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When I see it like this I've done SO LITTLE :(  RSS feed

 
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I feel like I've done so much. 40 acres and I've been diligently working, on my own, for about 6-7 years now. When I see it all drawn out like this, I've barely scratched the surface! Mildly discouraging.

So if it's brown earth near our projects it has been seeded and is greened up right now. The weird swale between the barn and the house is just for watering my expensive trees. I just flood it and it waters everything easy peasy.

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master pollinator
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I think one to two acres is probably the most an individual might hope to complete, unless they are really super or have large equipment.  So I think you can pat yourself on the back for a good amount of work!
 
elle sagenev
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I think one to two acres is probably the most an individual might hope to complete, unless they are really super or have large equipment.  So I think you can pat yourself on the back for a good amount of work!



Yeah. I wouldn't have even completed this much without a tractor and excavator. Suppose I should be more thankful!
 
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While you may have 1,000 acres or 40 acres, I dont't think that you need all of that.
Just 1acre of food forest to feed a family (vegetables, mushroom, herb, berries, fruits, nuts, eggs, poultry, honey)
And another 1 acres for some dwarf milk goat and water ponds with fish.
Maybe another acres for a windbreak perimeter that is pollard for firewood.
To me anything more than that is just land for offspring or a farm for income or privacy/retreat.

What is your dream for the rest of the property that you don't need to provide you with food/firewood?
 
elle sagenev
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S Bengi wrote:While you may have 1,000 acres or 40 acres, I dont't think that you need all of that.
Just 1acre of food forest to feed a family (vegetables, mushroom, herb, berries, fruits, nuts, eggs, poultry, honey)
And another 1 acres for some dwarf milk goat and water ponds with fish.
Maybe another acres for a windbreak perimeter that is pollard for firewood.
To me anything more than that is just land for offspring or a farm for income or privacy/retreat.

What is your dream for the rest of the property that you don't need to provide you with food/firewood?



I always thought I'd open a U-pick. Growing trees has been such a pain I realize that will never happen now. A lot of the unused land is dead though. Over grazed and farmed so long there aren't even that many weeds growing on it. So I guess just lush property would be good. SAINFOIN EVERYWHERE! hahaha
 
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elle sagenev wrote:

I always thought I'd open a U-pick. Growing trees has been such a pain I realize that will never happen now.



When I finally realized I would never be able to grow food for other people on any large scale, I started focusing on wildlife management, which fortunately gives us the same tax status as agriculture.  I suck at agriculture but I can "manage" wildlife.  The management is just providing better habitat for them.  If you're interested in that sort of thing you might see if your state has any programs to help landowners improve their place for wild critters.  You might even think about eventually selling a hunting lease on part of your land if the land isn't restricted against it.  Our deed restricts against selling hunting leases but we can invite friends to hunt deer here, and they share the meat so we get something from it.

 
              
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elle sagenev wrote:I feel like I've done so much. 40 acres and I've been diligently working, on my own, for about 6-7 years now. When I see it all drawn out like this, I've barely scratched the surface! Mildly discouraging.

So if it's brown earth near our projects it has been seeded and is greened up right now. The weird swale between the barn and the house is just for watering my expensive trees. I just flood it and it waters everything easy peasy.



Curious, do you have to have a job in town to pay a mortgage? In other words, if you had the financial comfort to spend all day working your land, would that make a difference to the land and your vision of it?

I find that most people (including myself) who have gone back or are trying to go back to the land, run into the same basic problem - mortgage needs paid and that means a job in town (or from home) and then whatever is left for the place of your dreams...
 
S Bengi
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I have a few question.
How much money do you have to spend per year?
How much time do you have per year/month/week to work on the garden?
How many more years do you have to wait for your U-Pick Farm.

Could you put at least 1 swale thru each acre of land? What's your estimated cost in time+$$
Could you plant seeds every 15ft and then graft them in 3 years?
Could you chop and drop the cover crop as the fruit tree seedling grow?
What if the aim was only 10 acres a year? Or only a 10 Acre U-Pick farm?

 
elle sagenev
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Oddo Da wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:I feel like I've done so much. 40 acres and I've been diligently working, on my own, for about 6-7 years now. When I see it all drawn out like this, I've barely scratched the surface! Mildly discouraging.

So if it's brown earth near our projects it has been seeded and is greened up right now. The weird swale between the barn and the house is just for watering my expensive trees. I just flood it and it waters everything easy peasy.



Curious, do you have to have a job in town to pay a mortgage? In other words, if you had the financial comfort to spend all day working your land, would that make a difference to the land and your vision of it?

I find that most people (including myself) who have gone back or are trying to go back to the land, run into the same basic problem - mortgage needs paid and that means a job in town (or from home) and then whatever is left for the place of your dreams...



I was home for about 2 1/2 years. I actually completed more work on the property when I had a full time job. Part of that is financial. Trees cost money after all. The other part is I was home with my kids who are vacuums of my time and energy. They are both in school now so I could arguably get more done but I am back at work. Since going back to work I was able to pay for the completion of our swim pond and a bunch of other stuff. Going back to work might speed it all up actually.
 
elle sagenev
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How much money do you have to spend per year?

Well that depends on a lot of things. We have a fair bit of money. I spend a lot on various things. I suppose focusing on one thing at a time might help.

How much time do you have per year/month/week to work on the garden?


That also depends. We have this curse called family. We are into birthday season now. We will have 1-2 birthday parties every single weekend until June. I suppose I could fight with all of our family members and get us out of those but at what cost? lol

How many more years do you have to wait for your U-Pick Farm.

Forever. LOL This answer will answer all of your other questions. Water. I'm in Wyoming 11 inches of rainfall a year. Water is a coveted resource here. We have a well but we do not have the water rights to irrigate more than 2 acres. Add all the pests we have to that and every plant that survives drought is eaten by animals in the end. I've had comfrey growing for about 3 years now, maybe more. It's still about 3 inches tall every single year. Even comfrey is like...yeah no thanks to this place. So unless the climate changes and gives us more water, less wind and cold, it ain't happening.

Could you put at least 1 swale thru each acre of land? What's your estimated cost in time+$$
Could you plant seeds every 15ft and then graft them in 3 years?
Could you chop and drop the cover crop as the fruit tree seedling grow?
What if the aim was only 10 acres a year? Or only a 10 Acre U-Pick farm?
 
S Bengi
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With less than 12inches of rainfall then you have to do irrigation.

I would for sure focus on swales followed by biochar To help with water capture from rainfall/drip irrigation/flooding.
Then mineral+soil life so that the plants ask for less water, because the water they do ask for has 3X the amount of mineral that other areas have.
Then I would focus on 80% legume cover crop similar to above, the water in the soil has 3x more "dissolved minerals"
Then I would give each plant twice the suggested spacing
I would only plant seed with their own taproot and survival of the fittest and then in year 3 graft them with named cultivars.
While flood irrigation is cheaper and easier, I think drip irrigation is better, I would do it after the trees start producing fruits and their taproots are well developed.

To me the soil/water is the biggest problem, followed by cost of bare root trees. And to me a major solution to both of those is to plant 2 seeds in each hole and have holes 15ft apart. Then after one year, kill the weaker of the two seeds and after grafting, say year 4 cull half of the holes so that you have tree spacing that is 30ft or so.

And if you just plant the seeds then you will be less angry about the critters that come on your property and eat the seedling. I would also plant the seed in the swale so that they get max water.

Fencing off the 40acres is going to be a project that sounds huge.
 
elle sagenev
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S Bengi wrote:With less than 12inches of rainfall then you have to do irrigation.

I would for sure focus on swales followed by biochar To help with water capture from rainfall/drip irrigation/flooding.
Then mineral+soil life so that the plants ask for less water, because the water they do ask for has 3X the amount of mineral that other areas have.
Then I would focus on 80% legume cover crop similar to above, the water in the soil has 3x more "dissolved minerals"
Then I would give each plant twice the suggested spacing
I would only plant seed with their own taproot and survival of the fittest and then in year 3 graft them with named cultivars.
While flood irrigation is cheaper and easier, I think drip irrigation is better, I would do it after the trees start producing fruits and their taproots are well developed.

To me the soil/water is the biggest problem, followed by cost of bare root trees. And to me a major solution to both of those is to plant 2 seeds in each hole and have holes 15ft apart. Then after one year, kill the weaker of the two seeds and after grafting, say year 4 cull half of the holes so that you have tree spacing that is 30ft or so.

And if you just plant the seeds then you will be less angry about the critters that come on your property and eat the seedling. I would also plant the seed in the swale so that they get max water.

Fencing off the 40acres is going to be a project that sounds huge.



I am not legally allowed to irrigate more than 2 acres in any fashion. I have krater gardens that are doing much better than the swales are water capture. My land is pretty flat. I've also planted seeds. When I hear of people planting seeds and things coming up I'm always so amazed. That does not happen here. lol
 
S Bengi
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Get a water meter so that you have proof that you haven't watered more than the next guy watering his 2 acres.

Even though you think you don't need sunken beds/swales on your flat 'arid' land, depressions really does allow, what little rain to pool.
Sunken beds/swales 8ft wide and 2ft deep semi back filled with woodchip/straw/biochar, does help soil moisture problem and soil life.

If possible try and water a different 2 acres of land every season, using that season to get the seeds established.
Make a pond and collect the duck weed from that pond to fertilize other areas of your land.
If you can collect and spread manure/animal litter from other farms onto your swales that would help.

Start alot of seeds (as in thousands) on your 'current irrigated 2 acres' then even fall dig them out as bare root and transplant them yearly.
Hopefully 10% of then doesn't die and can survive with no watering with only 11inch of rain. If you could turn 20 acres of the land into 'roof catchment area' that then dumps that 11 inches of rain unto the other 20acres of land you could effectively double the amount of rainfall that you get to 22inches. And based on whzt I have read you can grow without irrigation with just 12inches of rain.  

 
              
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S Bengi wrote:Get a water meter so that you have proof that you haven't watered more than the next guy watering his 2 acres.

Even though you think you don't need sunken beds/swales on your flat 'arid' land, depressions really does allow, what little rain to pool.
Sunken beds/swales 8ft wide and 2ft deep semi back filled with woodchip/straw/biochar, does help soil moisture problem and soil life.

If possible try and water a different 2 acres of land every season, using that season to get the seeds established.
Make a pond and collect the duck weed from that pond to fertilize other areas of your land.
If you can collect and spread manure/animal litter from other farms onto your swales that would help.

Start alot of seeds (as in thousands) on your 'current irrigated 2 acres' then even fall dig them out as bare root and transplant them yearly.
Hopefully 10% of then doesn't die and can survive with no watering with only 11inch of rain. If you could turn 20 acres of the land into 'roof catchment area' that then dumps that 11 inches of rain unto the other 20acres of land you could effectively double the amount of rainfall that you get to 22inches. And based on whzt I have read you can grow without irrigation with just 12inches of rain.  



In my humble opinion, unless you are have training and experience in large geo-shaping/changing projects, swales are probably not a good idea. This insistence on large earth shaping projects is what I always find puzzling. Mother Nature made swales and Mother Nature also doesn't make swales, many times they are random. In both instance, life exists equally :)
 
S Bengi
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In swampy area I would more likely recommend mounds/berms/hugleculture to get more higher/dryer land and if the land is very steep terraces.
If the higher/dryer berms are built in a certain orientation one could view the 'valley' below the berm as a swale or in another orientation a drainage ditch.
And terraces that slightly lean into the hill can pool water on contour and very very loosely be somewhat seen as a swale. I am not too caught up on the specific word. I just think that depression on contour pool water and depression off contour drain water, and in this case the idea of pooling water is a good idea. I don't think that  any 1 thing is a magical cure all, which is why quite a few different ideas were listed.

Personally I feel like only 2 acres is needed to feed his family in a homestead faction, and I think that he already has a good setup for that, but if I was dead set on expanding that to a 10-40acre U-Pick farm, I would try quite a few things to increase the odds of it succeeding.  

Uhmm
Plant species and cultivar is also another thing to look into. Maybe Mediterranean grapes and herbs, currants, apricot and other in the prunus sub-family/genus.
 
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"I've had comfrey growing for about 3 years now, maybe more. It's still about 3 inches tall every single year. Even comfrey is like...yeah no thanks to this place. So unless the climate changes and gives us more water, less wind and cold, it ain't happening. "

That IS sad, the only plant I ever have zero problems with is comfrey. I think the dead zones you have on certain parts of your properties may be the cause of your lousy comfrey performance elsewhere: overgrazing and overly fertilizing with chemicals have killed a lot of the soil life in your soil. Comfrey has big taproots so the lack of water should not hold these back, but if there is not enough soil life to help your comfrey's taproot grow to get to those levels, that may explain it.

But you are doing a great job, seems like you got a lot of stuff done in the 6/7 years. I bought a property of 10 acres myself last year and I have not done 1/10th of what you have done so my hat off to you!

M



 
              
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S Bengi wrote:
Plant species and cultivar is also another thing to look into. Maybe Mediterranean grapes and herbs, currants, apricot and other in the prunus sub-family/genus.



I think it says the OP is in Wyoming. Given that the darn place is covered in snow and freezing 8 months of the year, I doubt much Mediterranean would survive there.
 
S Bengi
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For the drought tolerance Mediterranean genetics sounds good, but for winter temp and pest resistance some American heritage is also good. So some Mediterranean/French-American hybrid grape sounds like a better idea. I would still plant alot of seeds knowing that 90% of them will die and even out of the 10% that does survive still cull most of them, only leaving a few to graft or just eat regularly from it. Alot of the named cultivars that we have now are landraces that were made thru survival of the fittest + ease of making money, so were planted by nature other purposely by humans.
 
 
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OK,... have to admit I flew through the previous posts in this thread, and may have missed some info, so please correct me if I misunderstood something.

I live in Zone 4, and my place is bedrock, clay, and areas of pure sand.  Here we get extremes of temps and weather, so, surely not the same conditions as you but thought I would share some experiences with you that may help.

I see you have a Livestock watering area, what livestock have you? I have goats, poultry and equine, so barn litter (manure and spent hay) accumulates ALL winter long.  Come Spring, I empty out the barn straight into the garden areas.  Squash, pumpkin, and zucchini are particularly easy, just dump a wheelbarrow load of barn litter, throw some earth in the top of the mound and seed, BOOM they grow.  The barn litter acts as compost, and mulch moisture retention.  

This fall I'm bringing some straw round bales to roll out over the garden expansion, this will compost over winter to build soil and make for better moisture retention.  I figure I may have to do this in that area for another season or two, but the end result will give a rich soil that I can then move on to complex planting.  I have done this on a smaller scale else where on the property and it works a charm.  Trenched hugel beds have also proved very good on pure sand, although they are better growing the following season after the winter snows have done its work.  I've been doing this for three years now, and have expanded my garden 3 times, section by section, bit by bit.  Results have gone beyond my expectations, harvests have improved each year in size and variety.  

I see on your map large flat areas, I would be inclined to roll out the straw bales, layer them for a couple of seasons, let them compost with added barn litter.  Yes, there will be weeds and grasses, but these are easy to pull out from the mulch.  I keep containers here and there, and pull all those weeds and grasses, chuck them into the bins to compost over the following winter and become nutrient for the ongoing raised beds I build during the growing season.  I patiently let nature do the bull work for me.  I've found that I do indeed save time, energy and costs.  

Last year I planted a couple of comfrey plants, one was to shaded and not doing well, the other seemed OK and harvested it twice in the season.  This Spring I dug up the poor one, and propagated the roots,...I got thirteen new plants out of it, planted those here and there, and BOOM, they went nuts!  Last year's OK comfrey grew to 4'+ three times, the new plants grew to 3'+ and were harvested twice.  

Hope this has been somewhat helpful.

Cheers!  K
 
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You should check out Gabe Brown's work for some ideas and inspiration.  He has been able to increase the moisture retention of his soil quite a bit using cover crops to build up organic matter.  He is in North Dakota and I think he states somewhere that he gets 13 or 15 inches of rain, so what he is doing may be applicable in your area, too.  Whether you could eventually get trees to grow I am not sure, but you need to start with healing your soil.

He has been mentioned elsewhere on Permies, but here are a couple of links.  I didn't think I could watch an hour long video on soil, but it is worth it!

https://brownsranch.us

https://youtu.be/9yPjoh9YJMk



 
elle sagenev
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Maarten Smet wrote:"I've had comfrey growing for about 3 years now, maybe more. It's still about 3 inches tall every single year. Even comfrey is like...yeah no thanks to this place. So unless the climate changes and gives us more water, less wind and cold, it ain't happening. "

That IS sad, the only plant I ever have zero problems with is comfrey. I think the dead zones you have on certain parts of your properties may be the cause of your lousy comfrey performance elsewhere: overgrazing and overly fertilizing with chemicals have killed a lot of the soil life in your soil. Comfrey has big taproots so the lack of water should not hold these back, but if there is not enough soil life to help your comfrey's taproot grow to get to those levels, that may explain it.

But you are doing a great job, seems like you got a lot of stuff done in the 6/7 years. I bought a property of 10 acres myself last year and I have not done 1/10th of what you have done so my hat off to you!

M





The comfrey isn't planted in the blank spots. I haven't done much to them at all. I did do sainfoin on the most over grazed 5 acres and it's done AMAZING. I think it's our best bet. The comfrey, however, is in either the krater gardens or in the cider orchard right next to the house that is green and lush. Comfrey just hates it here. I don't recommend it to anyone in my local permie group.

I should also mention we are in the biggest organic wheat producing state. Mostly organic because the profits are so low they aren't going to waste money spraying ANYTHING on it. This benefits us greatly at least.
 
elle sagenev
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Kate Michaud wrote:OK,... have to admit I flew through the previous posts in this thread, and may have missed some info, so please correct me if I misunderstood something.

I live in Zone 4, and my place is bedrock, clay, and areas of pure sand.  Here we get extremes of temps and weather, so, surely not the same conditions as you but thought I would share some experiences with you that may help.

I see you have a Livestock watering area, what livestock have you? I have goats, poultry and equine, so barn litter (manure and spent hay) accumulates ALL winter long.  Come Spring, I empty out the barn straight into the garden areas.  Squash, pumpkin, and zucchini are particularly easy, just dump a wheelbarrow load of barn litter, throw some earth in the top of the mound and seed, BOOM they grow.  The barn litter acts as compost, and mulch moisture retention.  

This fall I'm bringing some straw round bales to roll out over the garden expansion, this will compost over winter to build soil and make for better moisture retention.  I figure I may have to do this in that area for another season or two, but the end result will give a rich soil that I can then move on to complex planting.  I have done this on a smaller scale else where on the property and it works a charm.  Trenched hugel beds have also proved very good on pure sand, although they are better growing the following season after the winter snows have done its work.  I've been doing this for three years now, and have expanded my garden 3 times, section by section, bit by bit.  Results have gone beyond my expectations, harvests have improved each year in size and variety.  

I see on your map large flat areas, I would be inclined to roll out the straw bales, layer them for a couple of seasons, let them compost with added barn litter.  Yes, there will be weeds and grasses, but these are easy to pull out from the mulch.  I keep containers here and there, and pull all those weeds and grasses, chuck them into the bins to compost over the following winter and become nutrient for the ongoing raised beds I build during the growing season.  I patiently let nature do the bull work for me.  I've found that I do indeed save time, energy and costs.  

Last year I planted a couple of comfrey plants, one was to shaded and not doing well, the other seemed OK and harvested it twice in the season.  This Spring I dug up the poor one, and propagated the roots,...I got thirteen new plants out of it, planted those here and there, and BOOM, they went nuts!  Last year's OK comfrey grew to 4'+ three times, the new plants grew to 3'+ and were harvested twice.  

Hope this has been somewhat helpful.

Cheers!  K



I cannot imagine mass mulching of 40 acres to be very feasible economically for me to be honest.

I have pigs. I let them free range. They're adorable little suckers. Pigs and various birds in small quantities. The pond is a great place for the ducks and such to hang out.
 
elle sagenev
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I appreciate all the advice ya'll. To be honest though, wasn't looking for info. I'm a trier. I try a lot. I'm also a rule follower though. Working for attorneys has taught me how very un-worth it it is to snub your nose at governmental bodies.

I just felt like I'd done SOOOOO MUCH! Really our property looks way different. It's just when you see aerially how little of our actual acreage we touched it's like...wow. Kind of discouraging.
 
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Take a mini sta-cation and drive around your area to see if you can identify natural vegetation that is doing well without human intervention. Sketch these finds and make note of all the elements that might be causing their success. What plant species are growing? Have any areas developed their own "guilds"? What is different about the terrain where the vegetation is thriving?

The definition and evidence of "success" may be very subtle. My suspicion is that there will be some elements of rainwater harvesting, and micro-niches, combined with specific native species and the formation of preferred habitats for native animals.

Take a look at your entire property, and break it up into smaller management units. Devote most of your personal energies to developing your zones 0, 1, and 2. That is, make the areas that you and your family use the most the focus of most of your work. Try creating small micro-niches that can be the site of various experiments that you can use to create specific yields: increasing ground cover, or establishing wildlife habitat. Make most of your property into zone 4 and 5 friendly spaces.

Make your flatland more "lumpy": Create small "decorative" hills and armor them with large rocks (go to your national forests and collect your own rocks-a permit may be required) which will provide shade and cover for wildlife. Create the edges that will attract diversity from the surrounding areas. Think in terms of the seven layers of a food forest to create "pothole guilds" in your mini-niches.

Observe any potential places that could easily be rainwater harvesting areas. Try to get "weeds", aka pioneer species to grow wherever you have bare land. Where the land is flat, even a very shallow depression becomes a water collector. Where water collects, nature will grow things. Let time and nature work your ideas for you. Plant pastures and flowering plants. If nothing else, it will look nicer.


A little steady work, applied to an overall plan will eventually make a large difference.
 
              
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Take a mini sta-cation and drive around your area to see if you can identify natural vegetation that is doing well without human intervention. Sketch these finds and make note of all the elements that might be causing their success. What plant species are growing? Have any areas developed their own "guilds"? What is different about the terrain where the vegetation is thriving?

The definition and evidence of "success" may be very subtle. My suspicion is that there will be some elements of rainwater harvesting, and micro-niches, combined with specific native species and the formation of preferred habitats for native animals.

Take a look at your entire property, and break it up into smaller management units. Devote most of your personal energies to developing your zones 0, 1, and 2. That is, make the areas that you and your family use the most the focus of most of your work. Try creating small micro-niches that can be the site of various experiments that you can use to create specific yields: increasing ground cover, or establishing wildlife habitat. Make most of your property into zone 4 and 5 friendly spaces.

Make your flatland more "lumpy": Create small "decorative" hills and armor them with large rocks (go to your national forests and collect your own rocks-a permit may be required) which will provide shade and cover for wildlife. Create the edges that will attract diversity from the surrounding areas. Think in terms of the seven layers of a food forest to create "pothole guilds" in your mini-niches.

Observe any potential places that could easily be rainwater harvesting areas. Try to get "weeds", aka pioneer species to grow wherever you have bare land. Where the land is flat, even a very shallow depression becomes a water collector. Where water collects, nature will grow things. Let time and nature work your ideas for you. Plant pastures and flowering plants. If nothing else, it will look nicer.


A little steady work, applied to an overall plan will eventually make a large difference.



Good advice. However, there is one thing I go by (and it may be wrong) - I never change things that have not been changed by people already. So, if your land has been overgrazed, then allow it to go back to grazing status. If it had hills and rocks around them (like suggested above), and they had been flattened by human hand, by all means put them back in. But building up hills and piling rocks collected from somewhere else - that sounds like engineering to me - and who am I to engineer the land? :)
 
Mark Kissinger
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"...who am I to engineer the land?

"

I think your prohibition is a bit overdrawn and arbitrary.

You are the steward of the land. You became the engineer when you took possession of the land. Otherwise, what is the justification to even build a house or plant a garden, or do anything? The overgrazed land is a human-caused problem.  My intent would be to increase the ability of the land to support life, especially wildlife and the habitat that supports it. If you want to return the land to what it was before human habitation changed it, then that is another situation.

What if the people ahead of you "broke" the original landscape? The idea is that humans can do "engineering" that can help to restore the ecology that other humans have ruined or destroyed.

Nature often is affected by earthquakes or landslides. The land changes. Seems to me, other animals, like beavers, birds, and even dung beetles "engineer" the land to create better environments for themselves. I see no moral reason that one change is morally better or worse than any other, as long as it is consistent with the way nature works in that area.

If your goal is to create yields from the land that humans can share and benefit from, then that is a different situation. Permaculture is not opposed to changing nature, but it does try to work using natural processes.

For better or worse, human beings change the land they inhabit, which is really only different from any other species only as a matter of degree and intent. For me, I much prefer using materials at hand, rather than importing materials, if only because it doesn't cost me anything other than my own labor.
 
              
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Mark Kissinger wrote:

"...who am I to engineer the land?

"

I think your prohibition is a bit overdrawn and arbitrary.

You are the steward of the land. You became the engineer when you took possession of the land. Otherwise, what is the justification to even build a house or plant a garden, or do anything? The overgrazed land is a human-caused problem.  My intent would be to increase the ability of the land to support life, especially wildlife and the habitat that supports it. If you want to return the land to what it was before human habitation changed it, then that is another situation.

What if the people ahead of you "broke" the original landscape? The idea is that humans can do "engineering" that can help to restore the ecology that other humans have ruined or destroyed.

Nature often is affected by earthquakes or landslides. The land changes. Seems to me, other animals, like beavers, birds, and even dung beetles "engineer" the land to create better environments for themselves. I see no moral reason that one change is morally better or worse than any other, as long as it is consistent with the way nature works in that area.

If your goal is to create yields from the land that humans can share and benefit from, then that is a different situation. Permaculture is not opposed to changing nature, but it does try to work using natural processes.

For better or worse, human beings change the land they inhabit, which is really only different from any other species only as a matter of degree and intent. For me, I much prefer using materials at hand, rather than importing materials, if only because it doesn't cost me anything other than my own labor.



You may be entirely right, of course. It is just that (I feel) many times an effort (and considerable cost) is wasted by engineering land for little to no benefit. Why? Because the land originally did not have that kind of engineering on it. If you think about it, you can grow an acre of a monoculture like buckwheat and Nature rarely does monoculture but it works for you. However, You are not really changing topology or geoengineering - it would be like comparing apples to oranges. I am one of the lazy people, I suppose, who would always rather take the line of least resistance and do the least amount of work necessary :)

Swales, hills, collecting rocks.... I am sure there is an easier way. If the OP has overgrazed land, the last thing I would do is hill it, that's all :)
 
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Odda is a fellow Daoist.
One simple have to have patience, time fixes all things. As we move about in the circle of reincarnation throughout time all things will return to how they were, destruction and creation are all equal and the same so why worry.

But for regular mortals, with no access to past life, and the required patience. We eagerly use our fossil fuel and other inputs to try and set up some systems that are more in tune with nature.

Permaculture is not a 1 or a zero more like a 1000 to 0, and we are all at different parts of that spectrum.

I like Odda idea of just leaving the infertile place as it is and move to more fertile Mississippi, if time is of the essence.
That or lots of inputs like water, topsoil and such.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Oddo Da wrote:You may be entirely right, of course. It is just that (I feel) many times an effort (and considerable cost) is wasted by engineering land for little to no benefit. Why? Because the land originally did not have that kind of engineering on it. If you think about it, you can grow an acre of a monoculture like buckwheat and Nature rarely does monoculture but it works for you. However, You are not really changing topology or geoengineering - it would be like comparing apples to oranges. I am one of the lazy people, I suppose, who would always rather take the line of least resistance and do the least amount of work necessary :)

Swales, hills, collecting rocks.... I am sure there is an easier way. If the OP has overgrazed land, the last thing I would do is hill it, that's all :)



You mistake my intent, Oddo Da. I don't mean to be contenscious here. I'm as lazy as the next permaculturist. I agree with you that the point is not to just go willy-nilly to put in swales or hills or any of that stuff but to do the appropriate technology or fix for what you want the land to do for you. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. However, if something isn't working correctly, look at making changes that go along with what nature would do.

If the property has been overgrazed, perhaps there's nothing to do but to seed the area with the appropriate native seeds, and then make sure it doesn't get overgrazed again. Perhaps an area is under-watered and a strategically placed swale is the ticket to harvest rainwater that would otherwise just run off the property.

Obviously, Elle Sagenev is not happy with what is happening with the land as is and wants to make some changes. The first step is always to make an overall plan. A big part of making a plot of land productive is to make sure that the water gets used for growing the plants you want. If a field has been damaged using monoculture, there are ways to restore it. The ultimate goal of permaculture is to make the land as self-operating as possible, with as little human intervention as possible, while making it serve your purposes. If you want fruit trees where there were none before, then it makes sense to use the appropriate engineering to create an ecological niche where those trees will thrive with as little human intervention as possible. Limited irrigation was noted. Rather than use wasteful flood irrigation, perhaps a combination of swales and water pits (buried permeable, unglazed clay pots of water that leach water to the roots of each fruit tree) would be useful to direct limited irrigation to where it is needed the most, perhaps tied in to a grey-water reclamation system for the house.

For me, this is all conjecture. I'm not the one who is living on the property. Engineering is expensive. On a flat property, it takes very little effort to harvest rainwater. If it is decided to make swales, take the time to place them where the pattern is self-sustaining and can support the kinds of vegetation that you find useful. Zones four and five should require the least amount of energy because they will essentially be left to grow wild. There is very little land available these days that has not been previously impacted by human activities. Restoration is primarily concerned with creating the environmental niches that are conducive to being left alone with little to no further human intervention.

IMO, the closer those purposes resemble what nature would be doing anyway, the better.  
 
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Elle,

I’m in western SD, the Black Hills, and I’m very much impressed by your aerial photo. I don’t know where you are exactly, but I’ve driven through miles and miles of Wyoming where you wonder how the antelope survive. You’ve got green grass, and that’s a lot. With all you’ve done, and in such a short period of time? You and you alone? You should be proud. Wyoming is a hard country—most of it, anyway. Seriously! Keep it up. You’re doing wonderfully well with what you’ve got to work with.

Making the desert bloom is no easy task but (from what I’ve read) it can be done.  You might look into the possibility of ruminants—goats I suppose, since they’re small and not too picky—only what the land can carry in summer unless you want to feed year-round. Grazing responsibly is part of the treatment being used successfully at the edges of the African deserts in places. Cows are probably easier, though they eat more. My three Scottish Highland girls are very sweet and so easy to fence and move from one small paddock to the next. They reportedly improve the soil if grazed that way. That’s not why I got them, tbh, tho I’m hoping for that to happen. I just had to have them—I’m in love. Plus chickens to follow them around next spring when they’ve gotten old enough to let them out of their run. We’ll see what happens. I’m excited and hope you’ll continue to work wonders on your lucky patch of earth.

Wishing you all the best, Cindy
 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
Got a New Homestead? Here is What You Need to Know to Before You Start a Homestead
https://permies.com/t/97104/Starting-homestead-strong-foundation
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