Susan Taylor Brown

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since Feb 03, 2016
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Scotts Valley, California Zone 9B
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Recent posts by Susan Taylor Brown

We have a long row of privets on the street side of one fence. We coppiced them in April and they are growing back fast. I will add a few more rows of native plants for wildlife for a privacy hedge.

I plant in islands, surrounding the planting area with branches & logs. This creates habitat, helps with water, and sometimes slows down the dog. Then I plant bunch grassed on the outer edges to break up the soil. In 6 months or so, when the bunch grass is full, I will pull it up, divide it it into lots of little slips, and extend the ring of grass on the outside. To the left of the tall log is an elderberry tree.
5 years ago
Thank you, Bryant. I have found your posts very helpful as I make this journey. Patience is the hardest thing for me. We lost one of old oak trees last December (2016) because we had so much rain (and the poor thing was growing in the leach field). It took us most of the year to cut up find homes for the wood. In doing so I hurt my shoulder moving logs and cement and that put me on the sidelines for about 9 months. That turned out to be a good thing because I had time to observe.

I will be 60 this year and I can't do a lot of the heavy stuff so I have had to have help for the hardscape. That is tough on me because I know where every plant is and other people just tromp all over them. Now I won't need to have anyone else (I don't think) like that again.

We have had a little over 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. I go out in the rain several times to check that the water is going where it can be used best.

Erwin, thank you for the kind words. I keep meaning to start a project page here.
5 years ago
Thanks to all that commented on my post here. It was the prompt I needed to try and come back and do some updates. We are balancing inside the house renovations with work in the yard. It was a slow plant year as we had more hardscape to get in place but now that is all done. We have added more stacked recycled concrete walls at another slope which is giving me a lot more vertical space in which to plant. When we ran out of concrete we used logs and long tree trunks to do another stacked wall at a smaller slope. I believe the plants at the base of these walls (when they are all installed) will grow well.

My plan for this space is building a demonstration low to no water garden that uses primarily native plants for wildlife. I feel like the foundation is about 75% in place. I am continuing to work in small pockets, planting islands and it is working. I think I just wasn't patient enough as the plants and the worms and the rest of the microherds are doing all the heavy lifting. I am using native bunch grasses, carex, all over the place and it has proven the best at breaking up the soil. And poppies which I sowed for pleasure and then remembered what great roots they have. In one year the carex goes from a slender grass slip to a full bunched grass. Then I can pull it up and divide it and move it around the yard.

We are using greywater to send water to 7 citrus trees. Even though they were planted on a mound they sunk and we had to raise them all up this year. They have more than doubled in size. I think they are getting too much water which is good news because now I can install a switch valve to alternate water from the citrus trees out to where I want a bog.

We have discovered that in various places beneath the soil we hit sandstone. This is good on the places where we have slopes as it explains why the ground is staying mostly in place. I am learning to listen to what the yard is trying to tell me and adjusting my plans with what it says. This is easier, perhaps, for my style of gardening for wildlife rather than trying to farm for primarily food. (We have edibles up in the front where there is more sun.)

So I will keep doing what I have been doing, planting strong native plants, adding wood chips, coffee grounds, and other organic material, and saving the water. The citrus trees are the only plants that get irrigation and that is from greywater. Everything else is surviving on winter rains and water diverted from downspouts. (We did have a good rain year last year.) The ground in most areas is nice and spongey. I am making many, many cuttings of plants so a lot of them are small but the growth in just one year is amazing.

Some pictures.

5 years ago
Oh what an awesome project. Anything rainwater catches my heart and I really love to hear practical stories. Off to back and get a copy for a gift as well. Good luck, Lonny. I think the translations are a great idea and will help you help educate so many more people.
5 years ago
We had bad cuts into our slopes and there was no vegetation either. We have been building terraces with urbanite. The local concrete companies have been happy to dump it off here for us (free). Even though the terraces are not yet planted we noticed a huge difference with the massive amount of rain we got here in the formerly drought area of California.
6 years ago
Oh Tracy, wah on the damage to your sunroom but a big yay on being Paul's new VA. We lost one of our ancient oak trees in the first of a series of really strong storms that brought our rainfall up to about 300% of average. It slid over and kissed the roof. No damage so boy, we were lucky. I am finding it hard to do anything in the house now that we have had a few days of good weather. I just want to be outside working.
6 years ago
You motivation is right here, in your post: "none of them are the book I wanted to read."

Many of us writers start writing because we can't find the book we want to read so we have to write it ourselves.

Most of us writers hate what we write while we are writing it and many of us still want to pull published books off the shelves and change a sentence here and there.

You have the knowledge and a great niche market.

I, too, love your idea of a "paper" into a chapter. You work on one chunk, move on to the next, etc. You don't worry about the editing or what it sounds like until you are done because you will be a different, better writer by the time you get to the end of the book. One trick might be to find a buddy and email your paper/chapter to them when you are done. You can have them just hold it or you can ask for feedback. But they won't be tempted to toss it as you might because we are so very critical on ourselves. I would suggest not asking for feedback until you get to the end of the book.

Editing can be taught and there are many people who can do it. But knowledge such as yours takes much time to accumulate and you have a richness of material to share with readers. Go for it!
6 years ago
Maureen, I pile rocks behind my brush piles on slopes. It helps.
6 years ago
Oh Marco, what a wonderful explanation. I don't have near that amount of space but what you have said is similar to what I have been doing. I build little beds with anything from twigs to branches to tree trunks. I plant on the outside edge of the bed. Inside the bed I toss anything and everything, including kitchen scraps. People ask me where my compost bins are and I point to my twig beds all over the yard.
6 years ago
Thanks, Jane. Permits were the first thing we checked. This was very rural area when the house was built in 1964 so we got the location of the tank from the county but that was about it. We had a plumber come out and use his tracker device to locate the single pipe that pumps stuff out so we not have a pretty good idea. The tank and the pipe are the original from 1964. When we bought the house the tank hadn't even been pumped in 20 it was pretty gross.
7 years ago