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Joseph Johnson
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Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Hi Guys and Gals

After reading many posts here and with the help of many of you, I have come up with some short term goals. I hope I have the order of priority correct. But as has been the case from day one, every answer has led to more questions. I welcome and appreciate any suggestions you might have.

1) Obviously water must be readily available. For this we will use the flatbed tractor trailer and IBC tanks to bring 5,000 gallons to the site. (turns out the "subscription" is not a limit, additional water can be purchased at a slightly higher cost per 100 gallons)

2) Wind erosion. Building soil really is pointless if it get blown away. I have seen many you say that seeds have stronger root systems. Any ideas on type and sources? It will take a long time for seeds to grow to any real usefulness so I thought mixing in fast growing trees from a nursery would help speed things up. Any thoughts on this? Even that option, if it is an option, will take time so what if anything can I do temporarily to shield say, an acre, just to get some food growing? Keep in mind that the first crops are going into raised wicking beds.

3) Eliminate most, if not all of the native creosote bushes. Good idea? Method?

4) Getting nutrients into the soil. I have a friend with a dump bed tractor trailer so I thought maybe hauling in about 50 yards of muck from a dairy and spreading it around. Cover that by rolling out rolls of hay and letting the 2 steer have at it for a while. If the hay starts to grow this should help protect the soil for a while right?

Am I on the right track? What would you change?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Joseph Johnson wrote:2) Wind erosion. Building soil really is pointless if it get blown away. I have seen many you say that seeds have stronger root systems. Any ideas on type and sources? It will take a long time for seeds to grow to any real usefulness so I thought mixing in fast growing trees from a nursery would help speed things up. Any thoughts on this? Even that option, if it is an option, will take time so what if anything can I do temporarily to shield say, an acre, just to get some food growing? Keep in mind that the first crops are going into raised wicking beds.
If you can get them to take hold, a dense stand of sunflowers can spring up and block wind pretty well really quickly.

4) Getting nutrients into the soil. I have a friend with a dump bed tractor trailer so I thought maybe hauling in about 50 yards of muck from a dairy and spreading it around. Cover that by rolling out rolls of hay and letting the 2 steer have at it for a while. If the hay starts to grow this should help protect the soil for a while right?
Good idea, bad details. You don't want to take muck from cattle and concentrate it under cattle.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joseph Johnson wrote:

3) Eliminate most, if not all of the native creosote bushes.


I would remove them only in strategic areas and use the material to make brush dams. Keep the plants in appropriate places as windbreaks until other species are established, then remove the creosote bush by sawing at ground level. If they grow back, keep cutting them and eventually they should give up. In the meantime they'll provide materials for brush dams.

http://www.desertusa.com/flora/creosote-bush.html
 
Joseph Johnson
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Kyrt Ryder wrote: If you can get them to take hold, a dense stand of sunflowers can spring up and block wind pretty well really quickly.


How dense? 10ft? 20ft?

Kyrt Ryder wrote: Good idea, bad details. You don't want to take muck from cattle and concentrate it under cattle.


So just cover it with hay? Or find another way to "stomp" the muck into the ground?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Joseph Johnson wrote:
Kyrt Ryder wrote: If you can get them to take hold, a dense stand of sunflowers can spring up and block wind pretty well really quickly.


How dense? 10ft? 20ft?
I imagine 10 feet wide would do very well. You might want to divide that acre up into quarters with these strips of windbreak.



So just cover it with hay? Or find another way to "stomp" the muck into the ground?

I know for a fact pigs would be more than happy to dig the muck into the soil. That being said, it really doesn't need to be dug in [and in some ways digging in could be worse than leaving it on top.] The combination of the muck and mulch should hold moisture in the soil, helping life that spends most of the year dormant become more active and slowly start to do its work on that organic material.
 
Joseph Johnson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

I would remove them only in strategic areas and use the material to make brush dams. Keep the plants in appropriate places as windbreaks until other species are established, then remove the creosote bush by sawing at ground level. If they grow back, keep cutting them and eventually they should give up. In the meantime they'll provide materials for brush dams.

http://www.desertusa.com/flora/creosote-bush.html


Very good information on that link. And of course now I have to follow other links there for more info like "medicinal desert plants" lol.
There was one thing that caught my attention though: "it is believed that the creosote produces a toxic substance to prevent other plants from growing too near."
I guess the areas for the wind break would be a "strategic area" for removal.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joseph, do you have a land design for the property yet? I mean a total permaculture design? It's so important to get the placement of roads, buildings, gardens etc in the right place, especially in such a difficult location. I wish I had had the resource of this messageboard when we bought our place and built our house, etc. We would have screwed up a lot less!

 
Joseph Johnson
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Tyler Ludens wrote: do you have a land design for the property yet? I mean a total permaculture design?


No I don't. I went into this without knowing anything about what I could and couldn't raise on the land so that has been one of my first priorities. Then of course, I found out there was so much more I needed to know but didn't lol. About the only things I kinda had an idea for was where I wanted the house, Driveway and parking areas for our semis and a staging area for loading and unloading the IBCs. We where not originally planning on buying a tractor so we decided to get one more IBC than we needed to store water so we could pump one from the trailer to one on the ground then move the new empty to the ground and repeat the process until all water was offloaded. The retention pond idea came later so we repositioned the house area for that.

You asked in an earlier thread if I had pics of the land, I will post those here in case anyone has thoughts on layout. these are oriented North to the top
me.png
[Thumbnail for me.png]
Center if property give or take
lots marked.png
[Thumbnail for lots marked.png]
Zoomed out a bit
 
Mark Edrys
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Great thread, Joseph! I'll be following along, as we're practically neighbors. My experience level is extremely newbie, so I'm trying to take in as much info as I can. I love and appreciate this website.
 
Joseph Johnson
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Thanks Mark

I am pretty new at this too, so I guess we will learn together lol. You will find the folks on here to be very knowledgeable and quick to share that knowledge.
 
Mark Edrys
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I noticed! Very cool, and totally encouraging. I've already learned a lot in the week I've been on this site. Buying the 20 acres of barren desert was a major step for me, and I started to have feelings of doubt. But I believe with all the resources in here, I can and will make it work. And you will too! (You've actually inspired me to think about buying another 20 acres!)
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Nice piece of land Joseph. The best place to start is at the beginning and that means getting a plan from your head onto paper.
draw out where the house will be, the ingress, egress (drive way(s) and any out buildings you want.
Drawing everything out makes it easier to decide if you could run into problems and it is easier to use an eraser than it is to deconstruct.
Doing this at the start can save a lot of pulled hair and discouragement.

Sounds like you have a plan for water and that is great.

When you start soil improvement, it is better to take blocks of land one at a time, this makes it much more manageable and you see some results faster which is always good.
The muck will work nicely, I would use a lasagna method with it so you can get maximum benefits for the soil and you can plant into it. Straw is great for use as mulch.
For erosion prevention you may find that using native plants would require less irrigation but you can also select drought resistant plants to use for this.
Don't worry about digging to incorporate organic material, you can get bugs and worms to help you with that and they will come.
Sunflowers, as mentioned will do a good job as windbreaks when planted in tight groups, but they do take a lot of water, something you will want to take into consideration.
You might want to look into some of the prairie grasses, ones that grow tall and have large root systems, these might be a better choice in the beginning.
The key is to get something established then make additions towards your end goal.

Creosote bush is there because it can live there, it has good root system and good drought tolerance.
As Tyler says, don't be anxious to remove them, do that only as you need to.
Yes they do put off aelopathic exudates but they also hold soil in place with their root systems.
If you lasagna bed around them, once the soil improvement is well underway would be the time to cut them down at ground level and plant what you want there, if you add fungi inoculants to your lasagna bed these will reduce the effects of the creosote bush exudates.

Pigs are really good at helping soil improvement, cattle too, but at a longer term for same results. In either case, be ready to care for any animals before you acquire them.
I would spend at least a year on soil improvements before getting into animal husbandry, unless you are going to be living on the land full time from the start, in which case once you have the infrastructure in place to care for them, it is time to get them.

Good Luck with this adventure and ask all the questions you want, that's how you gain benefit from others experiences.

 
Steve Farmer
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Joseph Johnson wrote:Hi Guys and Gals

After reading many posts here and with the help of many of you, I have come up with some short term goals. I hope I have the order of priority correct. But as has been the case from day one, every answer has led to more questions. I welcome and appreciate any suggestions you might have.

1) Obviously water must be readily available. For this we will use the flatbed tractor trailer and IBC tanks to bring 5,000 gallons to the site. (turns out the "subscription" is not a limit, additional water can be purchased at a slightly higher cost per 100 gallons)

2) Wind erosion. Building soil really is pointless if it get blown away. I have seen many you say that seeds have stronger root systems. Any ideas on type and sources? It will take a long time for seeds to grow to at real usefulness so I thought mixing in fast growing trees from a nursery would help speed things up. Any thoughts on this? Even that option, if it is an option, will take time so what if anything can I do temporarily to shield say, an acre, just to get some food growing? Keep in mind that the first crops are going into raised wicking beds.

3) Eliminate most, if not all of the native creosote bushes. Good idea? Method?

4) Getting nutrients into the soil. I have a friend with a dump bed tractor trailer so I thought maybe hauling in about 50 yards of muck from a dairy and spreading it around. Cover that by rolling out rolls of hay and letting the 2 steer have at it for a while. If the hay starts to grow this should help protect the soil for a while right?

Am I on the right track? What would you change?



1) 20000 litres of water. That much once a year plus rainfall will make a huge improvement. How often are you getting this water delivery - one off? monthly? weekly?
2) Wind is a huge problem not only for blowing away topsoil but for increasing transpiration from plants. Cactuses make a great windblock. Another way to stop soil blowing away is by not putting it down in windswept places. If you're buying in soil, dig a hole for your trees, put the soil in the hole, and put the rock back on top around the tree. Put big rocks or rock walls upwind of trees if you have rocks available.
3) Don't eliminate anything that is growing unless you are going to immediately replace it with something better. That established plant is providing shade, windbreak, and its roots are breaking up rock, encouraging biological activity in the soil, and adding itself as organic matter to the soil
4) Get nutrients into the soil with nitrogen fixing trees. Way ahead of the pack are leucaena leucocephala and gliricidia sepium. Then come the mesquite, palo verde, acacias.. All these are highly drought tolerant. Give them water monthly in high heat for their first two years then let the weak die and you will be left with some very strong drought tolerant, nitrogen fixing small trees. Along with the nitrogen fixers or a few months behind you can put in other drought resistant stuff... cactus, blackberries, tree tobacco. Nothing is a weed in the desert, anything that can grow is a bonus and should be allowed to grow unless its doing something damaging like increasing salinity in coastal regions. Moringa might survive too, and then peach family trees, mulberry but plant these for diversity, windbreak and shade. Don't plan for food or crops, that's not important until you have shade, windbreaks, soil and an increased ability to hold moisture in the ground. If you find getting and storing a bit more water is practical, then hybrid poplars are very useful and fast growing, as is bamboo.

Plant in craters/depressions that are either naturally occurring or that you make yourself. If there are natural cracks in the rock, plant in those as topsoil, water and organic matter will already have built up in there, and roots can establish quickly. Plant in clumps around existing vegetation rather than replacing existing vegetation. Make small patches of shade and soil, and grow those patches, eventually joining them up. Lots of small trees is better than newly transplanted larger trees. Yes grow from seed rather than cuttings where you have a choice. You don't get faster plants from cuttings even tho they look bigger to start with. There are exceptions if the cuttings are well rooted but in general cuttings for sale are not well rooted. My plot is similar terrain and rainfall to yours but I'm lucky to have a home in a wetter area with plentiful running water, so I grow my saplings at home and transplant them on the plot when they are well rooted. Most of the effort goes in digging the hole so if something dies I replace it easily with little extra work. Be ruthless, don't try to keep everything alive, let nature pick out the winners, give just enough water to keep young trees alive but wean them off irrigation by year 2 or very latest year 3. Don't hurry to rip out "dead" trees. Desert trees can appear dead for some time and come back to life after a rainfall. Sometimes stuff will respond to rainfall within days when irrigation water has had no effect. Rainwater is a special magical kind of water compared to what comes out of the pipe. Where you have gullies that appear during rain, put in check dams to slow and absorb the water and catch silt and twigs.

These things are key

- SHADE
- NITROGEN FIXING
- WINDBREAK
- DIVERSITY

Keep grazing animals off, especially goats. Goats are evil when it comes to greening the desert. They are the single biggest scourge on the environment I can imagine. Never mind fossil fuels or GMO or poisoned rivers, goats win hands down. Ok thats an exaggeration but only slightly. Even one goat is enough to stop succession from taking place on your land. I guess you could manage them with fencing and rotation but why bother they bring no advantage. I've seen the vids where geoff lawton uses them and I'm sure that works in the right scenario, but our type of desert is too dry and too bare. Goat = plague of locusts.

Edit - I forgot to mention fig trees. These are also immensely drought resistant once you have watered them for their first year or two.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Steve Farmer wrote:Goats are evil when it comes to greening the desert. They are the single biggest scourge on the environment I can imagine. Never mind fossil fuels or GMO or poisoned rivers, goats win hands down. Ok thats an exaggeration but only slightly. Even one goat is enough to stop succession from taking place on your land. I guess you could manage them with fencing and rotation but why bother they bring no advantage. I've seen the vids where Geoff Lawton uses them and I'm sure that works in the right scenario, but our type of desert is too dry and too bare. Goat = plague of locusts.
No advantage? Is fertility not an advantage?

Yes, ranging goats in this type of landscape would only make things worse. There are a few other posters on here who have mentioned having happy goats raised in an enclosed pen type scenario. The important thing here would be keeping their food way up off the ground so they can't contaminate it with parasites.

If you can successfully keep any livestock healthfully in a relatively small area [with the possible exception of chickens because of their scratching habits keeping the top layer of soil loose and vulnerable to wind, unless they were raised on top of a deep mulch] for a fair length of time, you will be fertilizing that zone and providing a foundation for life.

This actually seems like it might be an ideal way to prepare garden space in such a near-dead region, so long as the feed could be had at a fair price.

Hair Sheep might be easier to contain and achieve similar results.

Disclaimer: my practical experience is not in your climate, I'm speaking theory based on things I've studied [and been told by family who moved from the desert region of Oklahoma] and asking clarification from those on here who do have experience there.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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In the dry desert here, animals such as goats would tend to browse everything to the point of the vegetation dying, that is the opposite of what one would want to happen.
As I mentioned in my first post, it is better to concentrate on building a vegetative base prior to the introduction of any animals.
Water alone will cause many dormant seeds to burst forth, desert plants tend to grow rapidly after a decent rain event, this an adaptation for species survival and can be made to work for you when greening the desert.


animal manure, while great for most all soils, works best when there are already plants growing or there is some humus in the dirt already.
using the lasagna method in desert regions does many good things, it provides cover for the soil, retains moisture in the soil and nutrients leach down into the soil.
shade is one of the things needed for a lot of plants we humans would want to grow in the desert regions, many plants simply can't survive the long hours of direct sun and subsequent heat build up.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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For what it's worth Bryant, I was talking about using penned animals to create a lasagna garden. Hay is spilled [or some other high carbon substance scattered periodically], manure is trampled into it, urine is soaked up by it and it gradually builds over time.

Stacking functions right? Getting a yield out of the creation of the lasagna garden.

Is there a reason that wouldn't work? Would such a pen be more expensive because it would require some kind of shade over it?
 
Steve Farmer
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
Steve Farmer wrote:Goats are evil when it comes to greening the desert. They are the single biggest scourge on the environment I can imagine. Never mind fossil fuels or GMO or poisoned rivers, goats win hands down. Ok thats an exaggeration but only slightly. Even one goat is enough to stop succession from taking place on your land. I guess you could manage them with fencing and rotation but why bother they bring no advantage. I've seen the vids where Geoff Lawton uses them and I'm sure that works in the right scenario, but our type of desert is too dry and too bare. Goat = plague of locusts.
No advantage? Is fertility not an advantage?


It would be if there were vegetation growing for the goats to eat and water for them to drink. But in the desert you are going to have to ship the goat food in, or destroy more available food than the added fertility provides. Instead of shipping in goat food, ship in organic matter and apply it directly to planting holes/pits.

As Bryant says the simple act of adding water to the desert makes a significant difference. If you use some of a limited water budget on keeping goats alive then you have less to give the trees.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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I was under the impression something like 50% of the water passing through an animal comes back out in its waste products [the remainder being exhaled or integrated into cell creation.]

Probably depends on what your specific goals are and whether or not you can afford the feed.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Point taken Kurt, but we are talking about a part of the country that is lucky to see 2 inches of rain in a year.
Keeping animals requires a lot of water, far much more than you could hope to collect from rain fall.
Feed for those animals would also require bringing in feed so they could perform the functions you mention, and they would do it well.
The question is, which comes first.

The Cattle men of Texas can support the fact that with out grass and water cattle can't live there.
In the 1800's there were lots of cattle wars fought over water and grazing space, many men died for it.
Those cattle men that lost the battles, lost their entire herds to starvation and thirst.
For someone starting out, without deep pockets, it is better to get green going before any animals arrive so you have a way to support their lives.

Our soldiers are a good example, they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, each man goes through more than 2 gallons per day just to keep mostly hydrated.
I keep hogs, just so you know I do have experience. My hogs use 3 gallons of water per day per hog, their poo is very dry as it comes out (Guinea Hogs are Grazers).
If I was in a desert, I would be spending a lot of dollars for water to keep the animals healthy and hydrated. That same water could be used to create greenery that would create fertile soil.

It isn't that animals won't work, it is more about getting the area ready so it can support or help support those animals. Kind of a horse before the cart type of thing.

a lasagna bed is made of layers of green matter, brown matter (and if available manure (not really a necessary component)) that are then covered with mulch and left to seep into the soil.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Sierra Blanca is listed as receiving an average of 11 inches per year. Some years that might be 5 inches others it might be 17, but the average is [at least claimed to be] 11 inches of rain. Granted in that heat it burns up real quick if not protected, but there it is.

I totally understand the idea to get greenery growing prior to bringing the animals in. The animals seem to be multifunctional in a way that the plants aren't, accelerating the process if managed properly. But they are a bigger initial investment over the same space [though that investment is also resulting in animal products.]

So I think it comes down to a choice of time or money, and which sorts of yields are desired most.

[I raise AGH as well, though obviously my climate is far more cool (but less wet) during the summer than even yours.]

a lasagna bed is made of layers of green matter, brown matter (and if available manure (not really a necessary component)) that are then covered with mulch and left to seep into the soil.

I'm well aware that's the easiest way of making a lasagna bed. One can also make it with a clean integration of green and brown materials, basically a pan-shaped compost pile. This type is actually less likely to gley up into water-impermeable layers.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Exactly. Like the old saying "you can always throw money at a problem and with enough, the problem will go away".

I believe in trying to follow the earth mother's examples. She does not have "large" animals in places that can't support them without human input.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with the idea of not getting large animals until you have the means to feed them, unless you're prepared to spend a LOT of money on feed. From what is described, there isn't enough natural browse there to collect for goats. I would lean more towards a few chickens as something which can be raised on smaller amounts of purchased feed. They also like hay if there's a desire to use hay as a compost basis.

Something like this setup: http://geofflawton.com/videos/chicken-tractor-steroids/
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Quick reminder for the OP, that general region is known for having really thin soils over caliche. Keep that in mind in your plans [or better yet go dig a few test pits to confirm what's under the surface of the soil you're working with.]
 
Joseph Johnson
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Wow, this has turned into quite the discussion You guys have really stepped up to plate with some great tips and lots of great information. The animal side of the equation has been addressed among our group in great detail and it is generally agreed that chickens will supply the most "bang for the buck" in many ways from the food they can produce and to the "tilling" of the garden areas and and making compost. Great video BTW) Goats seem to be a division point between you guys, and I am inclined to agree that they are not the best option at least to start. However, my sister has been raising them and insists on having a few of them on the Texas property. With that much land I am sure a small paddock will keep her happy and me sane lol. The one MAJOR problem here was what Kyrt said about caliche. I had never heard of it and after a few hours reading up on it I wish I could still make that claim.

Water we can handle even if it means bringing in 5,000 gallons a month or even twice a month (but we are only working on a few acres to start so...)
Building soil is possible and I am intrigued by the lasagna idea.
I think a wind break is possible in a short time
Caliche is the monkey wrench in the gears. it is possible it is only a few inches thick and can be dealt with but it could be several feet thick........
Comments? Suggestions?
I am fine with growing in raised beds but is it sustainable? Can it feed 8 people and a few animals?
For our building projects caliche can be a blessing but it really puts a damper on our plans to "green the desert" on our little plot.
Not giving up the fight though so how do we deal with the @#%$# caliche?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally I would try to concentrate soil building efforts in low spots, but preferably not arroyos which flood tremendously. Those can be dealt with, but will be more difficult than small gullies or depressions. (I'm tackling a flood prone arroyo myself)

 
Kyrt Ryder
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As Tyler says, your easiest results are going to come from building soil in the low zones.

For everywhere else, your best bet is probably to build as much life as you can into the soil above the caliche and let nature sort it out. It may depend on the specific composition of the caliche in question, but I have heard of the combination of humic acid and root pressure breaking up caliche into more of a gravelly soil over time.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Joseph, this site is all about permaculture in your area, you might find some very useful information there.
Dry Climate Permaculture
 
Mark Edrys
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dog greening the desert tiny house
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I'd like to thank all the posters in this thread, too. As you may have picked up on, I purchased some land around the same location as Joseph, and I'm definitely piggy-backing on this thread for great info. As I get further involved with the development of my property, I'll post my own topics and threads, but until then I'll use this thread as a great resource. So thanks again, posters, and thank you Joseph for letting me be a part of this.
 
Joseph Johnson
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Tyler and Kyrt

I am assuming you mean bringing to low areas up to grade with soil and planting there? There are places where there is a 2-3 foot difference and I guess that would work out for veggies but if I am gonna shade the land and grow windbreaks trees are going to need more room to send down roots, right?

Bryant
This is a lot of good information on the link you posted, Thank you. I ran a search for caliche though with no results I am still digging around in those threads and finding a ton of other useful info.

Kyrt

I am not sure the is a natural way to break up the caliche, everything I have read so far says roots wont penetrate it, and neither will water so I really dont see how I can plant things to deal with it. I am open to ideas though if you have any. Perhaps I am overlooking something.

Casie

Thank you sooo much

Mark

Dont let this scare you off bro. We will work through it or around it We have a lot of great minds working on it
 
Steve Farmer
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Joseph Johnson wrote: caliche ... really puts a damper on our plans to "green the desert" on our little plot.
Not giving up the fight though so how do we deal with the @#%$# caliche?


Don't worry about it, you don't need soil if you're planting the right trees
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Tyler Ludens
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Joseph Johnson wrote:

I am assuming you mean bringing to low areas up to grade with soil and planting there? There are places where there is a 2-3 foot difference and I guess that would work out for veggies but if I am gonna shade the land and grow windbreaks trees are going to need more room to send down roots, right?


Trees in my area can grow with less than a foot of soil over rock. If your soil is caliche, the right trees won't mind growing in it once established, but a layer of organic material will help keep moisture around young trees.

Beware of very deep gullies as this might indicate fast-flowing water in flood. In fact, I suggest waiting a year before trying any extensive planting, but instead concentrate efforts right around the house. In my experience, the closer plantings are to the house, the more likely they are to survive. Improve the area immediately around the house with gardens and trees, and later when you understand the land better, work farther away. I made the mistake initially in having my food garden too far from the house. Right out the back door now, it is so wonderfully convenient.

A plant you might consider for low windbreaks is Spineless Prickly Pear. I have some that are over 5 feet tall. If planted on the berm of a swale, they could be made taller. Might be good for the windbreak around a vegetable garden. They grow quickly from individual pads. I can send you as many as you want if you can pay shipping. I have a ton of them (possibly a literal ton). Also a good compost plant and is eaten by livestock (so needs to be fenced away from them). Somewhere on the board was a description of using cactus pads in the bottom of planting holes to provide extra moisture.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Another thing about land design: I was able to get a better handle on the concepts by looking at other people's designs.

Here's Geoff Lawton's Zaytuna Farm, which I think is something like 60 acres. Everything is designed around water collection:



http://permaculturenews.org/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

Here's a suburban example:

http://www.happyearth.com.au/garden-design/

A video which discusses placement of various elements in the landscape: http://geofflawton.com/videos/property-purchase-checklist/
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Joseph Johnson wrote:Kyrt

I am not sure the is a natural way to break up the caliche, everything I have read so far says roots wont penetrate it, and neither will water so I really dont see how I can plant things to deal with it. I am open to ideas though if you have any. Perhaps I am overlooking something.

You don't focus on breaking it up. You focus on dumping life into that soil and making it as vibrant as possible. Let the life do what it does and things will keep getting better year after year, whether my reading regarding the biology and tree roots breaking up the Caliche rings true or not.

As others have mentioned, there are trees that are perfectly happy spreading their roots wide without being able to punch a taproot down, but you will have to make sure that these are actual true drought adapted trees [mostly they're trees which drop their leaves when they have access to insufficient water as a survival mechanism] rather than trees that bypass drought with a deep taproot.

I'm going to go back to those goats your sister wants. The digestive tract of a ruminant is an excellent way to inoculate soil with life. If you create a sort of small pen system that can be moved easily enough, you can use those to build soil rather than damage the ecosystem.

Yes you'll have to pay to feed them, but you're getting multiple yields out of it at the same time.

Tyler's advice regarding planning and design is stellar.
 
Daniel Kaplan
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Location: Adana, Turkey, Zone 9b
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Reading "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands vol. 2" seems like a good starting place. I recall pictures of the al baytha project in Saudi Arabia where the swales they hadn't planted yet had things start growing by themselves. Obviously planting them is better but you want to make sure that all of your rain is getting into the soil.

Can you give us any more information on the place? I found 8.5" of rain per year. Is that correct? How many acres is the place? I saw some drainage areas but I couldn't tell from the map if they were heading toward or away from your property.

It sounded like a well was not in the plan, but if it was it would give you an idea how thick the caliche is. However if it's impermiable would plants get much benefit from roots getting below it?

As they say here, kolay gelsin (may it come easily)
 
Joseph Johnson
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The drainage is toward to the property. Total is just under 105 acres. I have added elevations to the pic and the yellow line from corner to corner is 4,635 feet. Rainfall is 10" per year
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Daniel Kaplan
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In that case you'll want to put in some check dams. They'll be while before they get to the point where soil has built up enough to plant. You probably won't want to do those right away but not too far down the road either.
 
                        
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i'd try some broadscale atriplex. this will provide for some stock as well as nurse more valuable type propagation you will have likely planned
there are heaps of other nurse species but atriplex is often overlooked, it has the advantage of being easy to establish (sprinkle seed from back of utility while dragging harrows), very tough, good fodder and utterly disposable when time to upgrade
 
Kevin Elmore
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Joseph,

I am attaching an edit of your Google Earth image to show where water is already concentrated on your property. Note the blue lines showing the "greener" zones where water flows ONTO your land. Generally N to S. These greener band show evidence of overland water flows from higher elevations, across your property to lower elevations. These areas would be good candidates for swales where you can slow down and soak in additional water in runoff rain events. Swales are primarily tree growing systems, but you can blend a lot into them.

Second photo is something I use to keyline "rip" the soil. Keyline is designed for broadscale application and 105 acres definitely fits the bill for that. Idea is generally to rip the soil along contour so that grasses can get established with deeper roots. Ripping refers to breaking the soil apart, but not flipping it like a plow. Keyline uses the power of grasses and forbs to create "dams" to slow the movement of water across the land. If your rippers are set 2' apart then you get infiltrations zones every 2 feet. In successive years you can come back and hit the area between the first pass so that you have dams every foot apart. Keyline is a major topic in itself. If you want more info you can search for it here on permies. Look for "keyline" and also P.A. Yeoman on Youtube.com.

Hope this helps.

Kevin




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Kevin Elmore
Posts: 63
Location: West Texas - near Big Bend National Park
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Joseph,

[color=red]In looking at your zoomed out Google image it appears that the eastern 2/3 of your land may be in the "delta" of a very large drainage. I know it may be hard to believe(in a desert), but you should probably look very closely before locating permanent structures of any real value in that area because of possible flooding in large rain events. This water comes on to your property from the north and flows out of a valley of some unknown size. This water is a great resource as long as you can handle it and use it to your benefit. [/color]

A few thoughts immediately come to mind about being in a delta:
1. Extra water to your property in runoff rains. Potential for flooding even if seemingly rare
2. Soils will be predominantly comprised of elements found above your property in the floodplain. Could be sand, clays, gravel, silts, etc. Soil tests will likely confirm different trace elements/needs here as well.
3. Soils should be deeper because sediments have been deposited on your site over time, rather than eroded from your site. You may have the neighbors topsoil in there somewhere ! :
4. Soil deposition may be uneven. There might be layers of clay, then layers of sand and gravel, etc. This means water can move through these layers below ground differently than it moves on the surface. Building ponds could be challenging because of this unless you have enough clay to seal off the impermeable layers.
5. Soil fertility may be higher than non-delta areas nearby.

Not trying to scare you, just saying what I see. Overall the extra water can help you become an oasis once you find/create the ways that work on your site.

Kevin
 
Joseph Johnson
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Great info Kevin. Position of the house is not locked in yet. What I would really like to do is make a pond like the one already there north of my property. (marked) Then perhaps I can use dams and swales to divert it away from an area to build on. Since the very first time I saw the google earth images I knew water would not be as big a problem as most have thought. The trick is how to take advantage of it in order to realize its full potential. Walking the property you can get a good idea where the bulk of this water flows but I lack the experience to decide how to divert it. Thanks to the many helpful people here my knowledge is growing in leaps and bounds but as I have stated before, every answer leads to more questions lol. I superimposed your image over a much larger one to give you and idea of where all the water comes from and on what scale. Any input you could offer would be greatly appreciated. The Image date is 02/02/2015 and that pond has been full every year but one since google started mapping it in 1995

EDIT: I just realized that the best way to see this is with google earth. Here are the coords 31°02'07.91" N 105°18'35.69" W
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