If anyone needs a place, I have 80 acres of land which I would be happy to share with likeminded individuals but at the moment it is mostly just land; half poplar and half scrubby pasture with a dugout and power lines running down one short side. I don't even live there yet, (only my horses do) but am working on building a straw bale house in the near future.There are no building restrictions, but I believe composting toilets would be best as the water table is high; a lake runs under the land for miles, although I don't have any swamp. I am trying to build up the land (sandy to start with and then abused by overgrazing before I got here) but arthritis caused me to retire early with a tiny income so it's a very slow process.
It's close enough to town (30 minutes) that work would be readilly available off the land if necessary. There is no need for anyone fit to be out of work around here. I would love to have a family come live on the land and help it become what it could be. If anyone is interested I would be delighted to talk to them.
Hello there, I currently live in the US in California to be exact and am very interested. My wife and I have an online business but have transitioned it to be run solely by her. The goal of this was so that I could take on the projects that would be required for a homestead/permies type lifestyle. Currently we are both city slickers but I know the kind of work required is rough/long hours and lots of manual labor.
If you are interested and have any specific questions please feel free to post them here or call me at 1 (916) 606-0691.
Hi Chris (and Amy ) Thanks for replying! I suppose the two questions that come to mind are first, what are your goals, specifically? Do either of you have any background in any of the skill sets needed, such as building or gardening ;or is this a dream so far untouched? Perhaps a third one would be, depending on where in California you are; do you think you could handle the difference in climate? We can get very long winters here..for example gardens are tempting to start in April or May sometimes but we don't generally get away with it before June.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org so that might be less awkward than having a conversation in the forums, if you like:)
I don't mind being open to the world, if you prefer to do emails please let me know. I figured this way you can have outside advice/perspective from others about us if you like.
Well I have family who lives in Montana. I eventually would like to own property there, so the climate will be a nice way to acclimate. If the weather is too cold to do ANYTHING outside we can always ramp up the business online to make extra money. I have no problems keeping busy.
After visiting Montana and seeing the endless seas of wheat or alfalfa I would like to help change that. I believe I read somewhere the average profit per acre in those types of farms is somewhere around $50-150/acre. I digress.
I figure trying to learn Permaculture in zones 3/4 will make any attempt at future projects that much easier. I'm not sure how long of arrangement you are looking for.
As of right now I currently do not have any lengthy hands on experience with this type of work. My hope is to learn anything and everything someone has to offer. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and higher than average bit of common sense. I'm a super fast learner that asks a million questions to get a complete understanding of a situation.
Another reason I am very interested is, I would like to experiment with compost heating greenhouses to possibly grow through winter. After watching a documentary on Sepp Holzer, I want to do something very similar in a colder climate.
I hope this helps, please feel free to ask anything and everything that comes to mind. Don't hold back!
The thing is; at the moment, as I said in the original post, there isn't anything on the land, so there are some practical considerations not the least of which is housing. I had intentions of trying to get a small straw bale house built this summer, but we had flooding this spring and so much rain this summer (including 3 days of heavy rain now with 4 more days forecast) that crops, (and thus straw) are a difficult proposition this fall; people are scrambling to find feed. So; it's very unlikely to happen this year.
I suppose I need to know how you see this working in practical terms. What image do you have of the setup from your perspective? What were the living arrangements? How long were you thinking of being here, assuming we all got along? I love your attitude and your enthusiasm and wish I could simply say come on up!! but it isn't quite that uncomplicated.
Not having experience isn't a problem; sometimes that's a bonus as fresh eyes sometimes discover a new and better way of doing something. Also, it is SO much easier to deal with someone not knowing who is honest about it than someone who claims to know things he or she doesn't.
My ideal would have been someone who intended to stick around for a long time if not permanently, but if that's not in the cards, sobeit. It just makes things a bit more complicated, as a short term arrangement was something I hadn't thought about. I'm not saying it couldn't work but I'm not sure that what I can offer makes sense for you in a short term arrangement. So please help me out here and let me know the image you have of the logistics of the situation.
In the early stages discussing the basics by email (or through here if you prefer)makes more sense to me as we can think about what we want to say and don't get too sidetracked..I have edited this a dozen times to stick to the point!
Hey Pam, I have been a long time lurker of this board and just actually found this today. I'm just finishing up my schooling in eastern Canada next year and am interested in an intentional community type setting somewhere close to my friends/family back in Saskatchewan.
Where are you located?
If you'd like to discuss more privately feel free to send me a personal message and I'll get back to you!
What area of Sask is your family? I am in the east central area...I'd be happy to chat with you about what you are looking for. It's good to hear that this neck of the woods doesn't scare everyone off Give me a shout!
Hi there, just found this via google. I'm a market gardener in the Prince Albert area who's about to lose his garden due to divorce and am currently considering my options. It'd be just me, the kids are pretty attached to the wife. I'm curious for more detail on what you had in mind exactly Pam. Like how many people might you be interested in having? Would there be any sort of formal arrangements or is it more a come camp on my land if you like thing? One of the options I'm considering is buying land myself and making a homestead on it, but if someone already has land and wants to share then pooling resources might make more sense. What part of SK are you in anyway (besides east central, it's a big province)?
I am just west of Yorkton, about 30-35 minutes driving time. In the beginning I had dreams of having a small group, 80 acres in this neck of the woods could be hard pressed to support a large number of people (depending on what they all wanted to do, of course) . I am open to ideas as to what people are interested in. At the moment the land is too poor/sandy to support much of a market garden. I have plans to start dealing seriously with that next year a la the one straw revolution with about 30 big round bales of straw to be scattered across the fields, but another 200 small squares which I am planning to do some heavy duty sheet composting with for a large garden area..not sure how much it will support next year but the year after it should be awesome.
As far as what I had in mind..I am pretty flexible...it would just be nice to have someone or people around who understood and were in sympathy with what I am trying to do here and are interested in/willing to work toward the same sort of goals. Although I am quite a private person and generally content to be so, I don't live there yet, but have the feeling that in winter, it might be a somewhat lonely situation. Also, I have uncooperative knees, so cannot now do by myself much of what needs to be done, and finding people to work on a casual basis here is a real problem, to say nothing of the expense.
I have assumed that for anyone to come here on a long term basis, after a trial period to see how we got along, there would be some sort of land/labour exchange. It might be direct ownership of part of the land, or if an unrelated group, some sort of co-op ownership where everyone has a share and if they leave, their share can be sold to someone else to come into the group, subject to the majority decision to accept the new owner (the person leaving gets the proceeds of the sale but also any costs incurred) or a long term lease (like Hong Kong? ...whatever seems to be the best route for all concerned. If someone WANTED to come and just camp and work for nothing I would be bewildered but wouldn't complain:) I hadn't thought much about the idea of selling any of it off directly, but I might consider it; officially it's divided into two -40 acre parcels but I have no clue where the boundaries are.
My plans next year include building a small pallet house and stuffing the cavities with light straw/clay; hopefully the summer will be drier next year than it was this! That way I can be on the land and start to do something with it/for it. I found that moving the straw bales this year was a wakeup call; my knees wont stand the climbing that building a straw bale house would require. I am vacuuming up info about rocket stoves and trying to figure out how to get a couple of savonius rotor wind turbines made up. A greenhouse is definitely on the agenda, and so are chickens.
Other projects are simmering on the back burner for now.
IF I can line up help to dig the holes, I want to plant a bunch of saskatoons, pin cherries and other trees in the bush, and willow in damp spots to coppice for a fenceline. We do have moose and deer in the area; if someone was a hunter (I'm not, but elk meat is fabulous) they could likely find a good supply for the year crossing the front yard from time to time. A moose took down about 40 feet of fence last year and I might have rapidly become a hunter if I had been there with a gun at the time.
I am babbling on, hopefully have answered your questions. My email address is up in a previous post somewhere; you can email me if you are interested and we can talk about whatever questions you still have..I have a few myself as to what you want to do and what you are looking for and what plans/dreams you have. Certainly my goal is self sufficiency so your mention about homesteading certainly struck a chord, but that sometimes means different things to different people. It would be great to chat , anyway.Thanks for posting
Pam and all - I've recently been increasing my efforts to network, particularly in Saskatchewan, on the topic of intentional community and ecovillages. I wrote a short primer/promotion of ecovillages in WHOLife (a free mag out of Saskatoon, Sept 2010 issue). I also started a website for connecting and discussing the subject. (I rather suck at computers, but managed that much.) http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/sk_ecovillages/ It hasn't really got going, but hopefully it will, and there are some good links there, including to a listing for "my" potential forming ecovillage/ic here in Sk at ic.org (Federation of Intentional Communities). You could check out my yahoo group and also list your project at some of the other places I've put into the links there. I hope to start/join a community, but am more focused in the Saskatoon - Prince Albert region. But your project in the Yorkton region is of interest to me, too.
I hear you about water! Check out the free precip map in latest Western Producer. The entire province practically is above normal and much of it at record levels. I'm nostalgic for a good old fashioned Sk drought
Building topsoil takes a long time. For more immediate needs, consider buying some and hauling it in. Finding an organic farmer with a truck and willingness to part with some loads of good earth might be the cheapest option. A few inches on top of whatever is already there will go a long way.
As Pam indicated, we are a short-season growing region, challenged by frosts at both ends. (And occasionally even in the middle of the summer, as Mother Nature throws more curves at us through Climate Change...) However, at this latitude we get really long summer days, like up to 18 hours of sunlight, midsummer. And summers are usually warm, even hot. I say "usually", as some recent years have proved abnormally cool and wet. Previous to that, we had a few years of 1930's type drought. The climate has always been somewhat unpredictable and now even more so. Overall, drought has historically been the greater concern, but of course it doesn't affect irrigated gardens much, just the endless fields of unirrigated wheat, etc, which dominate the southern half of the province. Anyway, this is an inland climate, not modified by a sea, so the differences in extremes from summer to winter are quite great. A fair amount of -30C (-25F) or worse is to be expected in winter, while a fair amount of +30C (90F) usually occurs in summer.
Many types of vegies generally grow well here, esp if heat-lovers are started in a greenhouse as bedding plants. The summers are usually adequate for that. But heat-loving vegies suffered a great deal this past summer as we experienced unprecedented amounts of rainfall and cloudy, cool weather. It reminded me of a west coast winter, actually, with "real summer" only showing up in bits and pieces, and not substantially till October, which was a gorgeous month. But, by then gardening is over.
I harvested several hundred pounds of beautiful tomatoes at the end of Sept, only to watch them quickly rot due to blight disease. That really irked me. September was gloomy, on top of the mostly gloomy previous few moths and so that really did them in. Apparently, it's the weather blight likes. I'm learning that I could have perhaps saved them by washing them with bleach water or something. Anyway, I realized that if they had finished sooner in the garden, the whole issue would have been avoided. I mean if I could have planted earlier, kept them warmer for faster growth and shed some of the infinite buckets of rain we were "blessed" with.
So, my efforts to find, devise and build season-extending/weather-protection methods have intensified. I have a "roll-top" plot under construction and more planned. I want to be able to plant right into the soil, earlier than normal, and roll a clear plastic cover over it (on hoops) for frosty nights, cool days and during excessive rains.
I've also ordered Eliot Coleman's book. He market gardens in Maine year-round. Not as cold as Saskatchewan, but it does get down to -25 or more at times, so it is still a feat. I want to learn more of his techniques. Really, I will be happy if I can garden safely from beginning of May to end of September. That's a month or so more than we usually get, so it should be adequate. But, I'll often be able to extend that to end of April to beginning of October.
In short, many things grow here, but we can do better with a little help from poly, row covers, etc, and with the increased aberrations of Climate Change, improving and innovating in ways like that will likely become a necessity. I see it as important for securing local food sources.
California this ain't, but much is possible here in terms of growing things and much is already being done. If you know Montana, it isn't much different. I am located near Saskatoon.
Hi lightning. You are in a drier part of the province than I am; we are in a "rainfall" area and also have a high water table so drought is not the concern it is further west or south. This "summer" many people around here had to cope with their gardens simply drowning. I had slugs, in raised boxes yet, that did a number on my tomatoes, so have been saving eggshells with a vengeance for next year.
It would take much deeper pockets than I have to cover 40 -60 acres of land with even an inch of bought topsoil! Besides, there isn't any point in importing anything like that until there is something to hold the moisture and nutrients from simply draining through and percolating away. When I arrived and found 30 odd cow/calf pairs which had clearly been wintered on my land I consoled myself with the idea of what all that manure would do for the land, but there isn't any sign of it. The only place there is any indication that the soil has any potential at all is around the edges of the straw shelters and spoiled trampled hay, and there it is growing with enthusiasm. Even the white clover I scattered two years ago has apparently simply vanished as I haven't seen a single plant, although the odd brome plant seems to have managed to grab hold here and there. I scattered grass seed scavenged from the edges of local roads this year and will see if any of that manages to grow.
Next year the small square straw bales (which are busy weathering there now) will be mixed with composted manure and grass clippings from the village made into a garden area; the large round ones will be dismantled and scattered over the "meadow" areas. I have been thinking about some sort of swale system but not sure if there will be time although I am quite sure that would be the best way to get things going. There simply isnt TIME to do everything at once, and the priority next year is to get a house up so as to be able to start doing something for the land. It's very difficult when a person isn't there.
No, go ahead and cover 80 acres with 6" of purchased topsoil - it's quite affordable. Just kidding. You'd have win a SUBSTANTIAL lottery to do that! Okay, all jokes aside, I was referring to just adding some soil to some garden plots. Hope that clarifies...
Another option might be to sift some of your crappy soil, leaving the sand behind and garnering the black soil, until you have enough to spread around to make good, fertile garden plot(s). One would need some simple gear, lots of time and an abled body person. After that, it's free. Actually, I've never heard of this, but it just strikes me as something which would work. I like the idea and would probably try it. I'm not forgetting that you're not able-bodied and don't have help - I'm just mentioning it as possibility in case you find someone...
As for who's rain gauge is fuller, the moisture map I referred to indicates we had more (during one year, ending Sept 1), our area being at record levels, but it's a generalized prairie map so who knows for sure. Anyway, my brothers' crops were devastated and next year doesn't look good, either, so it is likely to be something of multi-year scenario. Unless the tap shuts off now for a good long time; every inch of snow is another nail in the coffin for grain farmers here...
But you are correct in saying this is historically a dryer area than yours. No one can recall things being this soggy here. Yes, our vegie garden flooded, too. So, I raised three plots 6-12" this fall, scooping up topsoil off the field with a front end loader. I also "domed' the plots somewhat, so the excess rain would run off better. I feel us gardeners are being challenged on a number of fronts and I wonder will happen as conditions get even wilder in the coming years of Climate Change. But I feel with raised, domed plots and the addition of roll-top greenhouse canopies I will be addressing a number of weather issues. I even want to put little wood-burning heaters (or electric) inside the canopies, just in case things get real bad. These would not only be added frost protection, but could conceivably melt an unseasonable snow off the canopies. And this might be necessary to keep them from collapsing from the weight of the snow...
Anyhoo, I'm trying to cover all bases. I have building skills and know how to do much from cheap or free "junk" which I collect here at the farm. I got a bunch of used greenhouse poly with lots of life still in it for cheap at an auction. But I think regular, non-UV resistant poly will also work for my purposes, since I don't intend to use it much when the sun is shining. It will be rolled up and off to the side during the summer months, unless needed for nights or whatever.
I think that idea of trying to sift out the sand would likely not be the best use of time..what would we then do with a minimountain of sand? Seems to me the effort would be better spent adding some fertility and substance to the soil. It would indeed take a long time to build it up otherwise. As it is I think likely within a couple of years we will have some very productive garden areas and the meadow areas, even with just scattered straw, will also show improvement. Once we get some areas going that can supply some our needs we can extend those areas each year.... I am going to take photos next spring and we shall see how it goes over the next few years.
Since next year chickens and possibly rabbits are on the agenda, that will help as well. It's quite surprising how fast the soil will recover if given a bit of the right kind of help. Also, next year we are planning on getting some trees shrubs and vines in so that will help as well. The more cover there is on the land the better it's able to withstand the wind, which can be formidable from time to time in this neck of the woods. (but is promising in terms of wind power. Savonius rotor windmills also on agenda for next year.)
I can't quite wrap my mind around trying to heat a garden with electricity or even wood heaters. A greenhouse is one thing but the image of little furnaces under plastic scattered across the landscape seems to me to be to be fighting with the wrong tools. You could do something about making mini microclimates (which in essence you are trying to do with raising the planting area up into ridges anyway)with an assortment of other plant material to shelter your garden areas which would then be productive and ongoing instead and which would allow the plants to cope. Floating row crop covers will work but I would consider them an emergency measure rather than something I would want to rely on and have to replace frequently. Old sheets can do the same thing and not add to the burden of plastic the world is going to have to come to deal with.
Digging out a lane for my truck to get out, it was a bit of a shock to find that in spite of a week of very cold weather (minus 9 celsius yesterday felt like spring) the grass under the snow was still green and growing and the ground wasn't yet frozen except in and around areas the snow cover had been largely blown away
Well, you have 80 acres, so who cares if there is a sandhill somewhere on it. Sand is often useful. For instance, it is often needed for many building projects. And kids can play King Of The Mountain on it...
You'll be surprised how little topsoil a decomposed round bale produces. I'm guessing maybe a cup or two. Look into it. (But straw on soil can help prevent wind erosion, too.) It takes something like a 1000 years (or some large number) for decomposing natural prairie grass to form an inch of prairie topsoil. That's why the Saskatchewan average is only something like 6". The natural soil building process apparently started after the last ice age adn this is all we have yet.
Of course, if one intensifies efforts in a small plot, things go faster. I'd have to see your soil to get a better idea of what you are up against. One person says "very sandy" and the next person says "well, that's really not too bad - you should see mine", etc. So, it's difficult to judge without seeing, feeling, etc...
I'm far from being an expert. Just a farmboy hoping to make some helpful commentary. But if it is really sandy, you might have acceptable vegie garden soil after some years or a decade of much work and much organic matter added. I'm not trying to discourage you. On the contrary, I encourage you. Just know that it takes a long time to build and recover very sandy soil. Get knowledgeable people (ie: agronomists, farmers) to look at it/offer opinions.
Fukuoka worked with relatively small plots, as is typical of Japan. I forget their size, it's been a while since I read One Straw Revolution. But as I recall, he did not have anywhere near 80 acres.
However, if you have experience in these matters and know what you are doing, then possibly I am off base. I just thought I should give my perspective. My encouragement is to keep up the research, especially talking with local farmers, to get a sense of what is all possible, and with how much time and effort, etc, or you may be spending years with little result...
Re the garden poly canopies I propose/am building, they are held up well with large hoops (recovered plastic water piping), so the clear poly sheets are 5 or so feet off the ground at peak, so there is ample room for little heaters of some kind. The idea is that when I start growing vegies in some of these plots at end of April or beginning of May, we may still get some nights where it is so cold that the poly covering isn't enough frost protection. So, the heaters or small wood burners (with small chimney systems) are an insurance.
But, adding row cover material onto the small plants (in addition to the overhead poly canopies) should also be enough. It's my understanding that this is mainly how Eliot Coleman grows vegies in winter in Maine (though he also grows hardier vegies in cold months).
The water plastic or poly pipes I bend into hoops are anywhere from 1" to 3" or so in diameter. It's that black stuff, but must be painted or otherwise covered in a lighter colour, or else the transparent poly sheet on top of it will melt on if it is ever on it during hot sunny weather, even for a relatively short time.
Also, I will hope to extend some of these plots into late September and even into October, so same thing applies with frost protective measures. Also, as you know, it can snow in both May and September, and possibly even in June, July and August. As the saying goes, "Hey, this is Saskatchewan..." And who knows how weird the weather will get as Mother Nature rebalances herself? I expect increased frequency and more severe weather aberrations for some decades. We have rather a large vegetable garden, but I only hope to make some plots coverable in this manner, while hardier vegies can be planted as normal, without covers.
Row cover material, or sheets of cloth, as you say will also go a long way to protect plants. A friend of mine says it even protects against hail quite a bit (the row cover stuff). I might use some of it. But I like the idea of something which is quicker and easier to place on and remove, so I'm experimenting with these canopies. If I encounter hard frosts 10 nights in a row, I want a method which is quick and fairly foolproof, while row covering stuff can be time consuming and cumbersome. Well, we'll see...
Yes, creating a micro-climate can certainly help. Much of our garden is surrounded by substantial hedges and trees, and this helps prevent frost somewhat.
Straw may not produce a lot of topsoil in a hurry but it can support a surprising amount of vegetation. I put straw bales on edge in a raised bed affair and put maybe an inch or so of soil/compost on it (I had intended to do more but even a 11/2 x 7 foot box swallows a LOT of soil without showing much result) and it grew a fine crop of snow peas last years and a whole whack of heritage tomatoes this year. I also added a little wood ash and grass clippings from time to time but it was pretty minimum nutrition, I would have thought, but you work with what you have. (that may help to explain the slugs but they found the tomatoes absolutely delicious..as were the ones that made it to the house.
.The other thing that surprised me about that is that after two years and all the wet weather we have had the bales have maybe only shrunk a couple of inches or so. The microorganisms must find the pure cellulose tough going . Still, that's a good thing from my perspective, exactly what I want to protect the soil from the elements and hold moisture in it until plants can grab hold. To be sure, grass clippings seem to evaporate...a heap two feet high in another grow box shrank to a fraction of that in a single season, even when mixed with sawdust. I wonder about the ph but have no idea whatsoever how to check it.
On the land, where the soil is proteced by straw bales and around the perimeter of the feeding areas, some bromegrass plants have grown lush and 2 feet tall, but a foot away in any direction the soil is arid and plant cover pathetic. Once the horses are off it I expect it will start to show some faster progress. and later will reintroduce a small number of livestock of some sort.
Where I have checked with the jar/water method it seems to be about 75% sand in much of the land, which is pretty sandy. It is of no use whatsoever talking to farmers in the area about it; all of them are confirmed "throw lots of chemical fertilizer on it" people except for one who is trying to buy the land from me and keeps saying it will never grow anything. (So why do you want it, exactly?)
There's already a sandpile on it from the excavation for the dugout..since I don't foresee there will be a lot of concrete being used anywhere I think we have enough to take care of any of those requirements.
I don't know about Saskatchewan but I have read in diaries of the first settlers that when they came to the prairies much of the grass was shoulder high and in some places the topsoil up to 6 feet thick. Traditional farming practices combined with drought led to the dust bowl and the loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of topsoil being blown away. It would surprise me a lot if the same wasn't true for here. Certainly it's discouraging and surprising to see the same farming practices are used today around here of working hard to leave the soil bare of vegetation for a year from time to time, which gives it no defense against the wind.
In fact, I was told that is WHY my place is so sandy..that the topsoil was blown away. This seems a little odd to me since it is lower than most of the other land around AND surrounded by trees, but certainly shows that losing topsoil to wind is not unknown around here.
Yeah, we have sandy fields here, also destroyed by inappropriate European farm techniques and wind erosion, especially in the 1930's.
Re your soil building, it's good you're getting some results. Whatever works and is ecologically sound... Livestock use can make land look worse than it is at times, as the trampled areas and excess manure in corrals, etc, may be preventing vegetation from growing in these spots at the moment.
We had slugs in our garden for the first time. My mom is 74 and she can't ever recall them. In sloughs and dugouts, yes, but not in gardens. We think of it as a west coast (British Columbia) thing. Anyway there they were, in the carrots.
There are lists of organic farmers somewhere, to help you find more in your area, if you need them. Maybe forming a local association of those interested in/doing organics, permaculture, etc, would also be helpful. Even if it just amounts to occasional potlucks, it can be a good way to build morale and trade things, including information.
If one does get into separating soil, so as to garner more topsoil, I suppose that the water method might be better than sifting dry soil. That is, doing as I think you said you have already done in a jar, only on a larger scale. Using a tub or trough, put the soil in, cover it with water, thoroughly mix it all, let it settle and stratify for a day or so, then remove the good soil and discard the sand. Would this even work? I'm just speculating that it probably would. Or am I out to lunch? When purchase my own land, it may have lower grade soil and so I'll consider any quicker methods of gathering some good soil for garden plots.
since you asked......lol I think it better to work at improving what there is rather than spending the time and resources that way. If you have 70% sand, you are going to lose a whole lot of time and your land level is going to sink a whole lot by the time you get any amount of good soil out of it by discarding the sand. I suppose you could consider it mining the soil of sand, and maybe find a market for it all..sandbags seem to be in demand these days for everything from building with to holding back floodwaters. It just seems to me to be better rewarded by building on what there is there..at least you know you will always have good drainage, and I suspect you overestimate the time it takes to build up soil to a productive level. Malabar farms took fields which had been abandoned as not worth cultivating from a farmer's point of view as the yield was down to something like a half a bushel or less per acre for grain. In the space of three years he had it yielding well, improving every year. He used artificial fertilizer the first year only just so SOMETHING would grow which could be turned under as a green manure crop and after that depended on green manuring, barn manure and intercropping and the soil sat up and flexed its muscles in a very short period of time. His soils were more gravel than sand but I see no reason why that would make that much difference; sand is just tiny gravel, after all, it's all one form of rock or another. It might make a difference in which minerals were in it, but that can be addressed if deficiencies show up. Clay soil vs sandy soil would be a quite different set of questions, I would think. Maybe you could swap your sand for clay or dirt from someone who has lousy drainage on his or her land...
Well, whatever works. I applaud any and all sound, successful methods of soil-buildoing. I'm kind of an inventor, so devising and constructing the system I propose would come easy for me, but I recognize that this owuld not be the case for many others. Thanks - H
Just had to throw my 2 cents in here. I think high tunnels are a great idea for season extension, but I have to agree that heating them all might be a bit much. You should be able to get an extra month of growing season on either end without worrying too much about additional heat. I'd also not necessarily use them for just tender crops, everything tends to germinate and grow better with a little more heat in the springtime. I tried beets and lettuce in my greenhouse this year, the leaf lettuce was ready by the end of April and the beets by the end of May.
Also regarding the grass growing better near the straw bales: my bet would be this has far more to do with moisture than with any nutrients in the straw. Which is another plus of plastic cover come to think of it. Straw (and sawdust) tend to suck nitrogen out of the soil while they rot, although they release it back when they're done. Nitrogen is the main limiter fro grass growth as I understand it. Also, the area immediately under your bale would have had nothing growing due to no light, so the roots of the grass around the edge had less competition to deal with on one side as well. Also, on the south side of the bale there would have been a warmer microclimate for the grass, although I don't know if that would have much effect.
Another note regarding soil fertility: in my greenhouse I never really meant to grow much directly in the ground so I dug it down for extra cold protection. The soil in there is pretty much all the brown lower layer. And yet the beets and lettuce did fine. I grew tomatoes and peppers as well and had some issues with fruit set and blossom end rot, but still managed a far larger crop than I would have outside in better soil.
Anyway, just saying plants have a lot of nutrient requirements, but sometimes people overlook the biggest ones which are sunlight and water.
Re heating the high hoop tunnels, it would be in the case of an emergency for frost-sensitive plants, and in just one or a few tunnels. Weather emergencies will increase as Climate Change deepens. But, adding grow cloth (row cover) on top of the plants inside the tunnel also works, I understand. But that stuff can get expensive if you need a lot and may not be available in the coming hard times, whereas there is always some free wood around to burn... I figure public utilities like electricity will also become unreliable, esp in weather emergencies, so I want something foolproof to deal with a worst-case scenario...
Re straw, we're switching to pea straw to use as mulch and also to incorporate right into the soil before planting, to loosen up harder plots. Much cheaper than peat... Being a legume, pea straw apparently contains nitrogen, it apparently doesn't have the same problems which you just described of wheat straw. I am told that when it breaks down it releases nitrogen. I should probably research it more, but this is the information I have so far...
Pea straw would be much more useful to build up nutrients in the soil than regular cereal type straw I should think..I have never seen any of it for sale around here. It is also much more environmentally sound than peat..there are definite questions about using peatmoss, useful as it is. http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/0712/asknlpeat.html
A substitute for peatmoss which is becoming more readilly available each year is coir, which is a totally renewable resource (coconut fiber). I would guess that pea straw would be better than either, and wish it were available here.
Ask around. More and more legumes grown these days. But I think most farmers are just spraying the straw out the back of the combine, returning it to the land. So, you may have to get someone to make some pea straw bales. I can perhaps supply you with a round bale of it, but it would not be from an organic field.
I got my book, "Winter Harvest Handbook", by Eliot Coleman, the guy who market gardens practically year round in Maine, where it can get down to -25F or worse, so that's quite a feat. Winters are even colder, darker and longer here in Saskatchewan, of course, but I'm only looking for techniques which will allow me to garden from, say, beginning of May to end of September without fear. And possibly from mid to end of April through into October.
I haven't read it yet, but it looks like a fairly good, comprehensive resource book, which is what I hoped for, to help me with my season extending efforts here. He uses unheated greenhouses, mostly movable ones, by the looks of it. He also uses row cover "cloth, or "grow cloth". Probably other tricks, too. I haven't read it, yet. And he is organic.
Cost me $40, but if I learn a few tricks, it is worth it.
This book, as well as others by Coleman, is available through the library system, which is all linked together now, provincially. So you can order it in from any library in the province. The provincial library data base is all linked and all online. Guess I should have thought of this sooner, but I want hard copies of some things, anyway.
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Lumberjack ad:
Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while