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Need help on a large desert site proposal

 
Perry Way
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I've come across some information recently that makes me think that if I were to approach the owner of a huge parcel of land in California's Carrizo Plain I might get myself a new job.  I've been pondering what it would take to get the owner interested in an income producing permaculture site, and what I've come up with is that if I were any more experienced I might stand a chance of gaining a new profession as a permaculturist.

I've been reading what I can about the subject matter, but I'm quite new at learning the particulars so that I would know what to do without asking for help.  I have a small piece of land I purchased last November, and I've been spending all my available cash on it since, improving it with fencing, and some trees.  I'm kinda poor so it's been slow, I've only got 18 trees planted so far.  But I've been keeping a blog on it occasionally http://perrylandoffthegrid.blogspot.com/ . My property is a few miles from this large parcel I'm talking about.  I'm book smart but not that experienced.  So here I am asking for help.

The site is larger than 400 acres but I think maybe the owner of the land might want to reserve some of it for future development after the solar farms kick in gear (we have two of the largest solar arrays approved for construction, right there on the Carrizo Plain) and 400 acres is the size of the site in particular to this information I came across, so that's the target.  400 acres of open plains.  Rainfall is less than 10 inches a year and it usually comes in late Autumn, Winter or early Spring if lucky. Usually it is only in late Autumn and early Winter.  I personally think the site is perfect for a "Greening the Desert, USA".  That's the kind of angle I think would be best to approach the owner with.  By the way there is a high producing well (kind of brackish alkaline water) greater than 500 feet deep on site.  So, perhaps some filtration or maybe a purpose-built solar powered distiller would clean up the water.

What would be neato burrito would be if someone like Paul Wheaton or geoff lawton could come give a professional opinion and help draw up plans that could then later be implemented by anyone with half a (permaculture) brain (me).

Some links to help in background information:

Here's a map link to dead center on the 400 acre parcel: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=35.329499,-119.995894&spn=0.011974,0.022724&t=h&z=16&vpsrc=6
Here's a link to Wikipedia on the Carrizo Plain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrizo_Plain
A link to Wikipedia on California Valley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Valley,_California   the site is in California Valley, it IS California Valley the TOWN area itself (that never got built, and has stayed as agriculturally zoned land since the development began in late 1950's).
A link to a recent article (today) about wildlife as it pertains to solar powerplants: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/08/09/1712391/solar-agree-to-wildlife-protections.html

And there is my blog again: http://perrylandoffthegrid.blogspot.com/ where I have some photos from historical posts that show what the whole area looks like. If you're into abundant wildflowers, I have a few photos in there from last year, 2010, that show solid flowers for over a mile in places, taken with large format film (blows the pants off digital).

Alright, well, I am crossing my fingers but am hopeful! Thanks for reading!
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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That area is a unique geographical zone.  Technically, you are west of the North American Plate...it resides on the Pacific Plate!  To those not familiar with the area, the brown, barren line that runs from the center of the bottom of that Google map, NW to the left edge of the map is the San Andreas fault!

Soils and water in the region are highly alkaline (it all drains to Soda Lake!).  Trees are scarce, but it is one of the largest reserves of native grasses in California.  And yes, it is one of the best places in the western US to observe spring wild flowers (if the weather is dry enough to allow passage on the Soda Lake Road).

Occidental Oil ("Oxy" owns most of the oil/mineral rights throughout much of the area (including those within the National Preserve).

The area is also home to a dozen endangered species.  Development is highly restricted in the region...which makes it ideal for a permaculture establishment.

Good luck...that area is beautiful in its starkness.
 
Jonathan Byron
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Rainfall less than 10 inches per year - that puts you in the desert zone. You can grow other things if your plan includes water harvesting (and probably lots of Earthwork initially). But the mainstay should be modeled on a desert ecosystem.

Ordinary filters cannot remove salt from water - you will need to do reverse osmosis, distillation, or some heavy duty chemical processes (like ion exchange resins) ... might be practical for drinking water, but for irrigation, it would be very expensive.
 
Perry Way
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John Polk wrote:
the brown, barren line that runs from the center of the bottom of that Google map, NW to the left edge of the map is the San Andreas fault!


It's hard to see the fault line itself on Google Maps, anywhere near California Valley.  that line you're looking at is a creek bed or actually it's more like a very long pond because it doesn't flow per se.  Towards the 2.5 acre postage stamp lots in California Valley it becomes more of an arroyo with about 10 feet of drop but towards Soda Lake Road on the north west side it is very small.

John Polk wrote:Soils and water in the region are highly alkaline (it all drains to Soda Lake!).  Trees are scarce, but it is one of the largest reserves of native grasses in California.  And yes, it is one of the best places in the western US to observe spring wild flowers (if the weather is dry enough to allow passage on the Soda Lake Road).


Yes, highly alkaline is the key. In some places actually there is a raised crusted area with white powder on top and it is solid white pretty much. Sodium Carbonate is the main ingredient. Then comes Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda) and then comes Sodium Nitrate I think it is.  The first three trees I planted on my property just a few miles away died very quickly from shock.  That was pomegranates and figs.  The bark on the fig separated from the tree and came off like a cigar wrapper.  The pomegranates the trees died from shock but the root ball is continually kicking up suckers.  My second round of trees have been Arizona Cypress and one Pine from Afghanistan supposedly lush and green and thick dense foliage but super drought tolerant like Piñon.  Hoping that from the acidity of those trees it might bring the PH more to normal.

John Polk wrote:The area is also home to a dozen endangered species.  Development is highly restricted in the region...which makes it ideal for a permaculture establishment.


Well, there's been some change on the restrictive nature. If you're a power company and have lots of money you can still build solar plants. There will be two plants that both of them individually are the largest array in the world.  We'll see how that goes after the first one gets installed. They will be very close to this site.  But, like I said the owner had plans for this site and got turned down and he wants to find another site for those plans in another county altogether. For that I don't blame him at all.  I personally am in love with the land out there. Quite honestly it is one of the only places that makes me feel so comfortable. It is so quiet. You can hear cars miles away out there. You can have your own thoughts and the rest of the world just seems to disappear, out of mind, gone forever. And it's quite beautiful too, even in the heat of summer. One of the sunniest places in USA, it has a sky so big, the folks in Montana raise an eyebrow!  Anyway, I do agree with the ideal for permaculture aspect.  There are other farmers in the area, and the only thing they grow is hay/oats/barley. Then there's La Panza Ranch that went grape and now is a wine producer. All those endeavors are monoculture, and either expensive or not profitable.  Permaculture can offer a more realistic use of the land and offer the greatest return on investment.
 
Perry Way
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
Rainfall less than 10 inches per year - that puts you in the desert zone. You can grow other things if your plan includes water harvesting (and probably lots of Earthwork initially). But the mainstay should be modeled on a desert ecosystem.


I agree.  But this is not normal desert.  It's about 2000 ft elevation and gets 5 degree f weather as the minimum temperature.  And it frosts overnight up until late April or even May I think.  So fruit trees need to be the kind that can stand that weather and that means like very late season Apples (Arkansas Black) and maybe some kinds of Apricots and Peaches I think and maybe some nuts like Almonds and Walnuts. But certainly I can't do what Geoff Lawton did in Greening the Desert in Jordan with the Olives and Figs and Dates.  All three of those desert trees would die in one winter in the Carrizo Plain.

Jonathan_Byron wrote:Ordinary filters cannot remove salt from water - you will need to do reverse osmosis, distillation, or some heavy duty chemical processes (like ion exchange resins) ... might be practical for drinking water, but for irrigation, it would be very expensive.


Yes, expensive yes, unless...... I was thinking about engineering a solar distiller that could be made out of cheap materials (off the shelf) and use focused sunlight in a parabolic collector, much like one of the solar plants they are going to build very soon on the Carrizo Plain.  Also there is this device that takes 20 kw of electricity and churns out like 1000 gallons of water per day condensing it out of the air.  The initial cost is a lot, I think somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 but with that kind of water production it might be worth the cost.  I know in Jordan they are working on this chemical process using salts to absorb water and then a temperature exchange happens and the water drops out of the salts and is pure.  In any case, simple earthworks with swales won't do the ticket on this site.  That's my opinion, I'd like to be proven wrong.  The sun is very very powerful in the Carrizo Plain.  It should not be underestimated.  There's a microclimate thing going on there with the atmosphere, pushing clouds away.  If you like sunshine, it's the place to be.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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These folks are not real far from you - http://www.quailsprings.org/ - and Santa Barbara has a very active permie network. Since you have special soils and special plants, it would be good to get in touch with people who have specific local knowledge.
 
Perry Way
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jacque g wrote:
These folks are not real far from you - http://www.quailsprings.org/ - and Santa Barbara has a very active permie network. Since you have special soils and special plants, it would be good to get in touch with people who have specific local knowledge.


yes, thanks the for reminder. I ran into someone a couple weeks ago that told me a little about that place. I didn't know they had a website. Thanks!
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