Mark Kissinger

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since Oct 07, 2016
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Recent posts by Mark Kissinger

Antonio Scotti wrote:
I don't have a specific soil test for this area, but I reckon it would be very similar to other terraces of the same property, that have all shown similar results, meaning high pH: 7.9 - 8.2, high in Ca
I wonder how much basalt should I consider spreading if ever.

I don't know about the basalt dust. However, putting lots of pine wood chips on the surface will help to hold moisture and soften the clay. Also, try planting daikon radishes (an annual), comfrey (a perennial), and other sacrificial (annuals) plants with deep taproots to help push organic material down into the clay. Talk to your local landscaping and tree-trimming companies, and see if they will dump the tree branches on your terrace. Rent a large commercial chipper (possibly from the tree trimmers) to chip the bigger branches to spread them all over the terrace to at least one foot (1/3 of a meter) depth. Do this after you have done the earth-shaping to get things level. The idea is to get the plants to do most of the soil building work for you!
11 months ago

Beth Wilder wrote:I've been trying to find out if there's much mesquite around Dolan Springs. Looks like maybe there's catclaw acacia (wait-a-minute bush, Senegalia greggii, fka Acacia greggii), but not mesquite (Prosopis spp) -- is that right? If so, you can use the catclaw in similar ways in terms of nitrogen-fixing, fuel, and wood chips and dropped leaves as mulch, with a similar caution for both about those thorns. Expect to get a few right through the soles of your shoes, at least if you're anything like me. At least the catclaw thorns -- although they will really catch and pull your skin with that claw-like curve, thus their other name wait-a-minute -- are shorter than the mesquite thorns can get. I'd be surprised if you don't have both trees/bushes somewhere around there, though, as they overlap heavily, at least around here. You may already know this (all of this, really), but both mesquite and catclaw acacia can be much, much older than you'd think by looking at them: hundreds of years sometimes.  When I get irritated with the placement of one or several of them, I try to remember that. I'm such a new arrival to their world. It makes much more sense for me to move than for them to be sacrificed, in most cases.

I have no mesquite trees on my property. Around here, they grow mostly in the dry washes, and they struggle to stay alive. Down near the Colorado River, they grow a lot better. I do not know the names of anything growing here except the yucca trees, and the creosote bushes. I don't think I have any catclaw shrubs either. At least most of my bushes don't seem to have those thorns you describe, except for the two chollas that I have seen on my property. Only one is in very good shape, and that one isn't very big. I don't have a very big active wash on or near my property.
1 year ago

Eric Nar wrote:I am starting up a permaculture set up on raw land in Arizona. I have yuccas, weeds and creosote bushes there. Can I take the dry yucca leaves, the weeds, or maybe chip the creosote bushes and use them as mulch? If I use the weeds as mulch, will they infest my main plant? Do I have to chop up the yucca leaves? Can I use creosote, I heard different things. I don't have a chipper, so that's kind of the last resort.
Here are some pics. Yucca, weeds, and that is just random brush (can I use that? Trying to make the most of whatever I have)


Hey neighbor! I am also living in Dolan Springs, AZ! We'll have to get together. Are you on Facebook? There's a newly activated Golden Valley Permaculture group there. Apparently creosote bushes jam up the wood chipper. I'm living in the open range area off of Cottonwood Road.

Give me a call 520.431.9106
1 year ago
What is a good way to sanitize fresh produce?

Is there a different method recommended for washing produce like lettuce and something like apples and oranges or potatoes or bananas?
1 year ago
For non-medical people, a big part of using a face mask is helping to keep from inadvertently touching one's face and nose. If it's not a tight-fitting gas-mask sort of mask, it's probably infiltrating around the edges anyway. Just a thought.
1 year ago

Antonio Scotti wrote:Hi all
... that by loosening and digging...the ground level would swell quite a bit....but that was inevitable I guess. The machine operator said that it might take 1 to 2 years before settling down again. But I guess the original grade would be lost..and it had been already lost after all the compaction that it has endured (as explained in a previous post) in the last couple of years. ...

It is good that you are mixing some compost in the lower depths of the compacted clay. That will aid in growing deeper roots. you want the plant roots from your perennial cover crops to penetrate as deeply as possible into the loosened clay so that it will be possible for the plants to exude carbon sugars to feed the microorganisms that actually grow the new soil at depth. You can even plant deep growing annuals (such as the daikon radish, and alfalfa) as your first cover crops. When these plants die, their roots will remain as carbon, or Soil Organic Matter (SOM). Later roots can follow these channels of dead roots to further break up the clay.

In your original post, I think you mentioned it was a terraced area? I would try to maintain a level surface. If that is not attainable for the entire area, try to include a berm or series of berms along the contours so that rainwater is not allowed to flow unimpeded down your slope. Some photographs would be good to show us what you are doing.

The rule of thumb is to slow, spread, and sink the water into the areas where you will eventually be planting. Get some ground cover plants seeded as soon as possible, preferably some with deep roots.

Keeping the top of the berm as level as possible is important or else any collected rainwater will just break out at the lowest spot and cause erosion problems. The idea is not to form a permanent pond, but merely allow the water time to soak in. That infiltration will happen more quickly if there are plants growing in the areas where the water temporarially collects.

Hoping for the great success of your project.
1 year ago
Does anyone know about Desert Southwest (Northern Arizona @ 3400  feet elevation, 7" annual rain) plants that can be used for making a living Fence/hedgerow?

What is the expense breakdown vs the common 5-wire barbed wire fence? or would I need both? I have about 1662 linear feet all told, not counting any gates I might want.

I was thinking of trying Ochatilla and weaving a fence from that. Of course, everything grows very slowly here, except for about 2-3 months in the spring.

Water is also pretty scarce. It costs me $100 per 1500 gallons to have it trucked in. I'm on a rectangular 3.66 acres and the water tank is at almost the highest point on the property. The property is in the Open Range area.

I would probably start on the south side (481 feet) and then work my way around to the west end (300-foot road frontage), north, and finally the east side of the property. The South and North fence lines might also work to break the near-constant wind just a little, although the north side of the property is about 10 feet (max) lower than the south fence. An east-west running ridge separates the two long sides.

Any suggestions would be welcomed, as I don't have any experience with this process at this point. Thanks.

Kena Landry wrote:First of all, I command you for listening to your yearning and planning the steps to get there.

I think starting with a garden and wwoofing is a fantastic plan: it will help you sort out between what is a fantasy and what is your true calling.

Same thing for homeschooling: I love the idea of homeschooling, but the reality of my family is that it wouldn't work for us right now. My eldest - 8 - considers homeschooling a particularly cruel form of punishment, and her heart bleeds for the poor kids who are not allowed to go to school. And I have a meaningful career that really makes a difference in the world, and I'm not ready to sacrifice that.  

One thought about homeschooling: You can always "homeschool" by making a plan of reading books or other academic projects that intensify and build upon what your child is learning in the public school. Provide a learning environment with a hands-on curriculum that might even contain some learning about how plants grow. Maybe you could also teach your child's friends about gardening and other agricultural subjects. A child's first teachers are always their parents.

The wwoofing experience will definitely give you a taste of what larger-scale farming is like. As a single farmer, you will probably need to incorporate wwoofer personnel to assist you at some point.
1 year ago

Azita Williams wrote:  

I agree with you, I don't need a big farm and a big operation to feed my soul.  I'm thinking 20 acres where we'll have the option to do different things down the rd if we chose to, so that we don't have to move.

I heard some good advice once that pointed out that some small acreage of poor land could be bought very cheaply, then you can build it up with restorative techniques and sell it, then repeat the process until you finally get to buying your "dreamland farm". This might be an alternative, or it might not work for you. Just a thought.
1 year ago
I want to say "Go for your dream!" Don't wait for retirement, because by then you will be much older and possibly not able to do the work. I wish I had started so much sooner.

You have a good plan, to work part-time with the WOOF organization. There is so much that you will need to know how to do in order to make a go of it. Make sure you have worked out a comprehensive budget. Everything will probably cost more than your estimate. Don't try to buy everything at once, but plan to start with the essentials and then add stuff as you actually need it and as you can afford it. Your picture book farm does not happen all at once. If you try to do that you will probably waste a lot of effort on stuff you didn't really need. Learn how to build and manage a farm on a budget.

Living off-grid is not easy. You are your own utility company, so you need to study up on how to design and maintain your solar power system and things like keeping your well in working order. You will also want to plan for a wind generator. If you have a running stream, you have the potential for generating water using a micro-hydro generator to generate power. Batteries will be a huge expense. The Lithium-ion batteries (like the Tesla Powerwall and others) are expensive but very efficient and long-lasting (but they can not be allowed to freeze). The cost for these is now comparable with the older lead-acid varieties, of similar capacity.

Your husband has a very good idea: to start small with a greenhouse/garden. There are techniques for vertical-gardening that can make it possible for you to practice marketing your excess produce at farmer's markets as you build your farming experience.

I recommend taking some classes that teach the Regenerative Agriculture model of farm production, which will allow you to grow organically using next to no added fertilizers or chemicals. I have listed some You-tube links to pasture-based Restorative Agriculture in the "Greening the Desert" forum on this site. A quick list would be Allen Savory Institute, Gabe Brown, Greg Judy, and Ray Archuleta and anything you can find by Dr. Christine Jones, (

I hope these ideas, and the ideas of the others who replied to your post, help you make your dream become a reality!
1 year ago