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Imprinting

 
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I recently bought 30 acres south of Tucson AZ on relatively flat land covered in creosote. On the west side there is a good sized wash and riparian area that can be leveraged for water harvesting. I've got ideas for most of what I need to do but one option, imprinting, has proven difficult to find resources. The Imprinting Foundation seems to be defunct after the passing of the founder two years ago and I can't seem to find anyone who has experience, resources, or even knows where to find an imprinting roller to borrow, rent, buy etc. I'm looking to have my own fabricated but I want to leverage the experience of others on this.

Does anyone have any insights on what I can do?

 
pollinator
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Michael - have you seen the work by Alan Savoury on holistically planned grazing? One of the features of grazing cattle using his system is to disturb the soil surface in a similar fashion to machine imprinting. You don't even need your own cattle - you can borrow a neighbours.

The key is really high stocking density for a short period of time, sometimes using electric fencing to confine them to small areas before moving on. This is as opposed to light stocking density over the whole area at once, where they tread more lightly and selectively graze the most choice plants, leaving the coarsest and least palatable.

I think it will help you achieve your goals and be less material and labour intensive.

Ps - great name you have there
 
Michael Woot
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I've researched the grazing techniques but my issue is that there is literally nothing to eat. I have creosote which is unpalatable and so efficient at capturing water it naturally precludes even other creosote within its area. I need to strip the creosote and then quickly till and imprint so that I can retain water. Holistic techniques are great for huge land or just degraded land from what I've seen. It is a great technique but I'm not sure how it would be effective on this land.
 
Michael Cox
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Is this what your land looks like?



There may be limited food for them, but high density stocking will still give you the soil disturbance you are looking for, and the bushes should get trampled too.
 
Michael Woot
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That looks like a shot out of my back-yard.

I'll take a look at cattle. I'd have to borrow since I don't want to mess with it. I'd have to supplement with copious amounts of hay though or I'd be returning skinny cows.

My thought was to rip out the creosote, run swales as appropriate to retain and move water from the washes, use check dams and one rock damns in the small washes and rivulets to slow the water. Then I'd spread manure, compost, etc. disc it in and then seed with native grasses and run the imprinter over the top to form and pack. The thousands of imprints would catch and hold the rains (and even irrigation if necessary) while the swales and dams maximize the water retention and diversion.

 
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Michael Woot wrote:That looks like a shot out of my back-yard.

I'll take a look at cattle. I'd have to borrow since I don't want to mess with it. I'd have to supplement with copious amounts of hay though or I'd be returning skinny cows.

My thought was to rip out the creosote, run swales as appropriate to retain and move water from the washes, use check dams and one rock damns in the small washes and rivulets to slow the water. Then I'd spread manure, compost, etc. disc it in and then seed with native grasses and run the imprinter over the top to form and pack. The thousands of imprints would catch and hold the rains (and even irrigation if necessary) while the swales and dams maximize the water retention and diversion.



i grew up ~45 mins north, but on land that looks pretty much the same and i think you are on the right track here.
i dont think cattle are appropriate, yet. the inputs needed, to me, outweigh the benefits gained. you could "bale graze" as a way to get organic material onto the ground though.

the only mention i have seen on imprinting is in Brad Lancasters book v2- which seems to reference a lot of work in southern AZ. from what i can tell, a metal cylinder with angle iron welded on would do - so long as it is built sturdy enough to be pulled around the property.
i think some swales and as many check dams in the washes as you can build will go a long way to keeping water onsite.



 
Michael Cox
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Wow that place looks tough.

I'm no expert on environments like that but I guess the first priority is "planting the rain". I would leave the creosote alone until your earthworks are established and you have some decent water infiltration happening. When the water is available it will become much easier to get other plants established and transition away from the unpalatable creosote bush. It may not look like much, but if your creosote is the only plant growing then ripping it all out could lead to substantial surface erosion before anything else gets established.

I'd spend a day with an A frame mapping out contour lines where you can establish your swales. Look for locations where your efforts can be leveraged - perhaps where surface water is running on to your land from a neighbour, or where streams can manipulated with check dams. Look also to see if you can divert runoff from road surfaces.



Common advice is to start at the top of the water shed and work downwards. If you start at the bottom your earthworks can be overwhelmed in a rain event.
 
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Could someone explain this picture? There is reference to using an a-frame (guessing the one pictured) to map contours for swales but can anyone explain how?
 
Mother Tree
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Joseph Johnson wrote:Could someone explain this picture? There is reference to using an a-frame (guessing the one pictured) to map contours for swales but can anyone explain how?



This thread might help - finding contour for swale
 
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Michael,

Here are a few other links on imprinting (all about Bill Mollison from AZ):

Imprinting techniques

Bill Mollison on imprinting
Podcast with Bill Mollison on Imprinting

Hope this helps you along on your research.

Kevin
 
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