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Revitalize 10 Acres Hot, Dry South Texas With Limited Water (and money)  RSS feed

 
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The title pretty well sums it up. I installed a well at the top of a gentle grade on my ten acres. there are scrawny mesquite trees over almost all of the land. Sandy, high percolation rate. In a flood zone, but even in pounding rain there is no runoff, water goes straight through it. Well is capable of producing 7gpm, but that's a scary gamble to plan your life on. Have goats, sheep, donkey, chickens, ducks.

I've been thinking to use Bill Mollison's bunyip level to make a very gradual down hill artificial "stream" kind of thing, with stops and heavy metal catchers and a few deep places along the way. But this is months, maybe years of shoveling on my knees, smooshing wet cement along the way. Thought maybe to use PDC wicking method to draw water out of this little trough toward trees or clumps of (currently nonexistant) plant life.

It's just daunting, and I don't know if after building such a thing if it would even do the trick. I am hoping to create enough life in the soil that biological matter will stay there and stay moist long enough to keep itself alive.

thanks in advance.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Jeez, that's tough. 

Just pure speculation here, but I'm thinking can you put any biomass on top of that dirt? woodchips from arborists in the city, brush, weeds that no one else wants, reject hay...anything to build biomass.  Even if you shape the land, the water would just go through, but with biomass you at least would make a place where some roots could get purchase.  Then the more taprooted things might have a chance of surviving and gradually building biomass down below that...also I'm thinking vines that cover a lot of territory even if you have to give them little boxes to root in, they could spread biomass, and also create a bit of shade that would allow for things that like cool.

Your animals trampling the soil could help (rotational grazing, paddock shift system...though it seems there's nothing for them to graze, you could at least rotate them through the land on approximately that kind of schedule so they massage it with their hooves...and their poop will help some.  If you can rescue throwaway food from dumpsters for feed that might help your costs.

I looked up the bunyip level to learn about it, and there's ways of using modern phones with it to make a map: https://permaculturenews.org/2016/06/13/bunyip-water-level-measure-contour-lines-swales/. ; That might make things easier.

Other thoughts are  that this is geoff lawton territory, greening the desert...and hugel beds also (sepp holzer has used them in reversing desertification, I believe).  They could help make a hospitable zone for taller trees to grow, and then you could capture dew, get some shade going, drop leaves and fruits for animals to feed on...

What kind of root systems do mesquite trees have? anything else thriving in this climate? any wild animals?
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Wow--mesquite trees can get to 50' tall, and I assume they taproot down too when they do. 

from wikipedia:  Prosopis spp was originally introduced to help with erosion because of its deep root system.[8] It also has immediate uses to humans through timber and providing a food source through its pods.

And they'r leguminous! which means they should be nitrogen-fixing, yes?

Looking forward to what more knowledgeable posters have to say on this.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Jeff Rash  Original Poster
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Location: Arizona & North Dakota
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Hi Neal,

I hear you there. I use to see exactly the same thing in Kingman. Even the owls go underground in our deserts! I have the cutest picture of nine owlets in a hole my dog dug. There are lots of little heads watching me in the photo. I will see if I can scrounge that pic up.

I was amazed at how deep the soils are out there too. When they were drilling my well, they needed a temporary pool of water. They dug a pit over 10 feet deep and then lined it with plastic. While digging it, we came across several "ant freeways" and several more desert rat transit tubes. I was amazed at how deep they were and how trusting the ants were. The tubes were easy 6 feet deep and many were deeper. The ants just kept falling out of the tube and would crawl out the sides with a question mark look about them. (Maybe they were rear ended by the ants behind them?)

Anyway, my point is that it is amazing just how deep life goes in the desert! And it is amazing how deep the soil goes too. So I think you should be able to work out something with the geothermal mass- should work great. DO keep in touch and let us know how that works out. I am interested in various techniques for heating the green house with passive heat, but want a real world opinion from a fellow desert dweller.

Jeff



from a thread about greenhouses for desert conditions, but seems relevant...i had no idea what may be going on on under the desert floor...seems not to be going on where you are, but maybe down deeper?? what insects do you see? in Africa they use termites in the way you use earthworms here , to fill a similar niche and function I mean.
 
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This article is more for wildlife though the concept could be used for livestock and for watering plants.  It is something that I rarely see mentioned.

One underused method for attracting wildlife is the installation of watering devices to provide a supplemental source of water for animals. Land managers are also harvesting rainwater to better distribute water on the landscape, thus increasing the amount of usable space for wildlife.



https://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/wildlife/




 
gardener
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Most of my water techniques rely on having run off.  The soil here is very shallow above rock, so there is no where for it to soak in. Developing our soil and adding biomass greatly enhances the amount of water we keep on our land.

Something to consider about water storage is that in a dry climate you will have a lot of evaporation.   Here in central Texas if water storage is the primary goal it is better to have sealed cisterns or let the water be stored in the soil itself. Open water in ponds, tanks and streams is more for wildlife and aesthetic reasons than it is for storage.

Mesquite trees can have roots easily three times their above ground height. That water infiltrating your soil is probably feeding directly into where you draw your well water from.

I'm guessing on the little you've posted here, but I suspect what would do you more good than a stream is to increase the water holding ability of the soil surface so plants can get established enough to send down roots to the deeper water source. Joshua gave you great advice there.

I think deep brush piles would be particularly useful in your situation. They would combine organic matter with shade to protect the soil from sun and a wind break to help keep what water has accumulated in the soil.  Small animals will shelter year round in such piles and add their manures to the soil.  The only downside I find in having a brushpile is that the birds continually plant things like grapevines and hackberry trees in my suburban yard. In a situation where nothing grows at all, I suspect this would be yet another benefit.

Ten acres doesn't sound like you're near any city, but if you are and dump trucks can access your land, maybe you can contact local tree trimmers and landscaping businesses. It may be a bit morbid, but maybe even smaller city government, in the wake of extreme storms when they are trying to clear all the storm damaged trees from the streets. The biggest concern is that the more people you contact the more energy you need to spend being sure they won't try to treat your land as an all round dumpsite. Starting with tree trimmers and related industry is probably safest. At least you can be fairly sure plant debris is their main waste.
 
Casie Becker
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Actually,  here's a crazy thought.  Gathering seaweed from the beach is illegal but there's a highly invasive water weed that grows in your neck of the woods. Water hycanith https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2016/oct/scout2_invaders/ ; If you have no water ways on your land, I bet you would be an ideal dumpsite for this.  There are actually many gardeners who keep a pond specifically to grow mulch for their land gardens. It's a great way to use an invasive plant where you know it won't spread.  That article includes information on who to contact to get a permit to be able to transport it yourself without getting in legal trouble.  The state government has a serious hate on for this plant.
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Casie Becker
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Actually,  here's a crazy thought.  Gathering seaweed from the beach is illegal but there's a highly invasive water weed that grows in your neck of the woods. Water hycanith https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2016/oct/scout2_invaders/ ; If you have no water ways on your land, I bet you would be an ideal dumpsite for this.  There are actually many gardeners who keep a pond specifically to grow mulch for their land gardens. It's a great way to use an invasive plant where you know it won't spread.  That article includes information on who to contact to get a permit to be able to transport it yourself without getting in legal trouble.  The state government has a serious hate on for this plant.
 
Michael Sohocki
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As a matter of fact....
I DO have some brush piles.

Most of them were piled up when we cut the road.

Neighboring farmers & ranchers scream at me for leaving them there, tell me to burn it all up--complaining that they will breed snakes and rats and whatever else. But a little voice inside my head keeps telling me to leave them there. There are about 12 such piles around the 10 acres, each of them about the size of a Mack truck. I guess my logic was something like the small animals need a hiding place in this habitat, and maybe the shade and mulch would hold onto a little more cool and moisture then the rest of the land provides, and give them a leg up.

While I'm sure this is theoretically true, everywhere I can see into the middle of these patches it is dry as a bone all the way through and through. The evaporation rate here is huge, like a scattering of french fries on tin foil in a broiler.

I'm afraid the execution of that plan of mine was just a brick shy of a load.

From a previous growth of tall trees, there was a large die off. Many trees, of approximately the same age, all died and fell over at the same time. Trunks between 12 and 16 in in diameter are rotting over the ground, turning into soil. I can drive my hand right through them. Even so, this is also entirely dry, and seems to be a completely dry process. There is no moisture in the tree, under the broken bits, or in the soil below. Dry, dry, dry.

If the biomass layer gets thick enough, sure, it just can't help but retain water and life. But the amount of biomass we are talking about to reach six inches across ten acres is just unfathomable.

I posted a few ads on Craigslist, asking any tree trimmers to please dump all their worldly goods on my land as possible. No phone calls were ever returned. I guess the blunt truth is that poor folks around here don't pay anybody to do citified stuff like tree trimming. The notable exception is the highway department, who definitely trims the trees off of power lines and mulches the result, but they have their own axe to grind. Our waste management system has a tie in with a landscaping materials company, who makes potting soil available for resale. It would not be in the highway department's best interest to damage the profitability of said company, who pads their bottom line.

There are dump sites, two in San Antonio, which course shred all the brush and trees that are brought there (including, ironically, tree trimmers who won't dump here) With a city utility bill, you can go and pick up this coarse mulch for free, or close to free. By "coarse" I mean REALLY rough, like maximum of fourteen inches across and thick around as my wrist.This seems to be the closest to realistic source of biomass I have access to--then the simple transportation of an absolute mountain of biomass becomes my only impediment.

My road, pictured, which is fourteen feet wide and almost a thousand feet long, required nine sixteen wheelers of road base to be about four inches thick--bare minimum to stay put and be a solid thing. With that coverage as a gauge, the number of semi loads of mulch is just--I mean, it makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

This photo is fairly typical of the rest of the land.
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Casie Becker
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Something to keep in mind as I throw out ideas is that I have never been responsible for more than half an acre. All my experience is with shallow caliche and slightly deeper clays. I have stronge opinions and a good track record for applying research to my own property, but feel free to disregard anything I come up with as not applying to your circumstances.

On the back of my half acre is a brush pile that's never shorter than 7 feet deep.  It's gotten taller than my house on at least three separate occasions and then settles back to that height. It's never been small enough for me to see very far into the actual ground it covers. I had a small pecan that was dying just downslope when I started it. That same tree is now more than doubked in size even after I cut out the large dead limbs. If your brush piles are small enough to see thru, then I wouldn't expect the same results, especially giventhat your environment has harsher conditions.

In other areas of my yard I have had very good results burying both logs and wood chips. I was ill last year and didn't so much as water most of my plants.  My black cherry tree (a fairly water needy and young tree) which is just upslope from a hugelbed grew another four feet.  My herb bed is planted on top of a trench filled with wood chips and every herb survived.

All of my garden has been hand dug with shovel and pickaxe. If you are growing a garden or just planting a few individual plants, it might be worth you energy to presoak and then bury some of your existing brush underneath your plants. I will be suitably impressed if you can do this in any large scale with just a shovel. Give your plants at least a few inches of soil above the wood, and remember that trees need to be planted in solid ground. That means bury wood beside them so they won't blow over in high winds. Presoaking so the wood is saturated is very important here. Fresh wood will still have a lot of moisture from sap, dried brush will suck up all the water you try to give your plants. This isn't the same as hugelculture because it doesn't include the green materials and manures that will help speed decomposing and add nitrogen for growing plants.  It's just taking advantage of the physical properties wood that will let it soak in and hold moisture close to the surface.

Most often if money is an issue  (like most of us) you can get better results by focusing your energy on a small area. As that area starts production it can provide resources for expanding. The earlier stages look like it's hardly producing results but if you keep at it, everything accelerates. Plan it out just right and eventually nature will outpace your efforts and your role will change to steering instead of the grueling push necessary to start it.  Maybe you're old enough to have some experience push starting a car, that's a good metaphor.

I may spend some time poking around Florida gardening sites because that is nearly a whole state of sand.  I will report back if I see anything that doesn't rely on purchasing tons of equipment or soil amendments.

Sorry about the wall of text.
 
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Michael,

I like Casie's idea. Here are some of mine.

I see lots of opportunity here. You have some GREAT resources!

1. Loads and loads of sunlight (and wind). Even more than I've got here in Africa. That means if you add water you've got loads of photosynthesis--i.e. plant growth--potential. So maybe your well pump is running on solar? Or even better: wind? Those old time windmill pumps would sure fit the bill for you.

2. Land. The problem is 10 acres can be daunting. Have you identified your permaculture zones? It will help take out the overwhelm factor. My favorite permaculture tool is the intesive nucleus. Forget the ten acres for a couple months; start with the half acre around your house. Where is your gray water going? You can grow LOADS on just that. And if you're squeamish about eating stuff from it, plant gourds, banana plants and fast growing trees to produce lots of fast composting material. Like I said, the sun will be your best friend in this.

3. Water. This one is counter intuitive, but I know that you're going to get those huge gully washers that you mention. Now I know that when the rain stops it might not be puddling anywhere, but during the downpour there's got to be some surface flow. I have really, really, really sandy soil, but a couple times a year I still manage to get some water held in a swale. I suggest making some water catchment on faith. These will still be useful when your land floods to keep as much of that water as possible. I would make them in huge V's--like big enough to be a small pond.

Also for water; that pump is totally sufficient. As far as I can see you've got a regular almond or pistachio farm in the works. Why make the meandering stream with concrete? Make up your plan, rent a trench digger for a weekend, and lay out some drip lines. If your budget is tight just try some short ones for start. Run one line to the center of every brush pile. Clear a small hole in the center of that pile, and plant an almond tree. Or a lemon tree. Or a carob tree. You get the idea. Around that tree you can plant sweet potato for ground cover; they're perennial, and will increase the organic matter around the roots of your tree. You could even put those brush piles in the catchments themselves with one high value tree in the middle on drip. Around the tree, perhaps four feet from it, plant pigeon pea. They're a delicious perennial dried bean--er, "pea"-- and you'll be encouraged by obtaining a yield within months. You could add moringa too if you like stew greens. Around the edge of the brush pile I would plant prickly pear: 1, they're delicious, 2, they survive and so will eventually be tree mulch, and 3, they harbor the soil biology when there's no moisture in the soil, thus perpetuating fertility.

4. Pioneer trees: your mesquite are awesome, of course, as you know. They're pumping water for you to create shade over the soil and organic matter on top of it. I would plant more. Yep. Wherever you're not growing other trees, and whatever you're not leaving to go wild, let the mesquite do their work there. Plant seeds and wait for the rain to make them grow.

5. Fertilizer. Since you have animals, you have manure. Get those things tractoring where you want your nutrient. And throw a couple handfuls of manure on every seed you plant.

I wouldn't worry about revitalizing 10 acres. Think about it in terms of target zones, or many different types of intense nuclei. Look for that niche in time and space: a spot that's just asking for something to be done in it. With the above resources you've got everything you need. Please do keep us posted!



 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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I really like the idea of starting focused on a smaller area.  And I was also going to suggest moringa, they grow incredibly fast in poor soil even and you can get 100 seeds for about $5 on ebay. 

Another thing you could as a transitional tactic do is a few trees in pots or buckets, or grow boxes (I can't remember the name--growxx or something?).  I'm blanking on the name of the person on this site who's in the Canary Islands, but he had some similar desert conditions.

I like the drip line in mulch pile idea, and Geoff Lawton was using those in the greening the desert intro video I saw. 

It sounds like your neighbors' opinions are one part of what's a drag for you...so if you can arrange to have your more radical experiments farther out of sight of them it may help your peace of mind.

The amazing disappearing rain...maybe it's worth getting just a plastic kiddie pool or two (possibly even for free) and catching water that awy.  It's not ideal, and will evaporate quickly, but you can use that for soaking wood as Cassie was suggesting.  You've at least got something to work with, for jumpstarting things. 

The PDC wick idea you mentioned initially is one I'm not familiar with, and I will now google it.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Well, the wicking method that comes up is something that may help you temporarily escape from feelings of frustration while vaping, but will not add moisture to your land.  Is this the thing in the Art Ludwig greywater book, or the other one he recommends?


 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Here's the greening the desert overview, the first 5 minutes cover the basic approach.  
   Yes, there are irrigation lines under mulch.  They used 1/5 the water normally used (for desalinization I gather).
 
Michael Sohocki
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thank you all for your advice. I'm sorry I have never used irrigation tape--you trench it? as for nopalito, it's everywhere. Thousands of them--in some places, almost forests of it. Often wondered if you could, like, puree and mix it and would the ooze act as some kind of colloid in the soil...it's the slimiest stuff you ever saw. the wicking method in PDC: I think Mollsion uses the term "Hessian", which means nothing to my ear--bur the illustrations show something like burlap, or some natural woven fiber, wicking water out of small troughs. That was the basic idea. Will start looking into drip tape--thank you.

Just an aside, on the topic of small, I'm sure somebody's going to say this is crazy: my son's diapers contain a polymer built to absorb and hold as much moisture as possible, for as long as possible...so I know this sounds gross, but (when he's done with them) I am cutting a few open, and incorporating the urine soaked polymer (hydrocolloid?) into soil in pots, to see if the water holding quality is retained. The diaper is made by Honest Co., which claims to be easy on the environment, biodegradable, etc. Made for babies...and probably they would use materials with a low litigation potential (I hesitate to use the word "natural") Who the hell knows if that's true....but check this out.

Is this nuts?
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Casie Becker
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No, if you're comfortable using it and are sure it's not toxic. I think the more environmentally friendly diapers use a starch in the middle.  I also think that some places market that same starch as a soil additive for just the reasons you list.  I wouldn't buy it for that purpose,  but as you already have it, use what you've got.

Nathanael had a lot of interesting ideas.  I still hand water because I have a small enough space and mostly enough time to do so.  It lets me stay ahead of most weeds if I can catch them small.  That wouldn't be practical if I had more space.

I would suggest you pay attention to number of chill hours a plant needs before investing much money. I am trying pistachios grown from seed, but I know I am unlikely to get any production except after the coldest winters.  You're even further south.  Maybe look into olives. I am at the upper limits of their range being just north of Austin. Moringa on the other hand, that should be a perrenial for you.  If you are strategic in your harvesting you might even grow it as an opened canopy tree that shades a garden.

Despite them being a nitrogen fixer, I would think long and hard before purposely introducing more mesquite.  They are very hard to remove if you reach a point where you can't handle those inch long thorns in your tires, live stock, and children's feet.  I would plant some myself for all their good traits including being able to grow most "full sun" plants under their canopy,  but I grew up with one in my front yard.  Someday I may buy a thornless variety.
 
Michael Sohocki
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The mesquites, yes, love/hate relationship.

Zillions of them--and they don't get big, due to competition. Average of five feet apart, most no bigger than 6" dia. Thorns...yes, endless. I've just kind of accepted them into my personality. You know, I have seen many mesquite that produce whole trash bags of beans--some of them sweet as candy: a great help in calories for fodder, and you can even eat them/ cook with them yourself. But here, I don't have a single bean.

I'm hoping for the nitrogen fixing qualities of the legume, but honestly I can't see any....visible difference. Certainly I am not a chemist, and should not pretend to know.

Shade is incredibly valuable here--they're indispensible if for no other reason. The effect is definitely "savannah", which Mark Shepard describes in Regenerative Agriculture as the most biologically productive biome. Now all we have to do is put the pieces together in the right order...
 
Casie Becker
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Now I am a little curious that they are all so short and show no signs of nitrogen fixation.  Legumous plants don't actually fix nitrogen themselves.   What they actually do is host bacteria in special structures (nodules) on their roots. The bacteria do all the work.   I wonder if it's possible your soils lack the proper bacteria. It is possible to buy innoculant fir these bacteria.  It might be worth watering in one package on one stand of mesquite.   If they soon begin to outgrow all the other stands then it might be a good way to quickly increase the organic matter and shade without any digging or planting of new plants.
 
Michael Sohocki
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Hello Casie, I have a really powerful resource in chill hour stats: "Growing Food in a Hotter, Dried Land" by Gary Nabhan. For the benefit of others on this site (because they have always gone out of their way for me), I will photograph the whole thing.
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pollinator
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I spent most of my life in Centex. Sure missing mesquite right now. sigh ...

Chili petins (aka bird peppers & skeeter peppers) grow wild in similar areas as mesquite. They are hot & tasty. Just saying.

I tell my hillbilly friends I'm going to fix TN with brisket, enchiladas, & gumbo. sigh ...

 
Casie Becker
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That looks like a wonderful resource.   Could you possibly give us a review to use in our book review grid?
I started a new thread with the amazon information.   If you respond with a comment that starts with the sentence "I give this book x out 10 acorns" and maybe tell us what worked or didn't work for you then we can help people find another good resource or maybe avoid wasting money on a dud.

https://permies.com/wiki/87506/Growing-Food-Hotter-Drier-Land
 
Michael Sohocki
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Watched the entire documentary Greening the Desert. Thank you for that.
 
Casie Becker
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Thank you for drawing my attention to a new book.  I was at the book store earlier this week and the only book devoted to low water gardening was about ornamental gardens. Even worse, much of the focus was on painting walls and other artificial color sources. It wasn't the worst book I've seen, but it didn't begin to meet any of my needs.
 
Casie Becker
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Thank you for drawing my attention to a new book.  I was at the book store earlier this week and the only book devoted to low water gardening was about ornamental gardens. Even worse, much of the focus was on painting walls and other artificial color sources. It wasn't the worst book I've seen, but it didn't begin to meet any of my needs.
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Nathanael Szobody
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Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Michael Sohocki wrote:The mesquites, yes, love/hate relationship.

Zillions of them--and they don't get big, due to competition. Average of five feet apart, most no bigger than 6" dia. Thorns...yes, endless. I've just kind of accepted them into my personality. You know, I have seen many mesquite that produce whole trash bags of beans--some of them sweet as candy: a great help in calories for fodder, and you can even eat them/ cook with them yourself. But here, I don't have a single bean.

I'm hoping for the nitrogen fixing qualities of the legume, but honestly I can't see any....visible difference. Certainly I am not a chemist, and should not pretend to know.

Shade is incredibly valuable here--they're indispensible if for no other reason. The effect is definitely "savannah", which Mark Shepard describes in Regenerative Agriculture as the most biologically productive biome. Now all we have to do is put the pieces together in the right order...



Not producing, huh? That is a puzzler. Could you post a photo of them,  up close?

The nice thing about them is that you can plant other tropical trees in their shade to help them get started. Close to your house where you can keep an eye on them you could try mango and guava even--as long as they're well watered of course. And papaya love well drained soil.
 
Anne Miller
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Michael Sohocki wrote:The mesquites, yes, love/hate relationship.
But here, I don't have a single bean.  ...



You may have deer that are eating them all.  I thought mine were not producing until my husband said the deer were eating them all.

It also may have something to do with male and female plants.
 
pollinator
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I've found Volume 2 of Brad Lancaster's Rainwater Harvesting to be tremendously helpful.  https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Also his videos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQ-FBAmvBw&t=315s
 
Mike Barkley
pollinator
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Saw the word nopalito (prickly pear) & had a weird thought. But it would work. Cactus contains large amounts of water. Build an elevated container to put cut cactii into. Cover it & leave in sun. Capture the condensation. Then let it drain into drip lines for nearby plants. It's an ancient survival technique for humans. Would work just as well for plants. Labor intensive on any kind of large scale. But since you have the cactii to harvest it might be worthwhile. How bad do you want that fig tree? I sure miss mine. Already killed three trying to get them to survive winters in the mountains. I was a trail builder for San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. Introduced many huge prickly pear to Mr. Machette. Very effective.

And chicken fried steak. Someone send one pleeeez.

 
Posts: 30
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Dry, dry, dry...I feel your pain.

Here in Queensland, it is dry winter, and everything is curling up and blowing away. It's all a dull, dusty, grey/brown.

Swales are important. I am going to ask hubby to make ours even deeper. But the one thing I have found that really works for me is to bury the organic material. My husband has a bobcat (smaller earthmoving equipment, don't know what it's called overseas), and it has a post hole digger. it's basically a giant mechanical corkscrew.

Well, thank goodness for that, because our clay is as "hard as a bull's head" 11 months of the year. But he drills holes for me that I fill up with wood, bark, paper, manure, fabric, weeds etc. I then backfill with the dirt from the hole, and make a bit of a water-catching saucer shape around it. The trees that I planted last spring are now half as high as other trees I planted 8 years ago. It is making a huge difference.

It is still a windblown desert, but one day there will be a tipping point, when there is lots of shade and relief from drying winds (or at least, I hope so).

Have a loot at your worksite. I work in an IT department, and there is so much cardboard coming through. I am stuffing some down holes, using some as a grass-suppressing, water-conserving mulch. and piling up some for when it rains and composts down. There is a lot of waste paper at many workplaces, so see if you can help yourself to some. I even look at the used paper towels in the toilet (for drying hands), but haven't yet taken that as there are so many boxes I am taking anyway.

You can also have a scrap bin at work, for coffee grounds, used tissues and fruit peels, and dump this in the holes too.  Better rotting away and contributing to holding moisture in your soil, than in an ordinary dump anyway.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 984
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Just had a random conversation with someone from Texas --he said try the Lady Bird Johnson Center, they have info on native grasses with deep roots.  Apparently the land was cleared and the desert human-created.  They sell a mix.  Maybe your animals hoofs also will help.  ?

Maybe buy only a small amount of seed and do one area, then  spread seed from those. 
 
Nathanael Szobody
Posts: 133
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Just had a random conversation with someone from Texas --he said try the Lady Bird Johnson Center, they have info on native grasses with deep roots.  Apparently the land was cleared and the desert human-created.  They sell a mix.  Maybe your animals hoofs also will help.  ?

Maybe buy only a small amount of seed and do one area, then  spread seed from those. 



That's a great idea. If there are native grasses then that would be the ideal way to improve the soil in conjuction with paddocks or tractored animals.
 
pollinator
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Lots of good info. I'd like to address your mack sized brush mounds. Not sure if you have a tractor.  My place had several mounds of cedar(juniper). The stuff that don't rot, that people burn, yada yada.

I found it to be a great source of mulch. I did this by pushing the mound with a tractor about 10ft. A year later,  do it again. Everytime you move it, considering you gave time for the stuff at ground level to start decomposing , it will leave mulch layer behind.

I also did this with a hugelbed i started but abandoned. I was putting whatever i had in front of it (deer or chicken carcasses, fish guts, etc). I would then push the whole hugel mound over it to bury it. Evertime i had something new to bury i would repeat it. I was careful to leave about 4" of old hugel material behind when i pushed it. Once again, it started this trail of good soil everytime i pushed it over.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 984
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Texas food forest And The Results Of Good Design

From Geoff Lawton s email, link is to permaculture institute.  Could be a pretty specific match to your climate!  Or at least a resource for help. 

How's it been going so far?
 
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Michael I do hope I am not too late and reviving an old thread no one cares about. You and I have a lot in common sir. Your climate it a bit hotter but we are both very dry. I am in a southwest Oklahoma. But the biggest thing we have in common in soil. I am sand above sandstone on 40 acres of dust bowl and bad farming degraded landscape. My scrub tree is oak but I do have some mesquite and some redbud and some black locust. All I can tell you what I have been doing that has been working and what hasn't.
1st the biomass stuff is no joke and you are well on the right track. I suspect that your soil is about like mine judging from height of trees. Mine is about 3 feet before you hit stone. That is the bad news. The good news is that once you hit that 3 feet that is where the water flows. Some of my neighbors will even get a seep in a place where the soil is thin. Not me but some do.

So two things have worked for me and another I belive will from small experiments. 1st is biomass in spots. The black locust tree and the redbud rain down organic matter so I will dig a hole right down to the sandstone and way too wide for the tree I want. No less than 4 feet round. Plant the tree you want right next to that locust (or mesquite in your case) and fill that whole thing up with compost. I know it's a ton of compost but it's amazing how fast this will expand. Now put in your hardy ground cover. More nitrogen fixing will be key as this is likely what your soil lacks most. Also never pee anywhere but on your trees. That mesquite should shield from deer or the like as your tree grows up. On the nitrogen fixing front I bet it is fixing but not enough is share because it moves away so quickly in the soil. Remember that sharing happens at the roots. My redbuds don't seem to fix until I trim them. Then I get a flush. So that is my suggestion. Coppice or heavily trim that mesquite once a year to extend that growth. Do before or during the rainy season.

Now for your water holding. Bentonite in small amounts will help a lot. Too much makes concrete so do a handful for a square yard or so at first. If you add more you get water retention. Of that what you want, say for the bottom of your swales, then cover it thinly but completely over the surface and then add a layer of rock free soil over top of that to keep in place. Then fill it to get it started. Before you add the cover soil layer it should like it snowed an even covering on the ground. This will be easier and cheaper than concrete.

Next one I have not expiramented with but will begin to do so this fall and winter. Biochar. There a bunch of ways from cheap and easy to expensive and complex to make it. It makes great grit for your chickens  (they may not need it on your soil but still) and when it comes out of the far end it is activated. You want it activated because of its not it will rob the soil of nitrogen until it is and you can't have that right now. This should help get your soil life rebounding quickly and it can easily be spread across the broad acre once activated  (you can also use compost tea and bubble it with an air stone) just by spraying or spreading. Anyway I hope that there is something here that works for you. I would love to gear about your progress as I belive we have a similar situation and maybe a bit of cross pollination can help us both!
 
Posts: 1744
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Uhm.

Observe your site and create a plan for the entire 10acres.

Do earthworks for the entire 10 acres if possible.

Focus on the 1 acre around your house. An acre can hold 180 plant at 15ft centers, That is a crazy amount.
I have heard that without machinery, 2 acres is about the limit for a person (fit 30yr old man) to manage.

So while focusing on this initial 1acre.
I would do vegetables and fish production, bringing imports to feed the fish and energy to do aquaponics.
Next 2+ Bee Hive cuz who doesn't love honey and pollinators.
..... NOW FOR A BIGGIE, I have noticed that when people are re-greening the arid parts of the world they cut back on sheeps/goats/cows not too sure why ....
Chicken (Meat+Egg) these will also be supported with a good amount of commercial feed too.

Now with the initial food system done:
chicken, eggs, fish, honey, leafy vegetable, fruits like muskmelon+tomatoes and storage vegetables like squash+potatoes+beans+corn+radish, herbs like thyme, sage, garlic, etc.

With earthworks already done I would then move to getting carbon into the soil, import woodchip, straw, corn stalk, etc, make bio-char.
Also add rockdust if needed and add good microbes (mushroom slurries, fungiperfect, worm tea, etc)

Now I would try to get the place planted out with 90% nitrogen fixers, like thousands of plants, 50lbs+ of seeds (clovers, pigeon pea, beans, etc, etc).
With swales/ditches on contour roughly every 15ft, I would run the drip irrigation pipe that you have by them and along these line plant the 180 fruit trees.




 
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I know people in the Mojave desert that receive 4 INCHES OF RAIN and are doing well. The key to their success is storing rainwater. Here are some cool youtubers out in Arizona that have great success harvesting rainwater.  Build swales and 10 acres is a lot. Concentrate on a small area and work your way up.
https://youtu.be/pNXooT2FVXM  ; https://youtu.be/xuEA4-TqpQI
 
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
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