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Forest duff as mulch {OP's note Project-ended-Poor-idea}  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Hi, how is everybody?
I decided to spend some time in the forest this morning, I'm glad I did.
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The only Forest Duff I have used as mulch, is from areas of relatively young red Alder. Alder does well in pure gravel, since it produces its own nitrogen. Loss of this stuff doesn't seem to hurt it. Many Forest environments will suffer from the loss of this later.
 
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In a pine forest such as in your photos, removal of the "duff" means removal of the nutrient replenishment system of the forest soil.
Loss of a great area of pine duff will deplete the nutrient level to the point of causing a fungi die off and pines are fairly fungal needy.
If you don't mind those forest trees getting sick and dying, then removal is probably acceptable, it does remove the chance of forest fire spreading along the burning ground.
 
Brian Rodgers
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Yes I should probably qualify that it is super important to be aware and cautious about where and how much duff is removed from the forest. I'm having a rough day so I should have written a descriptive essay to go along with this picture show, sorry I didn't.  
I hope by being conscientious about where and how much I take it isn't causing significant  damage.  I should stress that I only remove several pitchforks worth from around a dozen of the largest trees in the densest areas for one of these trailer loads.
For the next collection I  move to an area far away for the next little trailer load. We're blessed with a large area in a healthy Ponderosa pine forest. When I am done it looks about the same as what a bear does when it digs for insects. I'll get some pictures of the forest floor after my next run.
I'll go back to some of the spots I got forest duff from last month and see if, as I hoped the Fall pine needle shed is covering the exposed earth below the trees. If that isn't the case I will curtail further removal.    
Thank you for your concern.
Brian
 
Brian Rodgers
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Good morning
Armed with this useful information from Redhawk and Dale to whom my gratitude goes, even though I was grumpy that day, thank you. You both got me thinking and in the end that is what it's all about.
I don't wish to stress the trees in the forest out any more than what climate change and bark beetles already do. So here is my plan for forest duff removal.
I will pick already sick trees to remove the duff from and then mark them for removal. We're always thinning this forest of tens of thousands of trees.
I've personally set foot in and around nearly every tree over the forty plus years we've been here.
This is extensive human - forest interaction as you can imagine.
I hope I feel well enough today to get back in the forest again. I need more filled in arroyo sand and silt recovered from the neighbor up hill from us where they clear cut the trees for cattle grazing, to put on my HugelKultur mound by the Koi pond.  
I need to mark more trees for removal today anyway, now armed with the knowledge that removing parts of the forest floor to use in  our gardens dooms the tree to greater stress and sickness, I'll combine this practice with the other factors any particular tree may have when I determine its fate.

Not all the trees in the forest have a thick layer of pine duff. From now on I'll be checking on the connection between forest duff thickness and tree health in the management practice currently in effect.
Climate change has caused hail storms of greater magnitude these last five years. Hail has been so large that it strips the pine needles off the Ponderosa pines.
I'll see if I can find images of the hail damage in the forest, it is pretty incredible. Most of the needles on whichever side the hail came from were sent to the ground. All the trees have suffered and struggled  greatly since then. There is no shortage of standing dead trees in the last few years. They make good emergency firewood sources, but I am beginning to see from the Create ocote (fatwood) thread Ocote-aka-Fatwood-creating-forest I started a few days ago that even dead trees continue to draw water out of the ground. Sick trees should be removed as soon as possible after spotting them to curtail the energy they remove in their near hopeless effort to survive.
 
Since we've been stewards of the forest we have many more trees which grow to fifty feet, not large on the scale of old-growth Ponderosa, but thanks to the railroad companies there are very few old-growth trees in this area.
Las Vegas is on the Santa Fe trail and in 1880 the railroad came through. I hadn't thought about this is a long time and as a consequence of discontinuing my Web site several years ago I guess I lost the research I did on the local forests and how they got to the condition they were in when we got here in the 70's.
Basically  loggers felled every tree that was in a semi-flat forest as this area where the Rocky mountains begin. Once you get up near the 9 and 10 thousand foot tall Sange De Christo mtns you can see that it was too difficult for the oxen drawn log trailer to get to and this made them focus on the low-lying areas such as our ranch.   This was done twice I learned from extensive research First time was when the railroad came to Las Vegas in 1880. They clear cut the areas then made accessible by equipment of the early 20's snagging more old growth trees from the area.
One of the beautiful features  which brought my parents to this area are the semi-flat forests.
 
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Brian Rodgers
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Good morning
I worked in the forest yesterday mostly digging sod for my Hugel, but also walking around, observing and photographing.
Here is a shot at the fence between our property and the neighbor's where they clear cut trees for pasture.

Oct-2018-our-forest-on-left-source-of-topsoil-on-right
It is beginning to recover after three decades.

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Here are some examples of hail damage to Ponderosa pine trees

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That day after the hail storm which ended a two year drought made the forest floor bright green with downed pine needles. Rapid climate charge, needs rapid response I guess.
Lucky for us most of the trees survived that brutal assault. Knock on wood bark beetles are sparse.
There is a balance between thick forests and thinning the Forest Service needs.
Now that I am looking at forest duff for the emergency repairs of the grasshopper plague to our gardens last year I'm listening and reading about permaculture. We'll build swales in the forest to go along with the slash berms already being created.
I'm learning more every day here on Permies and I am going to add permaculture practices to my current forestry practice.  
I kinda knew that by thinning the forest too much was removing the ceiling and letting in the wind and sun drying the forest floor, which is one of the reasons a 40 acre section I had contracted with the Forest Service was never completed. I chose to go a different route, not too mention 40 acres is huge for one person to thin. During the last few acres of thinning I was saying, "let's leave more trees, what say?"  
 
Dale Hodgins
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One great place to find duff material that won't be missed, is if it's an area that is going to be cleared for some reason. If you see that new building lots are marked out and they are going to level everything, I don't think there's anything wrong with grabbing every available resource.

When I work on demolitions and house removal, I often give all of the soil in flower beds, which has been improved, to the same people who dig up the rhododendrons. If a new road or shopping mall or anything are being built on forested land, that might be an ideal spot to gather, after gathering the appropriate permission of course.
 
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If you want to have a healthy forest, then you should leave some diseased and damaged and dead trees.  This process allows for habitat diversity.  More species will be in your forest: more lichens, more fungi, more insects, more spiders...  More woodpeckers, more insect-eating, and sap sucking birds of all sorts, and then more spaces for cavity nesters like owls, bats, and rodents to live.  

By all means, you can remove some of them, but the more of these that you remove, the more your forest is open to potential future problems.  The more you are able to leave, the more resilient and dynamic the forest is.  There are limits, of course, as too much dead wood is going to increase your fire hazard.  

The way it works, though, is that a diseased tree will produce a resistant ecosystem within and around it, and the birds and rodents all add to the nutrients/healing of the system.  Even if it dies, the forest benefits from this information that is encoded in all those changes and exchanges.  The fungal network in the forest is transferring this information to all the adjacent trees, and they pass it on, through the information highway that is made up of the symbiotic mycorrhizal network.  The forest is sharing nutrients as well as this information, and healthy trees will support those who have been weakened.  While the hail damage might seem extreme to you, there may be a significant recovery in the next few years; trees are incredibly resilient beings.  They are still alive and the living parts of those trees are benefiting the soil system, through nutrient exchanges of root exudates for bio chelated minerals and trace nutrients made available from microbes.  

These damaged trees might be removing some water in their life processes, but unless you are adding other trees, there will actually be a net loss of water if you remove the tree, from my understanding.  This is because the ecosystem around each individual tree, itself, is responsible for retaining a large amount of water in the soil.  I wouldn't X these trees off simply because they have damage from a heavy hail event.

'm learning more every day here on Permies and I am going to add permaculture practices to my current forestry practice.

Do monitor them, and keep notes, and then make decisions.  If you have the time, then take the time to do it with the most knowledge that you can.  Permaculture is most often thought about as a series of techniques, but it is actually a system of design based on observation and ethics.  So if your intention is to add permacultural practices, my suggestion is to continue to observe and gain information and knowledge from your land and from holistic forestry resources.  One great book that you may be interested in ordering from the library is Seeing The Forest Among Trees: The Case for Wholistic Forest Use by Herb Hammond.  

Have you seen the this interesting information: Mother Tree  If you search the name Suzanne Simard you can find Ted Talks and other videos that have more of her information.    
 
Brian Rodgers
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I've done more reading on the subject and decided to abandon this project for the sake of life in the forest.
The first thing I read was Bryant Redhawk's thread The quest for super soil
And soon afterward my wife and I watched a dear departed friend's mentor Paul Staments' video "6 ways mushrooms can save the world."  

I'm so sorry, now I feel like the antagonist in Avatar, killing the Tree of Life for my personal gain.  
On top of that I've just begun chapter 3 of Permaculture Designers Manual. I'm beginning to see how everything is connected, but I have a long way to go.  
Living learning
Brian
 
master pollinator
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Whoa, whoa, whoa. You haven't even read The Manual yet?

Just kidding. I have read it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's too dense for most people's taste; there's so much good material out there, anyways, and so many more specific guides tailored to individual situations or goals that reference it that I don't know that it's necessary for most practical purposes, except as a reference resource.

Honestly, as valuable a resource as it is in itself, I think perhaps I get at least as much from a good read of Dr. Redhawk's Soil Threads.

And don't feel bad about your perceived error. I don't think it all needs to be forest. Remember what is widely held about edge habitat, health and abundance in diversity and all that. You could have garden islands, or patches that are different tree species, and the excesses of that zone will still be shifted around and made useful by the mycorrhizae.

-CK
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Brian, in your photos I see several areas that would make great food forest spaces and after consulting with a couple of my fellows, removal of the pine forest duff can be beneficial if you were to plant it heavily with legumes and deep root plants such as alfalfa (Lucerne), rape and daikon radish.
These plants tend to draw a better than present microbiology to the soil, which would allow more minerals to become available along with raising the pH slightly.
The area would then more resemble silvo pasture and you even add in vegetable gardens in the second year because of the soil profile improvement the cover crops would provide.

You are on a great journey, don't be afraid to make mistakes or what seem to be mistakes at first appearance.
We have lots of folks here with a huge amount of knowledge so use us anytime you need help or just want other ideas on how to proceed.

Redhawk
 
Chris Kott
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I was actually wondering if doing a kind of reverse savannah, where you have clearings around non-forest plantings, or just open, polycultured pasture and pollinator habitat, creating your edge for you.

Kola Redhawk, is it that alfalfa isn't as needy of alkaline soils as I thought, or that pine forests might not necessarily have soils as acidic as I am used to? I am on board with the rest, but I had thought alfalfa and acidic soils wouldn't mix.

-CK
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I think a reverse savannah would be a good model to work from, as are the others that have been mentioned in your earlier post Chris.
There are lots of different models that would work in the OP's situation, and they could trial several by spreading them out.

Alfalfa will grow because of the other plant seeds I mentioned, which would be part of an overall spreading in the understory area so there could become a good root base and the newly growing cover crops would also make some pH changes through the exudates they are going to start producing upon germination.
If you were to try and grow just a crop of alfalfa, then it would take a lot longer for the pH change and the sprouting alfalfa would probably struggle and might even die out because of the monocrop treatment.
I like to see lots of variety in seed mixes used for cover crops, the more the better in fact.

This isn't something you would want to try by planting through the forest duff, but is designed to work after the duff is removed, which is when we want to get a new cover on the now bared soil.

Redhawk
 
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I see trees in very bad conditions that are still growing. Like a road that splits away to keep from cutting a tree. Or trees planted in a circle that is surrounded by concrete sidewalks in a downtown setting. Or fanatic homeowners that rake up all the leaves yearly from their trees.

These are the observations i have made to determine that moderate harvest of the forest floor is not a problem. Moderation being the key word.  

 
Brian Rodgers
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Thank you both for this important information which I'll make every attempt to add to my bulging tool box, going forward.
Here is more information about the area I steward:
         1) In the last twenty years I've pushed for more thickets and some clearings, as opposed to what the Forest Service method of thinning was  20 years ago; "twenty feet crown to crown with no exceptions for the individual tree."
         2)The majority of forested land has zero forest floor mulch.  
             The "meadows," previously referred to as "clearings," only have mulch in places where we removed Cedar, Juniper, PiƱon and some Ponderosa pine trees. Fossil infused limestone bedrock appears in many locations rising above whatever topsoil may exist.
             When I  look at the lay of the land in the Back 37 (acres) you can see due to a number of  systems complexities it appears that silt and pine duff which hasn't washed off  fill in the craggy surfaces,  when the grade is less than ~seven degrees?
             I need to research how the water in a tube level is used so I can plan swales.
             I instruct our wood gatherers to find the contour in a given hillside and then to place branches, pine needles facing the ground and the tip of the branches facing the watershed.  
I wonder if may be considered Tusas (our area) as a starting point. Another valuable piece of information: this property is ~225 acres, 3/4s forested, 1/4 in fields with many  types of landscape in between.
A small part of our forest we left alone, other than fire-breaks and road creation. One such area is the Crestone (ridge) because the slope is too great to get vehicles into.  
Obviously thinking about repairing the forest to it's Old-Growth glory is inspiring, but this also is a huge undertaking.
I'll use the lessons I'm learning enabling critical thinking needed to formulate a plan for example determining whether and how much energy it will require on my part, because of our limited income spending money on parts isn't a great option at this point. I'm moving toward a better way of thinking about all these projects I still have leftover after four years of suffering Western Medicine. Permaculture principles are already arranging my thoughts to consider all the things I skipped over all my life when I acted rashly and jumped into projects half-cocked. I will never have the level of energy I did when I was young. That realization is one more piece of the complexity permaculture puzzle I am beginning to formulate.
I hope this is coming across as one of many aha! moments in which I find myself everyday and realize there is a easier way, due in part to observing planning and time and effort.
One example I've recently learned has to do with mixing cement. I've mixed in our cement mixer, maybe five hundred loads. The lesson was simple; create buckets cut off so when full the proper volume of that ingredient and the mark them "Lime," "Portland," "Sand" and "Water." No more scrambling when a plasterer needs to announce, "This mix is too wet."  They all come out exactly the same, because my step-son did research and figured out how much lime it takes to fill in all the cracks between the particles of sand.

I'm also beginning learn that the ways I did things when I had limitless drive and energy and what can be done in the future at 64 years old will need to be thoroughly thought through to create an efficiency of effort, time and resources. This is exactly what I've looking for.
Brian  
     
 
wayne fajkus
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I doubt i will fully see the bounty of my project due to my age. I may never see a pecan from my trees. But i keep going in hopes that the bounty i create will stop a housing subdivision from going into my small acreage.

Even at that, i can still take a step back and look at year to year rather than day to day. This patience has probably saved some mistakes.

Keep it going!  
 
Brian Rodgers
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wayne fajkus wrote:I see trees in very bad conditions that are still growing. Like a road that splits away to keep from cutting a tree. Or trees planted in a circle that is surrounded by concrete sidewalks in a downtown setting. Or fanatic homeowners that rake up all the leaves yearly from their trees.
These are the observations i have made to determine that moderate harvest of the forest floor is not a problem. Moderation being the key word.  


Thank you Wayne, I appreciate the sentiment.
Studying permaculture has  awakened me to something bigger.
While I've had a plan for forest management it definitely seemed to be missing something. It's as if I had been taking slices out of the big picture and being satisfied that it appeared for the most part to be operable.
If you'll let me dig into my mind for a few minutes perhaps I can shed light on the Rodgers' historical forest philosophy.  
The Rodgers men consisted of our father Henry, and my older brother Jack.
On several attempts I tried to convince my brother that burning slash was a waste of biomass and an air pollutant. On the other hand he thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the forest and being by a fire.
He spent a great deal of time in the forest, dare I say raking up pine needles and pulling dead branches to his burn piles. My brother was ten years older than me, a mentor in some ways. I give him credit because he had told me 40 years ago that we could build soil.  
We did composting for our gardens. In the forest building berms as well as building those rock and brush dams in arroyos that our father, a conservationist had instructed us about.
On the other hand my brother had mental illness and that didn't help him make a lot of sense most of the time.  I tried to get him instead of burning it all to make berms with some of the slash or branches leftover from continual fire wood collecting and one timber harvest.
Alas, he couldn't find his way to go the more environmentally sound route.
In some ways my son takes after his beloved uncle. I'm doing my best to reestablish a better relationship with my son and encourage him to spend more time here in the forest. His Uncle has been gone for 7 years, RIP, brother.
At the same time my son also loved to burn slash and asks me if we can continue this Rodgers' tradition.
I've already described to him my ideals so many times he is probably sick of hearing it, so I said "yes," we can burn a few piles of slash and hang out in the forest.
Herein lies one life's many conundrums: Keeping true to a dream while considering family unity.
Yes indeed patience, we need more.
In the meantime my goals for the forest have heightened to include: Inspiring family and friends about the joys of creating handmade swales while we're enjoying this beautiful forest.
Brian
 

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Chris Kott
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What if you made charcoal for bio-char? I will try to find the link, but I saw a great funnel-shaped device for burning large piles of slash where the fire burning at the top of the pile choked out the oxygen on the finished, charred bottom of the pile. When the funnel was full of charcoal, the burn could be left to extinguish due to lack of oxygen, or could be drenched from the top.

This would let you have your burn pile and keep the carbon largely sequestered. I will try to find the youtube video.

-CK
 
Brian Rodgers
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Chris Kott wrote:What if you made charcoal for bio-char? I will try to find the link, but I saw a great funnel-shaped device for burning large piles of slash where the fire burning at the top of the pile choked out the oxygen on the finished, charred bottom of the pile. When the funnel was full of charcoal, the burn could be left to extinguish due to lack of oxygen, or could be drenched from the top.

This would let you have your burn pile and keep the carbon largely sequestered. I will try to find the youtube video.

-CK

I saw a thread this morning and was thinking the same thing. That funnel shape kiln was impressive. Make one on a trailer to bring to locations around the forest . I just started reading Paul's biochar thread. I need to know more about it.
 
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This is the source for the cone kiln: https://www.ithaka-institut.org/en/home
 
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i dug my forest duff in a clear area near a clear cut of spruce. when the loggers harvested they drug the trees into a clearing and de limbed them there leaving a large pile of spruce needles about 4 yrs old now. i came along and put them into my truck and applied them as a mulch around my trees and bushes. most of the needles have broke down to a nice black dirt. my blueberries and raspberries love the acidity. i limed it under my other plants but still provided good nutrients.
 
Brian Rodgers
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steve bossie wrote:i dug my forest duff in a clear area near a clear cut of spruce. when the loggers harvested they drug the trees into a clearing and de limbed them there leaving a large pile of spruce needles about 4 yrs old now. i came along and put them into my truck and applied them as a mulch around my trees and bushes. most of the needles have broke down to a nice black dirt. my blueberries and raspberries love the acidity. i limed it under my other plants but still provided good nutrients.


That is a good idea Steve. We did a little hike around the forest near our home yesterday. I saw places where I could remove forest duff where the adverse effects might be minimal too. I think at this point I want to do something good for the land to hopefully equal what I take away. I'm now seeing that the forest needs the duff more than I do.I want to promote more water retention around trees where I can and hopefully make a better habitat for berry bushes here. This was a real eye opener for me.
Brian
 
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Brian,

I spent years in a place like that. I still love the smells of the spring which is about the only time the humidity is high enough to smell the forest.

Given your limestone, alfalfa might be perfect. I have seen it sprout and mature to get deep roots where it is protected by brush piles to keep the deer off it until the brush rots. The nice thing is the alfalfa holds humidity and allows for the brush to rot faster once it is growing, decreasing the fire risk in a few years. The other plants that seem to be able to do well in those areas are mountain currant and what we called buffaloberries or shepherdia. Interestingly it grows poorly out east, I've tried. But those often can be transplanted locally.

Those can form a nice thicket pretty fast and are great for turkeys.  
 
Brian Rodgers
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Brian,

I spent years in a place like that. I still love the smells of the spring which is about the only time the humidity is high enough to smell the forest.

Given your limestone, alfalfa might be perfect. I have seen it sprout and mature to get deep roots where it is protected by brush piles to keep the deer off it until the brush rots. The nice thing is the alfalfa holds humidity and allows for the brush to rot faster once it is growing, decreasing the fire risk in a few years. The other plants that seem to be able to do well in those areas are mountain currant and what we called buffaloberries or shepherdia. Interestingly it grows poorly out east, I've tried. But those often can be transplanted locally.

Those can form a nice thicket pretty fast and are great for turkeys.  


Those are fantastic ideas thank you TJ. Alfalfa as well as Purple Clover do very well especially when we have water. I never thought of it for the forest, though. Awesome.
I'm glad you mentioned Buffaloberries too. I have planted those in a terraced area of the irrigated pasture. A few survived two droughts and are now doing quite well. I need to research how to propagate those around the property. I believe I got them from the Forest Service as Elk forage, ten years ago. I never saw them make berries either. I looked at them this year and was impressed they were still alive. Around the same time I created and filled nearby terraces with newspaper and branches to hold water and then planted onions, but they didn't do much either. I have my hope restored on getting the knowledge on making those terraces alive with permaculture. I totally forgot that I had that water catchment resource started.  Thank you all.
Brian
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Brian,

I spent years in a place like that. I still love the smells of the spring which is about the only time the humidity is high enough to smell the forest.

Given your limestone, alfalfa might be perfect. I have seen it sprout and mature to get deep roots where it is protected by brush piles to keep the deer off it until the brush rots. The nice thing is the alfalfa holds humidity and allows for the brush to rot faster once it is growing, decreasing the fire risk in a few years. The other plants that seem to be able to do well in those areas are mountain currant and what we called buffaloberries or shepherdia. Interestingly it grows poorly out east, I've tried. But those often can be transplanted locally.

Those can form a nice thicket pretty fast and are great for turkeys.  

i planted 6 buffalo berry on a gravelly hill on property i manage. i mulched around them to get them a good start. no berries yet but they are growing well in basically mostly gravel soil.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Love those photos of the ponderosa pines, especially since they are showing how these trees set themselves up to survive fire by dropping their lower branches.
This behavior is to prevent a fire from getting to the crown and killing the tree, brilliant work by the earth mother.

Burning slash in a controlled manner will produce great charcoal that once inoculated with bacteria and fungi becomes bio char and when you work that into the soil you create terra preta, a soil type that is capable of holding twice as much water than the same soil without the biochar component.
The trick is to limit the O2 so the fire doesn't burn all the wood to ash.
There are several methods of doing this, the most ancient of which is to dig a trench and stifle the fire by tossing back some soil as it burns, this reduces the heat by cutting off some of the O2.
The cone method is also good but then you have to build or purchase the equipment and drag it to where you want to burn.
The ancient method just needs some shovels to get the pit dug, you can shape the pit any way you like (a triangle works nicely, with the wide end to windward).

I like to try and make everything I do on Buzzard's Roost beneficial for the soil, that way I get what I want for the surface and I get extra benefit as soil building.
Ash is also a part of the terra preta regimen, the originals were created by "trash burns" done by the natives of the amazon basin, they created mounds of their trash and when they needed to, they set these on fire and then spread the results out over the land and started a new trash mound.
Eventually this made a layer in the soil and they found it allowed them to grow far more food in that area than the surrounding lands, so they probably started doing it more for creating more terra preta land.

Nice to see TJ, concur with the use of alfalfa and the clovers.

Redhawk
 
Brian Rodgers
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Thank you Bryant.
I just began chapter 4 in the Designers manual. Chapter three was a bit like reading a text book; chock full of information. Zones, systems, methods, if this was my book I'd be highlighting particular sentences to aid in retention and future reference. Mollison is incredibly in depth with his research and dissertations. At first I was feeling like there was a wall of confusion at the periphery of my understanding, but it fades away with every sentence and further with every page.
Nevertheless, I had to look up "Terra Preta." Holy cow! Terra Preta
One thing I'm terribly curious about and after watching several youtubies on biochar have not fulfilled that curiosity; is how inoculation of biochar  is accomplished other than I'd need to buy a inoculation starter and basically brew a tea? I will continue to read and research inoculation. If you have time could  you tell a beginner like me who doesn't have a stabilized temperature area to brew, if there is a camp method to inoculation teas? Can inoculation be done in rough weather homesteads like mine? Or is this a Summer season process for us campers in life?  
Brian
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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To get the microbiome growing in char so that it can become biochar, the easy way is to place your char in layers as you build a compost heap.
The second easy way is to stir in some compost tea (faster than letting it become populated in a compost heap).

If you are going to work some compost into the soil, just add the char at the same time, it will become populated with a microbiome over a period of time that way (this is probably the closest to how the originators of terra preta did it).

I usually use the second method I listed, I make additions to my char barrel and then, when I make up some compost tea for our fruit trees and gardens, I test the sprayer in the char barrel. (I usually don't bother trying to stir it up)
Normally I fill my sprayer 3-4 times when using a compost tea, so the barrel of char gets that many short sprays, if the sprayer nozzle clogs, then the barrel is going to get those extra sprays.
I also work the resulting biochar into a bed when I am adding compost at the end of the growing season.
 
That feels good. Thanks. Here's a tiny ad:
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