I don't know much about Idaho other than hearsay. I did live in Washington State for 17 years. Water Law is relaxing a bit toward the individual over corporate/big ag. One can not collect rainwater and do 'erosion control'. Idaho, I believe, is still much friendlier on the homesteader. One thing I would caution is check the soil maps before you buy any thing, as well as walk the land thoroughly. I have seen some property for sale in the NE of Washington state that was not much more than a sprinkle of soil over bedrock. Trees seem to find a way to force their way down into it, but I am not sure how successful that would be for a homesteads needs.
Most the counties in the Northeast are more friendly to alternative build than those in the central and western portions of the state. But are still bound to the more liberal politics that predominate the western Cascades. (read high taxes.) Although WA still does not have a State Income Tax, I would not be surprised to see that change in the next 10 years, as budget shortfalls mount. It is cold up there. You live in CO, so I don't think that will come as a big surprise for you. But man, I cannot imagine camping a winter in either state.
On final 'watch out'. Be careful of deal too good to be true. Always ask if the property is on reservation land or has deeded access. Some private property was held and is still private that the reservations were created around. Not an issue, unless you actually want to travel to or from your property. Then you have to pay the tribe a use fee for the road access. Reasonable to be sure. But that privilege is granted year to year and revokable any time. Just something to consider. Also keep re-sale way down if you ever decide to homestead somewhere else.
Blueberries is what is the leading contender in my mind at the moment. However, 4 is pretty low on the scale for most plants. The coniferous forest makes/loves it though. Just wondering what else might be a good candidates for a food forest in the 4-5 ph range.
Thank you for a great post and some wonderful information about Alders. I see by your thumbs up count that it is well received and valued. I have one question on Red Alders that hopefully some here will be able to address. These are prolific on the Western slopes the Cascades. I seldom (don't recall ever, actually) seeing these on the east side. What is it about the Eastern Slope Steppes that prevent this wonderful legueme from growning there? Do they require the high rainfall of the west? Is their cold tolerance not low enough for the colder winters? It seems to me that other than rainfall there is not REALLY that much difference from say - King County to Kittitas County. Any thoughts?
Also to add a bit to the knowledge base and virtues of Alders, it is one of the four main food sources of Elk in the Cascade and Olympic Range. (Red Alder leaves, Sword Fern, Sorrel, Hemlock-new growth.)
Welcome, Marie. Hang in there. I think a lot of us feel cut off and isolated when we first decide to learn permiculture. That will change I suspect with young people like yourself leading the way.
There is a 'singles' section of the forums that might be a better place for an introduction than the 'meaningless drivel' forum. Welcome either way. Is your studies around Veterinary, Husbandry, or Biology?
You may be correct. I have never considered myself 'man enough' to do a winter in MI, especially the UP. However, looking at the Hardiness Zone map, with the exception of the UP and North Central MI, you have a lot of zone 5 across the State. There are varieties that will go in zone 5.
For clarification, are you looking for a Catahoula or are you looking for a finished animal that is fully trained how to work cattle that is a Catahoula?
I am not going to post names on an open web forum without their permission, but I think I can provide some resources that will lead you to what you are looking for. Send me a PM, if you would like more information. Although full disclosure, I am not part of the "underground world of working Catahoulas". ...but "I know a guy"... maybe, two.
As I have said, I have only met one Catahoula that had a low drive to herd. Most of them have the instincts and desire. However, like a good rope horse; to find a fully finished turn key mount you are going to pay for the time a trainer has in that animal. No different with a cow dog. Any breeder that sells finished dogs will be happy to show you "boots on the ground" demonstrations of his animals before he asks you to pay a cent. If he does, you have the wrong breeder.
If you are looking to do the work yourself, I have worked with a few people whom rescue Catahoulas; that own or live on working cattle ranches (One in Montana and the other in California.) They know what a working dogs is and what it is not. If you talk to them, (one is a breeder the other is long retired) and tell them what you want, they can keep an eye out for a dog that will make a good stock dog. They won't give you a dog that you will put on hogs. I have never asked about cow dogs, so don't know how they feel about that. But they will both be happy to talk the breed with you and answer any questions you have.
Ask your neighbor what they would have you do. Listen carefully to every thing they say. At the end, ask them if they are willing to hold their cat to the same standard/'punishment' the day you show up on their doorstep with a harassed or murdered chicken.
If that does not put an end to their nonsense, you are not dealing with rational people. Tell them to piss off and move on.
Make it clear that if they are talking about keeping the chickens on your property only, then the cat stays on theirs. If they want the chickens penned up, then gladly offer to help build the feline penitentiary. If the chickens 'need to go' then instruct them to lovingly kiss their cat good bye. Their rights and demands have no merit to supersede yours, especially on your own property.
Check out the list. You will notice Osage is at the top. at 30 MBTU's per cord. A cord weighing 4,845 pounds. Bamboo way down at the bottom, second to last, is only 10 MBTU's per cord. But a cord is only 1,615 pounds. Doing the math you see that the MBTU's per pound is exactly the same as Osage Orange. Now, grow an Osage tree and have your grandkids get back to you on how long it took to reach firewood stage. Meanwhile you have harvested from the same square footage over the years (after the first 3-5) far more pounds of culms than you will have produced of hardwood.
If you are looking for a wood lot, grow bamboo.
Oh, and bamboo is a hell of a lot easier to split, stack, and burn than logs. It takes a fraction of the time to season, as well.
I am sure the recipe can be tweaked unlessly, but I don't think you are going to find a 'magic formula' or ratio. I assume you want to get started 'right now'; and not wait for things to compost down further. Ideally, one would mix all together except the wood chips and let them break down more thoroughly. Then apply and top coat with wood chips. If you want to go all in with what you have there is nothing wrong with that. Mix the cobs and grass, along with the ash and let it compost in place. The only watch out would be that cow manure, unless composted well (6 months?) may still be a little 'hot' for plants. Too much ash can be bad for plants. Mix well in with the manure before planing. Don't put the wood chips in the mulch. It needs to be a top sheet or it will bind up all the nitrogen and the plants don't get fed. But they will keep weeds down and the soil moist.
Gravel will not hurt anything. In fact, it may help a bit as it mixes down into the clay to allow air/water channels. In aquaponics no soil is used at all. It is just a gravel medium that is fed nutrients through irrigation. I think your bigger concern is getting roots down into the clay so it can breath and accept organic matter.
I think you have the right idea of composted manure on top of the mix. By continuing to amend the soil and let the roots condition the clay, you will have a great garden patch in a few years. I don't think the gravel will take that away. It might be an annoyance if you are tilling a lot; but otherwise I don't see an issue. It will keep the soil aerated underneath.
Two immediate concerns to address. Compacted soil does not breath. No air means no micro-organisms, which leads to dead soil. You have to uncompact the ground. One can do this mechanically with a tractor or by growing deep rooted plants that will open up the soil. Each has its obvious benefits and drawbacks. Next, clay soil is usually low in organic matter. Organic matter is what keeps the clay from turning into a hard substance between rains. You will either need to grow mulch and recycle it back into the soil; or bring in organic mulch/material to build up the soil profile.
For mechanical aeration, look at a sub-soiler or yeoman's plow. Although a chisel point plow may have all the depth needed for what you can get out of your soil for many years. For natural aeration, look at plants like alfalfa, radishes, mullein, comfrey, or anything that goes deep and opens root channels into the clay. Clay usually has sufficient nutrients, but requires air and water to circulate below the surface. Mechanical methods have a higher cost, but a quicker return. Organic conditions the soil more, but take many seasons to get results. There is no practical reason not to use both.
Organic matter in the soil is necessary for the microbiology necessary for healthy soil. The micro-organisms are food for the worms. The worms break down the minerals and fertilize the roots of your plants. You don't raise vegetables, you feed microbes. Any organic matter will do. Grass clippings, cardboard, straw, wood chips, newspaper, food waste, manure. The options are whatever one can find. Sheet it. Mulch it. Keep it moist and airy, and let nature do its work. Just don't let it turn back into a brick.
To hopefully contribute towards bringing this discussion back to a positive one, and address the OP's concerns; let me offer these ideas to Kat.
First the non-profit is a worthy goal, but needs to wait until you are in a position to gift the world this altruistic idea. However, if what you have to teach has real worth, people will pay for that knowledge (albeit in a slightly different paradigm.) Hold workshops. Start an Institute. A worker is worth her wages... There are risks involved, but knowledge has value. Explore ways to market that value.
Urban agriculture is a great need. Fill that niche. Be creative to find some land in an urban or semi urban setting. Grow and sell food. The best example you can set is to make a profitable venture from it. Convince someone you can beautify their property and allow them to be a magnanimous benefactor to the world by helping eliminate 'food deserts' in their community. Take that produce to market. How quickly could you pay your loans if you could make an extra $500 a week standing in a stall teaching people about the wonderful benefits of your fresh produce? Capitalism, for all its denigrators, is actually a pretty efficient system. It works. Everyone can benefit.
If that model does not work, there are areas of the country that have really inexpensive land close to urban centers that can be purchased or leased. PM if you want specific ideas. There are models out there that are proven to work. People in this community are doing it. They are making a living through agriculture. Nothing is a given. There are risks and sacrifices but it is a proven model. Be creative in how you get a similar system to work for you. Sounds impossible from where you may stand, I know. But let me give you a scenario. I live in Harris County Texas. One of the more populous land masses in the country. We get a lot of rain. Most of it all at once. This creates flood plains. These flood plains are heavily regulated by local government agencies. When people get tired of fighting taxes and regulations on land that they own, they will sometimes let it go for taxes, since it can not be used for many purposes. These agencies then own the land, which can only be used for agricultural purposes (no building, etc...) They will negotiate leases, both short and long term, with people who will use the land within the regulations set by the governing body. There is 77 acres of what was once prime farm land within a mile of my house. Since they redrew the flood maps after Tropical Storm Alicia in the 80's, that land is now considered 'flood prone', which means it may have moving water across it for 2-3 days every 5-10 years.
Now the county has no use for this property, but it is part of their duties to manage it as part of the flood control district. They don't mow it or maintain it; and certainly don't farm it. They are not worried about profit or liability, since they are tax funded. A smart person may approach the county and negotiate a lease (ag property goes for about $25/acre/year.) with the County. Then start a low impact non commercial garden. This garden could grow enough food to feed the homeless downtown. It might be taken to a farmer's market and sold to fund a non-profit, or it may just be used to retire student loans. If Joel Salatin can net $60k on 20 acres of leased land, why could a graduate with a mission not pay down debt on a similar arrangement?
If the county does not want to lease you land, find an individual whom has marginal property, but not the time to develop it. Make a long term lease and develop the soil, grow a crop, and sell the produce. Don't invest a lot of money on infrastructure or improvements. Your part is to care for the land and leave the soil better from your efforts. Long term capital improvements are the land owners responsibility and gain. Again, everybody can win, but you have to be creative and do the homework to find the right deal. There is no free lunch. (and I am not suggesting that is what you want or implied.) You make money. You hone your craft that you wish to bring to the world. People get fed. Sounds like an area for exploration.
This thread is a good place to get some discussion going on how to think and move outside the box. I hope this contributes to your list of ideas.
the second point, stop it. Stop using the straw-man argument that everyone with debt was a philosopher or women's study major.
Actually the philosopher reference was specific reference back to someone in this thread whom had attained that degree. No straw man. Whether it was Tyler or not, I could not remember and was not going to waste the time to re-read the posts, as the point is moot.
Tyler Hoff wrote: It's sad to see how putting your head down and working like a good slave is the feedback given here. Most of us with debt from student loans have at the LEAST 10 to 15 years until we can have these contracts paid off. With the way things seem to be heading, who knows what this world will even look like 10 - 15 years from now. A lot of us we're pressured into going to college and obtain degrees so we can "make it" in the real world. Blinded by our own ignorance and buried by our own signature. We are the generation that can make changes. We are young, passionate, soulful, smart, inspired and very ambitious about making serious change in the world and sustaining our massive population. Is this something we should just kick under the rug? Why do we have to accept this? Why are most universities for profit? Why is all knowledge not free ? Why is it, the rewarding and important goals we want to pursue have to be set to the back burner? Should the world be a business? I'm looking for the same opportunity Kat, maybe we should just become convicts . If you find anything be sure to share. Best- Tyler
Oh where to start...
Tyler. You poor oppressed wage slave. No one is recommending you be a slave. What they are recommending is that you need to MAKE MONEY in order to pay off the debt you freely (who was holding the gun to your head?) agreed to when you signed the contract. Working for 'the man' is not required. You are free to do as you wish. Play the lottery. Found a start up tech company. Mine for gold. However, a paycheck is the simplest, easiest, most accessible option for most people. It is not slavery. It is called earning a living. Welcome to real world. I do emphasize with your generation. What you were told was a complete lie and a scam. "Get an advanced degree and the world will be yours!" No one wanted to talk about the 'free money' it cost to get that degree. But as an adult (over the age of 18 ) , common sense should have warned that no one was going to pay someone to be a 'philosopher'.
Your generation is the current iteration of youth. When you write: "We are the generation that can make changes. We are young, passionate, soulful, smart, inspired and very ambitious about making serious change in the world and sustaining our massive population", it sounds very much like what my parents generation said in the 60's. Free love, change the world, social justice, ecology. Yeah. They are/were the baby boomers. How well did that turn out? We got Enron, Endless Global War, the political theater of every flavor, Derivatives and other financial fantasy (even the idea to enslave your generation with non dischargeable loans!), etc...
Get over yourself and get busy living. It is not slavery. It is life. Make the most of it. And I hope you retain your youthful enthusiasms and drive to change the world for the better. If you do, then you make break the cycle of history.
I would suggest a gravel substrate with open pavers (they go by various names, mostly trademark for the same concept). A picture is a better description:
Scrape off the top layer of soil (save it to back fill between brick openings.) Go down 4-6 inches. Vibrating packing tool to get sand as firm as possible. 2-4 inches of gravel. Pack tightly. Place the pavers in the pattern. Back fill with the top soil and plant a ground cover of your choice.
This material does not heat sink the way concrete and especially Asphalt will. Living in Florida you may find that a benefit. It distributes the weight of the vehicle better than asphalt. It allows water to run down into the soil without creating run off issues. It allows for a more natural look with ground cover interspaced. I don't know Florida's construction market, but am betting it will be a lot cheaper than concrete and even asphalt.
I will be watching your reports with interest. I always wanted to grow nuts in WA. Coming from Texas I always hoped I could get pecans to produce there. I know better now. However, if I ever get back up there, Carpathian Walnuts and I are going to form a love affair. What type of nut do you think will grow well? I had a California Hazelnut that grew on my place, but I never got any nuts from it. That may have been due more to the rampant population of squirrels, though.
By the way, that is nice piece of property you have in the photo. That is some of the prettiest country I have ever experienced. Keep us posted, please. I really am interested in hearing about your journey.
I spent 17 years in the area, the last 10 in the Maltby area north of Woodinville, so I know a little about the climate you experience. First, let me ask a question for clarification. Are you trying to manage the water off, down or out of your property? Summer months can be very dry despite near rain-forest conditions. Is this about keeping the soil hydrated through that time; or is this about getting the waterlogged soil more usable during the 'wet'?
As I am reminded here, swales are tree growing systems. They are about appropriate water management to grow trees in the berm. I don't think you have a problem growing trees. In fact, it is the default mode of the west slope of the Cascades. So why swales? From your post it sounds like the issue is really about getting water down into the subsoil/watertable; and not sponging up the topsoil. For this you need to determine what is inhibiting the saturation. Is there a strata of soil that is impenetrable? Is their a bacteria layer that has created a membrane in the soil (gleying)? I think the solution regardless of the cause will be to open up the soil and channel the water down; or to create run-off channels, maybe even drain pipe (tile.) If the water is slow to migrate off the top, and down into the creek; you have to encourage it to get off the top soil. If it goes down, then it is available later during the drier months.
Have you seen any information on sub-soilers or yeoman's plows? Without turning over or greatly disturbing the soil and negatively impacting microbiology, these devises open up the soil so oxygen and surface water can get down deep into the profile. It breaks up shallow hard-pans and other impermeable layers. There are good youtube videos online of both.
As far as rain blowing out your swales, I don't think you are going to have that problem. A properly designed swale most commonly runs along a contour line perpendicular to flow. Unless you have arroyos in that pasture, water seldom gets moving that quickly that it erodes the berm, as it settles and pacifies in the depression as it gently rises to the top of the swale. One can put in spillways slightly below the top of the levy to control when, where, and how much runs out before failure of the rest of the berm. These spillways would be packed or otherwise stabilized to prevent erosion. Swales not on contour are really just diversion channels that accelerate rather than slow the water. Here one would have erosion problems and risk of failure/erosion. While these features will get rid of water, they are riskier and makes the water not available later.
What type of tree are you trying to grow? I have never really encountered trees having difficulty growing in the PNW due to dry conditions (what swales remedy.) Mostly it is other climate considerations such as cold, low solar gain (short day/too much shade), or poorly drained soil.
Sorry, if I am not understanding your intent; but I think swales are the wrong tool for the job. Open up the soil and dry it out (spread it down.) I think you will be fine.
There are a few paints that will go over the rust, make it inert and paint all in one coat. You can chose from a variety of colors. Painted will give a nicer look, stop the rust, and allow you to retain or deflect heat (darker to lighter) as your climate needs. Kilz and Rustoleum both make this type of outdoor metal coating.
Otherwise you will need to chemically strip the rust and then paint. Just remember to stop the oxidation completely, or you will have rust stains showing through the paint in short order. Another option would be to stretch landscape fabric over it. It will have to be replaced every few years (not unlike paint, but probably shorter life cycle.)
An off the wall thought. Put in gutters/planters and grow a vine plant over the metal. Might have to give it some monofliiment fishing line to grab onto, but a green roof looks nicer (some months) than a tin roof.
Be careful taking out those drain tiles. If without them you land is going to be waterlogged until half the growing season is gone, you might regret taking them out. It sounds as if you are in the enviable position of too much water from the uphill groundwater charge. Do you need swales to catch rainfall in the second half of summer? Could you store the water in the catch basin and pump it back up in the drier months? How deep are the drain tiles below ground? Could you put in the swales above the level of the tiles or even let the tiles bisect your swales?
Admittedly, I am ignorant of your climate and conditions. I have never been to Iowa. I ask the questions for better understanding. But at first look it appears you are proposing to do a lot of work to make the conditions less favorable, when you could leave them and work around them, unless you need all that water early in the growing season.
Tell us more about your set up and how your swales will run.
If one is interested, the GPS coordinates for the partial metal building appears to be: 29.478384 by -103.361064 Looking at Google Maps find the Terlinqua Ranch Airport -1E2. From the north end of the airstrip follow Terlinqua Ranch Rd north and then north east. When it jogs back North look for the cross road coming in from the west called Harald Wayne Rd. From the intersection of Terlingua Ranch rd and Harold Wayne rd. the property is one track to the east. That would be the NW corner of the property. Looking south there is a dirt road running east from Terligua Ranch rd. The frame of the building can be seen on the north side of this dirt track about 600 yards from the main road.
The mountain referred to appears to be called Rattlesnake Ridge and is east of the property and runs roughly north south. The property appears to be about two miles north and a mile west of the boundaries of Big Bend National Park.
Incidentally, looking at the soil web map (yes, I have way too much time on my hands this afternoon) Most of that property north of the 'wash' or arroyo up to the northern property line shows to be "fine sandy loam" and "very well drained" soil with no hard pan, densic or lithic impermeable layer under it. Now on the other side of the gully as the elevation rises up Rattlesnake ridge that is very shallow soil with bedrock at about 8 inches.
The rainfall is listed as 10 to 13 inches per year and elevation is about 3500 feet above sea level. 240 to 280 frost free days. Mean annual temperature is 70 degrees. As I recall this area of Texas is in the 600+ chill hours band for fruit growing. If there is a well on property as she states, and especially if you could do some gabbions in the wash, one could grow the hell out of peaches on about 40% of the 40 acres. Depending on the capacity of the well to do drip line, pecans would be a very lucrative crop.
For some reason, Mark Shepard's words keep repeating in my head as I read your post. "Know your biome. What are the natural plant communities where you live. We could do micro climate enhancements and grow bananas and saguaro cactus (in Minnesota.) But at what cost?" (paraphrased)
Jerry is the banana plant in the snow. If you invest enough time, energy, and effort, you may someday see fruit. But why? What is the pay off? To say you can grow bananas in Montana? Permiculture to me is the art of enhancing natural systems in community with nature. Jerry has a natural place in the world, just as cancer has a natural place in the biological world. But I don't propagate cancer cells to make my body healthier. I don't let my desire to grow bananas in the snow drain all my time energy and resources at the expense of the rest of the farm. Jerrys are the same drain to the system you have designed. He is a cancer. The best thing to do is not encourage cancer cells in healthy cell communities.
Also Mollison had a brilliant yet elegantly simple way to cool. However it requires some elevation change to get the weight of the water column to work for you. Take a look. Well worth the 7 minutes. Isothermically compressed air!
What part of the world is this theoretical project? I ask because if you have the need for cooling, by default you have heat. Back to Permiculture principles. The problem is the solution. Heat is pressure. Pressure is heat. (8th grade physical science class review.) People are missing the boat on Solar Power. Stop trying to convert to electricity at a low efficiency; and then lose more efficiency in driving a motor. If you have heat, replace the electric condenser motor with a heat sink. A large black metal drum will do. Use the refrigerant one would normally use in a frig unit (or go commercial and use an Ammonia based mix), Let the sun heat the gas enclosed in the chamber. Pressure rises. The rest of the system works as normal. Advantage? No electricity. No moving parts. The amazing thing is this is not new technology. This same basic design has been employed in LPG and Propane refrigerators for over 100 years. This just uses the heat of the sun rather than petroleum gas.
That brings up another idea. What about a bio-gas digester to produce methane to run the condenser? Make a sub terranean super insulated spring house, just like grandma's; and reduce the additional 20-30 degrees via a methane fired refrigerator system.
I bought my Haas Avocados at Houston Garden Center. The nearest to you is Tomball or Cypress. After September they will have all remaining stock at 50% off if you are not in a hurry. Unfortunately I lost mine to a winter frost (planted near Navasota.) Keep them covered in the winter.
Rhys Firth wrote:I don't think those houses would even pass building consent standards here!
Actually, this techinque is sanctioned under the IBC (I don't have the chapter refernce with me at work.) Dry stack CMU is permittable, with the constrained that no more than 200 square feet without reinforcement or piller built into the wall. Of course, a bond beam at the top is used which locks it all togther fairly well. As far as seismic considerations, you may be right. However, side by side in a seismic zone, I would still have more confidence in CMU construction than stick built.
To answer Philips question - No. You do not need to use corner blocks. I have seen some information on "dry-stacked's " technique and I believe he alternates the orientation of each course at the corner. I don't believe he actually advocates corner blocks. In his calculator as I recall he shows the compensation for the variation (about a 1/4 of inch as I recall) to compensate for the alternating courses final length.
I have owned 3 in my life. All had the instinct to work stock. One was a competitive pig wrangler (hawg dog) before he came to me.
Yes, they will work cattle and very well. In Texas they are generally referred to a cow dogs, generically. I am told the King Ranch keeps several on hand to break out rogue cows when they have brushed up in the mesquite thickets where a horse and a rope are ineffective.
One thing to watch for with cows is temperament. Catahoula's can be very assertive and will sometimes press a cow too hard. With experience and age they mellow a bit. But starting out they can be get over zealous, if you let them; and you can end up with a lot of this:
Too much pressure. Don't let 'em start a knife fight when a simple nip will do. This is more like it...
Another note real quick about rye grass. There seems to be evidence that it takes a large amount of the toxin over time to really effect the motor skills and nervous system of a horse. In limited quantities, it does not seem cause a serious effect. I would not recommend a 'single' grass anyway. What Joel Salitan coined "salad bar" diet makes the most sense to me. Plant as many native grasses and as many different seeds as possible. Make your own mix. Give the soil and your horses a balanced diet. Vetch and Rye as part of a mix is not bad for horses. A steady diet of only one thing can be enough to make any digestive system unhappy, man or beast.
Here is a pamphlet from the Minnesota Ag Extension on growing horse pasture specifically. It should be a similar growing climate.
I think ultimately, the best bet would be to discuss with your vet, or call the county extension agent where the land is located and express your concern. The agent and the vet will have access to real data performed with sound science out of a university. A fifteen minute chat with your vet the next time your horse is wormed or teeth floated would be money well spent. The county agent should be 'fee free'; but I am not sure how it works in Canada.
Would you share your resource on plants poisonous to horses? I think you might want to confirm from a few different sources before making a final decision. For example, clover is fine for horses they eat it all the time in the field. However, as a hay, if not dried properly mold can grow and that is bad for horses. Also the rye grass itself is not the problem, but a toxin that is produced by a fungi that can grow in the grass. Too much can cause the staggers. In your temperatures, I am not sure if fungus would be such a problem. But there are also strains that are free of the problem.
Ryegrass can be infected with endophyte fungus. The toxins the fungus produces causes nerve and muscles disorders. Symptoms of poisoning are staggering, stiffness, swaying back and forth when standing still, muscle twitching, excessive salivation, teeth grinding and convulsions.
Ryegrass varieties that are used in lawns must not be used in pastures – these seeds are not endophyte free. Ryegrass varieties developed for pasture and hay should be labeled endophyte free.
Alfalfa should work. As would cow peas (both legumes).
There is a lot of misinformation and half truths in the horse world. Verify your sources carefully before a final decision.
I don't see how it would be, but don't have any specific scientific study to back that up. Radon is a naturally occurring gas the comes from decomposition of uranium (?) deep within the earth. It does not generate from the soils that would be used to fill earth bags. If radon is present in the soil, it will be there whatever for or building technique used. Earthbags have no influence over that. You will have radon percolate up from the deep no matter what structure you put on the surface, if it is there to start.
The critical factor in any structure, natural or industrial, is how well ventilated the structure is. Will the radon build up or dissipate? That is a function of design and not material.
I had my first clue that something was very very wrong with the economy in 2005. I consider that my awakening. I am fortunate that most of my family "get's it" as well. Most are even willing to take some action. So I have not gone completely crazy preaching to a wall, that the rest of my social circle is. I ran out of gas trying to make a difference in 2011. 6 years in, and not listening to a word I had to say with any recognition was enough for me. My focus now is only preparation. I realized that my time was much better spent and productive, if I cared about someone, to prepare extra for them in their ignorance. There will be a time that they will come to their senses and need help. But until that time that the make the choice for themselves, one can not save the willing lost.
So my plan includes a few folks who don't even know that they are included. Or that there is a plan. I know I will not turn them away to be accountable for their choices. So my time is better spent doing for them, than trying to wake them up before they are ready. Fortunately the list is small and are solid folks who will be assets to the rest of my circle. But they will have to go through the mental and emotional evolution the rest of us have, but in a much more compressed space of time.
All that to say, sometimes the best action is no action at all. If you really want to help folks, be ready to give them a net for a short period of time while they mourn the loss of the past. But then give them the tools to get busy and contribute.
There are some good folks doing natural building and permiculture out on Mayne Island and more in the Vancouver area. I know they do workshops and even have some natural houses to rent out as cabins. You may want to check them out on the web. You might find some kindred spirits there.
Welcome to Permies; and the very best to you both as you step off into a new direction. I am that same age bracket and find it harder and harder to stay focused on a good job in the "corporate world". I am hoping for a few more good years to get land paid for in full and some trees started before I hang it up and follow your example.
If your heart is set on Canada, for my money it is all about BC. The Coastal Islands have mild weather and are incredibly beautiful. The Inland Valleys are colder but have great beauty. The Albertan Rockies would be a distant second. The beauty is undeniable, but you must really love cold and snow. Gardening is also not for the faint of heart with such short growing seasons.
Why Canada, though? If you don't mind someone asking.
Good idea. Just make sure to vent both caps. Expanding flammable gases trapped inside a rigid enclosure with no vent is a recipe for a bomb. The same vented on only one end is the basic design of rocketry.