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David Bamberger 50 yrs wastland to lush oasis

 
pollinator
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I saw this short film the other night and thought it worthy to share this man's story of turning a wasteland area in TX into an oasis of lushness with only one real tool. Planting grass.



David Bamberger is a wonderful inspiration and steward for the land. I truely hope he inspires more to do and think like him.
 
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Interesting. I'd be particularly interested to know the back story to the land as well. How did it get into that degraded state in the first place?
 
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Interesting cause this is 70 miles from my homestead and the landscape is nearly identical. The only exception is my limestone rock is not "swiss cheese". I may have 6ft of topsoil in my flat areas and 0 to 2" on the slopes. I have fews areas that i call a wasteland. Things still grow. The only exception would be abrupt drop offs where there is exposed little cliffs of limestone. So i suspect that things grew there prior. The transformation probably describes the fact that there was no water, now there is.



Main thing i got from video- Remove ash junipers. Where the cedars are, there is no grass. The grass is making the little tunnels that allow the water to go down, rather than sheet away.





 
            
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Um, I'll bite my tongue, but this is close to where I live and this area of Texas with natural springs and ~30" of rain a year has not been a wasteland for centuries.
 
Devin Lavign
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So there was a request for more info on this guy and the place. I am not going to copy paste all the info, but will give some links for those who might want to look further into this. I too was interested in learning more, so looked up more. It is quite interesting. The David is a great example of someone unexpected doing good.

Here is a good article from NPR
https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123068681

Another article from Treehugger
https://www.treehugger.com/conservation/meet-visionary-who-restored-5500-acres-wrecked-texas-land-back-paradise.html

And here is the official site link for the land.
https://bambergerranch.org/

There is some question of what is meant by "wasteland" I will quote David in one of the articles.

"My objective was to take the worst piece of land I could possible find in the Hill Country of Texas and begin the process of restoration," He settled upon a wasteland of 5,500 overgrazed acres of "wall-to-wall brush, there wasn't any grass, there wasn't any water, nobody wanted it,"



Again and again in reference to the land prerestoration I have seen it said it was overgrazed and heavily brushed. A state not supposed to be the natural for this area.
 
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I admire what this man has done.  He did much more than plant grass.

He hired people that could help him with the restoration, engineers and biologists.  He dug many wells.  He started by drilling 7 well and did not find water.

By digging the wells he was able to get the water to the surface by building ponds.


"It took J. David Bamberger over 25 years of toil and trial to achieve his vision of what Selah could be. He struggled with invasive plants, an abused and neglected landscape and mistaken conventional wisdom."

" In the last 20+ years, commitment and resources are still required. In J. David’s words: “Do not initiate an action you are not willing, or capable of sustaining.”


Water Workshop   May 19, 2018

Inexpensive projects, some that you can do yourself, to help you develop hidden water resources:

   How to box low volume seeps and springs
   Storage and delivery of captured water
   Catchment devices for wildlife watering that will help you qualify for the wildlife exemption and save you tax dollars
   Grasses, an invaluable aid in good watershed management

This 8-hour workshop includes some hiking, coffee breaks and lunch, dress for the weather.

https://bambergerranch.org/schedule/water-workshop


Native Grass Workshop   October 13, 2018

Whether you have springs, a well, or simply want a variety of healthy plants and trees growing on your land, grasses are your ally.

When you know grasses you can “read the landscape.” Grasses can be the indicators of hidden seeps, springs, and deep soils. Establishing grasses from seed, restoring damaged fields to native grasses, and improving grasslands through proper management will also be covered.

Don’t take grasses for granted. They are the cheapest, fastest and best form of conservation you have for improving your land and its quality, and your quality of life.

This 8-hour workshop includes some hiking, coffee breaks and lunch. Dress for the weather.

https://bambergerranch.org/schedule/native-grass-workshop
 
wayne fajkus
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Wow. Thanks for posting that. I may attend the water workshop.

 
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I watched the video.  Neat.  Can anyone explain better why/how what he did worked?  And also why trees were not allowing infiltration into the ground?  Was it just because the tree roots didn't slow the surface water enough for infiltration to happen?

If the slowing the surface water was the key, then it seems like other methods could work, too, right?  Like swales on contour, terracing, etc.  But of course, grass was a lot simpler... hmm.  It really expands my ideas of using grass.

Does anyone know the rainfall in his region? I didn't catch that in the short....

Thanks for thoughts....

 
Anne Miller
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Kim Goodwin wrote:I Can anyone explain better why/how what he did worked?  And also why trees were not allowing infiltration into the ground?  Was it just because the tree roots didn't slow the surface water enough for infiltration to happen?



He dug many wells, without the wells he would not have been able to get the water to the surface.


Does anyone know the rainfall in his region? I didn't catch that in the short....




Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve is a 5,500-acre ranch in Blanco County that has been restored to its original habitat. Our mission is to teach ethical land stewardship — by example and outreach.


Historic aveages per month:

http://www.intellicast.com/Local/History.aspx?location=USTX0120


In Texas, especially in The Hill Country, it is common practice to remove the Juniper and Mesquite trees leaving the Oak trees.  The common thought is they use too much water.

Maybe this will explain:

https://texnat.tamu.edu/library/symposia/juniper-ecology-and-management/juniper-control-and-management/

Some highlights:

Dense stands of redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) and Ashe (blueberry) juniper (J. ashei Buchholz) severely reduce forage production, interfere with handling and movement of livestock, degrade wildlife habitat, and they waste our State’s water resources.


Some economic analyses of juniper control may show less-than-favorable feasibility because they assume livestock production is the only ranch enterprise. Most ranches also have the potential for generating revenue through wildlife and recreational enterprises, and a substantial percentage of the landowners in Texas are capitalizing upon these opportunities. Juniper management may be essential to develop, maintain, or improve these wildlife and/or recreational enterprises. Thus, present and future revenues from these additional ranch enterprises should improve the economics of juniper control. Another aspect to consider is the impact of juniper control on the real estate and aesthetic value of the land investment. Excessive juniper control may actually detract from real estate value of ranchland, but careful sculpting of the landscapes to create mosaics of grasslands, savannahs, and juniper woodlands will invariably enhance land values.


The “best” juniper management system depends upon the nature of the juniper infestation, availability of capital, the land owner’s (or manager’s) attitudes or personal preferences, and several other factors. Technology is available to allow landowners to selectively control junipers where they occur in association with desirable browse plants, to thin junipers to an acceptable density, and to create grasslands interspersed with juniper savannahs and juniper woodlands. This “sculpting” of landscapes allows the land owner or manager to optimize the value of his resource for livestock, wildlife, aesthetics, recreation, and real estate.

 
wayne fajkus
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What i have noticed is that very little rain hits the ground under a juniper tree. Its obvious after a light rain. The juniper is dry underneath whereas the oaks have moisture on the ground. If you push a branch, enough water falls off to get you wet. If i am correct, the leaves hold water, keeping it from the ground, and what water does travel down, flows on the trunk. I took pictures after a rain. I will post them if i find them.

Where i have put swales on a slope and a juniper thicket is above the swale, i get no water. My only theory on this is the thick mulch under the tree soaks up any water sheating down on the ground.

One good observation is cows. They always rub against the branches. I assume they are brooming flies off their body. Who knows, the scent may distract flies.

I would not completely gut the area of junipers. My method is to remove chokers. The ones growing up against an oak tree.

Even with selective thinning its a tremendous amount of wood. At this point, to avoid burning, i cut out posts from what i cut and bury (hugel) the rest.
 
wayne fajkus
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2 pics. Dry area under juniper and cows using it to rub off flies.
20180214_094327-480x640.jpg
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20180424_151455-640x480.jpg
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Anne Miller
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wayne fajkus wrote:What i have noticed is that very little rain hits the ground under a juniper tree. Its obvious after a light rain. The juniper is dry underneath whereas the oaks have moisture on the ground. If you push a branch, enough water falls off to get you wet. If i am correct, the leaves hold water, keeping it from the ground, and what water does travel down, flows on the trunk.



Wayne, you are right.  I went out earlier to check on the milkweed that is sitting on a table.  It is almost dry as if we didn't get any rain yet it is about on the drip line for a juniper.  It rained about 2 hrs yesterday.
The leaves hold onto the water..
 
wayne fajkus
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It leads to some interesting speculations.

I never see ant mounds under it.
Rarely see other plants under it.
its rarely wet.

Then you speculate why?
Alleopathic?
Dry?
Shade?
Thick mulch?
Natural pesticides in the sap?
Some of the above?

But if it is known to the insect world to not colonize,  does it matter why?  If its known, will the presence of it be a deterrent. "I smell juniper, don't go in".

This is where my thought process is right now. I got 5 truckloads of juniper chips. The cows are laying on them.   I am curious to see later ( when i spread it), if ant mounds go away. If grass grows through it.

Its interesting thoughts for something that is bulldozered down and burned. If ban is lifted i can always see a few burn piles going by scanning the horizon.
 
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I'm cutting a trail up our hill, and have found a few small Eve's Necklace trees growing under Cedars (Ashe Juniper).  It's the only place they are protected from the deer.  As I cut out the Cedars I'm building brush piles around the Eve's Necklace and other small trees and shrubs that want to grow but are prevented by the shade of excess Cedar and excess (Axis) deer.

 
wayne fajkus
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I am trying to register for may 19 class.  Its says available but when you click to register it says unavailable.

Im calling them but phone has been busy.
 
wayne fajkus
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The reason i said rarely on stuff growing under is i have older growth junipers. Both single trunk and multi trunk. Enough light penetrates to allow some growth. Its also why i think they are not alleopathic.  I personally think its lack of light and water. And to a smaller extent the thick mulch
20180416_193854-640x480.jpg
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wayne fajkus
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Tyler, i think you do this also. Place junipers in dry creek beds. Wild blackberries worked their way through the pile. I thought this was cool.
20180417_161350-480x640.jpg
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Tyler Ludens
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Yes, we're filling some sections of the creek bed with cedar   https://permies.com/t/51421/Creek-repair-brush-dams  

All cedar we cut is used for firewood, brush dams, or brush piles.  Every few years we hire folks to come in to clear and chip some cedar so we have nice chips for paths.  I see no need to waste this useful tree by burning it in piles, but that's what most folks around here do.  As soon as it rains they rush out to set their piles on fire!
 
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