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Looking to begin to improve pasture  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 247
Location: northern New Mexico
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I'm looking for advice on first pasture rebuild project please.
I've been a bit overwhelmed since I began to research permaculture and reading so many wise aspects and techniques. I'm also a dozen pages into Permaculture a Designers Manual, so I'm a verifiable newbie.
I think I read something about people of action tending to start a project  half informed, if so then yes sir, that's me.
I'm retired now and overcoming an autoimmune disease. "Jumping in half cocked isn't such a feasible plan as is used to be," he shrugs.
Anywhos, I still want to jump on something while I feel well. I'm thinking there might be a way for me dig and to not do too much damage if I work a feature that I keep seeing in our pasture as I go for walks with the dogs.
It looks to me like this slight indentation along the contour of the north facing side of our hilltop home and workshop has a swale!
I hadn't paced off this indentation, but I can make an educated guess, it could be five hundred feet long. Its also quite wide and level which is why I'm calling it ancient. It also fades from view in a couple places and yesterday when I went to investigate this is the first time I tied the two indentations together.
In a couple pictures you can really see the water it catches by the greenness in the bottom.
So my question is can I do similar shovel maneuvers as I do when  I'm flood irrigating our pastures?  In this I pull soil from the high side and drop it on the low side; building up a terrace. I'll need to experiment and see how the sod comes up as I usually prefer to keep sharp and deep sides to a minimum for trip hazard safety. I drew some lines on the hillside where I think the swale isn't obvious.
   
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gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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That is indeed an old swale, that area should have another swale above the old, filled in swale and perhaps even another one nearer the top of that ridge line.
I'm going to recommend you find a copy of Mark Shepard's book "Restoration Agriculture" in it he gives a method of swale/berm building that works very well in the USA, better than the original "water for every farm" which is best used in Australia because that is where the idea developed.

Swales should be wider than they are deep and the rims should be gentle slopes down to the bottom of the swale. Usually a good swale will be no more than 1.5 to 2.0 feet deep and the soil from the swale is piled into a berm on the downhill side.
Grasses should be planted immediately after finishing the dirt work so erosion doesn't set in. In the USA it is usually better to have a .5 degree downhill slope to the swale with depression (drive through) ponds located in "key points" so water fills the swale, runs to the end and sheets down to the next swale.
The purpose of such earth works is water control, eliminating the chance of erosion happening and this also keeps washouts from happening when torrential rain events happen.

That is a wonderful looking piece of land by the way and worthy of this sort of undertaking.

If you have or can rent a tractor and single side plow blade, this work can be done very quickly (compared to days or weeks of hand digging).
Once you have the furrows made then you come back with shovel(s) and widen and shape the swale/berm construct and once that is done you spread the grass seed, making sure to get good soil contact by either light tamping or rolling if possible.

I'd try to leave nicely wide spaces (alleys) between the swales for planting either trees or other items. It is usually best to measure any equipment (mowers for hay or combine for grains) and make the alleys to fit these machines for ease of use later on.

Redhawk
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
Posts: 247
Location: northern New Mexico
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Excellent information there Redhawk thank you.
I found the book restoration-agriculture Looks affordable too, cool.
I do have a tractor, but I hadn't started it in many years. I suppose it would behoove me to dust it off and clean the fuel lines and see what happens when I turn it over.
Smiles.
Brian
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Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4956
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Let me know if you have any questions, I'm always happy to find options for folks.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1893
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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You have some great advise so far.
While you might be a bit unsure, I think you have most of the info that you need to start.
Here is what I would recommend.

1) Earthworks/Swales to "capture" the water/soil/mulch so that you dont have to worry about irrigation and erosion as much.
2) Rockdust/Mineral/Sea-90 so that your plant require less water to absorb enough minerals
3) Soil Microbes/Worm Tea/Mushroom Slurries so that they can be extended plant root and keep mineral bio-available.
4) Carbon/BioChar/Manure/Straw
5) This is where I would say cover crop, but your pasture is your cover crop

So now for your Pasture List/Cover Crop
Pasture (4 categories and 7 species in each category)
A) N-fixer (•15% Birdsfoot Trefoil•10% Forage Pea•10% Red Clover•10% Alfalfa) 45%
B) Drymass (•15% Orchardgrass•10% Kentucky Bluegrass•10% Perennial Ryegrass) 35%
C) Medicinals/Pest Control (10% -Forage Chicory -Mint/Thyme Family - Carrot Family - Onion Family) 10%
D) Soil Aerators/Miners (10% Daikon Radish) 10%

I would broadcast about 50lbs of seeds per acre. But you can do as low or high as you want.
Hopefully someone will post a plant/pasture mix that is more optimized for your climate

 
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go to youtube and look up Gabe Brown. He runs pasture raised  beef up north on 16" of rain, no outside grain, everything the cows eat comes from his place (tho it's huge). He plants all kinds of cover crops which he then grazes the cows on. Some of his talks  (I think the one done by Living Web Farms) they do a calculation of how much of what kind of seed per acre and how they figure that out. I think that's also the video that shows how over 20 years how much his soil has improved.
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Location: northern New Mexico
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Thanks yes Gabe Brown is awesome. I'm beginning to see that perhaps I should hold off on grazing the pasture this year and perhaps longer until I can establish more nitrogen fixers such as the vetch. There are quite a few New Mexico seed growers of which my late uncle was one. So far I haven't found a source for seeds, but I'm looking. After researching tips from the good people here I can now see that cattle and other grazers need to be moved around according to the permaculture plan of which I haven't learned enough yet to create, but I'm enthusiastically working on.  I can also see that the pasture can be a far greater resource for us as polyculture agriculture. I was also aware that the climate seems less and less likely to supply enough snow pack to count on the acequia for irrigation and so the natural next step in swales and ponds to catch these  torrential rains that appear to be the new norm.
I try to hike the property every day and there is a place where the water shed of a large valley to the west of us dumps tons of rainwater into our land. Many years ago the old timer neighbor thought it a good idea to cut down all the trees on a huge area to make way for pasture. Grrr, to say the least.  The result is we get all that soil and water dumped on us. I want to grab that energy before it leaves our property, right?
I was thinking if I could get the help of USDA Soil conservation engineers it may be possible to break the hydraulic velocity coming off that watershed and slow it down by aiming it at the hill shown in this image. Sort of like an emergency Semi braking lane on a grade.
What do you think?
I'm still in the beginning of reading the Permaculture designers manual so these big picture ideas all just beginning to form in my mind.
Brian

 
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Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Brian, as you read Mark's book you will find great ways to slow and soak in that water along with having a pond for water storage at the upper key point.

In your area you might find that building silvo pastures works better than totally cleared land, shade is important to provide for cattle and other grazing animals.
It also gives you wind breaks.

Redhawk
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Thanks Redhawk, it's true about grazing animals, whether I have cattle on or not the Elk and Deer are always present
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Depending on your ag zone, different things work in different degrees of success. Here in SW Virginia where we get a lot of rain and it is pretty hilly (and erosion is a real issue), no-till is a big deal. However, for a lot of people no-till means yes-chemicals. If practiced right (as in no chemicals), money can be saved by drilling seed and cross seeding/over seeding. Seed broadcasting works but the rates are higher per acre and germination rates are generally lower. If you will broadcast, make sure you use something like a cultipacker for better seed/soil contact. Obviously, do that when rain chances are high so you don't end up just feeding the local bird population. Depending on the part of the country, grass has a season when the chances are best of it coming up and staying alive. Around here it means seeding in early fall. Not that you can't seed in spring but early fall is better.

We are rehabbing a place that was corn/soybean conventional use and pretty neglected. In spring we drilled grass seeds into a few acres of sloping fields and they came out but that was also the first time the land had not been sprayed. This means tons of weeds and other grasses that had been suppressed for years by chemicals finally got their shot at living . The approach that works for us is mow frequently (so weeds/unwanted grasses like fall panicum do not re-seed) and re-seed/over-seed this fall. Over time grasses will out-compete everything else. Grasses are difficult to establish and they are difficult to kill. In between it is pretty simple .

Now, the best thing to do is find locals who know how to grow grasses successfully. Yes, 99% of them use chemicals but you don't have to take ALL the advice, just the seeds/timing etc. and make sure those choices are not affected by the chemicals (i.e. someone tells you to buy particular seeds because they survive better due to round-up use or something like that).

If I were you I would cover crop first this winter and till everything into the ground in spring and then start the cycle. But that depends on location as well.

You can also use grains such as oats as nurse crops for the grass. We did that in one field and got a nice harvest of oats (again no chemicals used) which we sold to a fella who produces and sells raw milk in the area with his several dairy cows. Buckwheat is an excellent crop to plant in a field because it germinates extremely quickly, will out compete a lot of weeds by shading them out and it will bind phosphorus into the soil for the next crop. It is also good food for pollinators such as bees. Finally, you can collect the seeds and grind them into flour. After that till the buckwheat into the soil to be used as biomass. What would work best if you go this route is disking the field to bury all the existing green biomass into the ground and immediately seeding the buckwheat so it can germinate quickly and establish itself over all the seeds waiting to come out in the dirt. Of course depending on zone/location your timing/approach may vary.

Finally, altering landscapes on large scale is (in my humble opinion) better left to people who have successfully done it on many occasions. You are better (in my opinion) working with the land you have without massive land moving projects. Only if everything else fails I would resort to moving dirt.
 
Posts: 100
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You might look thru some of the forums on this site. Also, YouTube has some informative videos on Management Intensive Livestock Grazing that discuss utilizing your livestock to manage the grass/pasture:


Here are some other sources of information behind the management intensive grazing concept.

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Greener_Pastures_on_Your_Side_of_the_Fence/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Greg_Judy_on_mob_grazing/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Pasture_ecology/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Pasture_occupation_and_recovery_periods/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Coping_with_uneven_pasture_growth/

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Grasses_and_legumes_for_intensive_pastures/


The following sites are about the potential of using livestock to build up the soil:

Raincrow Film LLC Occam's Grazer: An In-depth Introduction to Holistic Management
 

Greg Judy VABF 2011 USING ANIMALS TO HEAL THE LAND
 

Ian Mitchell-Innes Interview on Holistic Management Planned Grazing
 

Check out this website to see pictures of the root system of prairie grasses: https://www.tallgrassprairiecenter.org/prairie-roots-project

Here's another website: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2015/10/15/digging-deep-reveals-the-intricate-world-of-roots/

There is a really good chart showing many species in the greening the deserts thread. I deciphered the list of the names, also on that thread.
I can't seem to find the website where you can see the original chart at full scale.

Here's another website that talks about grasses and forbs and the depth and patterns of their roots. This site also sells the seeds: http://www.prairiefrontier.com/pages/families/roots.html
The reason that you use a mixture is that the different species grow at different times (some are early spring, others take off during the hot summer).
 
Posts: 67
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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I wouldn’t wait to start grazing though moving cattle regularly does require some infrastructure - electric fencing and watering points come to mind. As far as seeding the pasture goes, buy untreated seed, feed it to the cattle and let them seed the pasture. When I say grazing I should make it clear I mean mob grazing with regular moves. Alan Savory’s holistic planned grazing is a fine example of method. Great looking piece of country by the way.
 
Posts: 180
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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According to the previous posts, you intend to run a herd?

Based on what I’ve seen here at home, and the photos you’ve posted, suggest you might want to consider planting the boundary line with a broad selection of indigenous trees and shrubs to act as a windbreak, increase water infiltration and biodiversity. With some creative selection, the trees could also be used in an agroforestry context.

The usual expansion of this is to divide the property into separate pastures for rotation of herds, and then plant the same species along those fence lines to further improve pasture quality and herd protection during hot/cold weather.
 
Oddo Da
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It always amazes me how people want to run livestock in areas that cannot really support them.

How big is the area you want to manage, in acres? What is the typical AUM for the area? 1 cow/calf pair per what, 25 acres? 50 acres?

For rotational/flash grazing you need split pastures and depending on the size of your area you may not be able to do that, especially at size (number of cows). Perhaps sheep are better suited?

I would just stick to growing native grasses for a bit and then you can always release a cow or two a few years later if your efforts prove to be fruitful and only for pasture improvement - they aren't going to get fed off a small area year round. Having spent time in SW Texas and New Mexico years ago, these ecosystems had been raped by overgrazing and inappropriate cattle introduction to areas where cattle had no business being (on a permanent basis), just like today everyone is growing pecans in areas of New Mexico and Texas where they get 9-12" of rain per year. Astonishing. Don't forget that native wildlife compete for the same space/resources as well - if you want to live in harmony with Nature then this should be a consideration.

Windbreaks and treelines, swales? These areas may not have traditionally had any trees save for some junipers and the same area probably grew native prairie grasses, things like gramma grass just fine. People tend to want to get involved and do all sorts of massive, long lasting and over-reaching things, when all they need to do is small, incremental changes...
 
Posts: 139
Location: On the plateau in TN
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What are your plans for this pasture? 

S Bengi has nice concepts of cover crops to improve soil.  Looks like you may want to get access to a tractor with the big area?  I wouldn't get hung up on finding swales.  I would just try to figure out when, how much the water flow goes naturally first.  Oddo da has sound concepts too.   How much rain do you get annually in your area of Texas?   Work with your county extension office.
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Location: northern New Mexico
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Wow, thanks everyone for these great comments. It's a lot to take in all at once, but I think I get the gist of what you are saying.
I'm reading Bill Mollison's Permaculture book and am at that point where he is describing the complexities of natural niches, time and space.

Hehe well I'm well past upper case b, but I want this stuff to really sink in so I'm sticking to it.
I called the man who we lease out the property to for his 12 uppity cows to let him know we won't be running the cattle this year while I work on the land and frankly take a break from his escape artist cows. He said he wants to get out of the cow raising business as his pasture can't handle his own cows. He said "can we go for one or two more seasons please?"
Hmm, we'll talk I said. Hopefully he'll come over today and we can hammer something out. We're desperate to have some grass fed beef right away, so maybe we can strike some kind of deal if he can slaughter one and share the meat.
We'll need to put up an additional fence to keep the cattle out of our home sites so that we don't need to keep opening the gates every time we go in and out since the young cows have figured out how to jump over the cattle guard my brother and I built decades ago.
The truth is evident in that single drawing in Mollison's book, so many complexities are involved in every cycle of every space and time. It can be a bit overwhelming to think about how we can fit in and plan what we should do.
I think at this point in time it may be prudent to let the guy put the 12 cows on our pasture, get my antique tractor back in action, find a seed drill or make one, save money for enough vetch seed to get the nitrogen fixers working on the pasture to increase the quality of the topsoil. I also like the idea of rolling the fields to press the nitrogen fixers back into the ground, so I will need to build a roller too. These are all going to be possible as long as my health continues to improve.
At the moment my 29 year old  daughter is suffering  with alcoholism and that is really hard on all of us. This also breaks down what could be a productive community aspect to my permaculture plans for this property. Alcoholism is the worst monkey wrench to the best lain plans, but it is what it is and I'll do what I can, hoping she comes out of it okay.
In the meantime thank you all for all these links. I will as time allows look at each one.   
Brian
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Oddo Da
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Don't waste time building tools - rent them for starters. Around here a no-till seed drill will rent for $15/acre, you just need something to pull it with. Heck, people around here will bring their drill and seed for you for $40/hour. If you drill in seed, you will not need a cultipacker to roll it- you only need it if broadcasting.

Looking at your photos again, I would not disk the land and no-till seed drilling would be your best bet.

You only buy/build tools if you are planning on using them year after year after year. Most often they can be found at local auctions or sales for next to nothing - they may require some work but you can get lucky.

I bought a 6ft disk harrow from a neighbor for $275. A new one will set you back $1300 at Northern Tool (and that's the medium duty angle frame one - the box frame is more!). I grow grains and teff hay on three different pastures and also plant cover crops. For me it makes sense to own the tools. There is a nice Oliver Superior antique seed drill for sale about 30 miles from me - they are asking $250 for it! After I refurbish it, I will use it to the day I die. This baby has metal wheels - that's how old it is!

Hope this helps.
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Thank you Oddo Da.
First thing I'll need to do is learn how a seed drill works so I might be able to make an educated guess about buying one. There is very little farming here, it's mostly ranching for cattle or feed for cattle.
Up here in the mountains there is only one tractor and implement source and it is very small. It's basically in a guy's front yard. I'll need to go to bigger areas to search, such as Santa Fe or Albuquerque which is 150 miles away.
I looked at images of Oliver Superior antique seed drill and now I know more than I did before, so I thank you for that.
    Brian
 
Oddo Da
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Brian Rodgers wrote:Thank you Oddo Da.
First thing I'll need to do is learn how a seed drill works so I might be able to make an educated guess about buying one. There is very little farming here, it's mostly ranching for cattle or feed for cattle.
Up here in the mountains there is only one tractor and implement source and it is very small. It's basically in a guy's front yard. I'll need to go to bigger areas to search, such as Santa Fe or Albuquerque which is 150 miles away.
I looked at images of Oliver Superior antique seed drill and now I know more than I did before, so I thank you for that.
    Brian



You can also try something else - get a heavy spring tooth harrow, drag the land,  broadcast seeds and then drag the land again with the harrow. This will help "bury" the seeds some and increase soil/seed contact and provide enough cover for the seeds not to be eaten by birds. Watch the weather forecast closely for rain and do the seeding day or two before rain. You should talk to locals and see what, if anything, they do for seeding pastures. In your neck of the woods, there may be nobody doing so. Are you in Quemado area? Or more like Chama? Or are you towards Farmington?

What is your soil type? Clay? Sand? Rock? How much topsoil? In many of the arid desert areas there is not much top soil. SW Texas, for example, esp. the desert has a lot of rock, bentonite clay underneath (try driving on that after a heavy rain!) and some sand. So, drilling seed in that many not even be possible...

Ideally you want light to moderate rain in the forecast. Heavy rains in NM often mean flash floods and you can see all your seeds going down the arroyos...

 
Mark Kissinger
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Oddo Da wrote:It always amazes me how people want to run livestock in areas that cannot really support them.

...

I would just stick to growing native grasses for a bit and then you can always release a cow or two a few years later if your efforts prove to be fruitful and only for pasture improvement - they aren't going to get fed off a small area year round. Having spent time in SW Texas and New Mexico years ago, these ecosystems had been raped by overgrazing and inappropriate cattle introduction to areas where cattle had no business being (on a permanent basis), just like today everyone is growing pecans in areas of New Mexico and Texas where they get 9-12" of rain per year. Astonishing. Don't forget that native wildlife competes for the same space/resources as well - if you want to live in harmony with Nature then this should be a consideration.

Windbreaks and treelines, swales? These areas may not have traditionally had any trees save for some junipers and the same area probably grew native prairie grasses, things like gramma grass just fine. People tend to want to get involved and do all sorts of massive, long lasting and over-reaching things, when all they need to do is small, incremental changes...



Oddo Da brings up some important considerations about grazing livestock.

A herd must be sized to the capacity of the grasses they feed on, and your attention to the growth habits of the grasses present in your pastures. The grazing habits and weight of the livestock species is also a critical decision that you will need to make. Your 'herd' can be made up of something as small as a single chicken tractor with a small number of birds.

Utilizing native plant species (they vary considerably from region to region) can help to ensure a diverse mix of grasses and forbs that are adapted to the seasonal nature of vegetation in your area. Reintroducing native species can result in much less use of fuel-burning equipment and extensive reseeding of 'store-bought' seeds, but it does demand more active management of your herd and pasture.
 
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Were beavers ever native to your area?

NOAA (in particular a researcher named Pollock) has been looking into beaver dam analogues.  Mostly in (northern?) Oregon, but others have started in on this.  But, a person can build a poor beaver dam, and if beavers arrive on the scene they could easily adopt the dam and call it home.  And they will do maintenance.  If you have trees (like aspen, maybe alder) growing, that they prefer for food in the vicinity of the beaver dam (uphill), that might help.

There was a story I ran across where I think someone near Calgary wanted to have beavers come take over a project of his.  So, he recorded the sound of running water, and put out speakers to make it sound like there was running water at his place.  And eventually, some beavers came and took over maintenance of his dam.

But that may be a way to tame your watershed.  If beavers were native to your area, you might be able to get your fish and wildlife people to import a breeding pair or two.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Another question, is "who" made the ancient swales?

If some indigenous tribe did this, then they may have data about the why and how they did this.

 
Mark Kissinger
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Gordon Haverland wrote:Another question, is "who" made the ancient swales?

If some indigenous tribe did this, then they may have data about the why and how they did this.



It's quite possible that they were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the 1930s. A search of the CCC records at a local historical museum or the Library of Congress might be a source.

Another possibility would be a tribe of the Pueblo peoples, who were skilled farmers. Are there any Pueblo ruins in the area?
 
Mark Kissinger
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I found that list of native prairie grasses and forbs.

These are plants from the US prairie biome. You should contact your local agricultural agent for suitable native plants in your area. Hope this helps.

Drought tolerant, deep-rooted plants (LIST)
May 12, 2018 Mark Kissinger
Drought tolerant, deep-rooted plants
Grasses & shrubs:

Lead Plant (Amorpha canescerns)
Missouri Goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis)
Compass Plant (Silphlum laciniatum)
Heath Aster (Aster ericoides)
Big Blue Stem (Andropagon Gerardi)
Prairie Dropseed (Sparobolus heterolepis)
False Boneset (Kuhnia eupatorioides)
White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucanthis)
Purple Prairie Clover (Petalastermum pueputeum)
June Grass (Koeleria cristata)

Indian Grass (Sorgastrum nutans)
Porcupine Grass (Sripa tpartea)
Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina pectinata)
Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)
Side Oats Grama (Bouteous curtipendula)
Switch Grass (Panicum vigantum)
Little Blue Stem (Andropogan scoparius)
Rosin Weed (Silphium integrifolium)
Cylindric Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea)
Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
Trees:
African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis)
Some of these plants are available for purchase as seed or bare root plants at https://www.prairiemoon.com ; A site for “natives for gardening and restoration.” Some fun information there.


They may not all be suitable for the New Mexico climate, but the photos looked like you might be getting a bit more moisture than the drier areas of the state. What is the average your elevation and rainfall for your area?
 
Brian Rodgers
pollinator
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Thank you all for the replies and wealth of information. We're at 7200 feet above sea level, average rainfall 16 inches. We got that in one storm a few years ago after a terrible two year drought.

I don't have a rain gauge after finding out the hard way that they can freeze solid if you don't empty them in the Fall. Doh!
I suppose the first thing I need to do in the pasture is learn what plants and grasses are here already. There is great diversity of plants, but my father was always the one who knew all the names and uses, I sadly never paid enough attention.
There are small patches of topsoil showing here and there in the non-irrigated upper field, which is pretty amazing considering the interruption to our weather patterns with 100 years floods coming every five years. Having a deluge of rain after a two year long drought wreaked havoc all around the country side here four years ago. Or pasture held up fairly well because we had not grazed it in a few years around the time my parents and brother died. Man oh man the neighbor's fields where they have way too many horses, they lost so much topsoil it was piled up on the roads. 
Brian 
 
Oddo Da
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Horses are particularly bad for pastures - they pull the grass from the roots if the grasses are not long enough - it has to do with the teeth. The only way we graze our horses is when grass is at least 8 inches tall and we rotate carefully, paying attention not to overgraze. Portable pens are good for this purpose as is temporary electric fencing. Cattle seem to be easier on land but the problem is usually greed - people seem to want to put more cattle than the land can allow. As with every grazing animal, they will prefer grasses and some weeds and will not touch others. What this results in is negative selection for weeds nobody wants as they will eat all the "good stuff" and leave the bad stuff to propagate untouched. You have to stay on top of that. My neighbor's field right now is full of cocklebur this year and it doesn't help it gets transported on their hair everywhere. They will not eat it, pigs will but it can be pretty toxic to livestock.

Beware of loco weed out there. It amazes me how many people have no idea about it, even people who have owned horses for decades. One time we rented a place in Prescott for a few months and it had a two-stall barn and turnouts. The people who owned the place had kept their own horses there before moving to Tucson. On the first day we arrived, we spotted the loco weed in the turnouts. We called them and texted them photos and they said they had never heard of the weed....

The climate is changing. Out here we got inundated with rains with Florence and now there is another storm coming through bringing more rain. The whole year has been just one endless rain. It delayed planting in Spring and it delayed planting in fall. The clay here gets waterlogged pretty bad and old hardwood trees fall down as a result. Out where you are the land is parched and dry and any rain in large amounts in a short period of time is bound to make a mess. We lived in central TX a few years back when we got two historic floods in one year - I had never seen masasive bridges carried away like match sticks...
 
Mark Kissinger
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Thanks for the extra information. You have described the reason your swales look so ancient: I believe they are probably from the 1930s, but the pasture has been overgrazed, which accelerated the erosion of the swale. It's really important to get vegetation growing where the topsoil is exposed.

I highly recommend the two volumes by Brad Lancaster on rainwater harvesting:

https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/about/

Volume Two on Drylands is probably focused more on your needs:

https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/store/

You can also take a look at quite a few YouTube videos that are available by searching the terms, 'Brad Lancaster on rainwater harvesting'.

Light grazing using the mobbing technique will actually accelerate the recovery of overgrazed pastures, and the cattle and especially the wildlife will probably supply a good variety of native seeds all on their own. With any luck, your successes using Permaculture methods will 'rub-off' on your neighbors.

I'm sure you will be a wonderful steward of this beautiful land that you have been given the privilege to manage.

 
Gordon Haverland
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If beavers are native to your area, there are studies showing that their dams help control flooding risks.  The URL is to a newspaper article, but it references one such study.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/16/beavers-blamed-flash-floods-scotland-control-flooding-study

 
Brian Rodgers
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Thanks Gordon
OMG! What a fun day I had with my son. First we played in the shop, getting saws ready for a day in the forest. We then loaded up saws, axes and protective gear for an afternoon in the forest. I just don't know how it could get any better than that.
I've added some photos of the Rodgers' forest
Forest-Day-Austin-Brian-OMG-Tired-sore-Loading-green-wood-October-8th-2018  Here I've piled the branches from two felled and blocked "Damn Near Dead trees," as my brother used to call them into what remains after forty plus years of an arroyo, just north of our Tusas Memorial Camps.
Forest-Day-Austin-Brians-Buddy-October-8th-2018
Wow, I'm so sore and tired I don't know whether I'm coming or going, but I sure hope you enjoyed this newsletter as much as I did creating it.
Again I had Google photos help repair the low resolution photos my lame smartphone takes.
You guys have a great day. If you need me I should be right here on the couch or perhaps back in bed, or both, lol!
Love love
Brian

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Enjoy this movie:

Carbon Cowboys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGvVli0OTrQ
 
pollinator
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Brian -

I really like the look of the forest you're working on. You're headed in the right direction there, and it's a huge contrast from all the doghair Ponderosa forests I used to see around AZ and NM. Are those pines nearby and uphill from the pasture land?
 
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Brian,
If you are in the Las Tusas that is near Sapello, NM( Mora County) then the Soil and Water Conservation office in Mora rents farm equipment for a good cost. They even have a person come and run the equipment for you depending on what it is. We have rented fence post augers, tractor 3pt hitch tillers, seeders, chippers, etc. It is a great resource!


We had some really lovely flood irrigated grass/alfalfa pastures in Cleveland, just past Mora. Saw lots of improvement rotating a small herd of dairy goats, free range chickens and adding minerals and more diversity of forbes. The pastures had been over grazed by horses before we moved there but they came back nicely in just a couple of years. It is very good pasture country if you can deal with the  pocket gophers. We grew some beautiful alfalfa, but the gophers love to eat on the roots.


There is a guy down the Sapello river from you who is an expert in beavers. He has permission to relocate them from ranches where people are trying to get rid of them. He has an experimental place where he re introduced beaver, planted willows and cottonwood for them and then tests water quality. water was much cleaner after bringing in beavers and his riparian area is improving dramatically from when the previous owners were over grazing cattle that eroded the stream banks.
 
If you two don't stop this rough-housing somebody is going to end up crying. Sit down and read this tiny ad:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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