leah gibson

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since Jan 04, 2015
Just purchased 11 acres of overgrazed blackland prairie, turned mesquite brush pasture teeming with ragweed. My goal is to use animals, rainwater harvesting, berms and swales, and fruit trees to restore most of the prairie and turn the land into a food-yielding paradise.
Central TX prairie
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Recent posts by leah gibson

Hello, we have a 1,000 gallon stock tank that we are using for our duck pond. It's hooked up to a swirl filter. On the occasion where we need to dump/clean/refill the pond, I was thinking of digging a 30-40ft long berm and swale system along the fenceline, and plant some trees and shrubs that will occasionally provide forage for our ducks and chickens.

Looking at a recent topo map, the fenceline where I want to dig this is roughly on contour. If I do this without precisely measuring this out, will I regret it?

Also, is it a bad idea to fill the swale with rocks?

Thanks, I'm new at this.
5 years ago
Hello, I am just starting out on the property I purchased and this year am planting a few trees I have been given as gifts. This includes 2 satsumas, 2 figs, 2 plums, 2 pears, and a persimmon.

I have read that it's wise to keep figs far away from citrus. I don't know why. Do you?

The only trees I have planted so far are the two satsumas. Along with them, artichoke, comfry, and borage. What other plants are good to keep in a citrus guild? I placed them in an area that is about 1/10th acre, on the south side of the property, where a large pecan tree already exists, and I want to add more trees/shrubs to this area- are there any trees I should definitely NOT plant with the citrus? Other than fig? I have been looking around for good examples of citrus guilds and have come up empty handed.

I have deep rich clay soil. I have added compost which has improved the drainage. I live in central texas and we have mild winters (some nights can dip to 25 but usually only for a couple of hours- this week it has been 70-80 degrees during the day!). Our summers though, are hot and dry, with August usually topping 100 every day. However, this area is close to the house so we will be able to irrigate with rainwater eventually, and I can water at least once per week in drought periods until then.

Thanks for your input.
5 years ago
I have practically no earthworks experience, asides from what I've been reading and what I've helped friends build (after they designed it). Do you have any recommended reading or websites specifically for ponds? Thanks.
5 years ago
I love that idea, I was envisioning very long, broad berms/swales with fruit and nut trees and pasture planted in between...I'm glad you backed up my train of thought there!
A pond is in the plan but I have a ton more research to do about where to place it in order for max benefits.
5 years ago
Hi all,

I'm currently raising chickens and will be getting ducks soon. I will have them in two fenced in areas (ducks will be separate from chickens) that will then be fenced into 2 or 3 paddocks that I will seed for forage.

Around the perimeter of the fences I'd like to plant some hardy shrubs and small trees (to be protected) that could maybe provide food for them. So far on my drawing board I have Agarita, Mulberry, and Mexican Plum. The idea is to fence off these plantings for most of the year and only let the ducks/chickens in when there is fallen fruit, etc. to clean up.

But while I'm on the subject, it would also be nice to have some shrubbery around the 1000 gallon stock tank I have for the ducks. Something that they won't tear up. I could try and protect it with fencing until it's established.

Any ideas for either area? I have looked around but have had a hard time finding stuff for my area. I have clay soil (that I will amend with compost); our summers can be very hot and dry (105 degree days are common in August), and our winters are mild, with the occasional dip down to 25 degrees (but typically only for a couple of hours). The dryness shouldn't be a major problem since I will be digging swales, planting the trees adjacent to them, and filling the swales every few weeks when I clean out the pond. The pond will have a swirl filter system.

Even if you can't directly answer my question, I'm still interested in hearing your comments. We've just bought this homestead and this is our first major project. Have had chickens for a long time but never ducks. Thanks for your input.
5 years ago

I just purchased our 11 acre homestead and was gifted a few fruit trees that I would really like to get in the ground in the next month or two.

The acre that the house is on is very flat. 2% or less, and clay soil with an existing grass mix. The rest of the property is a very gradual slope and I can see some wonderful berms and swales and ponds in the future.

But for now, I just want to focus on that flat acre, and I'd really like to plant some trees (the ones I was gifted), and I'd like to start establishing an evergreen screen because I am closer to my neighbors than I prefer.

Of course I don't want to plant anywhere that I would regret later. I have helped many friends install food forests planted on berm and swale systems, but they all had bigger areas, with more slope, and had preexisting drainage problems. I have walked the area in question during a rainstorm and don't see any run off issues. And the day after a storm, the ground is always nice and spongey but not ever boggy. So, it seems that a berm and swale system may not be as effective here. Am I right? What are my other options?

Some more info about the site....clay soil (I think I would need to build berms at the very least so that the trees are happy, but I dont know how to place a berm without a swale); this is central texas so drought can be a problem in the summer and any and all rainwater harvesting techniques should definitely be applied. I will be irrigating with a 4200 gallon rainwater tank in times of drought. Temps get to be 105 in August, down to 25 in January, albeit usually for just a few hours at a time. The native vegetation is prairie grasses so I'd like to keep that theme going throughout the property (later will be using mob grazing to restore native grasses) while also establishing a few fruit tree guilds here and there.

I appreciate any input you have...this is my first project here and I don't want to mess it up.
5 years ago