Ben Zumeta

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since Oct 02, 2014
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dog duck hugelkultur
Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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Recent posts by Ben Zumeta

In the west coast coniferous forests understory food plants include vaccinum (blue/cran/huckleberry), hazelnuts, tanoak and true oak acorns, wild ginger, gooseberry, oregon grape, sorrel, edible ferns (licorice fern and swordfern fiddleheads), and of course fungi galore. I would bet the NE has similar understory plant diversity, if not greater given the deciduous diversity. Also, the snow and snowshoes were used as a tool for hunting in Algonquin and other NE native cultures. NW First Salmon ceremonies and other overfishing prevention mores are similar to self imposed restrictions of NE native peoples on the exploitation of the advantages snowshoes provided in hunting. It has been said many times that the colder you get, the more hunting and livestock is necessary to utilize the energy naturally stored in animals in such ecosystems.
4 days ago
Of course they will strip trees too, which is why predators are so helpful ecologically (or dogs in your landscape, or just eat them yourself). But when you are starting from nothing, they are probably giving as much organic matter value as they take, and are introducing soil biology. It’s all the more reason to learn to graft, gather seed, and make Fukuoka seed balls to more efficiently manage costs and time as you let nature do the heavy lifting for you.
2 weeks ago
Roberto, your points remind me of a forest walk I used to lead called “Trees take us back in time” and how we can read the past through these “hieroglyphs written with sunbeams”. A Doug fir tells you it was open at the forest floor when it sprouted because it needed 6hrs light to survive. A western hemlock tells you no significan fire has come through during its life. A redwood tells you the temperature has been pretty tolerable for its lifetime. It’d be interesting to learn to read an eastern forest, which would be like Greek to me.
2 weeks ago
It may make you feel better about herbivory to consider that the animals you mentioned are working on a one in, one out policy when it comes to food-feces. They are trading what you have for something that was more abundant elsewhere. They are building soil as macrodecomposers, but of course they don't consider the optimal time to harvest like you might want. Mollison would tell you to feed those animals and then eat them. You could also use motion activated sprinklers to scare them off.
2 weeks ago
The coniferous forests of North America's most significant food product for humans was anadromous fish (salmon, trout, candlefish). This produced more predictable, prolific and high quality protein than any modern use of that land has, especially considering how little work they took to maintain and the other foods and forest products produced like those mentioned above. It was basically just harvest responsibly and don't mess up the habitat. Now that we've done the opposite of that, I see it as my responsibility to improve the downstream habitat of anywhere I garden by slowing, soaking and shading any water I have come across my property.
2 weeks ago
They sure can! I have them under plum, apple and pear trees that produce much better with the birds underneath. I like a mixed flock of muscovies, chickens and turkeys. The main caveat for mixing them would be  to have enough female ducks (4:1 at least) to males to reduce sexual aggression towards the chickens. Spanish cross turkeys can take care of themselves and are excellent sentries for raptors and raccoons.
2 weeks ago
So I just spent all day cutting up an unproductive plum tree I took most of down this winter. While I am doing a Hail Mary graft on the base and or suckers with a preferred varietal, I should not judge cutting trees as a wipe sawdust off. I heat my house with wood. And if it matters, you all seem like good people to me.

I have done a ton of research on dendrology and forest biomass accumulation as a education ranger in Olympic and Redwood NP. I was told to stop by my boss because I got too wonky. Most of my knowledge is about NW species and the SE’ deciduous forest has important differences that I should not pretend to know about.  However, Robert, while of course your points about tree growth rates are useful in selective logging of second growth to maximize regrowth, It seems correlated that the largest biomass forests on earth like those I have lived in are also sequestering more carbon each year they grow intact (Noss’ book on Redwood Ecology), with trees that grow faster each year (on average) until their heartwood overtakes their sap wood and chokes the cambium. This limits the Redwood trunk lifespan to about 2500yrs because the heartwood increases at a faster exponential rate to the sapwood. At the same time, these Redwood trees are unique as conifers able to reiterate from any part of the plant like vines. Either way, it  is generally true of coniferous trees and forests of the west that they grow more aggregate biomass the older they are, and this makes sense if you think about the increase in photosynthetic surface area with a taller canopy with mixed heights of understory beneath. Of course a fourth year tree has greater potential to put on more relative biomass it’s fifth year, but that’s based on a much smaller base. It’s like a small economy growing at 12% a year, whereas a massive one like the US can’t sustain more than 2-3% but that’s still a lot more money accumulation overall than the developing country. A mature forest has more photosynthetic area to power carbon sequestration, sugar production and all the life processes and ecosystem benefits that result.

That being said, we have finally tipped towards more Redwood growth than is being cut down with selective logging in Redwood country’s second growth along the lines of points Robert made about how trees grow to fill gaps in the canopy from fallen trees. When thinning second growth and taking some larger trees for some short term economic benefit (their wood is also vastly better) but still considering longterm sustainability and profit, we take out a large percentage of small trees and a very small percentage of the larger trees, and none of the truly old growth (250yrs+) ideally.

Back to the original post, I think you will do the right thing for your situation given that you seem to care and seek advice. I would prioritize summer shade in your climate, but I am from the temperate rainforest and can’t take heat. In looking for your tree/trees to take out, you could remove one that shades prized trees that will be north of your house site and they would help make up for the carbon and habitat loss in the tree you take. Ultimately, A good house site and build can save many trees in the long run by reducing heating costs if you use wood, so that may be more important than any individual tree if it’s not really that  old. My neighbor cut down some trees here that were 24” thick and 18yrs old.
2 weeks ago
Of course you can do what you want, and Bryant is right about the impact on roots (it generally correlates across the tree like an ‘s’, w north facing roots supplying south facing branches).  But Bill Mollison is pretty explicit that permaculture ethics do not validate cutting down established forest for doing permaculture. Taking out as little as possible and putting it to long term use may be worth it and certainly people do worse, and I am glad someone who cares enough to ask, like you, is doing it. However, in terms of impact on your watershed, wildlife and carbon balance, taking out a big tree is exponentially worse than taking out a small one. With deeper roots and exponentially more photosynthetic surface area, Larger, older trees grow much more biomass per year, even relative to acreage in evergreens. It would also be wise consider site location beyond just where a dead tree happens to be. I don’t know your climate so I don’t know if you want shade or sun on your dome, or whether the trees are deciduous or evergreen.

It seems like you care so you will be a lot better on the land than the next guy, but I just thought I’d point out the old logger fallacy about “overaged trees are mostly dead and grow slower, just look at how the rings get skinnier as they go out!” This logger fallacy that was used to validate cutting down our greatest forests is just a demonstration of geometric illiteracy, as the skinny rings are going around a much larger circle!
2 weeks ago
That quote is from "Sepp Holzer Permaculture"
2 weeks ago
I have what seems like it may be a dumb question...To fill or not to fill the pond artificially?

Since my hand dug, only partially gleyed duck pond went dry a couple weeks after the last rain (May), I have just been giving the ducks a 35gal tub inside a 6" deep hydro basin to clean off in. Every day or two I drain or pump the dirty water onto hugel beds around my property.  They seem happy enough with it so I have not filled the pond/pit I dug last fall. It is unsealed besides duck gley and green waste, and holds water longer than it originally did but is still not fully sealed.

My question about filling pond with tap water is both regarding ethics and hydrology.

I know that just letting water run through my system, with its immense amount of woody debris filtering between currently unsealed ponds and wicking to hugel beds would increase my plant yields and the amount of life I support. I could start raising fish eventually after it eventually seals from my ducks. I get the cheapest water of anywhere in California because this is the wettest part, but it is naturally a winter wet-summer dry  climate.  I see other local, organic farms literally opening up fire hydrant like flows into the middle of their fields for seemingly no reason and with what would seem to be great harm to their soil. I know my one garden hose running at the top of my property and filtering through its entirety would be a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things but still am hesitant to risk wasting a lot of water just letting it flow. It is the middle of the dry season here, and while my property is greener than anyone else around from all the water I slowed and sank into my soil over the winter, it would burst with growth with a good soaking.

Would I be a bad permie if I were to just run my filtered tap water until the whole system was saturated, ponds filled and hugel beds wicking, and then recirculate it all from the bottom pond, at that point turning the water input down to a minimum? This would take days of running the hose on full, at the least. Is this just a wasteful, stupid, insane way to use potable water? Thanks for your feedback!
2 weeks ago