Author Topic: Where to start?  (Read 3631 times)

Browncoat

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Where to start?
« on: January 11, 2010, 03:59:38 PM »
I currently live several hours from my BOL in the desert.  Due to that, I only get out to it once a month or so.  I currently have no infrastructure on the property other than a well without a pump. (That will be fixed in the next few months, I hope.)

My question is this:  I want to utilize permaculture principles and ideas to green everything up and make it self-sufficient.  Where do I start?  What do I do first?  Is installing a swale system the first thing that should be done to harness the rain water?  I'd have to purchase straw to act as a mulch, but if it works, it'd be worth it.  The way I'm thinking, that would be the first thing, but as I've never done this before I'm unsure.

Browncoat

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2010, 11:21:50 AM »
Well, looks like no one knows the answer.

Fortunately, my books on permaculture have arrived.  Like a kid on Christmas morning, I ripped open the shipping boxes to find my new copies of:

Rainwater harvesting for Drylands and Beyond: Volumes I & II by Brad Lancaster
Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway
Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison


After skimming through Volume I of the Rainwater harvesting books, it killed me to see how everyone here in the desert does everything they can to get the water off of their property when they need every last drop they can get.  It's been raining the past week and the streets here were rivers as the water flowed to the nearest wash to get it away from town as fast as possible.  The book showed pictures of a wash in Tucson that was a happy little stream in the early 1900's, but was now a sandy, dry bed.  If the people of Tucson captured the rain water as much as they could, that little stream would probably still be there.

Looking forward to what else I can learn from these 4 books.

BTW, the answer to my original question is: Yes, capture the rainwater first.

Offline Stein

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2010, 05:04:45 PM »
I have no idea what grows in a desert, I live in the Pacific Northwest.

That said, what I wish I had done differently was start with the things that take the longest to mature - like trees and bushes.  It is easy to slap a garden in anytime you have the desire, but you can't exactly make a fruit or nut tree produce in any short amount of time.

Browncoat

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2010, 08:11:42 PM »
I have no idea what grows in a desert, I live in the Pacific Northwest.

That said, what I wish I had done differently was start with the things that take the longest to mature - like trees and bushes.  It is easy to slap a garden in anytime you have the desire, but you can't exactly make a fruit or nut tree produce in any short amount of time.

Very true.  You don't have the need for rain harvesting like I do.  I, too, would like to get some trees planted so they'll mature before I'm on the property full-time.

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2010, 09:03:05 PM »
Very true.  You don't have the need for rain harvesting like I do.  I, too, would like to get some trees planted so they'll mature before I'm on the property full-time.



Browncoat

If I may.  I'm working on a (very long) ebook and one of the chapters is in regard to rainwater harvesting.

Basically you need a catchment which is a structure such as a roof or a patio on which water can be concentrated and directed into a conveyance which is a gutter or pipe that collects it.  Then you need a storage device to store the water until you need it.  Then a distribution system (swale) to get the water to landscape features (berm) to use it.  A swale or berm will definitely help but with that little of an amount of rainfall, harvesting some is a good idea.  You might want to work backwards though and build your berms around your planting areas, then build the swales to direct the water down to that area.  Then you want to work from the beginning with your catchment, conveyance, storage and connections.  I guess if you didn't have a structure you could build a small holding pool next to hill and collect as much runoff as you can. 

I don't have much experience with deserts.  Unfortunately the sand particles are so large, they don't even slow water down.

Hope that helps.  Good luck!

J

« Last Edit: January 22, 2010, 09:05:21 PM by KYdoomer »

Offline johngalt

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2010, 11:28:10 AM »
Just my two cents...I hope to buy some "country" property at some point in the near future, so here are some of the things that I have been laying out in my head.  I don't have desert conditions here, but maybe the thoughts will trigger some ideas for you.

I am looking for property with or without an existing housing structure...not sure which is the best, but I plan on moving to a property at some point.  If the land is vacant, I will decide where the housing will be built first.  This will give the layout for the rest of the homestead.  The next plan I have would be to put in fruit trees as Stein indicated.  If you plant them right, they won't need intesive maintenance for the first couple of years, and it can be done with a few trips to the property.  And if I'm living at my current location, until the house is built, I will continue the bulk of the gardening there.  The first building Item I will putting in place will be an in-ground cistern, similar to the one that supplies 100% of my water for my current home.  I don't know if you get enough rainfall in the desert to collect, but I love ours and will never have another house without one.  That said, I think I need to follow this thread some more as I need to learn about surface groundwater management via swales

Offline KYdoomer

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2010, 11:50:33 AM »
I am looking for property with or without an existing housing structure...not sure which is the best, but I plan on moving to a property at some point.  If the land is vacant, I will decide where the housing will be built first.  This will give the layout for the rest of the homestead.  The next plan I have would be to put in fruit trees as Stein indicated.  If you plant them right, they won't need intesive maintenance for the first couple of years, and it can be done with a few trips to the property.  And if I'm living at my current location, until the house is built, I will continue the bulk of the gardening there.  The first building Item I will putting in place will be an in-ground cistern, similar to the one that supplies 100% of my water for my current home.  I don't know if you get enough rainfall in the desert to collect, but I love ours and will never have another house without one.  That said, I think I need to follow this thread some more as I need to learn about surface groundwater management via swales

That someone else has the same ideas as me confirms that the ideas must be correct!

I would say one thing though John and Browncoat.  Sometimes instead of you picking the location for the house, the location picks you.  I ran into this on my BOL I purchased last year.  It basically forms an L and the furthest spot on one of the L's which actually overlooks a very large lake turned out to be the ideal spot.  Everywhere else was low or would require tons of development.  The spot on the hill is perfect, just have to clear out a few pines.  I have another nice slope on the other side of the property where the orchard is going.  That spot is probably going to require some berm work.  I think natural swales are already doing the job. 

BTW--this is an awesome resource.   http://www.ose.state.nm.us/PDF/Publications/Brochures/rainwater_harvesting_guide.pdf

I agree with you on the cistern btw--had one for years.

J


Browncoat

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2010, 01:35:19 PM »
Rainwater harvesting is absolutely going to be used.  Even with about 12 inches of rain a year, a 2000 sq ft roof will capture approx. 14,000 gal. of water.  I plan to utilize greywater harvesting for my plants near the home.  I also have a well on site that I plan to use as a backup for potable water and as a secondary for any irrigation I may need, rainfall being my primary.

When you figure in that that 12 inch/yr over 40 acres equals to about 12,946,032 gallons of water per year in an arid environment (not counting runoff from adjacent property)....swales are of absolute importance.  Granted, I'm not going to capture even half of it nor am I going to need it on every single inch of the property, but what I can capture will add up quickly.  It boggles the mind that there's that much water falling out of the sky for free.

So far, the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands books have been a great help in understanding the potential that swales and related earthworks can provide.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2010, 01:48:44 PM »
didn't see this listing before... we are probably in a similar situation with our land. Jack mentioned "imprinting" on one of the podcasts when he talked about permaculture in a dry climate. I checked out the information and found this website:  http://imprinting.org/

Where our land is located, there don't seem to be any other folks doing it, so equipment was not available for us to rent for use on a large scale. However, I found that you can do imprinting manually if your piece of land isn't too big, using tools you can find at a hardware store. Either a tool typically used for manual lawn edging or the scraper for removing roof tiles should work. You basically want a tool about 10-12" long that you can put an imprint pattern on your land after a good rain when the soil can be worked a bit. There are several different sites for buying seed suitable for your climate if you want to seed it as well... I believe Seeds of Change was one that was recommended to me.

Browncoat

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2010, 08:55:37 PM »
Imprinting is best for denuded and barren land that is relatively flat.  Too much contour and it'll wash the imprints away before they can do their magic.

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2010, 11:31:39 AM »
Too much slope is definitely not a problem for us... barren and denuded are also good adjectives (lol). Thanks for the book link... it looks like it holds a great deal of info. for us in the southwest...