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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Soils restorations, water management and erosion

When one wants to make small changes they change how they do things, when one wants to make big changes they change how they look at things. They also become educated. Modern soil science is... old indeed. Soil erosion was controlled in the old land stewards households and the knowledge was passed. They did not call it permaculture so, at least in my native language... It was an old knowledge passed, that's all.
Modern science made once valued knowledge public and exposed that to different commercial forces. In many cases fast profits did dominate, The thing is like in time of old times of fast profits were succeeded by the times of famine and depression as the natural resource was abused so was abused the currency and depleted resource was taken over by someone else at a salvage price.

In modern agriculture fast profits mono-cultures deplete soils, these are taken over by the other set of commercial entities providing the boost and with time there comes the point of ... overgrazed pasture, depleted field that does not produce enough crop to cover the costs of production, tilling and commercial fertilizer amendments. When resource within is gone and depleted faster than it's replenished the system becomes not sustainable.
In US the erosion takes 7 tons of soil per acre.

It is very important to educate small acreage land owners regarding what is it they are dealing with, and how to make their properties sustainable. How to look at their land from management point of view and how to apply land management practices in a way that good intentions do not lead to poor outcomes.

There are many way to gain knowledge and many are indeed free and made free for the good reason. This way of educating the land owners saves millions in land value. Well managed land is an asset, poorly managed land is a liability.

In your state look for agricultural university extension programs. Many are free, also there are webinars. 
If your land manager, agricultural engineer, landscaper is not talking to you how to reduce commercial soil amendments and instead selling you fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides only, look for replacement as they are not working for you with is the most important for you they are forking first for themselves using you to grow their business. 

Agricultural university extensions fave free webinars. There are many good ones

For example how these methods are applied on site?

Step one observation where does water go, where does the main wind come from.
And continuous per season per year, make sure you keep good records as this information is as custom to your site as it gets
Example of summary

  •  Main winds are from North and West, need wind block , 3 rows, evergreen, supporting nitrogen fixers, deciduous trees and shrubs. Winds in March up to 100mph, afternoon
  • Rains in September, April-May, most of rain comes uneven, creates runoff, slow down, extend dry creek, watch for salt areas and correct.
  • Western slope is downwind (good), create terraces for wind block
  • Wet area near play ground, correct with french drains, lead water to orchard.
  • Correct berm rain overflow with under path french drain, lead run off to gardens.

Immediate actions:

  • find free cover
  • Do not mow 10 feet on north side of pasture to create grass water slow down area 
  • Also block from North weed seeds in the area from overgrazed dry lot.

and so on

Step 2 get on web soil survey and find you what soil types are in your particular location
Step 3 dig diagnostic hole take soil profile

Step 4 get to main erosion areas and get to run off from large surfaces. 
Example: roofs, large concrete areas like dry way or parking lot whoever has one
Dry areas one needs to keep dry and see where water needs to be collected, explore what free resources one can have to get on site.
Reuse and recycle.

Step 5
 And most important, get educated and make a plan. And it may be several years. do what one can fast and free, do major things as the budget allows.
Getting educated is a continuous process. Finding local land management resources is very important. Talk to local agricultural extension. Compared to some commercial landscapers (who see 250$ a month income from you) these folk do not get money from you directly they want to help you and they have several programs. Be a smart consumer.
If a landscaper with any kind of credentials (conventional, permaculture, what have you, any) proposes $$$ solution and wants $$$ for the design do you homework. And do your research.
Decide what you can do what needs to be outsourced and to which contractor.

And here I'm my own general land management contractor, I can weed out many landscapers due to my background and my education. One does not have to be agriculture phd to do that, however education does help, it does set one's mind differently I'm a geek and a scientist and I treat things accordingly, I admit it :)

No landscaper will sell you bare root trees for <3$, they will put it into a pot, keep in green house till first leaf breaks up and sell it to you for $10-15-75-100+ what have you.
Meaning do what does your budget allow and be savvy about it.
The bottom line is state forest nursery for small acreage land owner is cheaper and has good stock trees grown in the state. But it all comes with cost of land prep. Tiny tree is not going to grow in bad dirt, will not make it, it's not a weed, weeds will compete and in many cases seedlings are not that big at all so the weed management is very important.

So let's talk about water management and erosion.
This is no good and is blown away top soil.

This is much better, because it's covered

or this

here the pasture was bush hoged for 2 seasons and did develop more cover and organic matter.

Now where does the wind come from. North. I need me this reinforced
this is taken in the subdivision as I go look what grows successfully, it shows also what kind of ditches we have, some are used to get water in lakes, this one is not, still has decent pines I like. that's the gave me idea of my western wind block, but better...
 To protect from this.
So as immediate measure the 10 feet row from that fence south was not moved, it got almost 3 feet tall, good enough!!!. And it did build a lot of organic matter.

not mowed pasture

orchard pasture and general back pasture condition in summer

These techniques and pile of free wood chips
 Also allowed me to plant these, and next row some evergreens.

Red cedar is a picture boy for evergreen western landscape.
With the soil profile I have I do not have much chances to do mature wind block trees, and they would not make it at 100mph anyways... So I go small and slow, however red cedar is one of the fastest growing western evergreens.
This season the plan is to maintain clear circle around each of the evergreens, the area is milched for soil protection and moisture storage.

Now entire back orchard is mulched, and so is future wind block area,many piles like that were spread between the clump grasses.
Took a lot of wood chips, no they do not rob nitrogen when they are applied in September to January and they are no tilled into, no soil is disturbed, only covered between the clumps
this is not a pile, it's a dirt under it in that shape and this will be turned into future gardens and demonstration sites for different techniques and for better aesthetics appeal

there are several, and different angles of the orchard, when spring comes full speed and more water comes it will be better. Now we collect every frost every bit of snow and it all sinks in.

And Austrian Pine will go on the west terraces area, these are taller compared to cedar
Slope will be stabilized with native grasses (they are under but they come through) also organic matter added for salt control

Now where does water go...
Previous landscaper implemented partial dry creek, however it needed to be longer.
And also more rock and deeper (cheap...and fast it was)
So one way to go was... up, thankfully they did pile extra material on property and covered a bit with dirt... We were picking rocks... literally... I  found those planting the apple tree
Enough to up the dry creek and make it work and lead the water. Mulch blows in, no good, gets plugged up, so more rocks were added, a foot of those on a side.
winter, volunteer pampas gets removed and given away.

dry creek at work

rain resulted in flooded play ground... where french drains (now just ditch) are needed
and no that bucket did fill on it's own one spring... in desert... yeah... under 1 month... 1000 y flood made something more... 2 inches under water entire back property...
And yes... this bucket of water was a nice visual ... one spring completely changes the way I looked at my property and my run off...

Here is  second water path was lowered and cleaned up
 more reinforcements with rock and logs and mulch, so aspen grove benefits from the seasonal water

 more logs and rock
 Immediate ditch to lead to lower property spot and dry off chicken coop area, the area in front was heavy mulched (40+ yards of wood chips)
This ditch did 2 things: lead the water from top property by garden and dried the chicken houses area, controlled water and mud on access road, allowed to create second shet composting area behind theh garden.
Now for the permanent dry creek. Deepening the ditch

 To that

Free rock
 Ditch soil profile and living organisms (chickens cleaned those up in no time)
 more rock
lay fabric and rock. it is screened

and that produces another valuable resource - rock dust.

hidden drain pipes at lower portion
completed ditch-dry creek
New bridge will go into the gap
upper bridge
 mulched area near dry creek, this prevents water from flooding the house garage and outer building
 middle of dry creek tree, new, it was replaced, the prev landscaper had... timber pine here... 250+$ tree of that type here, root bound and dying,.. it needs to be at higher elevation, even spruce like that is a bit risky . that's why it's so tiny in the first place and at the upper area of the dry creek elevated about a foot with nice earth worms colony under it.
 snow collection and melt

 Second dry creek that leads water from roof, aka dry creek N2 on the other side of the same building... it water runs on one side it would on another... at least from concrete dry way it does...
and it also keeps the shed dry.
 blue carpet cowers outdoor earth worms. Now chickens do not try to landscape that ditch digging for worms overflow, before the same area

 Another area to manage weeds and lead water , 3-rd water overflow, the ditch is needed so water does not run on main back access gate and the dirt road and does nor erode fence poles (it did, needs fixing)

All that and 3-rd run off overflow is lead over main access road (small dirt swail implemented) to future vineyard and retained before leach field (and flows into main irrigation run off ditch , as no one needs no extra water on leach field (evaporate type)  )

Pasture at the retention area is not bad indeed

water capture area (aka fake berm layer one, use of branches trimmed), you can see that northern area here is so called salt grass before leach field, it means this area needs different amendments and that area does retain water in a wrong way, also next to leach field nothing large can be, but bushes can, so that's nursery and maybe something else... will see that's a  bit of a challenging area from winds point of view, semi shielded by neighboring structures, however... it also has a wind tunnel... that will be corrected with the wind bock 10 feet from the fence, 3 rows.
so the management here will be... kind of like what land does after the fires... and elevated area with sheet composting, the land has a bit of depression naturally and overflow will be able to go to the irrigation ditch by the fence. This area is layers of sheet composting forming a wide and low berm
 next layer will be similar to what is done on terraces manure and this, also whatever plants spring clean up material, all gets reused on site.

pasture will be lightly covered in between grass clumps with mulch for better water retention.
If I get more same treatment will be applied all over upper pasture, for now it's in spots where mulch piles for terraces were.

Salt areas at the end of big dry creek N1, at the back of the garden
See, much worse condition, needs lots of fixing

Organic matter and weeds coverage. Free wood chips, 1 foot. it does get bone dry , see at the end of the garden, dry creek is on west side of it
 Corrected salt area at the back of garden, one of main overflows of top property run off, second is lead to orchard. this is a foot+ of sheet mulch of wood chips. this area is lower and gets flooded, wood chips soak up a lot and do decompose faster improving the soils in this area.

road access to barn goes past that so water collection is happening before the road
that amount retains a lot of moisture and in our arid climate I've got me free sheet composting area... that was enriched with minerals from lava rock indeed.
And we got this area not muddy.

Just like this one

perfect water retention, dry chicken run and slow snow melt down.
Also bind weed control when the chickens dig for the good stuff.

On another slope to slow down water and control weeds this was implemented: cardboard, wood chips, thsi is year 2 of the same application, wirst layer already composted which was surprising.

That's stage one of the project, when more logs are delivered full retaining wall will be implemented here and terraces.
similar to other side of the front done here on top, it's the same slope... water has some velocity there as well, lots collected by lawn but some terraces still needed... so we need to go 1-2 feet up like here on top.
 if water is not managed property it will lead to this obvious concrete needing repairs and that is $

rock dust from dry creek sifted rock is a brown gold. lava rock dust is one of the best things to go into new beds...
here all applied

So what does go here... 

bare root caragana and choke cherry, and Austrian pine (planned)

Caragana is a nitrogen fixer, also honey plant... That acacia honey that costs bug $, that's from that plant indeed. One of common names for caragana is yellow acacia.
Caragana supporting aspens. Similar application will be in northern wind block and orchard.
 most of it went into garden for a year till my western bed is ready
 and choke cherry is absolutely hiding
about supporting berry bushes later when I get to them

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