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Paul Gutches

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since Dec 22, 2011
Taos, New Mexico
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Recent posts by Paul Gutches

Thanks for your reply.

Oh, the mulch and the trees are there!

On the nitrogen fixing side...   Black locust, honey locust and siberian pea shrub.  Plus alfalfa, yellow sweet clover, and goumi.  

I also have hackberry, baby burr oak, currant, sand cherry, nanking cherry, bush cherry, choke cherry, serviceberry, chicory, milkweed, lavender, and others.

I've also dumped contractor bag after contractor bag full of leaves over the entire crease and set up check dams using large rocks and logs to slow the flow of water down the crease.

This is why I'm concerned.  Because the trees are not growing at the rate I would expect for the amount of water that ends up in this area.  

I've seen better and faster establishment in areas at higher ground even with just minimal manual inputs.  

It's got me scratching my head.

Roberto pokachinni wrote:It would be difficult to say what is happening with the water without really observing your soils at depths, and also, perhaps, looking downslope of your land to see if water is springing up somewhere.  It could be that all your efforts to date are simply charging the aquifer, which is to say, a very positive thing for the region.    That said, if you have the means, getting some deep rooted nitrogen fixers in place will help pump water upwards in your land, while providing microclimates to establish other plants/trees.  Trees will also help with evaporation issues, and wind, which will then keep more of the moisture on the ground for longer.  The other best thing to do, besides plant nurse trees, is to incorporate as much organic matter in your clay, and then mulch it substantially.  Well mulched clay soils, particularly with plenty of organic matter will hold a tremendous amount of moisture in your upper layers.  This is particularly true if the clay soil is also shaded from intense sun, and sheltered from drying winds.  Another thing that you can do is bury wood under your soils before you mulch.  Instead of raised hugulkultur, think buried wood beds.  You might  want to check out Tyler Luden's Buried Wood Bed Thread.

3 years ago
Hello permy practitioners

I've been meaning to get on here and pose this question to you all for ages.

While the first foot or so of my soil has a goodly amount of clay, when push comes to shove I have what most would refer to as fast draining soil.

Two years ago I built an earth berm in an arc, somewhat similar in ratio to a contact lens, at the lowest point of a gentle crease in my land.

During a really good heavy rain, it temporarily catches a large pond of water above my knees at the deepest point.

Very temporarily.

I've witnessed this happen on a number of occasions, then have gone inside for an hour or two, returning to see the water completely gone.

What I am concerned about is that these occasional substantial rains end up being a zero sum game as far as the plants and trees are concerned.  

Could this water mostly be draining away deep underground out of reach of plant and tree roots?   Or running off the property horizontally on a bed of hard pan?

This is what I fear.   That the vast majority of this water is not being stored locally in the soil, which is the whole point of catching and sinking it in the first place.

A foot to a foot and a half is diggable before I start hitting some stiff rubbery pre-caliche soil that requires a pickaxe to loosen up.   True caliche starts anywhere from 3.5 to 5 feet down.

Could all this water be running off of my property underground on a bed of caliche?

Or draining straight down through fissures in the caliche layer?

There doesn't seem to be any obvious way to tell, or how to approach the situation assuming this is the case.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Thank you


3 years ago
I had some sainfoin volunteer at the top of one of my hugelswales.  It's been very happy ever since.   It's about 2 feet tall now.  Does anyone know if chickens will eat the sainfoin greens?

Alfalfa is extremely well adapted where I am.   It will come up literally anywhere I throw the seed.  It has a reputation for being very thirsty, but my land is 100% unirrigated, and it never seems to suffer very badly even in periods of drought.
3 years ago
A few I never see which seem very promising as chicken food

- Hackberry:  They produce abundant, reliable crops of large high protein fruits / seeds.  Also, they typically get insect gall, making the leaves a possible secondary protein source.   The seed and fruit are also good human food when prepared correctly.  You can make a tasty nut milk with them in a blender.  I believe they can also be roasted.

- Elms:  Siberian and Lacebark elms produce samaras that are high in protein.  Siberian in the spring; Lacebark in the fall.

- Maples:  Sugar, Box Elder, Red Maples, etc, all produce edible seeds.  I believe the leaves may also be edible.
3 years ago

An added benefit of squash are the seeds.

They are delicious when baked with a little salt and high in protein.  

Michelle Bisson wrote:From a nutrition and caloric comparison, how does potatoes compare with squash.  Would you replace pototes with squash in a meal?

PFAF reports that the seed of the Japanese wisteria is edible when baked.  
I had presumed that the agent responsible is destroyed in the baking process...
Seed - cooked[105, 177, 183]. When baked in a fire they have much the same flavour as chestnuts

The Eat The Weeds article from which it seems you quoted the info about the deadliness of the seeds also reports further down...
"In Japan young leaves of the W. floribunda (aka W. macrobotrys and W. multijuga)) are cooked and eaten, blossoms are blanched. The seeds are roasted."

And TC Permaculture reports:
"There are also many reports of traditional cultures, especially in Asia, that eat many parts of this plant. It is quite likely that heat destroys this toxic compound."

So... yes the seed has a history of edible use but you should probably approach this plant with caution nonetheless.

I have a very adventurous and curious attitude toward plants, which is why I mentioned it.  I forget that most others don't share that.  

There are lots of valuable plants that westerners have ignored due to misinformation and handed down taboos, and wisteria could well be one of them.

Cl Robinson wrote:The blooms are edible, everything else is toxic, so toxic that 2 beans could kill a child.  I have not tried them yet, but intend to this spring.

We have that problem here too.

I try to keep the ground cold as long as possible to delay bud break.
I do not remove the heavy mulch in the spring.  (or ever for that matter)

Could also place it north of something slightly taller so it doesn't start getting that penetrating UV until you're further along into the spring season.

Gilbert Fritz wrote:I never realized that wisterias could be edible, that is great information! Then again, late frost tends to catch the buds here.

Almost forgot...

Pinon pine nuts and acorns can be foraged in most years.

If you're just looking to feed chickens... siberian elm (and other elms) have edible high-protein samaras, as does the acer (maple) family.  
They are edible for humans too, and even tasty, in my opinion.  

Hope this helps

I'm down in Taos, New Mexico...  west side of the rockies...  7k feet with a rather short growing season.

I can attest that chick peas do well, but are not a particularly productive crop.

Fingerling potatoes grown in plastic garbage cans are easy and happy growing in this climate.

Berries of all kinds should do well, dried for storage.  Lots of nutrition potential.

Quinoa is also very promising.
The first place it was grown commercially in the US I believe was San Luis, Colorado, due north from me.

I recently tried milkweed seed pods... an overlooked perennial with nice insectary benefits.
The young pods, cooked and peeled, were surprisingly tasty, but I'm not sure if they should be eaten in quantity, or how well they keep.
Certainly seems like a potentially easy source of protein, if not for people, for chickens, etc.

Other things to try would be Wisteria vine (certain types have an edible and nutritious seed/nut), Yellowhorn which produces a nutritious nut, ginkgo biloba (also for the nuts), hackberry (seed is edible and can make a nutritious and tasty milk), and hazelnut.

Hope this helps.

Paul G

Do they allow an outhouse or humanure instead?

Sounds like septic is required.

Thanks for the info.  Always curious about different areas.

Ryan Tollmann wrote:They have one or two county inpectors, the only touchy thing i can see is wells and septic...