Thank you for sharing this! When I was a park ranger and outdoor educator in the NW I always thought teaching wild edibles was one of the best ways to build connections to the natural world so it would be valued and treated with respect. I would even use a scavenger hunt with a similar setup to the layout in the video, but after a minute of being able to "take a mental picture," I would cover up the plants and kids would go find (after learning how to do so respectfully) as many matches to the plants on the sheet that they could and lay them out for themselves to see how many they could ID. It was the best way I have ever learned or taught plants because it really embeds the little subtle shapes and characteristics in your brain. Unfortunately, ignorance by supervisors and parents has led to edibles being seen as too dangerous to teach (apparently this generation is too dumb to survive), even though with a reasonable class size and basic instructions you can teach it more safely than any of the kids' bus ride to camp. Anyhow, wild edibles could save the world and thank you for sharing!
I haven't used a scythe and think it may be best for hay cutting, but I prefer a D-ring (what we called it on trail crews) for mixed brush cutting or around edges. I am not sure if I posted the image correctly below, but it's the tool on the right. Basically a golf club length handle with a D. Shaped like this D--- but at an angle so you can use it parallel to the ground (for mowing) or turn the handle 180deg and use it perpendicular to the ground (for edging). You can take out a lot, and feel like a barbarous golfer at the same time. It'll also help with your ability turn on the low fastball as you get yolked forearms and obliques.
Any abandoned shacks around? Sometimes the owners will be thankful for anything you haul away and if its untreated/unpainted, use it to build or hold soil depending on its remaining integrity. And/or, try planting thousands of trees and you will find some badasses in the bunch who can handle your conditions.
Sorry, I forgot I live in a forested wonderland (NW CA). Rocks do much of the same thing (minus fertilization), especially porous ones. Use the rocks to accumulate soil as the wind hits them as well as to block it.
I have had some success increasing water retention and soil accumulation around blueberries and fruit trees with rings of woody debris of varied sizes that you could use as the foundation of the edge of your crater with soil over the top. It is a bit like hugelculture but for below/ground-level plantings. This will hold water from heavy rains for awhile, even absorbing condensation on dewy nights. It also decomposes into soil very efficiently and adds fungal inoculation (which builds up on every year of wood growth). I use hard to work with/rotten pine/spruce mostly as this is whats available to me locally. This is ideal for blueberries which grow in this type of environment naturally, but as long as it is not a alkaline dependent plant the wood will not excessively acidify the soil as much as people assume it will because the fungus from the wood will get naturally selected for the tree's ideal ph modification by the plant trading sugars for water and nutrients. Wood also acts as a heat sink and produces heat to start growth in the spring earlier..
If you can't do your business outside properly (LNT!) and relatively comfortably, your whole life revolves around a toilet. In my opinion, it would be hard to consider such a person an adult, let alone self actualized. There is no "away" to flush your sh!t to. As an outdoor educator and NP ranger I had to teach these skills tactfully to many people of all ages and the key is to make it funny and have established a safe environment for communication and questions if necessary. But ultimately it is something we all have the ability and need to do and have no reason to make a big deal about.
I would hypothesize the main benefit from grass/grain straw lies in how the hollow stems would aerate your soil as they incorporate. I would not worry about acidity with pine needles or conifer wood in mulch or hugel beds, they are made more ph neutral by endemic fungal inoculants in the rotting wood.
Congratulations on your opportunity! I am not an expert either, but have been working on my 1/2 acre in NW CA (Redwood country) for the past 3 years and have access to a similar sized plot to yours (16acres) with friendly owners who encourage permaculture and gleaning on the property. I imagine you have a major water shortage as your limiting factor more than I do, but more light and heat to work with. After basing my approach on experience as a ranger in the NW old growth forests, I am having the most success with hugel beds (basically nurse logs you build yourself). These reduce irrigation needs and rebuild soil fertility and texture on a large scale. The wood can hold water for months longer than sandy soil and slowly disperses excess water and nutrients absorbed from floods over a long period into surrounding soil along with a rich fungal inoculation, helped with deep mulch of bird enriched woodchips and weed/straw. This is what nature has done throughout the western US for eons. I would imagine you have oak/pine/doug fir aound there? I have been working with mostly Doug fir and Sitka spruce wood as that is the most plentiful other than redwood (better for frames as it will decompose little in our lifetime) around here. Geoff Lawton has some great videos breaking down concepts for building soil fertility while minimizing inputs of time and resources. The basic concepts seem to be swales/hugels along contour to slow and direct water flow along with ponds that form from this directed waterflow and store water and nutrients from flood waters and ducks or fish. I would also encourage you to find some grape clones to plant and do so as soon as possible, as they can produce a lot of food with no irrigation as well as value added products like wine to subsidize less profitable endeavors.
Duck/chicken tunnels are what I am going to try. Modular, movable and rotating in between hugel bed rows. Given some cost for your time slugging and the fact that duck pond water/manure is the best fertilizer I have ever seen for flowering plants, I think they definitely could pay for their costs (2x4" fencing is pretty cheap and can make a pretty sturdy dome). I will be making a permanent extension to their run into the area atop my property with the my highest pond potential site, and then out of a central 12/60ft net and wire covered area make a 2x2" network of tunnels that can be closed at different points and moved or removed to direct the birds to rotating sections of the garden where they will slug, feed, and fertilize. Also, crispy, sharp mulch (i.e. kelp works here on the coast) helps with slugs. Encouraging wild birds also helps balance the slugs, which are like any animal a response to a lack of their predators and an abundance of accessible food. They also don't care for redwood, red cedar, and other extremely tannic bark/wood, which with the right fungi will not make your soil significantly more acidic (I have seen fertilizer mixed with water at 3.5ph going into good, conifer based and fungally inoculated soil and come out 6.5). I don't know what I'd do in Michigan, but I'd start by looking at wild, endemic predators and deterrents for slugs and emulate or utilize them. Even killing and leaving the slugs will encourage their predators and parasites to flourish and they will eventually succeed to a more complex ecosystem. Also be thankful for your hard freezes, I don't get those in NW California.
I have built 8 hugel beds of varying styles on my property, all around 3ish feet tall with 18-24"logs at the base with soil from a french drain (that will become the lines for ponds) and composting. Bokashi really helped get the decomposition going along with mulch, the fungus is happy in the older ones (2yrs). I have clover and peas as cover crops as well as strawberries, greens, and this winter planted 100 pinot noir grape canes on the southern, sunniest beds. The other beds are in sunspots in opening between mature deciduous fruit and ornamental trees, along the contour lines to allow for an eventual series of ponds. I have about 4-6 feet of drop over 300 horizontal feet N-S, with a big open former lawn in the south and fruit trees in the back around a massive redwood snag (10ft thick and 50ft tall). We get big rains (5"+ in a day is common a couple times each winter), then long dry summers, so both flood control and passive irrigation are key goals.
Do you think that wood (from a neighbor's cutting their 120yr old forest "for the view" ugh) could have been better used in one massive bed in the sunniest lowest spot on my property?
Ducks and chickens do fine together, but just like when raising just one type of bird, space reduces conflict. However, conflict plays out differently with disparately sized animals than with homogenous ones, but I have not seen any bullying between species worse than what the chickens do to each other. It seems disparate size makes for fewer and less severe conflicts because dominance gets established. I would also recommend an old Spanish (a closer to wild breed) turkey as a superior protection alternative to a drake or rooster (minus the breeding benefits of course but with the bonus of turkey eggs, the best of all in my opinion). I do have one wandering turkey right now after she got broody and got tired of my taking her eggs in our yard and is hiding in another, but the other turkey who I got with my original chicks and ducks almost 2 years ago is firmly embedded in the flock and even has a chicken roost with her in her maple tree above the coop. I would strongly recommend "My Life as a Turkey" to understand how smart wild ones can be, but to summarize they have a different call for every species of predator, 200x our hearing ability, and are a great raptor spotter/deterrent amongst the flock. I even took a neighbor's big Rhode Is. rooster last week to forestall his end and get some chicks and he was terrified of the turkey as well as the ducks. I have only lost chicks and ducklings to predation, no adult birds, and I have many predators here in NW California adjacent to the redwoods. My great pyrenees-akbash helps too, but really the turkey (and mama duck) is always telling me where raptors are with her gaze to the sky while the chickens are oblivious. Also, remember the problem is the solution and those mud pits, properly placed and with your help getting down deeper, could be turned into key line ponds for nutrient collection. Duck pond water is awesome fertilizer, is ok straight around all but the most sensitive plants with a ph of 6.2-6.5, and is higher in P than N so is better for fruiting plants.
When I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, about half the people (mostly the ones who were too out of shape to actually hike themselves) asked "so what kind of firearm do you carry back there?" This is laughable, as it is a huge waste of space and weight that you would never be able to use ethically and effectively on an animal or person while hiking (if you see a cougar it is not hunting you). I also believe if I have to kill someone I want to do it with my bare hands. Also, many of the "quickest draws in the west" died from gunfire anyhow, or because they were arrogant because of their guns (which don't stop bullets). Get a great pyrenees or a mix thereof, a good one that loves you will know the intentions of anyone on your property, greet them appropriately, and let them know you are the last target they want to bother.
You could always start a tea company...yarrow makes a great tea that tastes a bit like it smells and is naturally slightly sweet and in my experience is noticeably relaxing and soothes aching muscles and some cold symptoms. This is why it is in many cold remedy teas. I have used it while backpacking and it really hits the spot when you are sore.
The biggest improvement in my teas came when I started basing them around my muscovy duck's pool/pond water. Their straight poo is something around .7-1.4-.8 on the NPK scale (depends on their feed), but it gets diluted in 35-60 gallons of water, and aerated with a pump as well as the duck's frequent splashing for 2-4 days plus a day in the tea aerator. I have gone to starting the tea using full strength pond water unless I don't want as much fertilizer in the tea, and it hasn't burned anything. I can use full strength additions of other fertilizers but generally don't need to go more than half strength and could get by with little more than the duck water in good soil.
This brings to mind a question I have always had...are vegans more likely to be pro-life when it comes to human fetuses like they seem to be with bird eggs?
I can't bring myself to harvest my male muscovy ducks, even though they are horribly rough to the females, and I admire vegans' empathy and self-control. However, why would it be unethical for a person to eat eggs from free range birds if you are following biodynamic principles and increasing the habitat for wild animals as well as your livestock while minimizing inputs? If the birds help everything else grow and ultimately increase habitat at a sustainable population (and they do), you would seem to have to remove some offspring or eggs or have overpopulation and denuding of biodiversity and productivity. That or allow predators to do so, which may seem nice for them but it won't be when the neighbor shoots a chicken prowling fox after my habituating it it to seek prey where farmers are. I have a LGD who gets an egg a day, and so do my wife and I. Our plants get great fertilizer and produce more food for us and the birds. The 14 birds live under fruit and maple trees with a 1/4acre to roam, and more if they wanted but don't seem to want to jump the fence. I could not replace their production increases without some animal, and they live a great life so what about this would make someone not want to eat my eggs? If you think humans aren't meant to, consider how pretty much any ape will eat an egg if available. Even humming birds eat insects when raising young. Life needs to consume life to continue, and I feel empathy for the plants I harvest too...I don't mean to judge, just something I've always wondered about veganism as a principal rather than a reaction to modern unethical animal farming.
Thanks all, I would have already posted pics but my most recent version would have the backdrop of a landscape that has gotten over 12" of rain in the past 14 days, and it is the middle of winter so it will look pretty downtrodden but nonetheless...I will add pics soon
I was told by a vet friend that doesn't seem to bs that LGDs are instinctively protective of their flock to the point of attacking and at times killing herding dogs due to the herder's aggressive and predatory behaviors (nipping and forcing them in a given direction much like a wolf or coyote). My pyrenees-akbash is so loving that killing a border collie seems unimaginable, but he does stand up to bears so i guess he has another side. LGD's generally blend into their flock and act somewhat submissive to make them comfortable close by.
My main question is about my use of duck pond water on a wood-chip/compost pile. Any foreseen drawbacks? Ideas on how to make this power free or gravity fed?
My wife and I have 7 south american muscovy ducks along with 5 chickens and two turkeys living in the back 1/10 acre plot of my pie shaped 1/2 acre property. They are free to roam away from the maples, plums, pears, apples and garden beds I have in that plot but stay within my 4-6' fences and always roost in the 300sq ft greenhouse I converted to a coop with an 120 sq ft outdoor aviary extension. We have a great pyrenees-akbash that grew up with the flock, and while I have allowed him to be quite the people dog we have had no predation beside 2 ducklings as of yet (knock on wood), despite apple orchards attracting black bears (we see scat next door) and lots of cougars and other predators in this area on the redwood coast of California. I also credit the turkeys with being wary of raptors and the ducks aren't wimpy either.
So, I started with two ducks and when the ducklings came(keeping 5 out of 13) along I improved their bath setup with an old 4'x4'x8"deep hydro bed/pool with a pond pump running into another 35 gallon tub (2ft deep) that overflows back into the wider pool. I had been using their bath water (inoculated with bokashi) as a starter for compost tea with great results so I expanded this around the garden by pumping/syphoning the 50gallons or so of pond water I was getting when I rinsed the tubs every 3 days or so. Any excess, and now with winter most of the pond water, goes to the 18cubic yard mulch pile I have out front (down slope next to where the main, full sun garden is with hugelculture beds). This pile, that started with evergreen and tanoak woodchips from a landscaper neighbor, also receives any compost my birds shouldn't eat in addition to spent potting soil from tomatoes etc. After 4-6 months of this I am now spreading it all over the property as much as I can with limited ability to use anything bigger than a wheelbarrow in most of the back. It has nice fungal roots and got pretty hot in the middle but still looks like broken down woodchips and should be great mulch in my estimation for anything that produces flowers or fruit (duck manure has an npk of .8-1.4-.5). I am avoiding using the hotter/more fertilized stuff on nasturtiums etc or seedlings, but otherwise it is going almost everywhere, especially my 3, soon to be 5 hugelkulture beds. One thing I love is how the mama duck has taught her young her trick of dropping any dried out food, fruit peels, or bread into the water to soak and then eat later, which makes for great tea!
All wood is good for some plant or another. Sometimes, often even, it is best for the tree it came from. I have been a ranger in Olympic and Redwood NP and western hemlock, red cedar, and redwoods all acidify and add tannic acids to soil that suppress microbial, fungal, insect and plant growth that are not symbiotic with their own growth. On the other hand, forests with these tree species have the highest biomass (organic matter living and dead/area) on earth, 5-10x that of tropical rainforests. They also have unrivaled soil diversity, as most of the energy in the forest is locked up in difficult to digest wood requiring specialization and there for speciation. We all want a great garden this year, but the longer decomposition takes, the more efficient it is. The temperate rainforests of the NW are the original hugelkultur plots and an abundance of food for large native human populations (largely acid loving berries, hazelnuts, tanoak acorns, salmon and elk) was a result. On the other hand, quick decomposition was encouraged by people who maintained prairie pastures for elk and understory plants like huckleberries and hazelnuts with low intensity fires (the old trees' 1ft thick bark protected them) and any seeds or trees remaining benefited from the fire's nutrients and likely basification of the soil. If this is what you are working with (acidic conifer wood, even spruce or doug fir is tannic), it would seem most logical plant those native trees on the north side of your property if possible as heat/wind breaks and restart the ultimate permaculture cycle, and generally grow acid tolerant plants with islands of less acidic soil. Given how one could simulate small fires with brush burning and ash scattering, the obvious missing link would be animals like elk, salmon and the distributors of salmons' nutrients (pretty much everything alive in a NW forest). This was a little bit rambling but my point is don't discount acidic wood, just think long term!