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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Regenerative agriculture and land steward and free stuff

One hears these days a lot about land management on small acreage. There are county programs and whole lot of information. A lot of it is marketing of soil fertilizers.
On the particular land I own that did not work.
And I do not have the worst lot per say in the area.


I'm going to go straight to the root of the problem : the dirt.
Now there are 2 words in English: dirt and soil.
When one talks to the land owner and listens .. one can make an interesting observation... these 2 words are used differently. Garden soil is one... and my plot dirt is another. Soil of  land owner worth more than dirt. And they both are 'their land' which they pay for (mortgage or inheritance or paid off...). In our area due to its location the land the house is on also costs quite a lot.
Many have troubles to turn dirt into soil. And some went straight to horses and horses boarding.
These turn land into so called dry lot. Meaning eroding land to the point all it produces is dust.

This is how my lot was several years ago, by now rumor has is even less than 10.
Some one had here horses, pigs, cow and some other life stock. They did not haul all the manure and looks like they did spread some on the back which indicated by the wild native grasses.

What does happen to dirt if it is bare dirt and there is lots of vertical pressure on it (say a road)? IT gets compacted. After that the rain comes and because water has to go somewhere when it penetrates some of it it does crack the dirt.
At this point there is little life in that dirt, if has weeds, pests, disease, it has high salinity because it is capable of generating run off, what little water comes with rain is not retained.

Land owners use term soil when there is life in it.
IF one wants get to that one needs to change how they SEE things. Because if all one does is dirt, the problem becomes our own human brain. We do not see life in it. We see sterile dirt.
In nature it is not. It becomes 'stero' when things are thrown out of balance.

What did throw my land out of balance? Overgrazed lot. They cramped too many things on the land, land was fertile for short time and then degraded quickly, they bought fertilizers salinating the soil and making it more dirt.
IT produced one thing only,,, they were paying someone else more to destroy their asset - turn soil into the dirt. And they were convinced that's how things are. Because there is marketing. And large agro-corporations trust me know what the heck they are doing in marketing their products, otherwise they would not make it up there.

The problems one deals with conventional land management are

Lack of moisture (or best to say uneven moisture during seasons)
Poor fertility
Compaction
Weeds
Low yields
High input costs
Too much moisture
Salinity
Disease
Pests
Litter
Labor
Erosion
Poor infiltration

Are these a problem? Yes they are, they cost land owners $$$$$. But what are these?
Is that a tooth ache or the reason why does the tooth hurt in the first place?
Now you SEE. It is about how we SEE things.
What we are looking at in not THE PROBLEM, they are SYMPTOMS of the problem.
These all happen as tooth ache, but that's not why the land hurts.

What does come first on dry lot? Weeds. Why? Land tries to cover and stop erosion.
Some of these weeds are pretty invasive, they are good at covering what's left out there and it does take time but even into eroded weedy dirt life comes turning it into poor soils.

When one starts SEEING life in dirt they start seeing soil.

One needs to focus on how to get rid of the symptoms. And we already know that taking pain killer (think fertilizer sold as a cure) for tooth ache does not fix bad tooth, it gets it worse and turns it into root canal that costs 1800+ to get out or pull the tooth and them face dentures and more of gut problems and more of other things...

Painkillers do not work in our own body to fix things, why would you do same for the land if it did not work? If you are trying to 'up it for fast sale' (and that's what exactly was done when we bought it when we did not know much better about high input cost landscape) it works.
Trees have 1 year warranty. Why? cause... if 200$ tree is put into $10 hole it ends up dead in a year, it DOES NOT ROOT.
No one tells you that you bought very expensive highly distressed tree in 20 gallon pot... or 10 gallon pot from Oregon. When on plants one of these in our dirt they live for 1-3 years till roots fill the hole and bind and tree dies.

This is all fundamentally wrong. One puts expensive life thing into dirt, adds expensive liquid maintenance solution (pay landscaping company) into it it still does not do well, add more pay more and so it goes.
Why?
Look at forests, are they all fertilized? They are doing fine on their own? Why?
Dig into soil, what do you see? Critters. They are free and they make a lot of life organic matter.

If you buy critters on amazon, these little bit of nematodes cost arm and a leg and then some...
In forest they are free.

I was surprised to find these and worms in covered soil where I did not seed these, they showed up.

The bottom line is
if YOU want to make small changes change the way how YOU DO things. if YOU want to make MAJOR changes change the way how YOU SEE things.

Farmers who see several years in a row crop failures are at the wits end so they are forced to change how they SEE things and allow THE NATURE  TO HEAL ITSELF.

You need to ALLOW.
Other wise let go, and that's hard. And that hurts because human mind wants to be in control. And we were told and conditioned to do all these costly things treating symptoms.
When I SEE SYMPTOM, I try to invest into treating PROBLEM, because treating SYMPTOM does not get me anywhere, it only costs more to maintain the survival with the existing SYMPTOMS.
I want to LIVE.

We need tho think in terms of
SOLVING PROBLEMS
and not
TREAT SYMPTOMS.

How does healthy soil function in nature?
- There is no mechanical disturbance (no machines... tractor used is $10k+, a beater, more decent we talk $30k+)
- There is armor on the soil surface (if you look it nature soil tries to cover itself with... something)
- There are cycles of water
- Living plant root network (try to dig out one of those native clump grasses... man... I did... right... that clump was no going nowhere)
- Nutrient cycling via biology (yes, the critter and life forms)
- Thousands of years of R&D ( yep, geek here, nature did it's thousands of years of research and development and we came and were convinced to toss all the statistics...)

Native not irrigated plot grown grass wait tall how does it do it?
It was not plowed, it was covered. It has symbiotic relationships of life forms.
One needs to SEE themselves as a critter on land needing to form symbiotic relationships with other live forms. It turns out when these benefit one another they get stronger.

And that's being a human with the brain I formed symbiotic relationship with local tree service and local horse boarder who have... what? Organic waste they have to pay someone else to put away.

The waste is sorted and organic. One's waste is other's treasure depending on how one looks at it.

I needed to cover soil from erosion and I needed some organic matter with soil live organisms (living indeed in free poop). And all these get delivered free. Because I take and use that. And it turns out these businesses hate waste and see how I use these and started learning too...

I looked what manure did on overgrazed lot, the soil started to recover where it had not moved grass. Ok, dry grass is mostly carbon. I need more of that... What is free.
No one will give away free grass (they feed life stock. cows and pigs are hungry...)... What's free. We have lots of suburban near by. Leaves and trees. Because home owners pay a lot. Most never spray mature trees, they are too high, costs arm and a leg.


LIGHT BULB. Calling tree services.
Soon I have a steady stream of covering material coming in.
And as soon as I'm done covering next neighbor is already in line.
Why urban folk do not do it I do not know, but some of our neighbors who had to take their tree down already looking at e and seeing what do I irrigate ... no way they are giving away wood chips :)
It takes small changes.
I already asked local horse owners, who has free manure :). None :), yep seeing me doing garden for 3-rd year on horse manure because I told them so no one is giving away manure, they started USING IT, ok, I found me horse boarder near by who has exes of the materials.

TADA, loading raised bed. With stumps, wood chips and manure.
And making that raised bed with landscaping company would have costed me several grand.
That's why it was not done in the first place.
People before did not SEE the problem they were treating the symptom.

My covered with something soil does not crack. It does regenerate now. Whatever it does, it does it for free for me, cause I did not buy that fertilizer, I did not dot put my income out and made it someone's asset.

What goes out of my pocket ... just goes. Fertilizer is short lived and expensive.
Bottom line I find 300-500$ a month management of the land with additives cost prohibitive. And someone else before me did not look at it this way and paid 250$+ for maintenance + all the additives.  Did not get them much for the $... and they were sold state controlled weed class B as an annual reseeding ground cover. Was a cute looking purple not native flowering 2 times a year thing (yep, when these breed someone reports you and state comes, spray and sends you the bill. Do I want that? NOPE).


Each one of these half dead stressed not growing trees was 150$ a tree, plus pro landscaping cost.
There were also 10+ more placed just like that on dirt berms, 2 in front of the house.
 First year I pulled out 4 pines, they never rooted. I had a question why? Bad soil, ok. Next spring I pulled 3 more not rooted trees and had all these pictured dying and drying, ornamental plum frozen, maples chlorotic (I found landscaped injected these $75 per tree X5 with iron, lasts about a year, then repeat... I can buy new tree for that). And that's when I said, THIS IS WRONG. 
Will I ever pay for such a landscaping after I know what it ended up as? NOPE.
So here is my logic as blunt as it gets.
I'm not willing to pay for cute tree that gets iron chlorosis or fire blight. And I do not care about what is in landscape fashion this or that year.
I say my dirt is in fashion now. And I'm not doing it the way it was done anymore. Way to expensive and little for my hard earned $. Done with that. And I was.
Good I did learn all that quickly. I needed one hard season of loosing trees to get the idea how wrong and temporary of a face lift quick landscape it was... And it cost them over 10k rumor has it to get there, and on going 250$+ a month and most of it did not live through 2 year.
Why would I continue the same?
I did not even have enough water to water all these half on the way out plants.

I found wood chips. I covered all that. Fought bind weed, could not spray because... guess what no landscaping company will tell you that round up whole spectrum weed killer leaches in gets to roots and kills your trees. They would not sell much of that with this kind of advertisement, would not they? And same thing with others that target grass only (they are about 10 times more than 2d4d that targets broad leaf). Landscaping additives were killing threes land owners paid for... WHAT? And why would anyone do that? Because they simply did not know what was sold to them as landscape management. One pays for plant killer to kill weeds over not covered land, then paid for the boost so the remaining trees do not drop dead the same year. Next 3 month repeat the same.
Do you like that? I did not.

So I did not do it. Landscape needs to be sustainable and I do not have time and do not want to pay $$$ to manage all that. I want self managed forest and I agree to put some mulch or something cheap/free on it once a year. That sounds a lot better to me.

So I got rid of dead trees, replaced with smaller cheaper ones and invested in my own soil with free covering materials. Slow steady eddie gets to it faster it turned out.
Now I have all the landscape stabilized, surviving honey locust building root systems and covered, no spray so it does not kill them, ponderosa saved and not dead, both of them. I just saved myself mature tree and $80 for tree take down. One maple saved and stable, dead trees recycled into ashed and hugelculture, bare root tree replacements placed and growing.
I'll have to take down 3 chlorotic maples, And I'll be replacing these with seabukthorns I'm already growing and other chlorotic bushes with smaller currants already growing and in less than 2 years I'll have regenerated sustainable landscape.
That's the way I like it more.


Now I need to go to the next step. Into and attract other free life forms all over the land. Because I did see what rolipoly does decomposing, they breed like nuts and they create a lot of soil, and they are chicken food.
I've got carbon covered (free wood chips), and I've got 'the trigger' covered - a bit of manure. Both were free. And they were someone's liability (waste to get rid off) and became my asset.
Whatever living critter came with manure will be there covered, multiply, breed, eat the manure, because that's what they do, attract my worms (existing... those went deep). That's what nature R&D did for me, critters attracted to manure do decompose, if they would not the earth would be covered with poop, and it is not.
When I covered bindweed for raspberry patch I did not see any live, in 6 month I did see thick earth worms, they did sense food, they showed up and breed and live there, They breed and multiply every 6 month.
And yes, flies do pollinate my carrots now and I take buckets worth of carrot seed.
Thank you neighbor's horses :)

Next we are going to see ... WHY WEEDS are TOUGH.
I like why questions, I observe... weeds and what do they do.
Did I just say that learned that from WEEDS?
Yep, I guess I did, because WEEDS did for me R&D.
We will get to the science of weeds.

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