Walter McQuie

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since Dec 09, 2011
Northern New Mexico
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Recent posts by Walter McQuie

Angelika: Don't know about the for dummies part, but this Aerated Compost Tea - Field Guide from SARE is great. The authors put on an awesome presentation at the NM Organic Growers Conference. Their focus was not DIY for dummies, but practical, food-safety compliant advice for small farmers. They tinkered for a couple of years with typical DIY and commercial brewers on the way to developing their own plans.

"Over a 2 year period we developed a process for making compost tea that, we believe, meets FSMA Standards. An important outcome of this research was the development of 3 specific assessments that farmers can complete to help them understand all the issues relevant to making a safe compost tea. We also trialed several sources of compost and several variations of making compost tea and listed the results of these trials. The main 2 products resulting from this work are an 85 page Monograph “field Guide” and a set of PowerPoint slides. Both of these are available as a pdf document."
2 years ago
Excellent points Erwin! Thanks.

My interest and recent experience is in local market scale food gardening. Using a two wheel tractor to incorporate lots of organic matter into high desert soils and build raised beds then growing no-till using only muscle power. Kind of like temporary use of a track-hoe or such to lay out a food forest. We grow then chop and drop cover crops, harvest grass broadleaf and legume volunteers from around the property for mulch and compost, import some hay and manure, coppice and chip some of our fast growing riparian trees for mulch, feed lots of greens to worms and chickens, brew up teas, etc. all to feed the soil food web and harvest a surplus for a larger community. Don't see fire fitting in. Except in the kitchen.

(At least)The high desert soils along this part of the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau are very fertile in the sense that they are young geologically speaking, and therefore contain many of the mineral sources of plant nutrients. Some are indistinguishable from the rock dust added to played out soils found in humid temperate areas. Some are sandy clay loams that have decent capacity to hold on to plant nutrients, if they are present. But water is scarce here and has been for long enough that organic matter content is typically very low. As a consequence these soils are not a very hospitable locale for soil food webs. So there typically is not much of the biological activity that is needed to naturally transform the elemental constituents of minerals into forms available for plant roots. More organic material makes a better physical home for the soil food web, holds on to water that must be present for biological activity to thrive and then holds on to the plant nutrients that result from it.

Here's a permies post to explore for an explanation of my focus on the biological process in the soil over the physical mechanisms breaking minerals into smaller particles: Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, especially the second video--Ingham Common Ground 2012. Bryant Redhawk covered this territory better than I could recently on permies so I'll just leave it at that.
2 years ago
Very interesting article. It is easy to believe that scholars have been too willing to assume indigenous peoples readily adopted techniques that can be seen as analogous to modern agriculture. People in the SW would have had ready access to a source of calories and protein--pinyon/pine nuts--very comparable to corn, but not so with dark green leafy vegetables other than amaranth and lamb's quarter. And fire as a tool was much more attractive before the availability of iron and steel. Most elderly Dine (Navajo) growers I've met are much more comfortable with burning crop residue and weeds than using them as mulch or to build compost piles. On the other hand rapid oxidation of organic material that could be composted or used as mulch has always seemed a waste to me. And my experience in the high desert of New Mexico has been that disturbing garden soil just enough to remove grasses that can outcompete wild greens and applying moisture and mulch results in a proliferation of amaranth, lamb's quarter and to a lesser extent purslane. So I'm left with the question of whether, given the tools now available, it is wise to use fire in this way.

This article from Northern Arizona University indicates a cost/benefit analysis of fire as a tool is complicated. It's not clearly stated how all the factors listed play out over time, but this seems most cogent to me: "Forest fires usually decrease the total nutrient pool on a site (the total amount of nutrients present) through some combination of oxidation, volatilization, ash transport, leaching, and erosion...Though fire can diminish nutrient pool sizes, nutrient availability often increases. Soil fertility can increase after low intensity fires since fire chemically converts nutrients bound in dead plant tissues and the soil surface to more available forms or the fire indirectly increases mineralization rates through its impacts on soil microorganisms." In other words there are short term benefits (nutrient availability) at the cost of long term deficits (lower total nutrients). With our access to steel hoes, wood chippers, compost tea, and other modern tools, I can't justify using fire now, no matter how useful it was in the past.
2 years ago
"what does it mean that most pumps are rated at the 'zero lift' capacity."
The flow a pump can generate--expressed in unit of volume per unit of time--is inversely proportional to the height it is lifting that water. Typical ratings on the box will tell you the maximum flow--assuming, without stating, zero lift--and often the maximum lift--assuming, without saying, negligible flow. A company that wants to inform a knowledgeable user will include--in the manual if not the box--a chart that allows the user to calculate the actual flow at the lift needed. That said, without such a chart you'll probably be satisfied with a pump with a maximum lift more than twice what you need and a maximum flow more than twice what you need.
2 years ago
Hi Benett. To live in greater connection with nature.
6 years ago
No. Performing normally this morning. Thanks for the explanation.
I'm getting redirected to: I follow the RSS feed of the forums I want to follow--useing click on the topics I want to follow. When I typed in the address bar and I got to the site, but when I clicked on the forum I'd get the redirect. That's what happens on Firefox anyway. I got here via a google hijack Chrome. I went back to Firefox and tried to refresh as Jaikiran suggested, but got the redirect anyway. Any other ideas?
Thanks Zach, but you (and Chris) deserve most of the credit.
6 years ago
Hey Gilbert,

Gilbert Fritz wrote:I always try to integrate conflicting views, instead of sticking to one and throwing out the other. This is my feeble attempt to do this here. I think, in most scientific conflicts, that both views are at least partly right, just in different contexts and different ways.

I appreciate you starting this thread. I think science is important to lay people when it functions as a sort of careful observation of the natural processes at play in the environment, particularly for those that are contemplating some permaculture. Scientists function within a context that can have an effect on their conclusions though one hopes not their observations.

John Saltveit wrote:This is a great discussion! Annuals do have fewer exudates to encourage the soil food web.

I agree! Here's a great article about "the area around a plant root that is inhabited by a unique population of microorganisms"--The Rhizosphere - Roots, Soil and Everything In Between:

The list of specific compounds released from roots is very long, but can generally be categorized into organic acids, amino acids, proteins, sugar, cellulose, mucilage, phenolics and other secondary metabolites...The cocktail of chemicals released is influenced by plant species, edaphic [of, pertaining to, or influenced by the soil] and climactic conditions which together shape and are shaped by the microbial community within the rhizosphere. There is still very little known about the role that a majority of the compounds play in influencing rhizosphere processes. A growing body of literature is beginning to lift the veil on the many functions of root exudates as a means of acquiring nutrients (e.g. acquisition of Fe and P), agents of invasiveness (i.e. allelopathy) or as chemical signals to attract symbiotic partners (chemotaxis) (e.g. rhizobia and legumes) or the promotion of beneficial microbial colonization on root surfaces (e.g. Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas florescence) (Bais, Park et al. 2004).

I think it is likely that most plants release their cocktail to meet their particular needs. Woody perennial exudates feed more fungus which breaks down the lignin that dominates forest litter. Annual vegetable exudates feed more plant growth promoting rhizobacteria since rapid growth is a basic strategy for their niche. Lots of plants means lots of exudates and a busy rhizosphere.

Adam Klaus wrote:I work to encourage fungal populations in my garden soil by innoculating my compost with native mushrooms, and spraying horsetail biodynamic fermented tea.

10% of Steve Solomon's compost pile is soil from his garden so it seems he may be innoculating his compost, just a little more conventionally. You're doing a lot more. I feel there's great value in nurturing the natural processes that were here before we were.

Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Humans and other animals excrete phosphorus in urine and manure. So another way to add phosphorus back into the soil is to use these elements within the system...certainly permaculture is all about creating a no-waste system where everything gets cycled through and used in some way.

Just so. The process is ready to go when the inputs arrive on the scene.
6 years ago

Joel Cederberg wrote: ---> so if i understood this properly, in the state of arizona you are not allowed to be dependent upon percolating waters for reclamation because of how the state defines prior appropriation. therefore, in arizona one must buy the rights to water in order to reclaim land.
from what i understand you must purchase the right to use any water found in a channel with a definable bed and banks.
how does buying water rights work? it doesnt have to be a full on year round stream does it? could i buy the water rights for an erosion gully? would i need to?

Just on a quick reading, the document you have quoted might be an illuminating piece in the whole puzzle you are trying to solve, but it is not enough on its own to reach any conclusions. It appears to be a committee recommendation concerning a bill to amend the Desert Land Act--a proposed federal statute that may or may not have been enacted into law. The purpose of the proposed amendment was to allow individuals who had already made claims under the act in Arizona to be treated the same as those who had made claims in other states/territories despite a unique feature in Arizona Law. Several cases are discussed as they relate to the reasons why the amendment was proposed. It tells you something about the state of the law in 1955, but without knowing the outcome of the bill or whether Arizona Law has changed in the interim, or whether the Desert Land Act was otherwise amended, and numerous other things I haven't thought of, you can't tell what the requirements for a current claim are. As I say it did appear to me that even if enacted it would have only applied to claims already made.

Water rights are creatures of state law, but there are broad doctrines applicable (with some variance among states) in the Western US. One doctrine would be use it or lose it. Under such a doctrine an owner of water rights could lose that right by failing to make use of the water. A corollary concept would be that water rights only exist where there is useable water. It is my observation that in this neck of the woods someone owns the rights to the water in any stream that carries water through enough of the spring--it all comes from melting snow in the mountains--that it is useful for either watering cattle or irrigating hay or alfalfa. The creek I live on carries snow melt for a couple of months most years. The landowner a mile up the valley uses it all. The creek is an arroyo--deep narrow dirt sided canyon--by the time it gets here and then it passes onto a section of BLM land. The only part of that parcel that is not too steep to rule out irrigation is at least 60 or 80 feet above the arroyo. If one was to buy those rights it would cost a lot to build an infrastructure to use the water and it is possible that very little of it would make the 1+ mile journey to your claim. None made it to my neighbor last year and it won't again this year unless we get a lot more snow soon.

Joel Cederberg wrote:when you say " You need to have a copy of the rules that have evolved in the implementation of the law." are you referring to the amendments to the desert land act?

Statutes that require administration by an agency typically give the agency authority to write rules and regulations concerning the nuts and bolts of administration. They are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations which is as available as the statutes themselves. Happy researching.
6 years ago