Mike Autumn

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since Oct 06, 2016
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food preservation forest garden greening the desert
Tecate, Baja California
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Recent posts by Mike Autumn

Hello, I've had this thought in the back of my mind for quite a while now; as you might see from my profile, we live in the coastal scrub and chaparral part of Baja California and we have little rain, just 250 mm or 9 inches I think. I love the native plants here and I've noticed there's a few Prunus that grow wild here. The ones I found are:

Prunus ilicifolia (Holly leaf cherry)

Prunus fremontii (Desert apricot)

I was wondering if it's possible to graft peach, almond and other Prunus fruit branches onto them? I'm kinda new to this so, is it viable? does it affect the quality or quantity of fruit it produces? does it affect the taste? it wil need more watering that the native plant normally does right? will we have a more heat tolerant shrub or tree this way or more resistant to pests?
2 weeks ago
I love this topic! I have come to a personal conclusion that it's too much hassle to be generating electricity for everything, especially when the laws of thermodynamics make it so hard. So thus, I'm stocking up on low-tech / manual options for my future tiny homestead. It doesn't mean I wont use renewables, just that I will reduce our consumption to a bare minimum while making sure that vital functions can still be performed without electricity. So far I have some manual kitchen stuff (egg beaters, citrus press, tortilla press, molcajetes, grain mill) plus I want to get my hands on a windmill and an adapted multi-use bike for doing things like milling, blending and what not.
4 weeks ago
Hi Rufaro! I read the whole thing just now and I'm impressed with what you've managed to do; I love seeing your photos and your progress is tangible! I'm glad to hear that others are taking notice also, I'm sure that if many people throughout the world follow a similar path then we can truly have better resilience against climate change. I have a few random thoughts that may help, we've been working mainly on establishing trees / fruit trees in the chaparral desert, our conditions are sandy soil with good infiltration, 250 mm of rain a year concentrated in only 4 months of the year and 35 C heat in the summer with frequent, heavy wind gusts.

I think productive trees in the outer areas will be a good strategy to help create a microclimate, shade the soil, protect from the wind and to increase biodiversity in your case; that's pretty much agroforestry. Also, if planting trees, why not add some nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs that will help enrich your soil? I think someone mentioned pigeon pea, that's a good one that provides beans or if you have some of those native trees that can do the same thing and provide other benefits at the same time. For example, we're using mesquite - Prosopis glandulosa, Leucaena Leucocephala, and Tamarind - Tamarindus indica (this one is native to tropical Africa). Mesquite offers firewood, tasty mesquite pods and leaves that can be used for cattle feed; you can do the same with leucaenas, they grow VERY quickly and provide a lot of biomass for fodder; tamarind is used traditionally in Mexico for making candies, beverages and has other medicinal uses as well, it's a very productive tree with delicious fruit!

We've been using wick irrigation to get some trees established with very little water. I started up some shade trees to "test the waters" and we were able to keep some trees alive under 35C heat and drought administering only around 1 or 2 liters of water a week or so. Here's where we got the idea:

Wick irrgation from agroforestry website

Here's a picture of one we made using an oral electrolite botte, a straw and some nylon rope; its partially buried to keep it in place and to protect it from the wind:

You mentioned something very important: you have to grow soil. That's why it's so important to have roots in the ground to keep the soil microbiology intact and to retain humidity as well. The trees all around should help a lot with that. If anything else comes to mind ill post it here, good luck and keep us updated!
1 month ago
***Update: It's been 7 months since I made it and kept it in a little glass gerber bottle and it hasn't grown any mold and doesn't smell different even after having been opened several times and taken in and out of the fridge which I attribute to all the concentrated tannins. I have been using it a few drops at a time and it helps with making delicious hamburgers haha, add a few drops into a tablespoon of soy sauce, mix it up and then add it to the ground beef to give it a charbroiled taste. I will soon look to see if I can find a sweeter mesquite tree but I'm thinking I could use this as a substitute for liquid smoke, right? Also it seems to have excellent antibacterial and antifungal properties, interesting indeed!
1 month ago
Hello, we have a small plot of land in the chaparral desert in Baja California that we're working on, it may be similar to your climate plus we have a lot of mesquite also. We have really sandy soil, above 35 C in summer and bursts of strong wind throughout the whole year and a lot of hungry critters (especially moles) that will eat up whatever you plant and we get 9 inches of rain a year. Also I'm working with a shoestring budget, I don't have a pickup to take large things there. So basically, we've had to make due with what we have and have taken a lot of time to look at the land and wildlife.

After a lot of trial and error, I've decided to work small (like 200 square meters) by working on a flat spot of land, using fencing buried at least 1 foot deep and putting up a physical wind break to deal with the biggest issues: moles, cows and nasty wind gusts that break and dry up plants and trees. I do have an advantage here though, there is some grass (doesn't look native according to my biologist wife) that has taken over flat sandy spots and I will be working with that to build fertility, I think that wherever I want to plant crops I'll add compost from home and smother the grasses with cardboard plus drip irrigation.

I really liked the native grass suggestions that others have mentioned plus rain water catchment. I can also suggest big rocks or structures similar to them, we have TONS of them (literally) and I've noticed that the majority of the native trees and shrubs grow close to them, can imagine it's because they condense small amounts of atmospheric water that keeps them thriving plus the microclimate they help create.

Also, someone was probably referring to the Groasis Waterboxx, it's a great tool for helping trees get established but in my case it's a bit expensive so I would also recommend some homemade wick irrigation containers. I tried them and they helped keep trees alive in 35 C heat throughout the summer, used like around 500 ml per week for every tree planted since I used small containers.


I'd recommend starting with some good nitrogen fixers as well; why not try a different variety of mesquite? The ones we have here are Honey Mesquite: they dont have as many thorns, they attract pollinators, they provide some shade and we've made things from the bean pods. I actually love them, I think they're beautiful. I've also started propagating Leucaena Leucocephala from a local tree that someone planted a while ago, it's one of Geoff's most used trees and from what I can see they'll probably grow great and with very little irrigation. A tree that worked for us is Acacia Saligna, it's a really hardy tree that we started with wick irrigation that we forgot about that just kept growing throughout the summer. These provide very good shade! I also want to get started planting some moringa but I find that these are not as hardy when younger and need protection from the wind, theyre very vulnerable to the cold.

1 month ago

Dave Burton wrote:I think part of the thing that makes being outside make me feel better is that it "just feels right." I think it is appropriate to compare city-living to being a fish out of water, because as far as I understand, we evolved in jungle and prairie environments, so, it is only natural that we feel at ease and more relaxed when we are in our natural habitat.

As a city-dweller, I barely cope. It feels so weird for me, and I feel fight or flight instinct a lot being in urban environments. A lot of the times, in cities and high-population areas, my first instinctual feelings when someone I don't know approaches me are along the lines of, "who the fuck are you? why do you want to talk to me? Are you a threat?"

I typically feel safest in a city when I am in the parks or on some kind of nature trail or in some public garden. Visiting animal shelters, wildlife refuge centers, botanical gardens, or living museums helps me, too.  

I can't agree enough with what you said; I had never really though about it but that's exactly how I feel: like a fish out of water. Just yesterday I was downtown and couldn't help but be overwhelmed by so many people meandering throughout the sidewalk, the endless stretches of concrete jungles and the constant rumble of cars.
1 month ago
I've been working from home for 5 years now while living in the city; it's really convenient and all but I feel like it's taking a big toll on my health. Haven't been sleeping well, been gaining weight, losing agility and strength, plus I am more stressed out lately. I have a few plants and a turtle pond that I look at on my breaks and they help me to calm down and feel more relaxed since we are usually just answering calls back to back.

My favorite place is the chaparral desert; I go hiking and sleep under the mesquite trees when I'm exhausted and it makes me feel like everything is right in the world once again. My mind is clearer and I just feel happier in general. Reconnecting with nature is the only viable solution I see.
1 month ago
Welcome! I can't wait to get my hands on this book whether I win or not
1 month ago
I've found myself thinking that very same thing, especially since I haven't taken a PDC, woops. But back to the topic!:

... when you go running at night just to get a wiff of the native plants from the local neighborhood park :)
... when you walk around the neighborhood looking for more "resources" such as leaves, cardboard, and empty containers.
... when people visit you at home and start asking why in the world you have sand, dirt and sawdust in buckets.
... when you have plants growing in every nook and cranny in your home
1 month ago
Sorry for the delay in answering, I hadn't gotten any notifications; basically the top allows air to go in and out while keeping out the flies, I just turn it every now and then, it gets to a point where I don't turn it anymore and it composts pretty well. I get a nice fluffy compost although the egg carton doesn't degrade as well as Id like but I've noticed that the compost I made with only egg carton had an amazing water retention ability; I'm going to try it out in the desert to see how it works!
1 month ago