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Permaculture in Extreme Desert?

 
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I have land a couple hundred miles N/NE I believe of Terilingua, & made a little progress in 2003 terraforming mostly digging swales. I made a hasty desparture to come back East to raise more money for infrastructure, I literally took a slingshot the morning of my flight & "planted" my property with airborn Fukuoka-style seed balls. What took the best was Atriplex (four wing saltbush) & unbelievably some New York State sourced seed from Honeylocust trees. I am planning on creating a living fence of mesquites when I get back there next August.  My plan is to grow a foraging wonderland for some Blackbuck Antelope as soon as the mesquites knit together and get to 7 feet. My grass mixture did well, it was a conservative mix of Buffalograss, Green Sprangletop, Little bluestem and Blue Grama.  I am planning on using mini pigs to dig out my bothersome creosote bush problem. When I return I am going to plant Sweet Acacia and "tooth-ache tree" more Saltbush, Honey Locusts.  I am going to be copying a plan for a house I know of in Tunisia, entirely underground with a sunken front yard.  I have a triple reinforced 60 cx 60 tarp for shade which doubles as water catchment. My underground tunisian style "hobbit house" will be mostlly adobe brick and concrete derived from the bane of West Texas, caliche.
 
                                  
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Put plants around the house that will grow tall to provide the house with shade to cool it.  Put gutters at the edge of the roof so the rain won't wash out the soil from the tree roots.  Put drums under the gutter downspouts to collect and make overflow hoses that will either go to other drums or go to the garden.  Water in the morning or evening to keep evaporation down.  Use drip irrigation.
 
Posts: 9
Location: Austin TX/Sierra Blanca TX
dog tiny house greening the desert
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It seems I'm four years late to the game. (But that's how I roll!) I just purchased a similar "cheap land" 20-acre plot in west Texas, near Sierra Blanca. I'm getting a lot of good info from this thread. I'm curious-- Kathleen (OP) can you give us an update? Are you still around? I'm curious to see what kind of progress you may have made. I learned from this thread so far is rainwater collection and swales. Rock on...
 
Posts: 128
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Hi Mark.

Where around Sierra Blanca? My property is about 13 miles south on Indian Hot Springs Rd.
 
Posts: 649
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Kathleen, do not buy land that does not have water, good, clean drinking water. Yes, there are lots of threads here about people wanting to buy cheap land and hope there will be water that collects in a swale. Often the ground water in a desert is not drinkable. The reason it's cheap is because there isn't water. Permaculture has ways of catching water when there is water, but if there isn't any, it won't catch enough to do a homestead with animals, plants, toilet flushing, showers, car washing.

Rule Number One about buying land, location, location, location. However much you take your homestead off the grid or make is self-sufficient is up to you. Living off the grid is very time consuming, often exhausting. The last thing you want to be worried about, and you'll be worried about plenty of things, is whether there's enough water.

It will be windy, sand blows and moves around, it gets into everything, including car engines and electrical equipment. Blowing sand pits car paint jobs and windows, and they are expensive.

If there isn't electricity on the land, you'll have to pay a fortune to get it there. If there isn't cell reception you won't be able to get a phone or internet without doing very expensive satellite phone or internet. Then you're stuck paying whatever they want, and it goes up yearly. It is very expensive to develop and empty piece of land.

You'll have to drive to get groceries, hardware store, gasoline, drug stores, and you will probably end up buying water to drink and cook with. All that traveling takes time and gets expensive. I've bought a lot of land in my time, and it's not easy to sell rural property if you change your mind. And you always need to have the option of changing your mind. Sometimes it just gets too overwhelming.

Buying land is an investment. You should be able to improve the land and make it more valuable. But that requires making other people want it so they will buy it from you. But if it doesn't have safe drinking water, you will be throwing good money after bad.


 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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One other important point about living in an arid climate, and that is there is little or no summer or fall rain. The west coast, particularly the inland deserts, only have marginal rainfall between December and April, that's not enough to live with. Other parts of the country that have rainfall in the summer at least have water to collect on a roof, but out West it's a different story.

I was trying several things to get more water these last three years of serious drought, and they didn't work because there's no rain from May to November. Even the dense redwood forests on the very edge of the coast get 25% of their water needs from fog.

And don't get started on harvesting fog. I tried that, too. There's wet fog and there's dry fog, and dry fog won't give you a drop of water, unless you are a redwood tree or a pine tree with millions of needle surfaces and you're in the right location. One summer had some pretty good wet fog, and I got four 30-gallon garbage cans full of water, not enough to even keep the tomatoes going.
 
Posts: 189
Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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Cristo Balete wrote:One other important point about living in an arid climate, and that is there is little or no summer or fall rain. The west coast, particularly the inland deserts, only have marginal rainfall between December and April, that's not enough to live with. Other parts of the country that have rainfall in the summer at least have water to collect on a roof, but out West it's a different story.

I was trying several things to get more water these last three years of serious drought, and they didn't work because there's no rain from May to November. Even the dense redwood forests on the very edge of the coast get 25% of their water needs from fog.

And don't get started on harvesting fog. I tried that, too. There's wet fog and there's dry fog, and dry fog won't give you a drop of water, unless you are a redwood tree or a pine tree with millions of needle surfaces and you're in the right location. One summer had some pretty good wet fog, and I got four 30-gallon garbage cans full of water, not enough to even keep the tomatoes going.


some thoughts i have in the way of solutions: West Texas Chihuahua desert has a different rainfall pattern from CA desert, as you alluded to, with a summer monsoon season typical. I was researching the terlingua ranch area recently, which is not so far from Sierra Blanca (the next county over) Terlingua gets average of 10 inches/year and in the 100year drought that happened a few years ago, got about 1" in a year.
1" of rain on 1200 square feet of roof is about 780 gallons. in an average year, that's 7,800 gallons for 1200 square feet of roof, minus evaporation and inefficiency. lots of catchment area and lots of storage seems to be the 2 way approach to get thru the dry periods. Serious calculation and infrastructure investment seems key here, but there are some very low cost ways of building high capacity tanks. (5' welded wire fencing, black poly pipe ring around the top, 6 mil poly liner after tar paper, black poly pipe arched roof covered by tarp, all covered with chicken wire and plastered with sand/cement and set on level sand could create a 5 foot high, 8 foot diameter tank with about 1800 gallon capacity for a couple of hundred dollars and a couple of days labor. several of these, and you quickly have serious storage capacity. (where i live now i'm spoiled with 24"/year average and never run out of water with only about 1000 gallons storage, but i do use the type of tank i've just described, minus the plaster; i have 2 of them about 300 gallons each i built myself in about a half day each for less than $50 each)
Caution and realism are great and very important, but for someone with a a level head, a lot of guts, solid design skills, adequate funds, and a real life skill set, i think where there's a will there's a way and these cheap lands are a real if challenging opportunity. Who among us will have the guts and determination to succeed doing what has not yet been done???!!!
 
Cristo Balete
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OMG, Kathleen's message was 5 years ago! I spaced about that part! (But it did come up under Recent Topics, not sure how that happened.)

So as long as I am going to go on and on, here, just tossing this out for others, one more thing about American deserts, and that is the often the US Government owns most of the land in places like that, and often has military bases there. That means they store creepy stuff, chemicals and used and outdated planes, tanks, etc., that are leaking chemicals into the ground, and their jets practice military maneuvers over desert areas, and can be a real noise issue, not to mention there are probably no laws out in remote places about their jets flying low over existing structures.

You want to like your neighbors no matter where you live
 
Cristo Balete
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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someone with a a level head, a lot of guts, solid design skills, adequate funds, and a real life skill set, i think where there's a will there's a way and these cheap lands are a real if challenging opportunity. Who among us will have the guts and determination to succeed doing what has not yet been done!!!



Corey, I know what you are saying, and when we've got all the basics, water, shelter, food, those qualities are what it takes. I imagine there are some people who want to go all out, live in an isolated place in harsh circumstances. And always having to be concerned about water is harsh. Year after year, 24/7 having to deal with water collection and keeping it fresh (without mosquitoes and algae and just bad water contamination) , and then using as little as possible, there are so many more interesting things to focus on when living off the land. 780 gallons household use and garden, that's harsh.

Things don't always go as planned. I've had tanks leak, I've had mice get into them and contaminate the water, I've had raccoons, with their clever little hands, work on the water line connection until they got it to give and empty the tank, I've had people forget to shut the valve and empty the tank, ants have gotten in there.

Land can be the thing that makes you money just by appreciating in value because it is desirable. It can be the best investment ever, or it can be the worst nightmare ever that makes you lose hard-earned money.
 
Joseph Johnson
Posts: 128
Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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I like the blunt approach. Cristo has some valid points here. It isn't going to be easy for anyone. I saw abandoned travel trailers and motor homes, partial shacks long since forgotten and a lot of barren empty land when I first went out there. I almost called the seller and told him to stick it. Then I met a few of my neighbors. They loved it. One will probably never know that she closed the sale. She said that because it wasn't easy, she knew she would always have her space. Anyone who could cut it out there was her kind of people, it "separates the wheat from the chaff". When I left her I knew 2 things. This was where I wanted to live, and we would become good friends. It's not gonna be easy, I know that. But I got lucky. I found a valuable resource when I landed on this site, full of people who wanted to help. I will probably never meet any of you personally but I know you are all just a mouse click away. In one of my posts I said I wanted blunt. Don't need sugar coating. I just saw blunt lol
 
Mark Edrys
Posts: 9
Location: Austin TX/Sierra Blanca TX
dog tiny house greening the desert
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Hi, Joseph. The piece I bought is up Big Tank Road, north of SB. On Google Earth, it's near "Rancho Cantu", whatever that is. It looks amazing on my phone and my computer. I'm actually planning a visit in two weeks to see it in person. I'm pretty stoked.
 
Cristo Balete
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Mark, you bought the land sight unseen? You've got to let us know how it goes! I hope you start a thread on it.
 
Joseph Johnson
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Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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Hi Mark

You will be about 30 miles north of my land. Welcome to the neighborhood lol. I love mine I started with 20 acres and after visiting I added 40 more and after a few weeks jumped it to 104+. On the first page of this thread Kathleen posted some pics. That is EXACTLY what the land looks like. Mountains are all around you in any direction and on a clear night with no moon the stars will take your breath away.

You have found a very valuable resource here. Everyone is ready to jump right in and share a wealth of knowledge. In just over a month since I found this forum I have learned more than I ever thought possible.

Looking forward to hearing about your adventures
 
Cristo Balete
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Joseph, how are the issues with the border of Mexico?
 
Joseph Johnson
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Location: Sierra Blanca, TX
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We are about 12 miles and over the mountains from the border but border patrol runs up and down Indian Hot Springs Rd. quite regularly. They are friendly and my neighbors say they respond faster than the Sheriffs department 13 miles away. As for illegals, I am told that they usually are no problem and when they are it is usually just looking for food and water. People who don't stay out there full time generally leave the doors unlocked so there is no reason to break in. They use those cabins just for camping and such so there is never anything left to steal anyway. Permanent residents see them walking across the land occasionally but like I said, no real problems reported
 
Mark Edrys
Posts: 9
Location: Austin TX/Sierra Blanca TX
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Cristo Balete wrote:Mark, you bought the land sight unseen? You've got to let us know how it goes! I hope you start a thread on it.


I sure will, Cristo! I'm developing a blog around it anyway, so I'll make sure I post in this forum as well!
 
Mark Edrys
Posts: 9
Location: Austin TX/Sierra Blanca TX
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Joseph Johnson wrote:Hi Mark

You will be about 30 miles north of my land. Welcome to the neighborhood lol. I love mine I started with 20 acres and after visiting I added 40 more and after a few weeks jumped it to 104+. On the first page of this thread Kathleen posted some pics. That is EXACTLY what the land looks like. Mountains are all around you in any direction and on a clear night with no moon the stars will take your breath away.

You have found a very valuable resource here. Everyone is ready to jump right in and share a wealth of knowledge. In just over a month since I found this forum I have learned more than I ever thought possible.

Looking forward to hearing about your adventures



Joseph, thank you so much! I'm loving this site, especially this "Greening The Desert" section. I appreciate the neighborly welcome. I might have to consult with you on some matters, as I'm a total newbie! But I look forward to the whole experience! Especially the night skies, and the mountain backgrounds. Thanks again for reassuring me I didn't just throw my money away! LOL
 
Posts: 114
Location: Tyler Texas
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I bought 80 acres of Terlingua land and have been visiting my plot for a couple years. Here are a few observations to consider...

1) The good news first, Christmas Mountain Osais is 7 miles, as the crow flies, from my land. When I visited it was indeed an oasis teaming with life and now having a closed canopy is amazingly comfortable inside. A bear broke a limb off a tree and the drastic contrast between dry rock and cactus mountain in the background from within the forest is TRUELY BREATH TAKING!! If I remember I will post a walkthrough video I shot.. The site is located where there is enough rock higher up to fill a wash with flowing water. A rock gabbyon causes the water level to rise and fill a large plastered pond with water. This pond is then pumped to grow trees. With a little design this sight could have been all gravity fed.

2) Drought frequents this land and even the mesquites and pad cactus die back. It's a hard land. Be prepared to survive with 2-7 inches if rain fall.

3) This land was once grass savannah with grass higher than horse bellies. Cotton farming cleared it. Large company investments owned most of the land stripping every dollar, when it would not grow cotton they ran cattle in it, when cows failed, they ran sheep and goats on it until it died. Aqua freea is so eroded it should make you cry. Some rewilded sheep still live near elephant mountain. The land is delicate.

4) The grease wood bush IS alilopathic.

5) Local ranchers have chizel plowed on contour and removed the greese bush and native grass came back in lush the next year!!

6) Soil imprinter was used on a test plot and seeded, it also brought back lush grass.

7) A 5' tall swale near me has 6" trees growing in and thumb sized grass growing super thickly. Nothing grows in the bottom of the swale. I suspect due to the fine sodium bentinite clay that is in the environment. Grows starts a foot up the swale. I think the tree growth would be MUCH better if the trees were managed and thinned so they did not complete with each other.

Water sheets accross the land in downpours. You need to hold it all if possible.

9) Shallow water is there, but undependable and can't be drilled with bore mud. Cable tools drills were uses originally. Perhaps enough swales could soak your needs into the ground.

10) A local cowboy grew up in a house with something like a lamonia where a short bump channels water to a sand pit where it sinks and comes back up under the house and into a lined cistern. He says the water was always cool and good, and filtered!

11) Rammed earth in the ground lined with containment liner custom made in midland makes great water storage for about .04 cents per gallon with a tank holding about 10,000 gallons. Do NOT put all your water in one tank. Pump water to a water tower for daily use, so if you forget a hose or break a line you are out of water for a day instead of 11 months!

12) Water open to the air here can easily evaporate half of it!

13) A Earth bermed house where sun is kept off the top and sides stays comfortable. Another, has sun on the south side and is uncomfortable after a month of summer.

14) Night Sky Radiant cooling/heating works better in this climate than anywhere, uses less power than a swamp cooler!

15) Shade houses are more useful than green houses. Plants reach photo-exaustion in about 1/3 of a day.

16) Deer, and rabbits WILL kill small trees. Deer will not jump over a fence they can't see over. Peanut butter on an electronic fence scares dear away fast. Night scope and a rifle fixes rabbits quickly, though rabbit poop everywhere has a good fertilizing effect.

17) Large numbers of pomegranate trees are growing in the area with drip irrigation.

18) Digging down and planting trees lower than ground level is great. Like in brackets as discussed in bill mollisons DVD permaculture course.

19) Growasis water boxx or pvc pipe and wicks as per the US Forestry experiments with wicking uses less water than drip irrigation.

20) Hauling water sucks..

21) A lady with 1/4 acre under insulated roof gets enough condensate drip to keeps water tanks full for a house of 2 people!! Geoff Lawton mentioned this for subtropics, up to 80% of anual rain fall is gained..

22) Solar panels can be bought as low as $.32 cents per watt via sunelec !! Get on the mailing list only a few times a year you get the deals. 1 pallet isnusual minimum order. I.e. 21 three hundred twenty watt pannels plus $550 shipping cost for a pallet. Led acid batteries charged daily to 16.2 volts using a Tesla charger will last 20 years. Tesla Wall Battery cost 3500 for 7.5 kw hours of lithium batteries. Nickel iron batteries last a lifetime, but must have distilled water auto fed into them.

23) No radio, no TV, no cell phone in much of the area. Perhaps the best addition to life.

24) Always take a hat, knife, and water. Even for short trips!!!

25) Rattlesnakes don't always rattle.

26) keep and epi pin,if black scorpions might kill you!

27) Organic food and a great store is located in studyButte.

28) UPS runs every day and you can order meat and milk, or anything online. Trips to town add up.

29) Veggies grow best in fall and winter, with frost cover.

30) Marama beans were test grown by local university, it can cover 1/4 acre with one vine, is tasty and takes 4 years to grow to size and produce much food and shade for the ground.

31) Shade your young trees. Best to grow desert heardy species first then plant fruit trees a couple years later.

32) Mulch, mulch, mulch. Shade the ground.

33) Acacia, mesquite, paleo Verde, cactus, agave grows quite well.

34) Some mesquite beans taste nasty, just go to another tree.

35) 110°F is common and 18° F in winter is too. It's hot, cold, dry, windy, desert.

35) Rocket stoves work great, as stick fues is all you will have anyway, so be sure your nitrogen trees produce stick fuel!

36) Build a breezy 5.5 kw generator for cheap power. Wind blows most evenings.

37) Compost in ground. Humanure buckets suck, so if you have surlpus water put in a rv toilet and build a composting flush toilet. Use reed beds to clean up the water and deliver it to nitrogen or shade trees. A tree bog works great for this too..

I probably forgot much more, but these observations seem important to me. Take what you can use..

We need to all meet at the alpine chihuahua desert harvesters and learn what we can eat locally.
 
Corey Schmidt
Posts: 189
Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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Dan alan wrote:I bought 80 acres of Terlingua land and have been visiting my plot for a couple years. Here are a few observations to consider...

...

7) A 5' tall swale near me has 6" trees growing in and thumb sized grass growing super thickly. Nothing grows in the bottom of the swale. I suspect due to the fine sodium bentinite clay that is in the environment. Grows starts a foot up the swale. I think the tree growth would be MUCH better if the trees were managed and thinned so they did not complete with each other.

...


Thanks for the awesome post! there's a lot of good info i'd been searching for in there.

did you really mean the trees are 6 inches? not 6 feet?
thanks : )
 
Dan alan
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Yes, the trees are 6 inches in diameter and perhaps 15 feet tall. They are so close together that it's limiting their growth. It proves to me that it's possible to grow trees in swales, even in Terlingua. That is, if you have enough water flow on land scape.
 
Corey Schmidt
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Thanks for the response : ) I was envisioning a carpet of 6"tall trees. 15' tall 6" diameter thats pretty impressive. maybe theoretically some could be chop n dropped and some more high value trees planted among them....`
 
Posts: 108
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Don't forget Jujube (Ziziphus Zizyphus) as a fruit which would do well here.

Similar to dates, but with their own unique flavor.

[ just now saw this was page 3, and that this was already mentioned, but couldn't find a way to delete it]
 
Dan alan
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Geoff Lawton has answered a specific set of questions about my Terlingua property!!

The Question:


In the desert with 2% grade, will trees grow from concentrating rain from single swale into a soakage like pit?

Details?

I have in mind concentrating 1 or 2 acres into a pit looking similar to the grass land spill way page 352 of the designers manual. I want to grow a 1/4 acre food forest in the pit bottom with a house built all the way around. Will I be able to gain and concentrate water on this slope? Is there a minimum grade for making this workable?

Our land has a 2% grade and it appears water sheets across the land when it downpours. A large berm up hill stops good water flow from reaching our land. I think Bill Said in the original PDC DVD that you place a swale every 15 feet of elevation drop? So, I am thinking I can only place 1 swale on 40 acres.

The pit will be 3 foot deep soakage pit where the trees will be grown. The entire pit will have a Japanese style house all the way around it.

The normal rainfall is 12 inches, but 8 inches has been the normal rainfall. We have a shallow well and can drip irrigate. Rain collected from the roof will be about 40,000 gallons at 8 inches.

Our location is in the Texas Chihuahua desert here:
29.5 -103.3

Elevation about 3000 feet.

There is some bentonite clay in the soil, a sandy gravel mix. I noticed the berm uphill, not on my property, has large trees and huge grass growing one foot up the berm, but nothing grows in the bottom of the swale; clay?

Is this design viable? Will I collect enough water? Will I drown the trees when the one big rain comes?

Is it okay to plant trees in a flat soakage pit with mulch, or should I plant on mounds to avoid settling clay particles?



The answer:
http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/council-4-22-16

The answer is about 20 minuets into the audio podcast over at The Survival Podcast with Jack Spearco

I am very thrilled to get an answer Directly From Geoff Lawton!

His answer is yes it will work well. Put in swales as close as 60 feet to break drying winds and making shade with Desert Hardy nitrogen fixing trees. Use drip irrigation for establishment. Fast cycle mulch from nitrogen trees to build organic matter and reduce evaporation.
Terlingua-(1).JPG
Texas Chihuahua desert
Texas Chihuahua desert
 
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Very cool! I love this stuff!

 
Corey Schmidt
Posts: 189
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very cool, thanks for sharing. I enjoyed hearing Geoff's response too. I am also curious about the trees not growing in the bottom of the swales there and the causes and implications of that. I did a lot of google earth surfing of terlingua and saw quite a few ponds with trees around but not in them and wondered if no trees in the bottom due to actual flooding (occasionally they are full of water), or maybe salt concentration by the water...?
 
Dan alan
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I suspect trees do not grow in the swales because the seeds do not get under the soil and are eaten. The soil in the bottom has a lot of fine clay in it and is hard. I have a surge water pit by the road. It grows flowers and grasses in the bottom, but trees start only around the edge a foot up. I planted seeds so I will see.

Geoff should know about this so I suspect if compost is mixed in and mulched over trees will grow...
 
Posts: 121
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Interesting to find this thread. I live up in Gaines County 4.5 hours north northeast of the Ranch. Though our average rain is a little more around 16-18" per year. The past few years have been cooler then when I was in High School back in 96 when July, August temperatures were 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit. lately seems to be 100-105 and not as many hot days. I have been seeding cover crops the past few year and last year I have really seen a difference along with doing this I have seen cotton tails and quail coming more and more to my land. Jan 2015 updated aerial photos and my land stands out in the arid environment here. I do not water anything and I still have good vegetation growing now. It just takes patience if you have low funds as I have but I must say this one spot on my land has some neighbors jealous cause i don't water and it looked like this last spring.



I finally got me a laser level last week so plan on flagging me off contours till i can afford to rent equipment to dig the larger scale stuff since I have really bad Caliche land.
 
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i have a friend who bought land at terlingua ranch and I almost moved there do my greening the desert to reverse desertification project. It is an excellent place to demonstrate permaculture principles. Anyone can easily do these techniques with very little money.
Gabe brown’s video on his farm in north Dakota will knock your socks off.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_GEpq59urY
He is dry land farming 2000 acres with 15 inches of rain per year and he is not fertilizing his land at all. This is real permaculture. He is growing mainly grasses and legumes, but one year he put in 30 acres of vegetables and they did well. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE. It will revolutionize your thinking. The main point he makes is that as the organic content of the soil increases, and this can only seriously happen with no till, the amount of water the soil retains increases. He actually talks about soil retaining more water than can be stored in a huge reservoir. This is the reason he can grow vegetables with no irrigation.
Please watch the video for yourself. I do not watch z lot of videos because it takes them 10 minutes to say what I could read in one minute. This video is jam packed , every minute with top of the line permaculture.
No till is taking off around the world and we need to get with the program. People still tell me that Fukuoka san’s work cannot be duplicated here in the u.s. that is not true and there are thousands of people doing it.
He mentions in the video that it has taken him 20 years to get his soil to where he is now, which is on most of his acerage around 5.5% organic matter and some places 11%%. He also says he did not know how to do it when he started and now believes he could do it very quickly. What he uses is a mixture of grains, and legumes. He believes the system needs many different grains and legumes and he rotates his grazing land where he has more than 20 different varieties in with his corn, clover plantings (or other grain plantings). He mentions how the mycorhyzal fungi increase the length of the plant roots (and I will add by at least 10 times.)
What I have been doing and teaching for 15 years (and Elaine Ingam is also doing and teaching) will work. See Elaine Ingham video, the Roots of Your Profits. We are adding microbes including mycorhizal fungi. I have posted other places on Permies how I grew when I was in india in 130 degree weather in sand subsoil with 1 inch of rain during the whole growing season (a failed monsoon). I was planting under 40 year old coconut trees so I had shade. what I did here was repeat the microbe tea every 10 days. This is what I would do on terlingua ranch. The microbe tea amounted to a 2 gallon watering can doused over every 200 feet of a 6 foot wide planting. I did this in India over 5 acres. We got wonderful production in 3 months. The sand turned into deep black rich soil about an inch a week in the growing season. Buying effective microorganisms and soluble mycorhizal fungi is costing me 1000 for 20 acres to do 5 different applications. You can also make the microbe tea from on site weeds per Elaine ingham.

I am mostly not doing swales anymore because of the high cost of installation and how well the higher organic matter holds the water and how quickly this water retention. Of course I do not want to see the water leaving the land and I love how swales and ponds increase the wells in the area, so after I got the money from the farm, I might do some of this work.
At terlingua ranch it is very expensive to dig a well and most of the water from the wells is not useable by plants. Probably a filter could be found that would work. Everyone there gets their water from water catchment. And they do a roof first and add buildings under it.
Another thing about terlingua ranch is that the creosote or greasewood bushes are chapparal and this might be a good market crop.
We are now doing our project in a desert part of eastern Oregon where we get 8 to 15 inches of rain. I was looking for a place to demonstrate these technics as they reverse desertification and if more people do them it can reverse climate change. Please see my thread in Cascadia.
I am happy to advise your project and want to encourage anyone to take on similar projects as we can change the farming practices all over the world with these demonstrations. Farmers can actually make more money using these technics s gabe brown says in his video because of no irrigation, and no added fertilizers.
As I said elsewhere, my next project will be to take a desert property and grow biofuels. Growing the biofuels without adding water and in places where the land is unusable for agriculture will reverse desertication and climate change and give us biofuels. The problem is the solution.

I am growing a lot of berry plants here in addition to the trees recommended in this thread. They are blackberry, tayberry, black cap raspberry, service berry, gogi berry, all great dry land crops. Also you will need a lot of nitrogen fixing trees. One of the reasons this project is affordable is that we grow all plants from seed. I believe this is better as most nurseries overwater the trees. We also want to plant them out so we do not break the tap root. What I learned in india is that the deep rooted nitrogen fixers not only allow the water to penetrate deeply into the soil but they will bring that water back up for themselves and for the neighboring plants, so I call them bore well trees.
 
Dan alan
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I want to try the microbe teas and givumreitum at Terlingua. On wet years I suspect a lot of organic content can come from soil life. However, Terlingua gets 8" or less rain each year and is frequented by drought. Two years ago even the pad cactus and agave were dying. So, as Geoff says, we must get the timing of things correct. If we start in drought years efforts may fail or require waiting a couple years. If, however, you locate your self correctly you have access to huge flows of water (I.e. Christmas mountain oasis) or options to build limonia catchment on large rocks. Estaishment water can also be collected with large shallow check dams on flat land, pumping the water into large tanks. Wells are to expensive and a gamble. Large solar stills could work, but are also expensive on a scale large enough to be useful.

It's meaningful work and results are so dramatic.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I really like that Gabe Brown video, very inspiring!
 
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Indeed! That video really opened my eyes! I'm going to look into doing that on my property.
 
charlotte anthony
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great robbie, glad to hear it. you can get great results the first year if you add microbes directly. here where the carbon is low and hence the water holding capacity is low, we will use Effective microorganisms and soluble mycorhizzals every 10 days. where are you? that way you can get what it took gabe brown 5 years the first year.
 
charlotte anthony
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dan alan, are you at terlingua ranch. i was there during december of last year, almost did my project there. i found several areas on the piece of land that i was going to use where water had been flowing, so i assume it is like india, even with small amounts of overall rain, there is still a goodly amount of rain in certain areas. i want to say again that i started a demonstration in a place with a failed monsoon. only 1 inch of rain during the entire growing season. there were several mitigating factors, shade from palm trees, 10 applications of microbe teas, and 2 applications of cow wash in trenches that were 2 feet deep made to irrigate the coconut trees. we were actually growing on the uphill side of these trenches. there were wonderful crops. i need to also say this was sand subsoil.

gabe brown gives some values in his video about how much water soil with lots of organic matter can hold and we should not underestimate what the soil can do with very little water.

when i was at terlingua ranch i was looking for a place to apply what i have learned about dry land agriculture and finally settled on kimberly, oregon where it is 8 to 15 in of rain a year. i would have loved to work in terlingua texas, but the arrangements with a working partner were better here in kimberly.


 
Dan alan
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Yes, on the ranch. Organic matter is very lacking. I'm thinking soil imprinting with native grasses along with adding soil orginisms will improve the broader land scape. It's going to take some time to retain moisture.
 
charlotte anthony
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i have said this before and will say it again. if you use microbes every 10 days, it will allow what you grow to take hold and you can have results in one season. i have done this hundreds of time with great results. it does not take years, months yes, but during these months your plants can grow. i would say with the microbes that you make rich black soil at the rate of 1.5 inches per nonth. i am only repeating this because we have as a permaculture community ideas that soil building takes a long time and it does not.
 
charlotte anthony
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i have said this before and will say it again. if you use microbes every 10 days, it will allow what you grow to take hold and you can have results in one season. i have done this hundreds of time with great results. it does not take years, months yes, but during these months your plants can grow. i would say with the microbes that you make rich black soil at the rate of 1.5 inches per nonth. i am only repeating this because we have as a permaculture community ideas that soil building takes a long time and it does not.
 
charlotte anthony
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james everett, what are the trees growing in this glorious picture?
 
Dan alan
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I plan to try. The question then is how to grow a large enough supply of microbes using available material.

Bean flower I can do. Gallons of cow urine or dung, no.

Suggestions?
 
charlotte anthony
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what elaine ingham says to do is to gather the weeds and then cover whatever weeds you have gathered with water and let ferment for 21 days. you then stir for one minute counterclockwise and `1 minute clockwise several times a day. after 21 days you dilute about 10 times and spread with sprayer or watering can.

i have always bought Effective microorganisms and soluble mycorhixxals b.ecause of large acerage and time constrains (when i am in the U.S.).

when i was working in sand subsoil in india and there was a failed monsoon i repeated every 10 days. the soil was amazing as were the plants.

the microbes can feed themselves with soil so you do not need to worry about how much plant material they have. to make them grow especially quickly give them something like rock dust, silt, small pieces of soil and they will grow very quickly. here we are using volcanic ash.
 
Dan alan
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charlotte anthony wrote:..weeds you have gathered with water and let ferment for 21 days. you then stir for one minute counterclockwise and `1 minute clockwise several times a day. after 21 days you dilute about 10 times and spread with sprayer or watering can.



Question, must it be an anaerobic fermentation? Can I ferment in an aeration air lift bucket and multiply microbes?

You know there are not a lot of weed, or anything, in the desert..
 
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