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Rock Mountainside/top What To Do?  RSS feed

 
Tommy Kilpatrick
Posts: 14
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Ok, I've searched here and online in general and haven't found anything that looks similar to my situation. I have 10+ acres of raw land about 30 minutes west of Denver, CO that is mostly steep (rises 280' in less than 900') with some area on top of a ridge that is more level. It's mostly covered with trees, but there really doesn't seem to be much soil to speak of. Everywhere I've looked, there is an inch or two of decomposing organic matter with solid rock underneath. I'd like to get started building soil up there ASAP and preventing erosion from washing it all away every chance it gets. There is more description and pictures in this thread http://www.permies.com/t/45591/introductions/Denver so feel free to check that out if it helps. The picture with the tent is close to the proposed home site and where we will focus these efforts to start with.

Any ideas? I can't really dig at all. Looks like they blasted for the holes that are there and the trees grow directly into the rock from what I can tell. Am I going to be stuck waiting years to build up anything usable to grow substantial crops, or forced to import multiple dumptruck loads of material to get started anytime soon? Any ideas are welcome, and I'd love to see examples of others dealing successfully with this situation. Everything I can find that is called "permaculture" that seems applicable is in a greenhouse with lots of compost and mulch brought in. Not my ideal situation, and I would even have to truck water in for that since a well permit is for indoor household use only here.

The way I see it, getting soil happening is job one unless I want to wait years and years after building the house. We have to wait for planning and permitting before getting construction going, and I'd like to use that time to get a jump start on the land itself. The upsides are the view and location. We really love it up there! Thanks in advance for any thoughts and suggestions!
Tommy
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3725
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Standard permaculture thoughts about slopes:
>2° slope you can garden/farm
>18° you can plant trees
<18° you should leave wild.

Take a look at Sepp Holtzer's stuff about putting in terraces.
What kind of trees are there now?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2331
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
431
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Tommy: One thing that has worked well for me is to rearrange the fallen branches, twigs, and grasses. I lay them so that they parallel the contour rather than facing any direction. That way during heavy storms they collect pebbles, and plant matter. I'm not using them as swales or bunds or hugel. They simply interrupt the sheet flow and slow it down so that the things the water is carrying can settle out. When I prune the lower branches while maintaining the firebreak, the limbs are laid parallel to contour.

Here's an example of what that looks like: These couple of logs were moved a couple of feet from their original positions, but were placed on-contour instead of perpendicular to contour. All this gravel was collected during a single thunderstorm.

 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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This is a natural environment for goats, have you thought about animal husbandry? The piece about water might make that hard but maybe there's a way. Goats poop a lot, great soil building!

What sort of crops are you hoping to grow? It might be hard to sustain a homestead entirely on home grown foods in your strain but you may be able to find crops that work well with your climate and soil.
 
Tommy Kilpatrick
Posts: 14
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Thanks for the thoughts!

Cj Verde - I've read and watched a lot about sepp holzer's work and I think trying to terrace may not be successful because it's just a big chunk of rock mountainside. The trees are primarily douglas fir with a couple of other kinds of evergreens and aspen. According to the permaculture standards you listed, I have an area, maybe an acre or two, that is flat enough to garden/farm if I build more soil. Probably a couple more acres where I could plant trees, and the rest would be too steep to do anything with. That's what I'm mainly looking to figure something out for.

Joseph Lofthouse - Thanks, that's very helpful. Once these areas collect matter for a while, are you able to plant in them or do they just help with erosion?

Matu Collins - We would definitely like to have animals, and I think goats would be perfect if we could grow a decent bit of food for them. The water thing is also problematic, but not insurmountable.

We don't have any particular expectations for what to grow. I'll be looking here for more advice on that, as well as doing research locally. I think our primary goal would be to grow as much of our food as possible, and as much variety as we can get. I can't imagine that this will be our permanent location for a homestead, but if we can make stuff grow here we should be able to make a more usable piece of land really sing for us!

I really appreciate everyone's time giving some advice!
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
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Hi Tommy,

I saw the photos in your other thread and I could not see a lot of ag possibilities. This is what's known as "a tough row to hoe".

I would strategically cut trees to lay on the others on contour as was already suggested. Then go into the Aspen stand and cut 2/3of the trees out and build hugels in there. A stand of Aspen is one single organism and when it gets a haircut, the trees that are left grow like mad.This is probably the only good soil that you have. I would plant high elevation berries like elderberries, serviceberries, goji, aronia and thimbleberries into these hugels, along with a smattering of red alder for nitrogen. Then bring in animals to help restore the rest of the land. I like goats, but sheep can do quite well at elevation.
Good luck!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2331
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
431
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Tommy Kilpatrick wrote:Joseph Lofthouse - Thanks, that's very helpful. Once these areas collect matter for a while, are you able to plant in them or do they just help with erosion?


I've planted... But it's very dry... So far nothing has survived long-term. I'm growing some goji at home with intentions of planting it out some fall. It could survive once established... I am also working on breeding some winter-hardy short-season peas that could take advantage of the moister conditions in winter.
 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Hi Tommy,

Check out the link below:
http://www.ecoresults.org/success_tiptons.html

The Tiptons of Mina,NV did exactly what you are talking about. Basically they spread seeds, covered in hay, mob grazed with a huge amount of cattle and then moved the cattle away and let nature finish the job. Also they did it on a gold mine site that others had already tried to remediate and failed. I would use a diverse mix of seeds and include vegetables, especially root crops.

Sounds Like a Beautiful Place!

Good Luck,

Jeff
 
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