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Ben Zumeta

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

Dandelions are a sign of acidic, compacted soil. They draw up calcium with their tap root from the subsoil and have 10x the Ca content of lettuce. This balances out the ph, which at acidic extremes a locks out calcium to other plants. Curly dock and plantain are a similar signs of acidity and compaction. I use all of them in compost teas.

My dandies seem happiest near my French drain run off swales. Lots of water and nutrients from the ducks and composting woody debris basins/swales the water runs through on its way down hill. But that seems to help a lot of plants, which is why we designed it that way. It’s also good to remember many plants look like dandelions at a glance.

It may be a bit of a tangent from microclimates but plant soil indicators I know of include:
Dandelion/dock/plantain= acidic, compacted, wet
Buttercups = waterlogged soil
Wild lupines = nitrogen poor
Mints = wet soil

I don’t know sandy soil weeds as well because I work with mostly clay in my area.
1 day ago
Underneath trees, especially those leafed out, will have a dramatically temperated and humidified climate. In old growth Redwoods that can take 20f off the extreme highs and lows and have 30% greater humidity. Also, where you are under the tree will drastically vary the amount of nutrient rich runoff a plant there receives. The base and drip line are vastly moister than in between at the surface.
2 days ago
Good point, and all my rambling aside, I am planning to build a passive solar greenhouse in a cloudy climate and no such plan to do any hydro, so I should just stay on topic
3 days ago
If you leave it alone to the weeds and wildlife it will gain fertility and soil structure. You could boradcast seed balls of particularly choice forage but it’s not necessary.If you let someone hay it you lose fertility and structure unless it’s all consumed and digested on site. I am obviously not the most knowledgeable person on here regarding hay fields but it seems a no brainer from every permie source I’ve read not to do this without stipulating they do it in a way that those cows’ poop ends up on your land. Look into Joel Salatin and rotational grazing with electric fencing for 30$/acre.

“The first harvest off any animal is the manure.”
Chinese proverb
3 days ago
I should have specified I meant like warehouse sized roof catchments, or even box stores and their parking lots. But that still has obvious hurdles.
3 days ago
It seems to me micro-hydro, even that which is primarily connected to large roof catchment, might have more potential in wet, cloudy climates. At the least it would be complementary to solar.
3 days ago
I may be wrong, but I understand that Bill Mollison chose Geoff to inherit leadership of the permaculture research institute, of which Zaytuna was an integral part. It seems he earned this with his work in the field and demonstrated talent teaching.
3 days ago
I don’t know what you guys are so worried about the heat for. after Thai food my toilet seems to regularly reach temps over 3000F.
4 days ago
Great question Gillian. The comments about hauling off hay being a big loss of fertility are all in line with everything Mollison, Salatin and Holzer have written in my understanding. I believe Salatin doesn’t even seed, he lets vegetation come back naturally and seems to do very well. Mollison emphasizes how seeding grasses is unnecessary as they come back on their own, but did endorse getting some particularly beneficial Forbes reestablished by controlling rabbits and overgrazing. He also endorsed what I had thought was my idea until I saw a video of him saying that spreading bird seed (that is fresh enough it still sprouts) is one of the most cost effective ways to boost fertility and cover crop a field.

I have gone with the bird seed in conjunction with peaceful valley soil builder mix and a regional wild flower mix (35-40species) on the 1.25 acres I am managing in a restoration/ food forest project. It took about 40hrs to seed and straw mulch the field by hand. The idea is to get a meadow growing, out of which we will have islands of trees above on what was the construction loading site for adjacent schools and left without topsoil or any other restoration to compact for 40yrs. I bet you have better soil to start with and I would be careful about giving away your fertility, I like the idea proposed to have him run cattle on the land rotationally as he feeds them the hay. I’d have a all poop stays here policy.
1 week ago
Great thread guys...Tyler and Robert, your thoughts have brought to mind what I read in Noss' Redwood Ecology text:

The rate of decomposition is inversely proportional to the retention of carbon and nitrogen in the soil.

I interpreted this to indicate that the extremely slow (upwards of 2x the life of the tree) but efficient decomposition of redwood is a big part of why the coastal redwood forests have the highest biomass on Earth by a large margin. This biomass over 50% more than the closest other terrestrial ecosystem (in Hoh Rainforest of Olympic NP), and 5-10x that of a tropical rainforests where decomposition is rapid. Alongside the slow decomposition of the redwood (which is really great for growing redwood and things that redwoods benefit from but not much else), is a plethora of other, faster decomposing biomass. This must create edge effects abound, and may be why the soil life in these ancient forests is the most diverse known (again, my memory of Noss), with 15,000 soil invertebrate animal species/m2 in some measurements.

My hypothesis is that the fact that available Nitrogen is the limiting factor for maximal biomass in these forests (again, Noss) has selected for this slow decomposition dynamic in the redwood ecosystem, as the immense biomass of these forests is how they keep enough water in the system to remain catastrophic fire-proof despite dry summers. The lushest parts of the redwood coast have no history of catastrophic fire. The ecosystems that got past a tipping point of biomass to environmentally self-regulate through their own fog and rain creation and temperature moderation became fire proof. Those ecosystems had to have trees with tannins potent enough to slow decomposition to the point where it became extremely Nitrogen efficient and rich in nitrogen fixating plants and fungus. Tadaa... Redwood forests!

In regard to the question of sequestration it seems like hugelkulture is analogous to a safe, high-return short term investment that can form the foundation for a longer term investment strategy. The carbon forms the anchor/sponge for all the other components of humus to latch on to, and in turn grows plants and fungus that sequester more carbon and nitrogen and produce more organic matter for more hugel.
1 week ago