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desert permaculture design  RSS feed

 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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New to permaculture and to this forum so I would like to say hi and introduce myself. My name is Jason I am a 38 year old guy that owns a few pieces of desert property in South Brewster county Tx. My main interests in permaculture is to see  If by following some ideas I have read about and putting them into practice I can improve parts of my properties and produce food at least for myself on a sustainable basis. Pretty difficult in the extremes of South Tejas.

I would like to document my process and if others are interested in the same topic maybe get a few ideas.

Here are a few pictures of one of my properties. It is 40 acres split by a ryolite igneous intrusion. has several dry creek beds that run through it that carries loads of water when it rains. The northern part of the property is a is a small mountain and a boulderfield( not much I can do with it I think). I have some flatlands on the other side of the ridge that crosses my property it is about ten acres.

Anyways hello and hope for some input













 
Jordan Lowery
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id say start catching water asap, swales, ponds, terraces, anything to get what water does fall to stay and not leave.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Immediately rush out in a buying frenzy and get Brad Lancaster's books "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond" especially the second volume, about capturing rainwater with earthworks.  These books have been an enormous help to me.   

http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

He also has a series of videos: 



 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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oh, I'm goin to but I am a bit cautious about destroying what is already there. It looks like crappy old desert to most folks I would guess, but this is rather pristine for the area and it can get far worse if I am not careful. It's tough to get a ballance between function and protecting  what is already existing.

The canyons on one of the creeks is as narrow as 7 feet. pretty easy to dam as the rest of the bank is a ryolite wall. Im hoping to make a catchement for initial needs and then start more earthworks as needed.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Thank you Ludi, I will do that
 
Jordan Lowery
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imo in a situation like this you have to give some to make progress for the better good of the land. im not talking about going in with a bulldozer and terracing the whole property. more like dams and swales in the right spots to catch the water then overfill into the next catchment. i would personally make it a mission to be out there when its raining really good, and watch where the water goes, where those key storage spots are. having lived in a semi-desert before, holding water is the most important factor.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Water catement and storage both in soil and above are my primary concerns but like you said I don't want to bring in the dozers for a complete overwork. More like shovel and a small tractor...

It gets about ten inches of rain a year maybe a little more some years and less others. I would like to build and add some soil to those gravel and cobbles I have currently but can't do that until I stop the water from eroding it.


I guess it's just gonna be careful consideration of where those earthworks will be and what size and scope do I want them.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Most of the Brad Lancaster suggestions can be done with hand tools.  I'm doing all my earthworks by hand except a couple large ponds/basins we hope to have dug (one down, one to go).

Looks like you have a lot of plants there on your place - lechuguilla, prickly pear. 

Your land is very beautiful - makes me want to move further west! 

Here are a couple links about native food plants in your region:

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/trans-p/nature/plants.html

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/plateaus/nature/plant.html
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Thanks for the links and the compliments on the property. Cool uses for those plants, and I have most of them in abundance if not over abundance.

Thanks Soil, and yes, I do have to be there during the rain. In Florida now until late January and i'm only going to be there for a couple of weeks, not likely to see heavy rains in January so I might have to wait til my next trip in August.
 
                                      
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Check out some of the ideas at:

http://www.holisticmanagement.org/
-and-
http://www.managingwholes.com/

    People are showing that dry-land areas can improve considerably with the inclusion of animals using holistic planned grazing.

  I've dug a number of swales in my time and have a hunch that animals, used properly, could be more profitable as well as biologically restorative for your properties than large trenches.
 
rose macaskie
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  If you have to eat off the land and permaculture is about eating off your land, about independence using a bit of land instead of some soul destroying job or about helping the poor by showing how you can get more off the patch of land you have in bits of the world were things are tough, then you might have to destroy the beautiful desert.
    If you don't, then you can just be organic and keep it like it is, just helping it on a bit.
   
    All I wanted to do in my garden was to see if i could better the soils, mainly by not doing things to reduce the vegetation, by letting the weeds do the work for me. I wanted to prove i could have better soil and that then it would grow more, i reckoned the soils around me had been impoverished by farming methods. Permaculture has changed my goals to also growing food but if i was in a bit of desert like yours that looks so special and i did not absolutely have to grow food, could live by other means, i would just let it be or just try to potentiate the system increase the water availiable with mulches and ponds maybe but not change the desert otherwise.
  Maybe you could use one bit of your land for proving that all the permaculture ideas work in such an extreme situation and another bit just to potentiate the natural vegetation of the desert.

  BIll mollison says of the saguaro cactus in the sonora desert, that the young saguero plants won't grow as their is no forest underlayer to protect the young cactuses.
    I would like to see if permaculture ideas could so better the understorey desert vegetation that the cactuses would grow again rather than growing food there and so it would not be a permaculture project but it would fit into organic gardening philosofies with the help of the earth work ideas like swales and ponds of permaculture. Maybe just greening deserts more or stopping them from degrading  is a permaculture project.
It looks so nice. Deserts can be nicer to look at than sit in. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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O, google, "kunds thar desert" or water  harvesting thar desert, to see some way out antique water harvesting systems. agri rose macaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I certainly don't think you need to destroy the desert to grow food there!  I hope O isn't considering any such thing, the land is so beautiful.  According to John Jeavons, one can grow a nearly complete vegan diet on about 4000 square feet of soil if one has irrigation water.  In my opinion that small bit of land could also support a few small animals such as chickens or guinea hens to provide some protein.  Or one could learn to eat the proteins of the desert (snakes, rats, scorpions, etc).  One could have a tiny garden right around one's very small house, and not disturb the desert much at all, in my opinion.  If one gives up the idea of having a "farm" one can have a food-growing environment that is much less destructive. 

 
Emerson White
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It may be more than a little illegal for you to build a dam on your property. The people down stream may have water rights that you would interfere with. I do not know about Texas, but it's that way with pretty much everything to the west of Texas.
 
Pat Black
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Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Welcome Jason! Beautiful property you have there.

I think there's a lot you can do to slow the movement of water on your land and infiltrate it into the soil. Here next door to you in New Mexico we are free to work with the intermittent water flows. It is the perennial water flows that are regulated. I can only guess if it is the same in TX.

Step one is to stop erosion in an intelligent manner.

I'd suggest a complete understanding of keyline design. Your property is ideally suited to it. With keyline you can move the water from the canyons back up onto the hillsides, by building swales with a 1:500 slope.  Do an internet search on PA Yeomans Keyline and you will find your way to a lot of information. There are youtube videos on it, too.

Here's one of Yeoman's books in a free online version:
http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010125yeomans/010125toc.html
The bibliography in wikipedia's keyline entry will lead you to more.

The first permaculture principal is careful observation. You have to understand what is already happening to the land before you make modifications, and you have to assess the effects of what you do. Desert soils are of course very fragile and can quickly be lost to wind and water erosion.

I'd suggest also getting to know what are the edible plant species of your bioregion so that you can plant or encourage these on your land.

 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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The holistic management idea was a good one thanks.

Rose, I need to feed myself and family but I think there is enough room to do that and basically follow the idea you presented about improving the quality of the soil and to see if I am able to condense succession. I will google Thar desert and water harvesting thanks.

I eat almost any wild game including rattlesnake and coon,rabbit...I want to bring out the best in the land without making it look engineered too much.

Emerson, no it isn't illegal in the area I purchased and is common place.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Thanks NM Grower. Ill check into keylines, it is appreciated.
 
                              
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O,
I live on similar land, though colder & smaller, outside of Albuquerque. Its mainly Pinon/Juniper/Oak scrub, with an understory of Mountain Mohagany, Sumac, & Prickly Pear. It was overgrazed & trampled, with huge bonfire piles of dead wood all over the property & the trees either cut down or not maintained at all.

Yours is pretty near pristine - which is mostly how you should keep it. Grow what you need to, intensively, directly around your house. If you haven't built a house yet, plan your garden at the lowest elevation on the property, & put your house next to that.
That Keyline book was great - I read the whole thing! Thanks to whoever posted it.

However, O, I'm not sure you want to go cutting grooves in your land just yet. Consider that that book was written for arable (or at least semi-arable) land. Ours is not. An important factor in our soils (well all soils, but ours especially) is the mycorrhizal fungi that make up the top 1/4 inch to 1" of pristine desert soils. They are nearly microscopic & can be extremely diverse - approaching rainforest diversity levels together with the other desert soil organisms. The reason they are important is they seem to operate symbiotically with many native flora to ABSORB WATER much more efficiently than the plant’s roots would. In exchange, the fungi appear to get sugars and mineral nutrients. This network of rhizomes is so fine that any disturbance – certainly a plow a described in the keyline book – would destroy the water absorbing potential of the soil flora for years, possibly centuries. These things do not happen fast.

What is extremely important about the Keyline book, for us, is suggestions on placement of water catchment dams. Its really got me thinking – I live on a ridge, & do not own the valley, but still – I could improve my own land & the terribly eroded valley as well. Hmm.

OK, so my suggestions:

1.Put in a catchment damn at the keyline for every arroyo you have.

2. Put in Canales/acequias/conduit from each damn down to where your garden will be. This will mean carefully mapping the contours & surface hydrology. The water may have to travel a long distance. Start with the nearest & easiest one first. Each acequia can water one patch of garden, so you can expand in a modular progression rather than trying to do it all at once. This would be Zone 3-2.

3.Use greywater from your house, as well, using a branched drain system, but only to the non-native plants (grey water tends to kill desert soil with too many nutrients). This would be Zone 1-2.

4. Build a rainwater cistern for roof water out of chainlink fence & pond liner. Make a circle with the chainlink, twist-tie it, put the liner in & over the top, give it a cover & run your gutters to it. Voila. Use that water instead of well water in your house whenever you can. Make sure you calculate how much storage you’ll need. 6” per year X 1000’ Sq. roof = 500 cubic feet = 3740 gallons, for example.

5. Experiment – try the keyline/contour gardening in one area, double-dig another, sheet mulch another. See what works. I’m a big fan of no-till here, obviously, & have used sheet mulching extensively, but that was before I moved to the country. Its different here & you may not want to kill all the “weeds”. Just make sure that wherever you put mulch, you water – otherwise it’s a fire hazard here. Just like the Keyline guy says – you gotta have water to have decay.

6. Outside of zone 3, try to leave it as pristine as possible. I would say trim your trees’ needles to above 6’, but it doesn’t look like you have too many of those. Find out what huntable animals you could have on your land (Bighorn sheep, elk, deer, turkey, etc.). Find out what plants they like to eat, & toss out Fukuoka style seed balls with those seeds whenever you go on a hike.

7. If you find that you have a sizeable fauna population, consider allowing hunters. An elk tag on private land will fetch a pretty penny, & without wolves the larger game tend to cause damage to the land. Of course, the wolves will be there soon! They only have to cross New Mexico now. But hunting is pretty well regulated, & many hunters are the most environmentally aware people out there. There are always people who lost the public land hunting license bids who are eager to pay whatever price you ask for the right to hunt for a single turkey – not even to take game even, just to hunt.

You could also graze livestock, but... it would be hard to do sustainably on that land.

So, there’s your next 5-10 years planned out for ya. Sorry about that lol.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Great response. and you're right along my thinking with most of it. I appreciate the time spent.  No house yet, it will be secondary to some of the land and therefore water improvements.

Loads of game use those creek beds, mainly mule deer, audad and javalina. lots of quail too. We have coyotes and cougars in the area, that's pretty much it but there are a good share of both.

I would like to add soil and berm on contour in some places, but not really wanting to cut into the land.  Now if I could add a good soil and organics without it washing away without the  berms, I would but that is doubtful. And if the soils could keep moisture on the slope without berms or swales, that would be ideal.

There are some trees, a cottonwood some scrub oaks in the boulderfield some acacias...Mesquite. I would like to see if parts of the land could grow some trees of a slightly higher order of succession. if some of the improvements could allow some of the trees to be sustainable and capable of reproducing in the vicinity naturally I would be pleased with those results.

Thanks again for your response.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with lodhur not to use keyline plowing (as if you could plow your land!  )
 
Kahty Chen
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Location: Southern Oregon
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Do you have something like this in mind, or something of a lighter touch?

[flash=500,400]http://www.youtube.com/v/4S6kTlz6Mk4[/flash]
 
Pat Black
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Yes, in this situation you would not and could not plow. You would build leaky dams, net and pan catchments, 1:500 "swales," etc all above ground simply by stacking the rocks, fallen branches, logs, cactus skeletons, etc that were in the immediate area. over time the dust, leaves, blown soil, animal droppings, etc would accumulate on the uphill side. ants and beetles would find the area and begin to process the organic matter. the leaky barriers would catch or slow the water that would normally flow quickly past that location. soon plants would put roots there, and then you'd be building little pockets of soil wherever it was appropriate. understanding keylines and contours shows you where to catch and channel the water for maximum benefit. I wasn't suggesting digging down, but going up by careful use of what's already on site. Micro catchments starting high and working down the site over time. When you plant the water, life will follow.

check out
http://ag.arizona.edu/oals/ALN/aln46/lancaster.html




 
rose macaskie
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Darren Doherty, has some you tube videos of keyline canals and ponds in you that you will find in you tube with the words, "darren doherty keyline design at the beach  in these videos he makes a model of mountains in the sand so that you can see what he is talking about.
      I would whatch geoff lawtons video of swales first geoff lawton harvesting water dvd swale plume and then Darren Dougherty's videos and then Sepp Holzers videos,  his ponds are the same principle as keyline design techniques.
    sepp holzer has a south facing slope in the Austrian alpes and south facing slopes suffer from getting dry. If you undestand Spanish you can whatch sepp holzer work in ecuador against natural disasters video, in it he says that if you can hold as much water as possible in the soil of up lands and in ponds and such, or make provision for water to be held when it rains, then heavy rain events should not cause floods in towns downstream, you will help to stop flash flooding. 
    Of course landslides are always possible if hte land gets soaked and so you should be carefull you are not filling the land with water just above the houses of other people. That is why you are meant to have the advice of an engineer when you make ponds and swales. 

    Also storing water in the wet season instead of letting it run off the land into the sea is one thing but doing the same in the dry season might cause problems with neighbors down stream, so this water harvesting business should involve some carefull law making. Avoiding complicated things can just make things stupid and disfunctional and with water we need to be functional. Somer people think you can simplify everything, you can't trying to makes peole stupid.

  In India, there was traditionally, a man whose job was to share out water, not very well paid but respected, it was an inherited position. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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Lots of mulch should help keep moisture on the land, if i had a bit of desert i would like to try to do what geoff lawton did near the dead sea in one part of the oand at anyrate then you would have fruit and maybe vegetables as well as game. Maybe Lawson and mollison  would come and do something for you, it seems they do lots of things of the sort get groups together and the funding together for works shops to get people going.  maybe they aren't the only permaculturist who do work shops on apropiate sites so combining classes with setting up a site that will prove what you can do.
  In madrid they throw away enormouse quantities of cardboard but i picked some up and took it off to my garden and a little fills the car right up, so you would need a lorry to get an big amount, an amount that made the trip worth while.
  Darren doherty said that irrigating deserts has always been a failure. Geoff Lawton drip irrigated, from the jordan river i suppose and had swales to hold as much water that rainfall sent as is possible and enormouse quantities of mulch in the bit of land near the Dead Sea he grew figs and other fruit trees in. Maybe you dont have the jordan then you will have to water harvest in order to drip irrigate. agri rose macaskie.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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Nah, I don't think I could plow that land even if I wanted too.

Lawton's idea got me interested but not really on the level that  he is trying to produce. I'm not much for figs and pomegranits either. Still, the idea is real cool.


Yup, NM Grower, about what I have in mind. Also, it would be nice to see if I could make a small section to be able to have a juniper oak association with enough water redirecting and soil improvements.

Yes Rose, I want to add lots of organics to the  rocky ground and have plants anchor the new medium and then add some more... The water is there if I can store it I can grow most anything. Potato and greens are my staples, the rest is meat. With enough stored water I should be able to grow what I need, would be nice to be able too feed  a few pigs too.

The rest is pretty much just seeing if I can better the land.

Thanks for the ideas
 
Tyler Ludens
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We're in a similar situation here with two arroyos cutting through our land which are spectacularly full of water when it floods.  I calculated we get 120 acre feet of water per hour through our place during a flooding rainstorm, that's about 39,102,120 gallons of water!    But most of it has gone away because I don't have enough rain-harvesting earthworks in place.  I hope to have more installed by the next flood.

 
rose macaskie
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      If you dont want the fruit you do prehaps need the shade if you are to grow vegetables. Lawtons idea is not just fruit based, it is also leguminouse tree based, that means real acacias in dry places the mimosa is a real acacia, so that the soil gets nitrogen and in hot places the shade is so important. growing fruit trees also has to do with the fact that plants with different depths of roots help each other, trees roots bring up nutrients that have been washed deep into  the soil and help the water to run into the soil, they alsotheir superficial roots cacht the water of light showers stopping it evaporating.
      I think that part of the moving force in permaculture, that tha makes tehm feel they are helping and gives importance to the spread of their ideas has to do with how to help lower income groups so in giving an example of what can be done, of how to make more out of a small holding for all the countries in the world were food is not as abundant as it is for us, that is why they are keen on planting things that feed us as well as helping the ground. THere was a japanese evangelist whose aim was to better earth and at the same timea llow the lesss rich farmers to feed themselves better and i think he is one of the influences in these theories. rose macaskie
 
        You might be more interested in trees whose foliage feeds the deer.

        I thought that maybe solar panels woud shade the ground  making it easier to grow vegetables in deserts. So you get energy and some growing advantages.  agri rose macaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think Mesquite trees would be ideal for filtered shade, they also produce edible pods (which taste like graham crackers!)  Palo Verde is also a possibility for filtered shade and makes edible seeds.  We have a couple of Mesquites here on our place but no Palo Verde yet.

Brewster County appears to be in the Chihuahuan desert ecoregion.  Gary Nabham is an expert on the edible plants of this region (though lives to the west, in Arizona):  http://garynabhan.com/i/

Good source for regionally-adapted vegetable seed:  http://www.nativeseeds.org/Home
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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We have mesquites all over the property most are in shrub form. Have to check the canyons next time I go, there were a few trees I did not know what they were.

For trees Rose, I was thinking afghan pine, arizona cyrpess, italian cypress, scrub oaks, maybe a pistasio, dunno but trees are in the works just not as a major crop. I'm growing mangos, avacados, bannans, oranges, figs...don't eat any of them, my kids do and the pig does but I just like the looks.  But it is easy in Florida where I currently live.
 
rose macaskie
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    In one of the forums i wrote about the pistacea and i have wondered if people have thought i meant a pistacios, O writes about pistaceos. I have been wanting to say that for sometime, incase anyone got me wrong about pistaceas. Pistaceas are one of the hot country trees that grows in Marocco and here in Spain that are used for browse, It is also very pretty,  as one of the trees whose leaves are used to feed the sheep and whose berries will feed pigs but apparently, according to an antique farming book i bought, it gives their meat a nasty taste, which did not seem to stop anyone feeding them to pigs. The places where pistaceas grow, accompanied with maples of montepellier, in the sierra de magina, are places that get grazed without the sheep and goats doing for the trees, it is not good enough browse to be finished off by the live stock which makes it useful.
  I looked up the californian dry place plant as browse, ceanothus browse were the words i looked up, and it is a browse plant.

        I like both things peermaculture and deserts but if you like deserts you should give permaculture a wide berth, it will seduce you into planting fruit trees all over your desert, i ended up getting so interested in wondering how much food i could grow, not that i grow much yet, that my old interest in just whatching how the land restores itself has nearly vanished.
        It is interesting to grow food where it is hard to grow, in order to prove organic farming or permaculture work and not only work but work miracles, to show how much more you can grow than others in deserts and so to help those who live in them and have not made a collection of new technics as Bill Mollison has.
      The seriouse but fun game is to prove  that you can grow food without chemical fertilisers or grow food and grow soils instead of growing food and ruining soils with your agriculture or that you can grow lots of food with hardly any irrigation  in places meant to be too dry to grow lot s of food or even that you can grow food in the wrong climate as sepp holzer does when he grows lemons in sun traps way up in the austrian alpes.  So you become obliged to grow your fruit in the desert where its hard to grow instread of florida were its easy  I suppose if you just get your desert much greener so game abounds to a degree unimagined before, you are doing enough to help on agriculture, are teaching the most efficient ideas that are around today in the live stock realm wihtout turning you desert into a orchard.
I don’t eat muc fruit but i am sure tha tmy health woud be better if i could get into the habit of making fruit a big part of my diet. Rose macaskie. 
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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I think pistacea and pistachios are in the same family, not sure though.

I like healthy deserts, but some degraded desert I would like to radically experiment with. There are places devoid of anything by creosote bushes that would be perfect for an ambitious experiment. I have thought of getting a cheap piece of flats to try some things out.

Too many things goin on with this lot makes me hesitant to fuss with it much.
First, it takes a while for all the different plant communities to form after a disturbance. Most of these plants have redeveloped after grazing was ended some forty years ago. Second, most of the plants are climax perennials and the increasers are climax perennial grasses.

Any fussing with the desert usually ends up starting the process of succession over again and because of this you have to be prepared and able to guide the process to the disired climax. I think that would be real difficult as a novice, so I would feel more comfortable with a more conservative approach. Also, the length of time from primary succesion through to a climax community is beyond my tenure so may very well prove futile.

 
                                
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This wasn't exactly the thread I was searching for, and sorry to resurrect the dead without a license, but I found it nevertheless... and hearing recently about the drought you Texans are in, it seemed an appropriate place to post.

I don't understand the mentality of NOT wanting to use bulldozers and earthworks.  The desert is not some aboriginal pristine landscape.  It is a damaged, eroded wreck in desperate need of repair.  Most of the American southwest was grass and forest before the introduction of cattle and logging grazed it to nothing.  We aren't destroying a desert here; we're trying to fix what used to be. 

Second, by doing NOTHING, the landscape will continue to erode and lose soil downstream.  You can't "preserve" an arid, actively eroding landscape by twiddling your thumbs and letting the cacti mulch themselves.  Extreme landscapes call for extreme restorative efforts. 

Nor will it repair itself -- it will inevitably end up something like the Sahara, which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't done much to repair itself in human history.  Nor will it... and at the rate humans are now desertifying the rest of the planet, "protecting pristine desert landscapes" will soon leave this planet looking like the surface of the moon.  (The Lebanese are still waiting for those darn cedar forests to regrow themselves....)

This means calling in our friend Mr Bulldozer, cutting enormous swales, and planting highly invasive species.  Ponds were mentioned... but they're a bad idea in a place like pictured, with 10" of rain.  Evaporation will suck any pond dry in a hurry.  You want soakage.

And, if we want Texas not to dry up and blow away every 50 years, this needs to be done on a very large scale.


Unless anyone thinks getting Guv'ner Perry and his preacher boys to cure the gays and pray for rain will achieve better results....

 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I don't agree with the invasive species part, but the cutting enormous swales I can get behind!

It can be expensive, though....

 
                                
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Location: Eastern Colorado, USA
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I don't agree with the invasive species part,



"Invasive" species are a fundamental part of permaculture, and essential to restoring landscape.  I prefer the term "pioneer species" really, but no one knows what that is. 

It is the utmost in bureaucratic foolishness for governments to declare that a species of plant does not belong in an ecosystem.  But still they top that idiocy by spending our money in vain attempts to eradicate them, worst of all by chemical methods. 

Plants move in and take over because there is a niche for them. 

I'll give a sterling example from my own area, the Colorado Front Range.  Russian olive -- Eleagnus angustifolia -- is declared "invasive" and therefore we are not to plant it.  But what are its qualities?  It can reproduce itself in this climate, thrives in very poor soils, and fixes nitrogen... so that... guess what?  Other species can grow where it has rebuilt the soil. 

Government response has been to chop it down.  Replace it with what?  Cottonwood?  News flash to bureaucrats: cottonwood isn't native here either... and we've pumped the water table down so far it won't grow anywhere anymore without irrigation. 

Bill Mollison calls these people "eco-fascists."  USDA and NRCS are not doing the environment any favors with their lists and their eradication programs. 

Further, nothing "invasive" is permanent.  Without exception, once they have done their work in the soil, they give way to succession.  Again, another pretty fundamental permaculture concept.
 
                              
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I'm new here at the permies forum (hi folks), if O is still around, your TX land is similar to mine in s.e AZ. Your elevation appears to be about 3300' (mine is 4000' and the plants look like what we have here. We're not as hilly but do have elevation changes.

First off, with that much steep ground, watch your roads and the runoff from them. That is a HUGE issue in desert regions where the undersoils are rock-covered caliche / granite outcroppings / gypsum silts. I disagree with the DirtSurgeon that we have to get busy with heavy equipment or the desert southwest will become the Sahara. One disturbed swath of ground on a slope can disrupt a lot of watershed, making for a long battle between you and the seasonal rains if you are trying to get in and out on a regular basis. That's been our biggest problem. As others moved in farther up the watershed, the erosion intensified on our own land.

Like so many folks, we thought water catchment meant damming the washes--not so. It's counter-intuitive--starting at the highest points and catching the water before it gets to the washes. It takes a lot of observing and mapping to put together a good, doable plan for your site. Definitely get Brad Lancaster's books-- he's in Tucson and you can google his website.

Trying to garden on raw land in the desert southwest is sooo much harder than anyplace I've ever lived--I've given up repeatedly, overwhelmed by some new problem that depletes my time and resources. To grow something edible is absolutely mind-bending. I'm not a newbie to permaculture or gardening, but I have yet to grow enough food to feed my family here. I've spent hundreds on carefully-selected trees, shrubs, vines, plants, seeds, omg. 98% succumbed to one thing or another despite my best efforts. I did plant some 'invasive species' and they are doing okay... but they're not edible. By humans anyway.

(Try pecan trees if you want shade and food.)

Tomorrow I will be hauling branches into the fenced garden space and building sepp holzer-style raised beds for fall planting. (piles of stuff with dirt mixed in). I think the harvester ants gobbled the lettuce seedlings yesterday, and the newly-transplanted herbs might be gone as well... sigh... they are under knee-high plastic pipe arches with bird netting draped over them so it's not the birds this time...

I'm determined to keep trying... to change my thinking on all these challenges. I've been 'doing battle' with them for years and it's only made me sad and defeated. It's not them, it's my approach,  but I'll be darned if I can figure this place out!

Here's a list of the 'wild challenges' which descend en masse on any newly irrigated / herbaceous spot (add coyotes and bobcat and perhaps mountain lion if you have poultry or small livestock):
--rabbits, hares
--gophers
--rats
--mice
--rock squirrels
--skunks
--grasshoppers
--flea beetles
--open-range cattle
--horses
--loose dogs
--curved-bill thrashers
--english sparrows
--ants
--burmuda grass

The climate varies from months of hot dry winds with dust devils, to torrential downpours, to freezing nights down to single digits. Occasional snow. Hail at any time of year.

Aquaponics using grey water in a hoop house is my next step.

Sorry about the rant... ideas welcome.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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TheDirtSurgeon wrote:
This wasn't exactly the thread I was searching for, and sorry to resurrect the dead without a license, but I found it nevertheless... and hearing recently about the drought you Texans are in, it seemed an appropriate place to post.

I don't understand the mentality of NOT wanting to use bulldozers and earthworks.  The desert is not some aboriginal pristine landscape.  It is a damaged, eroded wreck in desperate need of repair.  Most of the American southwest was grass and forest before the introduction of cattle and logging grazed it to nothing.  We aren't destroying a desert here; we're trying to fix what used to be. 
Your opinion, albeit stong is just over blown ego not based on anything but a guess on your part.

Second, by doing NOTHING, the landscape will continue to erode and lose soil downstream.  You can't "preserve" an arid, actively eroding landscape by twiddling your thumbs and letting the cacti mulch themselves.  Extreme landscapes call for extreme restorative efforts.  More plants less erosion without the earthworks. Aiding in the establishment of these is a whole hell of alot easier and probably more benificial than ripping the land up. you would end up with a bunch of tumbleweed and sand.

Nor will it repair itself -- it will inevitably end up something like the Sahara, which, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't done much to repair itself in human history.  Nor will it... and at the rate humans are now desertifying the rest of the planet, "protecting pristine desert landscapes" will soon leave this planet looking like the surface of the moon.  (The Lebanese are still waiting for those darn cedar forests to regrow themselves....) It is nothing like the sahara and will only end up looking that way if you run a dozer over it. Nothing you are saying is based on anything factual, just a bunch opinion

This means calling in our friend Mr Bulldozer, cutting enormous swales, and planting highly invasive species.  Ponds were mentioned... but they're a bad idea in a place like pictured, with 10" of rain.  Evaporation will suck any pond dry in a hurry.  You want soakage.

And, if we want Texas not to dry up and blow away every 50 years, this needs to be done on a very large scale.


Unless anyone thinks getting Guv'ner Perry and his preacher boys to cure the gays and pray for rain will achieve better results....


Wow buddy, way to be abrasive. The scars of great ideas dot the landscape out there. Truth is, with out perfect attention to the place you are much more likely to make a sand and weed wasteland. it is not a wasteland at all now and people come from all over the world to enjoy the wilderness and wonder at the vistas.
 
Ichabod Shorthouse
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perma-joy wrote:
I'm new here at the permies forum (hi folks), if O is still around, your TX land is similar to mine in s.e AZ. Your elevation appears to be about 3300' (mine is 4000' and the plants look like what we have here. We're not as hilly but do have elevation changes.

First off, with that much steep ground, watch your roads and the runoff from them. That is a HUGE issue in desert regions where the undersoils are rock-covered caliche / granite outcroppings / gypsum silts. I disagree with the DirtSurgeon that we have to get busy with heavy equipment or the desert southwest will become the Sahara. One disturbed swath of ground on a slope can disrupt a lot of watershed, making for a long battle between you and the seasonal rains if you are trying to get in and out on a regular basis. That's been our biggest problem. As others moved in farther up the watershed, the erosion intensified on our own land.

Like so many folks, we thought water catchment meant damming the washes--not so. It's counter-intuitive--starting at the highest points and catching the water before it gets to the washes. It takes a lot of observing and mapping to put together a good, doable plan for your site. Definitely get Brad Lancaster's books-- he's in Tucson and you can google his website.

Trying to garden on raw land in the desert southwest is sooo much harder than anyplace I've ever lived--I've given up repeatedly, overwhelmed by some new problem that depletes my time and resources. To grow something edible is absolutely mind-bending. I'm not a newbie to permaculture or gardening, but I have yet to grow enough food to feed my family here. I've spent hundreds on carefully-selected trees, shrubs, vines, plants, seeds, omg. 98% succumbed to one thing or another despite my best efforts. I did plant some 'invasive species' and they are doing okay... but they're not edible. By humans anyway.

(Try pecan trees if you want shade and food.)

Tomorrow I will be hauling branches into the fenced garden space and building Sepp Holzer-style raised beds for fall planting. (piles of stuff with dirt mixed in). I think the harvester ants gobbled the lettuce seedlings yesterday, and the newly-transplanted herbs might be gone as well... sigh... they are under knee-high plastic pipe arches with bird netting draped over them so it's not the birds this time...

I'm determined to keep trying... to change my thinking on all these challenges. I've been 'doing battle' with them for years and it's only made me sad and defeated. It's not them, it's my approach,  but I'll be darned if I can figure this place out!

Here's a list of the 'wild challenges' which descend en masse on any newly irrigated / herbaceous spot (add coyotes and bobcat and perhaps mountain lion if you have poultry or small livestock):
--rabbits, hares
--gophers
--rats
--mice
--rock squirrels
--skunks
--grasshoppers
--flea beetles
--open-range cattle
--horses
--loose dogs
--curved-bill thrashers
--english sparrows
--ants
--burmuda grass

The climate varies from months of hot dry winds with dust devils, to torrential downpours, to freezing nights down to single digits. Occasional snow. Hail at any time of year.

Aquaponics using grey water in a hoop house is my next step.

Sorry about the rant... ideas welcome.

Thank you joy  for you input. I put the project off for a year to gather more funds.
 
Charlie Michaels
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so beautiful...
 
John Polk
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Those are stunningly beautiful pictures of a vibrant desert.

@ O, and Perma-Joy, for an edible plant that is native to both the Sonoran and Chiuauan deserts, I recommend the North American variant of Chinese Goji berries:

—Lycium exsertum. (a!,h) LYCI-22. Packet: $2.50
'WOLFBERRY'. Profuse small lavender flowers followed by abundant bright red edible berries. Spiny shrub to 3 - 6 feet. Low deserts, Arizona & México. Very drought resistant. The berries were eaten in great quantities by the Indians, fresh, cooked, or dried like raisins. Good wildlife shrub. Germinates in 2 - 6 weeks.


Last item on this page: http://jlhudsonseeds.net/SeedlistLO-LZ.htm
The code "A! means 1,000 to 10,000 seeds per pack, "H" means high germination.

These are the same berries that sell for $5-10 per 4 oz packets in health food stores.  Be forewarned though that the wildlife will compete with you for the harvest!

EDITED to make link clickable.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I have not had such great luck growing wolfberry from seed.    What's the secret?
 
We don't have time for this. We've gotta save the moon! Or check this out:
Video of all the PDC and ATC (~177 hours) - HD instant view
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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