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Help me get this together: Greening Arco Idaho  RSS feed

 
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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I know... Arco Idaho is a wasteland!!! But this is where I call home and own land and need help getting things organized with a step by step plan... I feel like a chicken with its head cut off!!
I long to have this ten acre plot set up as a food oasis, I have seen ‘Greening the desert’ as instructed and all I came back with is... but that is not Arco Idaho and I do not believe such ways will work here... probably why nobody has written a ‘how to’ in this area.
We are not wealthy. We are not even all that healthy! But I think we are interesting and kind to be around and would greatly appreciate some help!
Our water available is much less than awesome. Our soil is pretty much dead! I know, what was I thinking... but this is what it is and we need to find what good is here and focus on that!

Whatcha got to help our Kind Pharm?
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garden master
Posts: 4785
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I see donkeys! I love my donkey, she cuts my grass, gives me good fertilizer and she trims some of the fruit trees so I don't have to.

Do you have enough materials (grasses, brush, other good compostable stuff) to get a compost heap going?
If you do just layer those with donkey poop maybe even add any used bedding from your animals (if you have that sort of thing).

Great compost making materials are old hay, straw (mildewed or molded so is unsuitable for animal use can usually be gotten for hauling it off if you ask nicely), animal manures (chicken, donkey, horse, sheep, pig and cow are the prime ones)
soil is also good to add in thin layers when making a compost heap, kitchen scraps that don't go to animals are also good, just be sure to put these right in the center of the heap to keep animals from digging for them.

Once you get compost you are ready to turn it into compost tea so you get the most mileage out of your compost heap. You spray the garden areas first then work on other plots of land you want to build soil on second.
The compost you used to make the tea with is then forked into the soil so the humus and carbon is added to the soil.

Arco is actually a great place to practice permaculture, you will have to work at it, but you will bring life back to the soil, it's just going to take sticking with the soil building for a year or two.
Plants are part of building soil, so what ever will grow now, get it growing then you can chop it and let that material rot on the surface, it will leak down into the soil as it rots and that brings more microbiology to play.
mushroom slurries are also a great thing to pour on your gardens, any soil you want to make better, this is one of the keys to building superior soil that grows anything bigger and adds nutrition value too.

Have you read my soil threads? they are listed in the wiki, there is lots of information that will help you there too.
Don't forget that you can also ask me direct I'm around most days for at least a couple of hours.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 1585
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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When starting from scratch, I have been asking myself this question for long... Is is better to concentrate all the good we have, manure and some organic material, in one small plot and then extend little by little when there is some more green production? Or is it better to "dilute" what we have and grow slower but on a larger surface?

Another question is if it is worth "building" more aka use a caterpilar. At least done before the raining season so that we do not hurt more, as it will break the underground connexions. I would really like to know how is this place after the wettest time of the year!?

My theoretical dream on such a place would be to loosen the soil with a machine, and make "waves". It is hard to say "swale" on a flat place, but maybe this is the right word still.... I would let the sourthern side with the stones that come out, and let more soil on the northern side of the waves, so that the sun rays struck less vertically on the soil there, and get a less dry soil down there at the bottom. Then concentrate the job of putting nutrients and organic matter down there, using the little protection given by the orientation and the stones. Just the stones that come out, not even making walls. Stones have long been used as mulch where I live! The stony parts are also good for walking on it, and preserve the rest, as the main problem I can see when a soil has been unprotected for a long time is hardening. That is also why Ii think machines are useful in that case.

Very curious to know if the practise can follow my theory or where is the weak point in what i said!
 
Posts: 552
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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What sort of tools do you have?
I know nothing of the area, what rainfall does it have, if any?
Are there local plants the survive and can be used?
Is it windy?

Where else has similar terrain, soil and weather in the world, that may offer ideas?
 
John C Daley
Posts: 552
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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This may help
Soil facts sheet for Arco
 
Posts: 5
Location: South Carolina 8a
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In addition to the great soil building recommendations, since you are starting from scratch, I would try digging swales, buried hugelkulture, and greywater recycling.



You should get a copy of gaia's garden, chapter 4 and 5 discuss building soil and storing water.

These solutions will work perfectly for you.
 
Posts: 231
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Some more books that will help are....
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster...There are two volumes.  -  these books focus on dryland strategies.
The Permaculture Designers Manual by Bill Mollison  -  this book actually covers the permaculture principles for all the different climates so you may want to start with the other ones.

This thread has some good info from what I recall.....it's been a few years since I've read through it all, and I thought the one I was remembering had more pages, but I'm thinking this is probably it. One Piece of Advice for Desert Permies - What Would Yours Be

There is a lot of good info in the greening the desert section of the forums that would be worth reading through too.

Xisca Nicolas wrote:Is is better to concentrate all the good we have, manure and some organic material, in one small plot and then extend little by little when there is some more green production? Or is it better to "dilute" what we have and grow slower but on a larger surface?


In an arid environment with little rainfall such as Arco, it would be wiser to concentrate your efforts/resources and work out from there.  I can't say about the Canary Islands though...I really don't know much about the area.



A bit off topic, but.....I know someone who drank too much and ran off with a military tank, over 30 years ago, and drove it to the top of the Southern Big Butte.  LOL  He would always mention it when we were near it.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1585
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Joshua Parke wrote:

Xisca Nicolas wrote:Is is better to concentrate all the good we have, manure and some organic material, in one small plot and then extend little by little when there is some more green production? Or is it better to "dilute" what we have and grow slower but on a larger surface?


In an arid environment with little rainfall such as Arco, it would be wiser to concentrate your efforts/resources and work out from there.  I can't say about the Canary Islands though...I really don't know much about the area.


Thanks! .... My question was general because it is a designing curiosity I have for a long time.
My place has vegetation covering the ground, and enough to gather some organic matter from uncultivated places towards cultivated ones. I also tend to concentrate instead of sharing, in general.

I had the feeling that wanting to plant for example trees, as they are long to grow, might make the balance go towards the preference for sharing in a wider surface? They would grow more slowly but bring shade in more surface...


A bit off topic, but.....I know someone who drank too much and ran off with a military tank, over 30 years ago, and drove it to the top of the Southern Big Butte.  LOL  He would always mention it when we were near it.


haha, due to the context, you have to precise if you meant he drank water!!?!!
At least thus I laughed though I have no idea what is the Southern Big Butte nor where!!!
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Breaking things down into zones... Ok... that helps me not feel so overwhelmed!!!

Arco gets about 6-8 inches of precipitation a year and most of our 'water' comes from the snow in the mountains... if we get snow... the last two years has been really good years... even had the Big Lost River run across the desert and that was the first time in 20ish years it has done that!!! Will next year be as good??? We have tried planting pea shrubs to help with wind break as we are very windy here and currently we are very smoky from surrounding wild fires. Arco is high mountain desert.. the tempratures can flucuate greatly in one day... we have had an unusually long heat streak of around 90F for several weeks and that is very unusual! We can get snow any month of the year, although at our 5,000 ft elevation it doesn't usually stick around during the summer months of late May to late September.

we have been fighting ground squirrels and grasshoppers and they are wreaking havoc on our pea shrubs and other items planted! I may get a good spaghetti squash harvest this year and maybe a few tomatoes and potatoes if the voles haven't eaten into them before we harvest... I am grateful that I am not completely dependant on my garden to supply us with food as we would starve... but my goal is to provide all our food from our land and enough to share...

We do not have any type of large mechanical tools...

When did this tank when tanked episode happen?? That is some funny stuff!!! My husband has been in the area for over 26 years, I will have to ask him about that!!

And as far as these pics go... do not let that canal fool you.... the first summer we lived here it did not have water running in it and that has been the norm for the past 25 years... however the last 2 years it has been flowing well, but we still don't get our water... living in the west has been a real eye opener about water and exactly how much we are going thru on our limited resources! I would really prefer creating a place that rarely needs extra water than what mother nature provides... but not sure how... with so little water falling in our area


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North is to the left, Up is East
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North is up
 
John C Daley
Posts: 552
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I also tend to concentrate instead of sharing, in general. 


What do you mean by this?
I note some big trees near the house, could arrows of them be planted along the boundaries as wind breaks?
 
Posts: 47
Location: Western Idaho
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Hello from Boise County! It is encouraging to see a fellow Idahoan on here, everyone has to start somewhere I know the feeling. The grasshoppers were terrible this year, they even defoliated some of our black locust trees which I though was pretty wild. On our property we have a lot of Smooth Sumac trees that they did not touch at all, they probably grow in your area too, keep an eye out for some to transplant/gather seed/take cuttings. I am just starting out this year and learning every step of the way. Just as others have written I think the old/moldy hay idea is a good approach, lots of ag and cattle in your area so plenty of people to ask! Other than that I would just work at accumulating organic material on the property and getting whatever trees that will grow there to get established so they can shade your soil, good luck!
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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I had planted some pea shrubs this year to help block the wind but the grasshoppers have destroyed them... We had planted small bare root black locust last year and the voles destroyed their root system and they didn't make, my friend owns and operates the local greenhouse so I was able to get a good deal on both bareroot black locust and pea shrubs... but not if they don't make it... So, starting over... from the very beginning AGAIN!


I would love to get some fruit trees established! But with my current luck I am not sure I want to take the financial risk... and I think that the fruit trees would do better if I had some better wind block established first


frustrating is a mild term for what I am feeling... and then... how would I make money off of this place when I am so far away from modern civilization???


Thank you all again! I am really grateful for all of your input and suggestions and they are all in my notebook to put into practice!
 
gardener
Posts: 3475
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I observe goji berries growing feral in the deep desert in Nevada. I observe serviceberries, currents, and chokecherry growing in very dry areas. Nopales and or cactus tunas might grow well in Arco.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 552
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I have owned my place for 45 years.
I have always looked apon it ad a sanctuary for myself, not a money making adventure.
Now I live here full time, and I still build and plant as I have always done and its still a sanctuary to me.

I am concerned people may have unrealistic expectations and feel let down, when its use as a sanctuary would be perfect.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1585
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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John C Daley wrote:

I also tend to concentrate instead of sharing, in general. 


What do you mean by this?
I note some big trees near the house, could arrows of them be planted along the boundaries as wind breaks?



With the context, I meant that what resource for the soil I have, I prefer to put enough in one place -concentrate- even if i do not have enough for everywhere. That second option would be sharing the resources between all the sports of the place, even if there is not enough at each place.

When you have a certain amount of compost for a garden bed, you share it equally in the whole bed. And you might have made the choice to concentrate on this garden bed, and another place will wait until the next batch of compost!

So we are always in balance in between those 2 tendences, and this is a permanent choice we have to do with all our resources, and especially
- compost,
- water,
- time!

And I cannot agree more with you John, about beware of having "unrealistic expectations"...  Resources are limited and we have to adjust.
Also agree about the sanctuary. I never say it though, and talk as if i was wanting to make money! You know why? I don't want they think I am crazy.... I prefer to be let alone doing all this for myself, and with the dream that I will let something to be continued... though I do not know who will one day be there! I just know there will be somebody else!
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I observe goji berries growing feral in the deep desert in Nevada. I observe serviceberries, currents, and chokecherry growing in very dry areas. Nopales and or cactus tunas might grow well in Arco.



I have serviceberries that are just surviving but not really thriving yet.... my elderberry is not happy and is struggling... my Nanking cherry is doing well if I could keep my pup from digging it up and using it as a chew toy GRRR
I was going to say that I thought it best for me to spend a bit more money and buy bigger trees to plant so they have a better chance against the elements and natural predators... but then I remembered that I am putting up a high tunnel... Maybe finding a book on how to take cuttings and create my own bigger trees in the high tunnel where they can be protected... hmmm...
Any suggestions would be great!
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I see donkeys! I love my donkey, she cuts my grass, gives me good fertilizer and she trims some of the fruit trees so I don't have to.

Do you have enough materials (grasses, brush, other good compostable stuff) to get a compost heap going?
If you do just layer those with donkey poop maybe even add any used bedding from your animals (if you have that sort of thing).

Great compost making materials are old hay, straw (mildewed or molded so is unsuitable for animal use can usually be gotten for hauling it off if you ask nicely), animal manures (chicken, donkey, horse, sheep, pig and cow are the prime ones)
soil is also good to add in thin layers when making a compost heap, kitchen scraps that don't go to animals are also good, just be sure to put these right in the center of the heap to keep animals from digging for them.

Once you get compost you are ready to turn it into compost tea so you get the most mileage out of your compost heap. You spray the garden areas first then work on other plots of land you want to build soil on second.
The compost you used to make the tea with is then forked into the soil so the humus and carbon is added to the soil.

Arco is actually a great place to practice permaculture, you will have to work at it, but you will bring life back to the soil, it's just going to take sticking with the soil building for a year or two.
Plants are part of building soil, so what ever will grow now, get it growing then you can chop it and let that material rot on the surface, it will leak down into the soil as it rots and that brings more microbiology to play.
mushroom slurries are also a great thing to pour on your gardens, any soil you want to make better, this is one of the keys to building superior soil that grows anything bigger and adds nutrition value too.

Have you read my soil threads? they are listed in the wiki, there is lots of information that will help you there too.
Don't forget that you can also ask me direct I'm around most days for at least a couple of hours.

Redhawk



AGREED! Donkeys are the BEST farm animal!!! My Mammoth jennet and mini jennet are the sweetest critters! I need to learn how to train them to pull equipment (whenever I get some) and let me saddle and ride the bigger one while the little one packs! but I don't know how to do any of that myself... So we just scratch their ears and give hugs and giggle and clap with a enthusiastic YAY when they bray!


We don't get a lot of 'green' for composting... we have more than enough brown material... I had even bought a bokashi kitchen composter system hoping that would help but we don't generate enough kitchen scraps... and the local restaurants are not available to donate their scraps either... and I am not sure how you collect compost tea from a pile of compost on the ground... and where do you get mushroom slurry affordably? We have bought this and that in hopes it would make things easier and they have not and now we are over charged on our credit cards (also had family get cancer and that hit our budget helping them)
I don't expect to get rich on our ten beautiful desert acres but would like it to give back a little....


I have not read your soils thead as I am not the most familar with wiki... what is wiki and where can I find this? as well as where do I contact you directly? Or would you like to make a trip to visit my Kind Pharm and we will get you to the top of the Great Southern Butte for an amazing sunset view of our little valley minus the drunkeness and tank... we don't drink much (crazy to say that, we don't drink much nor often because we are old badgers on medications that don't mix well with spirits) and we don't have access to a tank :D

 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1585
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I am not sure how you collect compost tea from a pile of compost on the ground... 


You do not collect it. Look what he said: "The compost you used to make the tea with is then forked into the soil". You take some compost and put it in water for tea. Roughly.... the wiki well tell you more. I dont know where it is!

Soil forum : https://permies.com/f/120/soil

Also:
dynamic acuumulators for the soil: https://permies.com/f/218/

greening desert : https://permies.com/f/121/desert
 
Posts: 72
Location: SW Ohio
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Looks pretty flat.... would building swales help with breaking wind/retaining water?
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I have found the wiki!

https://permies.com/f/257/wiki

....I found it by such a distorted way that I don't even know where it is, as I do not see it in the menu!

And the gem you want is here... https://permies.com/wiki/77424/List-Bryant-RedHawk-Epic-Soil
(This is a list of--hopefully--all of Bryant RedHawk's awesome threads about soil microbiology. I made it a wiki that can be edited so that new threads can be added and hopefully short summaries of each thread will be next to the link for easy reference. I plan on putting a link to this thread on each thread so it's easy to find other's in the series.)

RedHawk, why not put it in your signature?
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Sarah Koster wrote:Looks pretty flat.... would building swales help with breaking wind/retaining water?


As you are I think the third to say it, Dina might look into it! Dina, you said you had no machines, but this type of work is done once by hiring the machine with the driver, and they do what you want. I have no idea if it is good to brake the pan like this in your case, but you can look at it...

Then you mentionned your dog un-gardening your stuff... and that is ok to fence trees and bushes, it is a pity to loose work from the dog.

As you have animals, and see more than donkeys, I would at your place concentrate on having animals, because you can bring some food until it grows, and you will have more compost. Have you analysed the content of your soil and things such as the organic matter? This does not cost much. Many places have only 1,5%, and i was not happy to have 2,5% when I started, and it is possible to go up a lot, but it needs a lot of organic matter if you compare to the volume of soil you have!

If you get a machine, then you can also dig big holes for a few trees you have enough water for. That is where your design must be good.... As it has to be definitive. Prepare the soil, make holes (i have seen this in a permaculture farm in Australia, it worked well with 2 meters deep) get some legumes in there, better the soil with compost and tea, and then it will be ready to plant. Concentrate on what is needed, be it  a hedge or shadow for you and animals.... I would not focus on fruit trees, as they are not really the strong trees you want.... or it depends what fruit you want and what grows around, and I have no idea where you are located !

Even here, some people planted avocados, and they died after less than 10 years, because they had not prepared the soil deep enough. You need to know what you have 1 meter deep at least.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1585
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Dina, look at this page https://drylands.org.au/learn-drylands/
the thirdy photo of the serie shows stones and swales, just eh idea i gave, but I dont know if you have a stony underground...
But the 5th photo is a flat place like yours, and the design is obviously machine made...
And you can also see that they have to protect their plants with some fencing, be it against dogs or herbivores it is not possible to let plants alone when you plant only a few of them.

I do not find the pics of the planting they had before, but see the seed they sell from marula: https://drylands.org.au/product-category/seeds/trees/
the tree you see is from the patch they planted, and that looked like yours, but they prepared the soil with big holes with machines...
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:

Sarah Koster wrote:
Then you mentionned your dog un-gardening your stuff... and that is ok to fence trees and bushes, it is a pity to loose work from the dog.



We are overwhelmed with voles and mice! They are digging around all of our new planted trees and bushes as well as our garden spots and our pup is digging to get them... but in the act of trying to protect us from the voles and mice, he continues to dig up my young Nanking cherry bush... he has even taken to enjoy nibbling on the cherries right off the bush! I will need to figure out how to protect all of our new plants from the voles, mice and our puppy!!
Meanwhile... I just keep replanting that very resilient cherry bush and hopeful that this little bush holds it's course in resilience!






 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Sarah Koster wrote:Looks pretty flat.... would building swales help with breaking wind/retaining water?



the property is flat... I am not sure about building swales... I am trying to understand how swales would be helpful... in my mind, I would need to build REALLY TALL swales(10 and 20 feet tall) and that is not feasible for several reasons... it would impede the ditch rider from getting his equipment to the ditch for maintenance… and that is a big no-no... but maybe I am misunderstanding how swales work
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I observe goji berries growing feral in the deep desert in Nevada. I observe serviceberries, currents, and chokecherry growing in very dry areas. Nopales and or cactus tunas might grow well in Arco.



I have serviceberries planted last year and they are struggling... I have read that they do best in moist loamy soil and I don't have that in any way... but I am doing my best to keep them watered often (not my goal to have things growing that require so much water but hoping it is temporary)

I am not familiar with nopales and cactus tunas and not sure I want something that is low lying and prickly as I have grandchildren that roam here freely. I do know where to get some locally grown currants and gooseberries... I haven't seen chokecherry growing feral but I am not sure I would know it if I had...


When is a good time to take cuttings/suckers to transplant?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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In the dryland website, i pointed to a pic that showed "flat swales" and you can locate this where it does not bother.

Children need to learn things about nature, and even to look and be careful, so if you locate your nopal not too near the house and get some mesh.... be careful also that animals love eating them! They are wonderful food, both nopal and fruits, and good source of compost.

Use mesh on the ground for unabling the dog to dig! All around the trees...
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Dina Johnson wrote:I am trying to understand how swales would be helpful...



Even though that land looks flat, it is not flat from the perspective of a puddle of water... Any time more water falls on the ground than can be immediately absorbed, the water runs to a lower area. The point of swales is to slow the flow of water. They can work great as six inch high bunds of soil, built on contour, that might be 1000 feet long.

In the spring, if there is a little snow on the ground, and it starts melting, but the ground is frozen, then the water will run away to lower ground without seeping in. So a berm of earth that was even a couple inches tall, could hold onto that water until the ground thawed enough for it to seep in.

During a summer thunderstorm, rain might fall faster than it can be absorbed by the ground. A swale can hold onto the runoff for the few minutes or days that it takes to seep into the ground.

Here's a photo of one of my swales... It averages around 3 to 6 inches tall.



swale-daisy.jpg
[Thumbnail for swale-daisy.jpg]
Swale in desert
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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To follow up, here's where some swales might be placed (the white lines).

The yellow line is drawn from the highest point on the property to the lowest, The graph below the satellite image shows an elevation profile for that yellow line. Average slope is 2%.
arco-swales.jpg
[Thumbnail for arco-swales.jpg]
Possible swale placement.
 
Dina Johnson
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Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:In the dryland website, i pointed to a pic that showed "flat swales" and you can locate this where it does not bother.

Children need to learn things about nature, and even to look and be careful, so if you locate your nopal not too near the house and get some mesh.... be careful also that animals love eating them! They are wonderful food, both nopal and fruits, and good source of compost.

Use mesh on the ground for unabling the dog to dig! All around the trees...



When is a good time to harvest nopals from the desert and transplant in my yard?

Mesh would be an added expense that we need to avoid... maybe planting the nopals around the base of my trees to create a barrier that the dog would be reluctant to dig in... hmmm...
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:To follow up, here's where some swales might be placed (the white lines).

The yellow line is drawn from the highest point on the property to the lowest, The graph below the satellite image shows an elevation profile for that yellow line. Average slope is 2%.



What map are you using to see this? This would be very beneficial for sure to have this info... I am not really understanding how the white line works in the west field... and when will you be arriving to help??
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Any time is a good time to plant cactus pads. A bit of irrigation during hot/dry weather really helps them. It can be as simple as picking a pad, and tossing it on the ground where you'd like them to grow. I might put a medium sized stone on an edge of the pad, or bury it a little bit to lessen the chances that it will blow away or be carried off by animals. They grow best in spots that do not have standing water on them during the winter. So on top of a mole hill rather than in a badger den.

Opuntia polyacantha, the most common native prickly pear doesn't make the best nopales. They have plenty of spines to protect themselves. Opuntia humifusa is my favorite winter-hardy cactus for nopales. However, it doesn't have enough spines to protect itself from predation in the wildlands. I prefer Opuntia engelmanii  for cactus fruits. 

The white lines basically represent small earthen bunds on contour. The idea being that when runoff occurs, a few inches of water get caught behind them, and form a small puddle that seeps into the ground. The bunds also capture the little bits of leaves, and other organic matter that the water washes off the land, and concentrates them into the swale.  I made that graphic using GoogleEarth.
 
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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If you want a much-less-scientific and entirely Latin-free approach to selecting prickly pear varieties, now is also a very good time of year for finding better varieties than the ones that grow wild, that are nonetheless hardy where you are.  My technique: go to the nearest town that has a few hundred people and older neighborhoods, then drive around looking for decorative cactus plantings.  This time of year large and spectacular prickly pear fruit will stick out like a sore thumb, even if not ripe yet. These are often planted at gates and driveway ends, and most people will let you have a pad or a fruit (for seeds) just for the asking. 

The opuntia species that grows wild on this property has skinny fruit like pencils, all seeds, no flesh.  Pads, too, are mostly spine and skin.  But I've had good luck bringing in more attractive opuntias that are hardy here by my method, although of course I don't have good species IDs for them, and my plantings are all very young yet.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I really like Dan's approach, especially since prickly pear are more like a species-complex than distinct species, so they tend to morph into all sorts of inbetween things.

 
Dan Boone
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Apropos my method, in a town near me there was a house that didn't fit its neighborhood, which centers on "Country Club Drive" and very fancy.  The house itself was made of logs (albeit they were squared on three sides logs) and there was a lot of junk, gardens, and interesting plantings in the yard, plus a bunch of dogs.  The perimeter was a *ton* of tall cactus, including many prickly pear with fat fruits.

One fine Saturday last fall I was out at garage sales when I noticed that the yard had been cleaned up and that somebody had taken a brush hog and absolutely blown through and taken out everything in the yard that was more than four inches tall, including all of the cactus on the perimeter.  And there was a realtor sign up.  I was at a garage sale across the street so I asked the lady what had happened.  She told me the man who lived there had passed away after a long period of being considered eccentric by his neighbors and eventual outright dementia.  It was clear from her demeanor that she had some compassion but had considered him a difficult and unwelcome neighbor.

Upon hearing that news I took a paper shopping bag and walked the edge of the property, picking up chunks of cactus pad with a gloved hand and big chunks of cactus root that were in the ditch where they had been thrown by the brush hog blades.  I took the bag home and put it in a warm dry place inside ... and then forgot all about it.

Just last week, I found that bag again, and looked into it, expecting it to be full of brown dead plant material.  Imagine my surprise to find several perfectly live six inch cactus spires straining toward the light at the top of the bag!  It survived more than nine months on the moisture bound up in a few pounds of roots and pads.  Amazing stuff. 
 
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What about a "trash" fence to break the wind? Free pallets for instance. They could also be used around individual trees to break the wind.
 
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Dina, a couple of thoughts on the protection of new plantings.  Have a look at the bone sauce made by sepp holzer. There's a great video on permies showing you how to make it.  It is quite simple to make and a little goes a long way and lasts a long time. I have used it on most of my new woody plantings and it seems to be deterring nibblers. However, we had a vole explosion three winters back and they tried to chew anything that I hadn't protected. I use 1/2 inch hardware cloth cylinders around all new fruit trees. Only lost one tree to girdling after I started using these cages when the snow was so deep the little beasts burrowing under the snow came out above the top of the cylinder. UGH! The cylinders take little time to cut out and I use baling wire to tie the ends together or you can even use twist-ties. I also use a similar mesh made of heavy duty plastic. It's easier to cut out and seems to be as effective in stopping the nibblers. Bought that at a local big box store. I used cement reinforcing wire to make large cages around several fruit trees to keep the deer off of them until they got large enough to hold their own against deer browsing. These worked well in keeping the deer away.

As for grasshoppers, consider Bill Mollison's approach- you don't have too many grasshoppers, you have too few turkeys. I don't run turkeys myself ( just chickens, so far) but I understand turkeys will gladly eat grasshoppers whenever/wherever they are found.  I don't mean to complicate getting your system going but just food for thought. I know hoppers out west can really go through population explosions some years. Turkeys or other birds could turn that surplus into food.

My suggestion for starting, based on my own experience of starting basically from scratch, concentrate your efforts on a given area within a larger design framework. I spread myself far too thin in the early couple of years here (now in year 7) and have been concentrating on smaller areas since.  Beware, not all techniques identified as permaculture will necessarily work for you in your context.  I still like geoff lawton's advice to develop your water systems in place and access before mass planting of vegetation.  I flunked on that one too and am still playing a bit of catch-up five years later. Think zone 1 and work outward.  That way, hopefully,  implementation of your plan won't seem so overwhelming. Slow and steady wins the race. Good luck.
 
Dina Johnson
Posts: 21
Location: Butte County Idaho zone 4 but more like zone 3 Lots of wind and average of 8-9 inches ann. precip.
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Is this what you are referring to?
Permies
per the comments there is a lot to do with making this with resources I don't have... like a place to burn anything because we are on a very strict burn ban right now...

a trash fence would need to be incredibly sturdy! We can get sustained winds of 20-30mph with gust upwards of 60mph with a storm that lasts a couple days. and then we also get random 'bursts' of wind that can destroy your day with no warnings... we are fortunate with our placement as we have a cemetery with large trees bordering our west boundary line but they are not enough to keep down heavy winds that cause damage and dry up our freshly watered items quickly.

we had a heavy snow year a couple years back as well and the rabbits were eating the side of our evergreen trees up... I had no idea they would do that... and the majority of our trees are only 2-3 feet tall to begin with as that was affordable... but I suppose in the end, if they all need to be replaced it was a huge expense of time, water and money...

I am struggling with where to even begin and create zone 1... without having a 'bigger picture' how do I know where I will need water accessible?

Currently our well is located in the house... it is a pain in the a**!!! It is not keeping up giving water needed to water the yard area even after getting a newer and bigger pressure tank... the perforations may need blowed out BUT it is in the house and getting said tools in to do that, impossible!

I have a friend trying to give me her 4 Merriam turkey hens... but I am not in a place to safely give them a home... she says they lay every single day for 9 months out of the year... but again... I have no way of providing them with a safe home right now as our plate of things that needs to be dealth with before winter is overwhelmingly long... ya know, you make plans with expectations of things happening to throw you off a bit... but we are MONTHS off target even after making said plans with 'forgiveness'...



 
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