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Cold climate chinampa

 
Posts: 24
Location: Southern Alberta
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Looking at 100 acres that is flat and wet.  Some areas that are a couple feet higher and support scrubby birch, otherwise the grass is chest high.  Zone 4 -30C in winter, +30C in summer.  Mosquitoes are horrendous.  The price is right since it has no utility for conventional agriculture; too wet for equipment and grazing for most of the year.     It is a few miles from a Ducks unlimited wetland so the water table in the area is high.  Land to the north is higher and conventionally cropped; land slightly slopes to the south.  An adjacent plot plans on establishing a bee farm.  

The answer that comes to mind is chinampas.  The price is right so I would have headroom to have someone come in and do some land sculpting.  Essentially cutting channels for the water ways and piling the soil on the land strips for growy things.  I walked the land June 2017, water was barely sub-surface in some of the low areas (I'd sink deep when walking the low spots).  It didn't have the stink of anaerobic decay tho.

-anybody have experience/insights on cold climate chinampas?
-being so flat, would I just end up with a stagnant fetid mess?  
-suggestions on dealing with the mosquitoes?


 
Posts: 947
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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I would be concerned about the 'conventionally cropped land' uphill. Now if by conventional you mean conventional organic then they're just importing soil for you, not a big deal.

If it's conventional conventional though...... Could be very nasty.

As to the subject of mosquitoes, ducks should help control the larvae. I would be tempted to build a quail aviary around my house for further protection of my living space (plus quail are delicious.)
 
K Revak
Posts: 24
Location: Southern Alberta
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I guess what I was looking for is
-comments/thoughts on chinampas in cold climates
-how do I go about confirming that if I sculpt canals that they will retain water throughout the summer and not just become mud holes?

 
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Land is cheap for a reason.

Whether the canals will stay as canals depends on the type of soil.
You will need to study soil mechanics or talk with a person who is trained in the use etc of soil. I just can't recall the job title at the moment.
For a start I would look at drains, culverts in the area to see if any have 'sides', IE some ability to stand up rather than just ooze down like a muddy slope.
If there are none, I think you will have trouble.
 
Posts: 671
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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My guess the land is on muskeg right? Either that or you have Canadian shield close to the surface. Best to dig down in a few spots to find out.

You can check out this blog on exactly what you're asking about:
Thunder Bay Permaculture - What To Do With Swampy Land?

There's also a post about dealing with Canadian shield hardpan here:
Thunder Bay Permaculture - Improving Soil on the Canadian Shield

Finally, there is a good series on youtube that documents a crater garden installation among other useful things. The first episode is here:
 
master pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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bee dog forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
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Hi K.

I like the broad strokes of your solution, but how you fill in the details will determine whether you end up with a highly productive chinampas-based permanent aquacultural system or a swampy hole.

You said birch? I would set up a trial for an idea that might work in your situation. Coppice all the birch you can without negatively affecting the space. You can use this birch in two ways for the purpose of this trial.

One is to pound in all the birch you can in a block in your lowest-lying area, leaving the tops of the cut trunks above the high water mark, and then pile dredgings and organic materials on top of the platform you have just made to build a garden bed. The birch piers you have just driven into the subsoil will act as giant wicks as well as structure, sub-irrigating the new bed in drier times and keeping it out of the water in the wet.

The other is to use the birch piers in the same manner, but either just building the perimeters of the chinampas, or using them as a form for a retaining structure that might include other fill, like rocks, for instance, or other types of organic matter, to pile up a garden bed out of dredgings and organic matter.

You could even map out the area physically by pounding piers in to define the corners of the chinampas, and have the retaining infrastructure in place to hold the excavated soil before you dig into it, thereby preventing it from turning into a big mud puddle.

Oh, incidentally, you could look at what simply enhancing natural heights and dips in your property might do, building retaining infrastructure around existing high points and digging lower ones down. You might end up with ponds in every low spot, but more depth, and the possibility to connect them with channels from top to bottom of the system, even if the total difference in height is no different than the gradual slope of the land.

If you needed or wanted to, you could even move water from the bottom of the system back to the top with a solar-powered pump, or oxygenate the top pond with a solar-powered bubbler or fountain, should you find there's enough flow, but if you have concerns over oxygenation.

I love this solution for swampy land. I would probably look into heavy-feeding coppicing water-loving species of tree for any lump of land not being used for chinampas-style cultivation. This would provide constant biomass, structure for the land in the form of tree roots, and a mechanism for removing excess nutrients from the water, with eutrophication due to runoff from your conventional neighbour to the north.

As to that last, I would look to see if there was an opportunity for a long, wet swale, possibly topped with coarse gravel, stretching across the northern perimeter of your property, designed to stay wet. I would design it such that it grows a reed filtration system guild using analogs from your area. I would do this to combat any chance of subsurface water pollution and the runoff plume from your neighbour to the north.

Great ideas. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
John C Daley
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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using analogs from your area


What are these things please?
 
Chris Kott
master pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Oh, sorry. By analogs from the area, I meant reed and filtration plants local to the area.

-CK
 
John C Daley
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I have never seen that word used in that context before
I researched the word
'A structural analog, also known as a chemical analog or simply an analog, is a compound having a structure similar to that of another compound, but differing from it in respect to a certain component.

I am not sure in what contact you meant it? I am intrigued.
 
K Revak
Posts: 24
Location: Southern Alberta
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The land is in the Camrose AB area.  Classified as Morainal, Black Chremomics.  Excellent deep soil farmland.  I haven't worked out in my mind why this patch is so water laden but there is a ducks unlimited wetland a few miles away that has been going dry.  Thanks for the great pointers.  Will review and try to grok it.  
 
Chris Kott
master pollinator
Posts: 2830
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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This is from the google definition.

From the Google results for the search "analog definition"

an·a·log
ˈanlˌôɡ/Submit
adjective
adjective: analogue; adjective: analog
1.
relating to or using signals or information represented by a continuously variable physical quantity such as spatial position or voltage.
(of a clock or watch) showing the time by means of hands rather than displayed digits.
noun
noun: analogue; plural noun: analogues; noun: analog; plural noun: analogs
1.
a person or thing seen as comparable to another.
"the idea that the fertilized egg contains a miniature analog of every adult structure"
CHEMISTRY
a compound with a molecular structure closely similar to that of another.



You pulled out the chemistry definition, where the original word is being used in a specific, technical context.

My usage was in the context of the part that immediately preceeded the CHEMISTRY definition, a person or thing that is seen as comparable to another, a stand-in.

A specific example would be what is being done with Pleistocene rewilding projects around the world, where areas are being repopulated with animal species that either used to live there when the ecosystem was more vital and self-complicating, or with analogs of those species that are extinct, such as North American Bison standing in for the European Bison or Wisent in the Russian project.

-CK
 
John C Daley
Posts: 743
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Thanks Chris, its a new word for me.
I am still confused over it, but time may heal that.
I will admit I had only seen it used as analogue / digital before, not realised a variation.
regards
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