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River as edge, and solutions  RSS feed

 
jesse tack
Posts: 56
Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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Hello,

I have a home with a river that defines 2/3rd of the property line. 3 acres in the thumb of Michigan. The river is 6-15 feet wide at any given rate, and does occasionally freeze and dry nearly up, but mostly runs consistently throughout the year. 

Several questions arise:

1. How do I best utilize this fantastic resource? What would you do?

2.Are there any basic designs that would harness the potential energy generated by the river?
I'm speaking here about turning the rivers mechanical energy to homestead uses, electrical energy, etc.

And lastly, certain areas of the yard flood in spring and with heavy rainfall. This 'yard pond' stays wet and soggy for a week and then recedes back into the river. This may occur 3-4 times per year on average. This also results in manageable basement water seepage. Not serious, but would be good to find a solution to.

3.How best to deal with this area? 

I'm considering bamboo or any water loving plants, perhaps to create a small wetland type area of the yard. Swales to direct and slow water movement towards trees. Cattails. Etc.

Any thoughts are appreciated!
 
Brian Bales
Posts: 90
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Willow are useful to have on a homestead. They are water greedy and will grow happily along rivers or in flood prone areas and do well sucking up a lot of that excess water.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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also in Michigan here..

Well as for the wet ground, is it actually water standing on top of still frozen ground in the spring..that is a problem everywhere where there is any flat or depressed land in Michigan, the snow melts but the ground is still frozen..the best solution to this is to grade all of your property AWAY from your home toward the river..and to NOT provide any dams that  will back up the water, including snowpiles.

as for the planting along the river..that is the easy part..plant everything.

a lot of it depends on your bank height..unfortunately most people's water edge banks are really dry..cause they are high and the water runs quickly off to the river..but if it is a low enough bank that gets some seepage back into it..which some around here are..mucky and swampy you have some opportunities that you would have nowhere else..so use them.

grow swampy lover plants..like elderberries, cranberries, willows if you want willow craft supplies, etc.

likely your water table is kinda high, ours is..so you do have to make sure the plants that you plant will withstand a high water table..some won't..so do your research.

i have a pond here that loses some water level during the heat of July..and so some areas near it are very dry..esp up on the banks..so you have to take that into consideration..

where are you in Michigan...I'm south of the Manistee and between the chase and golden creeks
 
ronie dee
Posts: 618
Location: NW MO
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The river itself doesn't belong to you even if your property is on both sides of the river( U.S.).

The Core of Engineers would have to be consulted as to any alt energy uses or diversions or other man made items involving the river.

Food like fish, fresh water clams, come to mind. Mushrooms and wild greens usually grow along the edges of rivers in the woods. Some people use driftwood to make artistic things out of.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9698
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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If you're able to dig some depressions for ponds, even seasonal ponds can grow a lot of food, though some of it might not be things we're used to eating, like cattails and duck potatoes. 

http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=79
 
ronie dee
Posts: 618
Location: NW MO
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Ludi Ludi wrote:
If you're able to dig some depressions for ponds, even seasonal ponds can grow a lot of food, though some of it might not be things we're used to eating, like cattails and duck potatoes.   

http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=79


Good idea...worth looking into...  If you have seasonal flood area - where i am you can pick up fish in impound waters any way you want - net, hand, gig etc.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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The category of things you can feasibly do and the category of things you can legally do do not have significant overlap. In Michigan you should be allowed to use the water but probably cannot divert it. I would call this a creek or stream, but that is not a hard and fast distinction. I think that planting trees beside it is a great idea, I'd also encourage you to dig your yard pond deeper and hope that you attract some lovely native fish to live in it, and then fish them out and eat them (don't put exotic fish into a pond that connects to the larger environment in a way that fish can traverse) You can also fish out of the creek, though this might not be terribly useful. Primarily you should enjoy looking at the creek, and plant trees along its banks to moderate the flow of water.
 
jesse tack
Posts: 56
Location: SE Michigan, Zone 5
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Great ideas! Thanks.

As for the wet ground @Brenda, the river actually overflows and occasionally overtakes the majority of the  yard. Most often, it fills a 20 X 20 area with standing water on non-frozen land. I'm in Lapeer btw.

I love the mushroom idea, being a big fan of Paul Staments.

The seasonal pond is also a very attractive idea to consider, since it would take very little to make this a reality. After the seasonal pond would dry out mid-summer, would it be an unsightly beast, or still retain an attractive look? I suppose, around the outer edge of the pond, I could plant attractive plants, flowers or trees...

There is already a willow on the property, though rotting, though it seems not a common "permaculture" tree, ie. many uses, functions. Though all trees have many functions of course. Are there possible willow guilds anyone knows anything about?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9698
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Only if it really dries out will a seasonal pond look ugly, but no uglier than it would look in any dormant state such as autumn/winter.  Here our wetlands/ponds often dry out in summer and the plants go dormant, except in wet years.  In your climate things would likely stay green all summer even if most of the water in the pond evaporated, the soil would probably stay moist. 
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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The tips of willow switches can supposedly make a 'tea' that functions as a rooting hormone.  White willow bark has analgesic qualities.  Red & green willow bark were used by Ojibway as a delightful additive to pipe tobacco. 

Blueberries are another plant that does well in bogs and water edges. 
 
rose macaskie
Posts: 2134
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WIllow can feed the live stock cutting the wands for them, keeping it low and within their reach as you would a hedge.
  Is used for bsket making too.
  Bamboo has shallow roots, Geof lawton suggests it for the sides of swales beause of this I suppose, because deep roots would cause the water to drain down into the earth . I imagine deep rooted plants would make channels that lead water down to deepeer levels of the ground but it maybe that all the levels are saturated so there is no where for water to go. engineers would understand more about this. agri rose m acaskie.
 
Rita Paye
Posts: 2
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Be careful to plant natives. Bamboo and willow are problem plants, messy and hard to get rid of if you change your mind. Buckthorn is a terrible invasive in Michigan, where I live. Desirable plants are unable to grow under its black shade, and few birds like the berries. This warning includes fish and other life. The Asian carp escaped from fish ponds that flooded. You don't want to inadvertently degrade habitat for fish or wildlife downcreek.

Much better trees and shrubs are available from county extension sites at low cost. Baby trees and shrubs actually take root and grow faster than big (expensive) ones, if protected from deer and rabbits. This is a great time of year to research and order plants for permanent sustainable plantings.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Is willow not native to michigan? What grows in it's place?
 
Rita Paye
Posts: 2
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While it is true that weeping willow was an important tree to native Americans, and is beautiful at a distance, it is messy because it is weak-limbed. Crack willow is non-native. Because it was introduced by colonials from Europe, crack willow's gigantic profile lines many creeks and thus appears native. Limbs crack and fall in every wind. Willow sucks up water, but you might want to avoid the extra work. Also consider size: these suckers go 70 feet.

If you want gigantic, try sycamore or tulip tree, both originally used for canoes. Better choices for creek banks are shorter natives such as redbud, amelanchier, and cedars. Under theses trees that the birds love, try shrubs like chokecherry and elderberry. All can take the periods of flood and drought.
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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I second (third? fourth?) the recommendation for willow.  There are many, many varieties, so if choosing a native is important to you, you can probably do that.  Willow is not a plant I thought of initially when I became interested in self-sufficiency, because I can't eat it.  But its merits are profound.  It is extremely useful medicinally, can be used to make rooting hormone for starting plants from cuttings, can provide food for livestock, help moderate wet areas, and is useful for making baskets and hurdles.  Not many plants can stack that many functions. 

Personally, I think concerns about non-native plants are valid but often overblown.  Natives are a good idea in principle.  But if you believe in a small carbon footprint and yet don't provide all your needs from your immediate environs, you're either making use of non-natives in someone else's location, or you're causing a lot of carbon emissions, or both.  From my perspective, I'd rather own the responsibility of planting figs, apples, pears and yes, perhaps even bamboo, than maintain a pristine native environment while having someone else grow my non-native plants for me.  So I say, if a non-native will work best for you in this situation, and you can take steps to ensure that it doesn't become a problem plant in your area, then use it.
 
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