Kim Goodwin

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since Jan 27, 2014
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dog duck forest garden fish fungi chicken cooking bee greening the desert
Native of Oregon, love the forests, now staying warm and dry in the desert.
4200 ft elevation, zone 8a desert, high of 118F, lows in teens
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Recent posts by Kim Goodwin

Cumba Siegler wrote:The mice just climb up anywhere they like... including the plum tree at the moment.

Well that is persistent! Wow. I feel for you.

Here in the desert SW there are these delightful little ground squirrels.  They burrow and they also climb. I have a friend in the forested area of the Chiricahuas, which looks a lot like the area around Santa Cruz except without trees as big as redwoods.  Those ground squirrels wreak havoc in her garden some years. Nothing is spared.

She's tried a lot of things, including solid metal sheeting that's about 1 foot high, running around her garden. It's like roofing trim?  It has helped with mice, but doesn't help with the ground squirrels.  They can just jump up high enough to grab the fencing.

Some people here enclose their entire gardens because of this. It's tough to know what will work. I admire your persistence!  Please keep us all posted. Are there any local garden groups were you could see how others manage this issue?

Good luck
1 day ago

Susan Mené wrote:

Cumba Siegler wrote:Hi, Cumba here from Santa Cruz, Calif.
We're in another year of "exceptional drought" and the mice are eating whatever I plant. Garlic, potatoes, peas, beans, lettuce, favas, etc. Very frustrating. I have caught in a few in traps but I think they're getting wise... Any suggestions/commiserations, etc., would be most welcome.
I love growing food, just watching things burst out and shoot for the sky. I know Calif is a huge ag state but here on the ground, so to speak, I have to fence out deer, rabbits, squirrels, gophers, rats, mice, and birds.
I am grateful I am not trying to really grow all my food.

I often wonder how early settlers grew ANYTHING.The drought must be torture.  I'll take a hurricane any day over drought.
What kind of space do you have?  Raised beds? pots? planters? Acres? Do you have any fencing in place? How is the drought affecting your area? Watering restrictions?
I'm no expert, but two heads are better than one.  And we have a whole community here to help!

I've lived in two in a very rodent-rich areas and from all the farmers I've known, the key seems to be outdoor cats. All of my neighbors that raise animals and have to keep grain on hand, they have outdoor cats.  I'm reminded of the Little House on the Prairie books...Laura's parents hear that someone had a cat with kittens, and is selling them. They go to a good length to buy one and that kitten is a very precious addition to their household.  It made me realize the value cats had to the settlers.  And ratter dogs.

I've never tried that approach. I like having birds and lizards and all sorts of other creatures the cats also eat. We use live traps here in the desert, and yes, it's a big pain, but there are many other things you can accidentally kill here that are tempted by mousetraps.

That said, in Oregon we used bucket traps.  A 5 gallon bucket with a little bit of oil at the bottom. They jump in and can't jump out because it's slippery. If you don't get to them soon enough, it gets gruesome. It' is very effective, though.

I've also found that having a compost heap helps attract them away from your food plants.  Then you can trap them there, or not - sometimes I've had a compost heap work well enough to keep them out of the garden.
1 day ago
Your garden looks awesome! I relate to all the points you brought up, and my newest joy of joys is drip irrigation. That has changed my life, the plants grow better, I can direct seed things in the desert more easily - I love it.

Year round gardening in one spot really is a huge benefit of no-till.  Your question got me thinking about others, here's my addition:

No-till and Permaculture gardening allows you to establish a novel ecosystem.  The ecosystem keeps living plants in the ground year round, this builds soil tilth and habitat for organisms both above and below ground. Some of the benefits of building an ecosystem using no-till and permaculture methods are, in my experience:
  • Pollinators and insect predators are attracted to your garden and able to thrive. Pest insects eventually are no longer pests, in my experience with this type of gardening.
  • Building tilth. As each plants each fulfills its roles, soil pH stabilizes and more and more nutrients become available for all of the plants and organisms to use.
  • The garden becomes lower maintenance with time and requires fewer inputs. I will qualify that statement -  as long as you don't let very aggressive plants that you don't want a lot of reseed themselves, the garden becomes lower maintenance with time.  A friend who is an excellent gardener taught me that when I was young and starting out. Seems so simple a concept, yet it's easy to forget.

Here's an ecosystem my husband and I started in 2021. The beds were done "zai pit" style, or desert hugels.  The beds are dug out about a foot and a half deep, filled with any compostable material we had on hand (mostly brush from the property), then the topsoil put back with the intent of making sunken beds.  Desert ground termites, crickets, cockroaches and fungus do the work of composting in the ground. There are no earthworms here, so these are the larger composting organisms.

Some of the beds were overfilled a bit - it's always a guess as to how far the in-ground compost will sink.  We overestimated on some, so they are slightly raised still.  They will likely sink more, and in the meantime we just fortified the fencelines and fenceline beds so water cannot escape he garden as a whole.

The entire garden is made to catch water. The outer fencelines have rock bunds to help keep in water and plant material, and animals out. The garden is placed between two rooflines, catching a little over 1000 sq ft of roof runoff. The garden also catches some of our driveway runoff.

This garden attracts loads of animals - pollinators, predators and of course prey. This year the plant diversity in the garden is about doubled from last and we haven't seen many of the typical plant pests this year - though we had them last year at this time.  I did have a few aphids go after one of the Daikon radishes that were growing for seed this year, but the ladybugs and lacewings appeared quickly and the problem solved itself.  I love that.  

There are the most amazing variety of ants here.  Some of the ants in the garden guard certain plants for plant exudates they collect, some compost fallen leaves, and others collect seed and return that concentrated phosphorus to the soil. Bio-available phosphorus is needed in our desert location, as soils are either deficient or it's unavailable to many plants.

Lizards and birds are all over this little garden gobbling away at bugs each day. We also get to see special birds each year that are migrating through. This isn't our first garden on this property, we've been here improving the landscaping and gardening starting in 2019.  We've seen that migrating birds are now seeing this spot as a "regular" stop over. For example, last year near this time I saw an Audobon-Myrtle warbler intergrade (hybrid). I could only distinguish it because it hopped up so close to me in the garden. That's an unusual bird to see in our location.  This year another (or the same?) showed up in the garden around the same time of year, hunted about and moved on!  It's very fun to see these things and the garden allows for many close encounters with nature.

So to me, the biggest plus of no-till gardening is creating an ecosystem for all to benefit from while growing food year round.  That's not really different than what the original poster is saying, I'm just leaning more towards the value of the ecosystem one can create when you stop tilling.
Here are step by step directions for making tempeh, and a place to buy the cultures:

Cultures For Health - How to make tempeh

That's a great website and company. I've bought many of their cultures and used their directions, though not for tempeh or tofu.

A simpler version of "tofu" is made from chickpeas and not fermented. It's also called Burmese tofu and it more like the process for making polenta than tofu.

I've had it at a restaurant that used it as a filling for burritos, much like one might use scrambled eggs. It does have the chickpea flavor, but it's mild and easily covered with sauces. In the recipe below, the chickpea flour is soaked. From what I've read, this is the traditional method of doing it and there are often nutritional reasons for this soaking.  Some recipes created in the US leave out the soaking, but that may not be a good call, nutritionally speaking.

How to make Burmese Chickepea Tofu

This is what it looks like:

Chickpeas are easier to grow than soybeans in some regions, they are hardier plants and require less heat and humidity than soy. I have some growing and maturing chickpeas right now! The other awesome thing about chickpeas is that you can eat them green, like peas or edamame:

Using fresh shelled Garbanzo Beans

And there are even more neat uses, like collecting malic acid from the plants. That's used as a vinegar/lemon substitute in India. It's also good for you!
3 days ago
Here's a Korean recipe. I happened to be making some Korean food today, and stumbled upon it!

Korean spicy garlic scapes dish
4 days ago
I second Melissa's points above.  You could use a pond for irrigation water, and a roof for household water, for example.  Flexibility really maximizes the possibilities.  

There is also a really good book by Art Ludwig about water storage which includes instructions for building ferrocement water storage tanks. These tanks can be made to look very nice, to even match natural surroundings. Or look like an urn!

Water Storage by Art Ludwig

4 days ago
I'm on the border of AZ and NM, we are building here. We erected a metal garage a couple years ago, and had a bigger metal building erected last year that will become our home.

In looking into lots of different building methods, one of the factors that effects cost is how far/close you are to a place to get building materials. We are very far.  We compared using concrete block, metal, and earthbag building to build a garage. We didn't compare wood, because it's both a fire risk, and extremely termite prone in the desert. At this moment in time, I think wood may be even more expensive than metal.

Earthbag building would be the cheapest of those methods we considered, but would have taken us way more labor than we could commit, we realized.

Concrete block and metal tied in cost at the time, but concrete took more labor and of course requires water availability.

We went with metal. We got bids from a bunch of companies. Regional ones had the best pricing for what they provided.  One of the awesome things with metal buildings is that they deliver them almost anywhere.

I also looked into the cost of carports from the companies selling both "red metal" and "white" or tube metal buildings, and we visited locals who already had those carports.  The carports are nice and held up in our incredible winds, and are priced very competitively.  I would still reinforce a carport more than the kit comes with for added safety.

Here are two companies who sell metal carports in AZ:

Mueller red metal buildings carport kits

Absolute Steel metal carport kits 90mph wind rating

I'd recommend getting these types of buildings with a snow load rating if you can, just so you can feel comfortable adding things to the roof if you wanted to later on.

In the desert, you could also turn a carport like this into a greenhouse. We have one of these lean-to greenhouses, and it's wonderful.  We grow things in there all year. Right now it's full of starts, tree seedlings for our permie projects, and all sorts of plants in the ground like ginger, galangal, peppers, and herbs. In winter we grow cilantro, radishes, turnips, peas as annuals, and still keep the perennials in there, like the peppers, ginger, etc.  Then start all sorts of spring and summer annuals nice and early in the year!

Some people think these shaded greenhouses wouldn't work, but in the desert they seem to work better for many things, in my experience.

4 days ago
In my experience in both desert and temperate hugels, almost any wood works, some just require aging.

We did out first desert hugel beds with some older eucalyptus. We were in the Joshua Tree area. It worked well, even being eucalyptus!

I would consider the mulberry prime material.
4 days ago
Can you share the mistakes that led to the loss of your pigs?  I'm sure people would like to hear those things.  This is a great forum to explain one's learning lessons.
5 days ago
Nopales (cactus pads) prepared any way.  Also the fruit, prickly pear fruit.

But those may not be readily accessible in Missoula!  I like the huckleberry suggestion. So good.
6 days ago