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My First Post: The Ranch Plan  RSS feed

 
Mershka Calico
Posts: 8
Location: Northeast Oregon, US
1
dog forest garden goat
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Hey all,
I thought I'd like to share parts of mine and my family's plans for this 60ish acre off-grid ranch. We're in a pretty arid grassland/ shrubby-steppe part of Northeast Oregon with very hot summers, and we can also get some brutally cold winters and there's usually late and early frosts. We'll get between 8 and 14 inches of rain per year but it's been on the very low end of that spectrum for some years now. We have goats, lowline angus cattle, chickens and turkeys, a couple horses, and turkish kangals (livestock guardian dogs). We're also setting up three orchard/tree spaces with annual and perennial veggie gardens in and around them. We're trying to make a balance where we can do our human stuff like feed ourselves while also improving upon this ecosystem.
Right now we have three major projects we're working on, and they're all tied together. 1: Better pasture management for our grazing animals. 2: Growing useful trees. 3: Riparian area restoration, particularly with the quickly-eroding creek which runs through a good portion of the property.
The pasture management plans include implementing rotational grazing (need money to get some more fencing in!) and adding other food sources to relieve dependence and stress on the pastures. We have a grain sprouting system which can produce over 140 pounds of fodder each day which provides nutrition for all of the animals during the winter months, leaving only their need for ruffage which can come from many sources.
The riparian area restoration, at this point, consists of adding as much woody debris as possible to fill up the creek, lift it from it's current path (it's busy making a little ravine since our soil is just layer after layer of volcanic ash), and nudging it away from the eroding banks. This last year has been the first time we've really been tackling that chore. There were a couple hundred western juniper trees all along the creek which I removed in the spring of 2015 because they're really terrible for this area. This year I've been placing debris (branches, small trees) along the eroding banks in such a way as to maximize the accumulation of gunk when the creek level rises during the winter and spring months. Lots of the willows, alders and birches are growing better without the junipers and I'll be planting loads more willows and hybrid poplars along the creek to further woody growth, shade the creek, and increase sources of debris. We'll also be using the riparian area for planting things like lindens, paw paws, locusts, hazelnuts, fruit trees of various sorts, witch hazel, berries, currants, etc. I'm planning on making some of that bone-tar stuff to keep deer and our goats away so I don't have to use up all our field fencing for the purpose of containing the new trees and shrubs like I'm currently doing, hahaha.
Then we have the tree and gardening projects. I want to grow a lot of pea trees (C. arborescens) as a major source of future ruffage for our animals. Thankfully they appreciate dry soils and do very well in a town nearby so I have high hopes for them. I also want to grow a lot of honey locusts and black locusts. The honey locusts can be for mainly for ruffage, shade and firewood, while the black locusts will mainly be for firewood and fence posts. We're interplanting with all sorts of other woody and perennial stuff, and until it all gets established those areas are also where our vegetable gardens are growing. Two of the tree-growing areas extend away from the creek into some pretty dry soil, so mulch has been a big help keeping moisture in, as well as being a major source of nutrients since our mulch is full of goat and chicken excrement.
Eventually I'd like to try making hedges with the locusts, hawthorn, and a spattering of other drought-tolerant species as a way to phase out barbed wire fencing in some areas, don't know when I'll be getting to that however.

I'm really excited to see how things progress in the gardens as summer comes in and the temps start rising. The honey locust and pea tree seedlings seem to be rocking it, so do the surrounding veggies, more of which will get planted a couple days from now because we're in a bit of a cold snap. One of the veggie areas has a misting/drip line system for watering, the other has many little canals and both systems seem to be working very well thus far. And the black locust root cuttings which i took and potted are sending up shoots now, so they're growing and will be planted in the ground next year!
One of my largest concerns has to do with the trees and perennials in the dry areas. Once the riparian area is more greatly expanded and getting healthier there'll be an easier time planting stuff but I worry that the trees in the dry spots will be dependent on my watering system compared to the trees in the riparian zone which don't need help once they get established. The honey locusts seem to be growing some monster taproots, same with the pea trees and paw paws, so that gives me hope but I think this will be something I'll have to play by ear and adjust as needed. There's certainly work with swales which I could do and that will help once I find the time to do it!
It's an awful lot of irons in the fire and so I'm trying to be as flexible as possible and work with the natural surroundings. It's just a lot to take in! And we were all so green when we started this lifestyle, this is the first year I feel like we're really getting a grip and busting out with productivity and a solid direction!

I'd be happy to hear any suggestions or questions anybody has, it seems like there's a wealth of knowledge and different perspectives which have all come together on this website so I'm all ears for anything from anyone. I'm happy to have circles of friendly people in my community and on places like here. After all, it takes a village!
I suppose I'll keep this thread updated as big progress with those three projects continues to be made! I'm probably most excited for the riparian area restoration, it's going to be so rad. Heck, it already is so rad!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Very interested in your creek restoration project - it seems similar to my own.

 
Mershka Calico
Posts: 8
Location: Northeast Oregon, US
1
dog forest garden goat
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Very interested in your creek restoration project - it seems similar to my own.



I only wish we had gotten on it years ago! Better late than never though. There's a little stream North of us which has carved a nice canyon for itself which is 20 feet deep in places with near vertical walls! I'd like to avoid that fate, especially since the creek which runs through our place carries steelhead. I work on it little bits every day, building up juniper branches on the eroding banks and clogging up the particularly deep spots. There was a good washout a few months ago which cleaned out a lot of silt and clay and that gave us all fresh eyes on how much the creek has been cutting downward. A local biologist really likes what we're doing with the creek and gave us some tips, and they even felt confident that once we get the willows and other trees and bushes established beavers could move in! That would be really neat.
 
Donald Kenning
Posts: 78
Location: Tri-Cities, Washington
14
fungi hugelkultur trees
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Mershka Calico;

Hello and welcome. Since you are in Northeast Oregon and I am in Southeast Washington, we are close to each other. Yea, it is a challenge being in such a dry hot area. I am jealous that you have a creek running through your property.

Tyler Ludens stated in your post that your creek restoration project is similar to his own. Well, Tyler Ludens is the author of a couple of popular strings on this forum. One is Creek Repair- Brush damns. There is a lot of things going on in that comment string.

Likewise, he authored the string Creek Repair - Rock Dams.. Both are good strings on this forum to look at.

Personally, I learned a bunch reading Brad Lancasters book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and beyond Vol 1 and 2.

Reading your post, I could not help remember reading about 1-rock dams and check dams. Each designed to prevent sediment from floating down stream. They also help slow water and sink it into your property. I also thought about gabions.

In Brad's book, he talks about setting priorities. To "plant" the water around your property, first, so that it takes a while to leave. With that, he talks about starting this "planting" process on the highest point of the land. Then go down hill from there.

I would love to hear more about what you are planting in this climate. So, can I ask you provide some pics or vids of your progress around here? I would love to see it.
 
Mershka Calico
Posts: 8
Location: Northeast Oregon, US
1
dog forest garden goat
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Donald,
Wow! Thanks for your reply, looks like I have a lot of reading material to keep me Busy! Good timing too because I have some free time while waiting for more seeds to sprout.
I'd love to share more about what I'm doing. I can get some photos later on when the weather's no so damp and I finish mulching everything. We have two major zones with trees growing, one was established when we were first moving out here and we planted the other one last year. They're both in low-lying depressions near the creek. So far they're planted with your average fruit trees: apples, peaches, cherries, nectarines, paw paws, a pear, two hazelnuts, and two almonds. The first batch was mostly apples and only took a couple years to establish and now require no maintenance. I heavily mulched the new batch and have a little water line set up for them. All those ones are clones, too, which I'd like to stop planting. They're a nice jumpstart to get some food growing but I really prefer seed-grown trees and so that's the focus from here on out. I've planted 5 or 6 paw paw seeds this year and am crossing my fingers that they'll come up a-okay. I like to paint the trunks of the trees with white diluted latex paint to help keep them cooler during the first few years which I think has been making a good difference. I want to plant a lot of perennials and ground covers between all these trees to break up some of the grass and help out the soil, so far I'm thinking rhubarb, goji, currants, pea trees, asparagus, the native willows and roses, as well as various veggies (filling up empty space). Filling up empty space is also important to me because it insures no water goes to waste. We only have one well and so every drop especially counts.
Outside of those two areas, I just set up a small space along the creek where I just planted a few goji seedlings. I will continue setting up little spaces like, taking advantage of nice spots along the creek as it meanders to and fro. The only downside of the creek area is how cold it gets! It is reliably several degrees colder than up in the pastures or on the ridge so I'm focusing on things which can handle that stress, or else I'll just baby things along for the first couple years I guess. I plan on growing lindens, black and honey locusts, black walnut, sea buckthorn, mulberry, and a lot of hazels down by the creek, along with willows, alders, birches and hybrid poplars for some fast-growing biomass as part of the restoration.

Like I mentioned before, mulch is very important to what I'm doing. Good mulch can hold in SO much moisture and really make a happy environment. I love sticking my finger into the mulch on cold days and feeling the hot moisture and seeing all the bugs in there. All the left over debris in the hay barn and the buildup of bedding in the animal barns makes for some great mulch, I'm really happy with it. Especially when we cleanup the highly nutritious waste in the chicken coop. The only downside is that the top can get crusty so periodic deep watering is much better than frequent little waterings. Water has trouble penetrating the heavy clay soil so periodic deep waterings seem to work better anyway.

Outside of the creek area gets very dry very fast. I have a couple little spots set aside for growing more of the locusts and pea trees (and some jujubes) and I take advantage of places which get water from livestock tank overflow, faucets, leaky hoses, etc. I want a LOT of pea trees as a source of feed for our livestock. I'd love to get some burr oaks too, I've heard they can thrive even in the most inhospitable soils and some can produce great acorns. I feel similarly towards hickories, even though they take FOREVER to grow.

I have a lot of plans and ideas. As time goes on it will become obvious what does and does not work and so I'll be refining the plans as time goes on and following the paths of least resistance for the most part. Oh gosh I just get so excited by all of this! All the planting makes me so happy, whether or not failures prevent some of the directions!
 
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