.
however the key to it, is we get tons of rain very quickly (too much at once!) at a certain time of year.
and then none during the sunny hot summer. sometimes for like 7-8 months it doesnt rain at all.....

there's different micro climates here, but for the most part it's about capturing what rain we do get, and then designing beds that can hold that water for the longest time. so people make "rain gardens" and do things with pipes and different things inside the beds.

theres also a lot of underground water here, and that helps a LOT!
i have seen some people make their own simple wells...

people say that fruit, tomatoes, and especially grapes are sweeter and better when dry farmed. idk if its true, but i have heard a number of people make that claim. i find fruit doesnt get as big, if i get more stingy with the water. but, even that can be ok, if you are just enjoying it for yourself.

heres something from google:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/23/214884366/to-grow-sweeter-produce-california-farmers-turn-off-the-water
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I wonder if there's something else wrong with the trees other than water? Some kind of pest or disease?
 
Miles Flansburg
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Thay are going to charge you 120 thousand a year for water? How is that possible? You can dig a well for a lot less than that. What is going on over in your area?
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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leila hamaya wrote:maybe dig a huge bowl shape somewhere on your land. easier said than done!

but i have seen an awesome garden done this way in a really dry area. like sort of amphitheater shaped, with terraced levels going up to the top, which was just raised slightly from the surrounding ground. then when it was was watered, the hoses were placed at the top, and as the water went downhill it passed all the plants on its journey.

ah some food for thought.

but yes, there are many people who do "dry farming" here in california.
some that do it on a large scale, working farms that sell produce.
however the key to it, is we get tons of rain very quickly (too much at once!) at a certain time of year.
and then none during the sunny hot summer. sometimes for like 7-8 months it doesnt rain at all.....

there's different micro climates here, but for the most part it's about capturing what rain we do get, and then designing beds that can hold that water for the longest time. so people make "rain gardens" and do things with pipes and different things inside the beds.

theres also a lot of underground water here, and that helps a LOT!
i have seen some people make their own simple wells...

people say that fruit, tomatoes, and especially grapes are sweeter and better when dry farmed. idk if its true, but i have heard a number of people make that claim. i find fruit doesnt get as big, if i get more stingy with the water. but, even that can be ok, if you are just enjoying it for yourself.

heres something from google:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/23/214884366/to-grow-sweeter-produce-california-farmers-turn-off-the-water


I like that idea just fine but fear I would need a permit to do so. I've been told if I dig anything over 1 foot deep I need a permit.
 
elle sagenev
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:I wonder if there's something else wrong with the trees other than water? Some kind of pest or disease?


I don't believe it's anything but drought and wind. It saps the moisture from the pine needles and turns them brown. So you'll have a tree that is brown on the wind facing side and slowly that brown will go around and kill off the entire tree.
 
elle sagenev
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Thay are going to charge you 120 thousand a year for water? How is that possible? You can dig a well for a lot less than that. What is going on over in your area?


Nothing is settled but they want to set a usage fee of 3k per acre (I have 40 acres) per year. They want the money from the usage fee to go into a fund that would be used to pay farmers to not use their irrigation wells. That is the big brilliant plan for saving water over here. Genius isn't it. Of course it's per acre of water. So if I don't water I don't have to pay the fee.
 
Peter Ellis
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Swales are still a good idea, especially if you're not going to be able to dig deeper than a foot without getting permits. No land is one hundred percent flat, and swales provide the optimal way of collecting water across an area of land. There's a fair bit of evidence that suggests that the more plants you get growing, the more water you will not only hold but attract to your site. The hydrologic cycle can be amplified with more and more plant growth.

Jennifer's suggestion of identifying plants that are evolved to succeed in your environment and beginning with those to bootstrap your land into more and more fertility and hydrologic potential is a really big idea. Swales to capture whatever falls on your land, and in the process provide tiny windbreaks, that will get bigger as plants grow on the berms of the swales, plants that can survive your environment to begin with, and adding more varieties of plants as you go forward.

But it will be slow, there will be setbacks and it will take a big dose of determination and perseverence.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Elle,

Could you tell us how many inches of precipitation you get in your area, and perhaps a general idea of where in Wyoming your property is? (Central, East, etc...) That might help as a frame of reference.

On the windbreak, I would suggest you planting another species to supplement the Pines. I know how many of them died in 2010 here in Central Texas during the drought...and then burst into flames. One of the many reasons I am not a fan of pines. I would recommend Bamboo as a wind break. I would not be concerned with the clumping vs running species debate. If a running variety could establish itself, so be it. Doesn't sound like you have enough water for it to be the issue it is lamented on suburban lawns. Also when the poles mature, cut them and make bio char for the soil to hold more moisture and biology. The shade of a timber bamboo species will also help cut solar evaporation as well as the convective loss of moisture. Here is a list of a few cold hardy bamboos down to -20F.

http://www.bamboogarden.com/cold%20hardy%20bamboo.html

With the bamboo as an over story, you can plant a variety of nitrogen fixers in the mid canopy and on down.
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Jack Edmondson wrote:Elle,

Could you tell us how many inches of precipitation you get in your area, and perhaps a general idea of where in Wyoming your property is? (Central, East, etc...) That might help as a frame of reference.

On the windbreak, I would suggest you planting another species to supplement the Pines. I know how many of them died in 2010 here in Central Texas during the drought...and then burst into flames. One of the many reasons I am not a fan of pines. I would recommend Bamboo as a wind break. I would not be concerned with the clumping vs running species debate. If a running variety could establish itself, so be it. Doesn't sound like you have enough water for it to be the issue it is lamented on suburban lawns. Also when the poles mature, cut them and make bio char for the soil to hold more moisture and biology. The shade of a timber bamboo species will also help cut solar evaporation as well as the convective loss of moisture. Here is a list of a few cold hardy bamboos down to -20F.

http://www.bamboogarden.com/cold%20hardy%20bamboo.html

With the bamboo as an over story, you can plant a variety of nitrogen fixers in the mid canopy and on down.


15 inches. I'm rolling in water. As for location I'm way south east. Takes me 15 mins to get to both NE and CO.

As for pines, I like them. I admit I do. I've lost way more conifers to drought than I have pines. They do have to be watered though. The wind is just killing them. But they're so tall, my pines. So pretty. I can't imagine just offing them. If they all die, ok, I'll replace. Otherwise I'm doing all I can to keep them. I just love how pines offer the same windbreak summer, fall, winter, spring. They don't lose leaves like other trees, etc. Yeah. I love em. But, the tippy tops of 5 of them have gone red.

I do have bamboo waiting for spring though. It's in my bathroom right now just itching to get outside. I hope it does well. Would be amazing!
 
Tate Smith
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Elle,

So much info in this thread, its great!

First thing I would say is that the High Plains of Laramie County, WY will never look like the enchanted forest forests of everywhere else. I may get some heat for this, but the reason that practically every permaculture video on the internet is somewhere in a temperate climate with ample rain fall and little land use regulation is because it's EASY to do anything you want with a plant in those areas. So why is there so little permaculture and active alternative agriculture knowledge in the arid west (comparatively...)? Because its flippin' HARD!! No water, no organic matter, laws out the wazoo...it's tough.

So, in order to make a parcel of land get to all that is amazing in permaculture, is to get back to basics. Go back to the original Mollison/Holmgren zone planning. Your entire plot of land is not going to ever be a bountiful apple orchard, plain and simple. HOWEVER! By planting fruit trees (for example) right around your house where they are sheltered, you will be able to get them to go and produce. Also put your "kitchen garden" in the sun catch of your home area. Grow all the herbs and spices you want. Microclimate and experiment in these areas. You have the run off of your roof, shelter, heat traps, sun traps, infrastructure to build greenhouses off of. Then moving farther out, you have your vegetable gardens and your birds. Waste from the house supports the first zone, waste from the first zone supports the second. Further out is where you have to start realizing the limitations of the land. There are few, if any trees, that are going to be able to grow here without significant welfare support. I hate those welfare trees, they don't work and die anyways. So think like the landscape. What grows here? Shrubs and grass. So we have to match our management to the landscape. I found the coolest plant in Campbell County, WY once. Ground plum vetch. It was wild and DELICIOUS! That would be an example of something to plant to eat. Low growing, fast growing, drought proof, biomass, fruit. There are a lot of species like this, both domestic and wild, that could be propagated for use in your situation. Unfortunately, because this landscape is tough, there is little information in regards to which species to use (but they do exist!). In the outer zones, it is important to understand traditional rangeland management. These basics are good. Any information you read pre World War II is going to be very very good in regards to range mgmt. basics. Also, very recent information (i.e. Savory and others) is going to be very good as well. With those basics you can understand grass, which sequesters more carbon per acre than most forests (what a great resource!). Manage your grass in conjunction with your food production.

Animals are critical here. They have so much natural function in the landscape. Cattle and sheep have an obviously huge part of that function (which is a whole other conversation). But I would suggest looking at pigs as an option to create your, what I'm calling, "planting pits". geoff lawton just had a fantastic video that had planting pits made by pigs in it, check it out. Pigs do well in this environment if you manage them correctly.

So I guess I'm trying to say that all hope is not lost. I think that, based on what you've said in the thread, your goals may be really big (WHICH IS GREAT!!!). But I would suggest that you narrow those goals to something smaller and back to basics and you will be able to realize different, bigger, and more awesome goals after you achieve those smaller goals.

Hope that helps, and hope that others keep pitching in the advise and support to keep you on the road to success!
Some pictures of your place would be great!
-Tate
 
brad millar
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food for thought.......

15 inches of rain falling on 40 acres equals 16,292,440 gallons of water.
 
Jen Shrock
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Bear with me...it is the middle of the night and I am trying to dust the cobwebs off of the grey matter...

At some point I remember reading or watching a video (seems to me it was a Geoff Lawton one) about a technique in which, before putting in swales, the downhill/berm side of what was to be the swale was keyline plowed/ripped first and then the swale was built and the berm built over the keylined area. If I remember right, this allowed the water absorption even more than just the swale/berm combination. I think that I have also read of people keylining the bottom of swales at times, but I would think that you would want the affect under the berm myself, because it is the plant/tree growing part of the system.

Also, when at a workshop in CA last year, someone mentioned that they read (I believe it might have been in a Brad Lancaster book) about a tree planting system in which a tree was planted with a "pit" right beside it that was packed with cardboard and soaked at the time of planting and this "pit" then acted similar to a wicking bed for the tree to have a source of moisture to help it in it's initial establishment stage. This concept might even be able to be transferred to your infiltration basin concept...instead of using wood (since it sounds like it is lacking in your area) could you layer in cardboard quite thick to use as your "sponge" instead of the wood.

Both concepts would need looked into more because I am trying to dig back through things I read/seen/heard. They do seem like potential prospects for your site.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Kratergarden? (Crater Garden)
This sounds like a perfect scenario for building a kratergarden. Dig a nice big pit, sculpt it for terraces, micro-climates, water retention, heat sinks, stay out of the wind, and plant like crazy! eventually you will learn what wants to grow where and it will thrive. Search permies for more info. I know Zach Weiss has one going in MT., and Sepp has built a few with great success. You may just have to bite the bullet and get a permit if that is what The Man requires, but you will be much better off in the long run (or you could go with the ask for forgiveness rather than permission approach).
 
Jason Lloyd
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Hmm I only get about 14 inches a year and I have plenty of natural vegetation growing on my 20 acres. Plenty of pine trees, eucalyptus trees, eremophila bushes, gum trees, quondong trees, olive trees, pomegranate trees, pepper trees, and old man salt bush. I started planting an orchid this year but found the trees are suffering from not enough water so I dug semi circle swales around them and directed rain water runoff to them. 5 weeks since our last rain and the grass has mostly died off except behind the swales around the fruit trees which is still all green and the trees have picked up a lot average temperature this week around 40C in the shade on my veranda
 
Bill Bradbury
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Hello Elle,

It sounds like you're in a tough spot, but so is most of the arid west. Much of the water has already been stolen by corporate interests, many in other states, so prices are skyrocketing to compensate for a seeming scarcity.

My parents, in the Utah west desert, had to dig a new well for culinary purposes only because the big deep well salinified from over use by big commercial growers who export most of the hay they grow to China in the form of cubes.

We little guys have to creatively find ways to grow what we need for ourselves and others without the use of irrigation. This was easy when I was a boy and everyone we knew had a little dry farm above town, but that ain't the case anymore. Every single dry farm has been abandoned to rangeland for cattle and sheep.

We planted perennial wheat in the pastures at my parents' place with a few native grasses and rotate the horses so they don't overgraze. This is alright for open range, but it sounds like you would like something a little more productive.

My company restores old homes and the land around them. We try and do this with no irrigation by incorporating hugelbed/swales and heavy mulch grown by the weed approach. This is a great time to start. I've included some photos of our latest project, 15" precip and no irrigation. If you are interested in this approach, I can post more about it, just let me know.

Pines have shallow root systems, so are a poor choice for our climate unless they are in a forest. I would start growing their replacements now!
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elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Jason Lloyd wrote:Hmm I only get about 14 inches a year and I have plenty of natural vegetation growing on my 20 acres. Plenty of pine trees, eucalyptus trees, eremophila bushes, gum trees, quondong trees, olive trees, pomegranate trees, pepper trees, and old man salt bush. I started planting an orchid this year but found the trees are suffering from not enough water so I dug semi circle swales around them and directed rain water runoff to them. 5 weeks since our last rain and the grass has mostly died off except behind the swales around the fruit trees which is still all green and the trees have picked up a lot average temperature this week around 40C in the shade on my veranda


Yes, but do you have this

Edited because of bloody picture sizing.
wyoming wind sock.jpg
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elle sagenev
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Tate Smith wrote:Elle,

So much info in this thread, its great!

First thing I would say is that the High Plains of Laramie County, WY will never look like the enchanted forest forests of everywhere else. I may get some heat for this, but the reason that practically every permaculture video on the internet is somewhere in a temperate climate with ample rain fall and little land use regulation is because it's EASY to do anything you want with a plant in those areas. So why is there so little permaculture and active alternative agriculture knowledge in the arid west (comparatively...)? Because its flippin' HARD!! No water, no organic matter, laws out the wazoo...it's tough.

So, in order to make a parcel of land get to all that is amazing in permaculture, is to get back to basics. Go back to the original Mollison/Holmgren zone planning. Your entire plot of land is not going to ever be a bountiful apple orchard, plain and simple. HOWEVER! By planting fruit trees (for example) right around your house where they are sheltered, you will be able to get them to go and produce. Also put your "kitchen garden" in the sun catch of your home area. Grow all the herbs and spices you want. Microclimate and experiment in these areas. You have the run off of your roof, shelter, heat traps, sun traps, infrastructure to build greenhouses off of. Then moving farther out, you have your vegetable gardens and your birds. Waste from the house supports the first zone, waste from the first zone supports the second. Further out is where you have to start realizing the limitations of the land. There are few, if any trees, that are going to be able to grow here without significant welfare support. I hate those welfare trees, they don't work and die anyways. So think like the landscape. What grows here? Shrubs and grass. So we have to match our management to the landscape. I found the coolest plant in Campbell County, WY once. Ground plum vetch. It was wild and DELICIOUS! That would be an example of something to plant to eat. Low growing, fast growing, drought proof, biomass, fruit. There are a lot of species like this, both domestic and wild, that could be propagated for use in your situation. Unfortunately, because this landscape is tough, there is little information in regards to which species to use (but they do exist!). In the outer zones, it is important to understand traditional rangeland management. These basics are good. Any information you read pre World War II is going to be very very good in regards to range mgmt. basics. Also, very recent information (i.e. Savory and others) is going to be very good as well. With those basics you can understand grass, which sequesters more carbon per acre than most forests (what a great resource!). Manage your grass in conjunction with your food production.

Animals are critical here. They have so much natural function in the landscape. Cattle and sheep have an obviously huge part of that function (which is a whole other conversation). But I would suggest looking at pigs as an option to create your, what I'm calling, "planting pits". Geoff Lawton just had a fantastic video that had planting pits made by pigs in it, check it out. Pigs do well in this environment if you manage them correctly.

So I guess I'm trying to say that all hope is not lost. I think that, based on what you've said in the thread, your goals may be really big (WHICH IS GREAT!!!). But I would suggest that you narrow those goals to something smaller and back to basics and you will be able to realize different, bigger, and more awesome goals after you achieve those smaller goals.

Hope that helps, and hope that others keep pitching in the advise and support to keep you on the road to success!
Some pictures of your place would be great!
-Tate


I think you may be right but I refuse to give up on it. We've dug out these shallow holes just because we needed the dirt to block our dogs from crawling under the fence. I've seen how green it has gotten around those holes. Green that wouldn't have been there if we hadn't done it. I also see the big difference my few swales have already had on the landscape. So yeah, I'll probably never have a forest garden that is as lush as someone in a rainier climate, but I'm going to have one.

I went to geofflawton.com because I don't remember that pig video and wanted to watch it. Anyone else gone and only seen the sales page? I can't get to anything but the sales page, no matter where I try to go. Weird.

If you want pics go to my blog. Peacockorchard.com I have a post scheduled to go up every 3 days. I just started the blog this week but if you follow it you'll see everything I did last year posted my march. lol
 
elle sagenev
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Bill Bradbury wrote:Hello Elle,

It sounds like you're in a tough spot, but so is most of the arid west. Much of the water has already been stolen by corporate interests, many in other states, so prices are skyrocketing to compensate for a seeming scarcity.

My parents, in the Utah west desert, had to dig a new well for culinary purposes only because the big deep well salinified from over use by big commercial growers who export most of the hay they grow to China in the form of cubes.

We little guys have to creatively find ways to grow what we need for ourselves and others without the use of irrigation. This was easy when I was a boy and everyone we knew had a little dry farm above town, but that ain't the case anymore. Every single dry farm has been abandoned to rangeland for cattle and sheep.

We planted perennial wheat in the pastures at my parents' place with a few native grasses and rotate the horses so they don't overgraze. This is alright for open range, but it sounds like you would like something a little more productive.

My company restores old homes and the land around them. We try and do this with no irrigation by incorporating hugelbed/swales and heavy mulch grown by the weed approach. This is a great time to start. I've included some photos of our latest project, 15" precip and no irrigation. If you are interested in this approach, I can post more about it, just let me know.

Pines have shallow root systems, so are a poor choice for our climate unless they are in a forest. I would start growing their replacements now!


I would really love more information and pictures on what you do!


I wish salt was my worry with water. We had an electronics waste recycler move onto our section and operate outside of the law and without a permit. I did drive him to bankruptcy with my meddling and eventually he was arrested because it turns out he's a child molester as well as an unethical businessman. Anyway, so we have him, in a flood plane with all those carcinogenic wastes just sitting outside. Then you have the fracking wells going in all around us. What a joy! I wish i could believe they'll do what they should to protect our water. Unfortunately I am very aware of a bill in front of legislature right now that is there because someone trespassed, collected a water sample and discovered they were disposing of fracking checmicals incorrectly and thus poisoning all the water So yeah, I guess it's stupid to say where we are.
 
elle sagenev
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Jen Shrock wrote:Bear with me...it is the middle of the night and I am trying to dust the cobwebs off of the grey matter...

At some point I remember reading or watching a video (seems to me it was a Geoff Lawton one) about a technique in which, before putting in swales, the downhill/berm side of what was to be the swale was keyline plowed/ripped first and then the swale was built and the berm built over the keylined area. If I remember right, this allowed the water absorption even more than just the swale/berm combination. I think that I have also read of people keylining the bottom of swales at times, but I would think that you would want the affect under the berm myself, because it is the plant/tree growing part of the system.

Also, when at a workshop in CA last year, someone mentioned that they read (I believe it might have been in a Brad Lancaster book) about a tree planting system in which a tree was planted with a "pit" right beside it that was packed with cardboard and soaked at the time of planting and this "pit" then acted similar to a wicking bed for the tree to have a source of moisture to help it in it's initial establishment stage. This concept might even be able to be transferred to your infiltration basin concept...instead of using wood (since it sounds like it is lacking in your area) could you layer in cardboard quite thick to use as your "sponge" instead of the wood.

Both concepts would need looked into more because I am trying to dig back through things I read/seen/heard. They do seem like potential prospects for your site.


I love both of these ideas. Thank you!!!
 
elle sagenev
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On a side not I've been talking to the mayor of the town near us and she said the paper didn't have all the correct information printed. She's on the water committee. She said that domestic wells will just be charged a flat $40 a year.
 
elle sagenev
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Ok yes. I think I need a crater garden!
 
Jack Edmondson
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Bill Bradbury wrote:
We planted perennial wheat in the pastures at my parents' place with a few native grasses and rotate the horses so they don't overgraze. This is alright for open range, but it sounds like you would like something a little more productive.


Bill,

Would you mind sharing your experience with the perennial wheat, what variety, and any secret sources? It would be much appreciated. I would love to give a variety a try that is a good deep rooting variety that produced a useable grain.
 
elle sagenev
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Ok. I almost have permission to do a crater garden without a permit. Fingers crossed!!!
 
elle sagenev
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I have been told that I can do a small crater garden without requiring a permit. I have a 3' deep, 14' in diameter crater ok'd. Now to save that email for the rest of my life. I'm also hoping they never come to my property. If they are going to OK that size of crater than I'm going to do as many as I can fit.
 
Tate Smith
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Elle,

I had an idea today that you might be interested in. I worked with a rancher in Glendo that used a new type of windbreak that kicked the drifts much further out than traditional windbreaks. He used these for his cattle in wintertime. The windbreaks were large enough about 50 cows could fit inside and he could feed them all as well.

But! I had the thought...why not replace cows with plants?! You could plant trees up close to the windbreak itself so they got plenty of heat trap then stack your height functions out to where on the furthest end (and the wettest) you had low growing plants such as strawberries. You could also build these in such a way with your tractor bucket that they sloped ever so slightly back towards the windbreak so that in the summer the snow melts back across all of your planting area. Then when the trees are big enough, tear down the windbeak fence and reconstruct it elsewhere on the property!

I searched all over the internet for some info on that rancher's particular design, it was a fairly new engineering scheme at the time and I have a hard copy somewhere in all my books and papers. So I'll find it and then find a link to it on the web. Below I posted a couple good articles about wind breaks, designs that could also work for this type of scheme. But I'll find that one I mentioned before as it provides the most "growing space"/"beef space" in comparison and builds bigger drifts.

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1132&context=rangebeefcowsymp
http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/Beef%20Cattle%20Handbook/Windbreak_Fences.pdf

As a side note. Big drifts in winter are good! We always want some diversity to our landscape and even on flat ground, we can have some topography in the winter.

Let me know what you think of this idea. It would be a little expensive at the start, but might be a way to jumpstart your system!
 
Tate Smith
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Tate Smith wrote:
I had an idea today that you might be interested in. I worked with a rancher in Glendo that used a new type of windbreak that kicked the drifts much further out than traditional windbreaks. He used these for his cattle in wintertime. The windbreaks were large enough about 50 cows could fit inside and he could feed them all as well.


Keep in mind, the windbreaks I'm talking about are about 15' tall and about 60' long or so.
 
S Bengi
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To make this work:
(1) Limit your productive farm area to only 3 acres at most. This way you will only ned $10k vs 150k orth of water
(2) Space plants apart in a 3x mature height crater. This way you will have a 45inch of rain runoff vs just 15inch
(3) Plant 90% of the space with nitrogen support species, culling as the 'fruit' tree matures. The plant will get shade from the fast growing n-fixers plus mulch later
(4) Grow your own cover crop (possible corn) leave it rooted and use as mulch. You need the mulch to feed the fungi and to converse water
(5) Use machinery to get the earthworks done.
(6) Even in humid and wet Mississippi, you still have to water bare root plants for the 1st year, heck even potted plants. So you are going to have to do the same. The only way around that is to plant seeds and then graft named cultivars, after the seeds germinate and establish themselves.
 
elle sagenev
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Tate Smith wrote:Elle,

I had an idea today that you might be interested in. I worked with a rancher in Glendo that used a new type of windbreak that kicked the drifts much further out than traditional windbreaks. He used these for his cattle in wintertime. The windbreaks were large enough about 50 cows could fit inside and he could feed them all as well.

But! I had the thought...why not replace cows with plants?! You could plant trees up close to the windbreak itself so they got plenty of heat trap then stack your height functions out to where on the furthest end (and the wettest) you had low growing plants such as strawberries. You could also build these in such a way with your tractor bucket that they sloped ever so slightly back towards the windbreak so that in the summer the snow melts back across all of your planting area. Then when the trees are big enough, tear down the windbeak fence and reconstruct it elsewhere on the property!

I searched all over the internet for some info on that rancher's particular design, it was a fairly new engineering scheme at the time and I have a hard copy somewhere in all my books and papers. So I'll find it and then find a link to it on the web. Below I posted a couple good articles about wind breaks, designs that could also work for this type of scheme. But I'll find that one I mentioned before as it provides the most "growing space"/"beef space" in comparison and builds bigger drifts.

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1132&context=rangebeefcowsymp
http://www.iowabeefcenter.org/Beef%20Cattle%20Handbook/Windbreak_Fences.pdf

As a side note. Big drifts in winter are good! We always want some diversity to our landscape and even on flat ground, we can have some topography in the winter.

Let me know what you think of this idea. It would be a little expensive at the start, but might be a way to jumpstart your system!


There is a farmer on our drive to town who stacked large round hay bales to make a super large windbreak for temporary cattle he had. I suppose that would be a fairly inexpensive and mulchy way to go about it.
 
elle sagenev
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S Bengi wrote:To make this work:
(1) Limit your productive farm area to only 3 acres at most. This way you will only ned $10k vs 150k orth of water
(2) Space plants apart in a 3x mature height crater. This way you will have a 45inch of rain runoff vs just 15inch
(3) Plant 90% of the space with nitrogen support species, culling as the 'fruit' tree matures. The plant will get shade from the fast growing n-fixers plus mulch later
(4) Grow your own cover crop (possible corn) leave it rooted and use as mulch. You need the mulch to feed the fungi and to converse water
(5) Use machinery to get the earthworks done.
(6) Even in humid and wet Mississippi, you still have to water bare root plants for the 1st year, heck even potted plants. So you are going to have to do the same. The only way around that is to plant seeds and then graft named cultivars, after the seeds germinate and establish themselves.


I've been considering digging a well next to eat planting and having a temporary bucket inside that i can just fill and let drip out over time. Perhaps a wick type system. With lids perhaps I'd only have to fill the buckets once for full summer watering. I think that this sounds like a silly alternative to irrigation but my current irrigation is a soaker hose. So I rather think a bucket is better.
 
S Bengi
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elle sagenev wrote:
I've been considering digging a well next to eat planting and having a temporary bucket inside that i can just fill and let drip out over time. Perhaps a wick type system. With lids perhaps I'd only have to fill the buckets once for full summer watering. I think that this sounds like a silly alternative to irrigation but my current irrigation is a soaker hose. So I rather think a bucket is better.


What you just mentioned is drip irrigation and it it relatively cheap to run the pipes. Way cheaper than buying 100+ buckets. And using mulch as the 'lid' will make it work year round, feed the microbes, etc. And if you plant corn and then 'push' them over but still rooted, this mulch will not blow away with the wind.

This annual grass get to 12ft high in only 120 days. That is a crazy amount of anchored mulch. Even if you have to give it a bit of extra water.
http://www.viaspacegreenenergy.com/giant-king-grass.php

Spring....plant king grass
Fall.....Leave them rooted but knock them over
1st frost..... Plant all your fruit/nut trees, This will give the plants some time to get their roots established in before the soil freezes in Dec and also to grow in the spring before bud break.

Late Spring re-order whatever died. You will probably only have to pay for shipping.
 
Bill Bradbury
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elle sagenev wrote:
I would really love more information and pictures on what you do!

I wish salt was my worry with water. We had an electronics waste recycler move onto our section and operate outside of the law and without a permit. I did drive him to bankruptcy with my meddling and eventually he was arrested because it turns out he's a child molester as well as an unethical businessman. Anyway, so we have him, in a flood plane with all those carcinogenic wastes just sitting outside. Then you have the fracking wells going in all around us. What a joy! I wish i could believe they'll do what they should to protect our water. Unfortunately I am very aware of a bill in front of legislature right now that is there because someone trespassed, collected a water sample and discovered they were disposing of fracking checmicals incorrectly and thus poisoning all the water So yeah, I guess it's stupid to say where we are.


Hi Elle,

Check out this websitefractracker. There are 2 problems with fracking; 1 is the hydraulic injection fluid(mix of toxins) and then there is the waste water injection wells(all the waste water, 7million gals per well, must be re-injected into wells that may or may not be near the site).

Here is a current photo. Notice the large amount of biomass covering the soil, mostly they are weeds or weedy pioneers that we don't call weeds because of the negative connotations.
IMG_7594.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_7594.JPG]
 
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