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Redding Sequoia Grove

 
Posts: 16
Location: San Francisco
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Hey folks, this is a somewhat disjointed rundown of a project that may or
may not happen.  We're about to talk to the bank to see if we can get the
loan...  Finger's crossed.

The land I'm hoping to get is a 40+ acre parcel in the hills above
Redding, CA.  The climate is hot and dry in the summer, cold and wet in
the winter, with some snow.  The land forms a shallow valley or gentle ravine.
There is a well, house pad, and septic system installed,
and there used to be a house, but it burned down in a wildfire two years
ago.  The wildfire burned most of the site and it's still recovering.
(Obviously fire management will be an important theme of whatever we do
here!)

The first thing to do will be to walk the site to get a feel for it.  I
want to take notes and samples of all the plants and trees already there.
From what I've seen there is a literal ton of wood ready to go.  Every
tree seems to need a trim, and likely not all of them survived the
wildfire that took out the original house, so those will need to come
down.

The parcel is approximately wedge-shaped with the narrow point at the top
of the valley where the house pad, well, and septic tank are located.
(That's right folks, the well head is at the top of the property.  Very
convenient for getting water to the rest of the place, eh?)  I'm told the
well gives twenty gallons per minute, so that's nice.  (It won't irrigate
forty acres though.)  There's already a cleared and bounded lawn area
adjacent to the pad, so there's the kitchen garden site.  Probably put a
greenhouse/dome over the whole yard (it's not that big.)

There's a rivulet not too far from the house pad, so that likely becomes
the first pig wallow.  I am bowled over by the pigs-make-ponds thread!
That's one of those "why-didn't-I-know-this-sooner" kind of things.
( https://permies.com/t/38201/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs )

I want to block off the downhill side of the little creek place,
surround it in a bit of fence, and see if the pigs can make it into a
proper little pond.  (No liner nor concrete retaining wall needed?)
If that works I'll put the lotus in there and move the pigs to the next
little wet hollow.  But I'm getting way ahead of myself.

I was looking on craigslist and saw some Kunekune piglets for sale.  I
didn't know what they were, and now I can't imagine living without them.
Seriously, these critters are so friendly and mellow they make dogs seem
a little jerk-ish!  Just kidding!  They are really sweet though.

Okay, deep breath, (stop thinking about Kunekune pigs!)

The parcel isn't the sort of place that most people would look at and
think: Ah, a latent paradise!  It's not flat.  It's sloping the wrong
way.  It's not the best soil.  And so on...  But you and I know better,
don't we?  ;-)

The first year will be mostly given over to observation and grokking.  I
want to work with Nature, not just dive in and do whatever.  I will do
the basic things like piling scrub along contours and covering it with
dirt and mulch and planting stuff in it.  There are some erosion gullies
that need some rocks thrown in them.  That sort of thing.

Over time the whole place will come to be terraced.

Let me shift gears a little and tell you about the seeds I ordered.  I
ordered these before I found the land, as an act of faith.  One day it
occurred to me to look up local organic/native seed companies, and before
I knew it I had ordered from three different companies:

Melons, Berries & Berry-like:

Baron Von Solemacher Strawberry
Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry
Dwarf Tamarillo
Garden Huckleberry
Mother Mary's Pie Melon
Watermelon, Golden Midget
Watermelon, Tendersweet Orange

The Three Sisters:

Waltham Butternut Squash
Three Winter Squash Mix:
Sweetmeat,
Lower Salmon River,
Delicata

Painted Mountain Flour Corn
Top Hat Sweet Corn
Lorenzo's Flour Corn
Hopi Blue Corn

Sonoran Gold Tepary Bean  (I'm really excited about this one!)

Cucumbers & Tomatoes:

Lemon cucumber
Cucumber, Brown Russian
Cucumber, Crystal Apple
Tomato, Purple Calabash
Tomato, Mortgage Lifter

Then for fun:

Nelumbo nucifera, the Lotus
Sequoiadendron giganteum, Giant Sequoia tree
Musa velutina, the Pink Banana  (this is a real plant!)

Whew!

So the tomatoes and cucumbers will go in the kitchen garden, and probably
the various combinations of the Three Sisters.  I expect great things
from the Sonoran Gold Tepary bean.  It's said to be the most drought
resistant crop.  (No qualifications: THE most drought resistant crop!) If
it takes at all it will probably get all over.

All the various berries and melons will get planted in hugelculture
swales.  Eventually the whole place will be covered in galleries of berry
bushes.  Fruit and nut trees too, but mostly berry and berry-like bushes
in ranks on contour.

I figure there are three main motivations for people to do Permaculture:
grow your own food; grow food to sell; or restore the environment.  For
me this project is mostly about the first and third motivation.  I don't
think I want to market and sell food.  I'll give it away, but I "lack
hustle" to be a good farmer.

The environment here isn't too messed up (not counting the effects of the
wildfire that burnt the original house down) so rather than restoring a
damaged area it's more like just modifying it to have more going on.

I want to grow my own food, but really it's much more than that.  I want
to live in harmony with Nature:  it's fun, easy, and fulfilling.  And
once I have a stable base I can be in a position to help other people do
it too.

Thanks for reading!

TTFN,
~Simon

I can't wait to put up a sign: "Visit the Amazing Redding Sequoia Grove!
Grand Opening 3035!"

(Fifteen years to set, then another thousand to mature.  2020 + 15 + 1000.)

 
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This sounds like an awesome project!  You've got some good ideas, and I would be interested to see what happens once you get started.  Best of luck to you!
 
pollinator
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Congratulations Simon, sounds like a sweet place. Im super familiar with the area. Spent some time west of town between Ino/Ogo and Cottonwood and have done a tone of work on the east side up toward Shingletown. The one part of your post that gives.me. a little pause is.the pigs and pond in the ravine. Those little "rivulets" are washes that can get pretty crazy with winter rains. I've definitely spent my fair share of hours dreaming of capturing that water and I've also seen the torrent that they can.become so just be careful about making large obstructions during the dry period. There is real potential for disaster if those things aren't handled delicately.

Only other tip I have is make sure your dome/greenhouse has skin that is easy to remove and you've.got shade cloth to put  up for the summer! It gets hot hot hot out there.
 
Simon Forman
Posts: 16
Location: San Francisco
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@Sunflower Rogers: Thanks!  I'm going to take lots of pictures and video
and document everything.

@s. lowe:  Thanks for the advice!  Can you tell me more about the area?
What's Winter like?

I've lived out near Boonville at one point, so I know what you mean about
the rain and washes.  A mixed blessing in that regard is that this place
is way up on the ridge with very little above it to collect rain.

I'm not planning to put in anything permanent in the first year, except a
modest house on the already-poured concrete pad, so I should have some
idea of what I'm working with by the time I start planning any serious
earthworks.

In re: summer heat, I have high hopes for aircrete as a construction
material, it's self-insulating.  Also, silverized mylar can do wonders if
strategically deployed.
 
s. lowe
pollinator
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Winter depends on your elevation and orientation a bit. If you're under 1000 ft then your winter is mostly wet and fairly cool with some frosts but not lots of sustained sub freezing temps. As you get above 1000 ft you will have occasional snow and regular frost. Around 2000 ft can get substantial snow that sticks around. You can get weeks at a time with very cold nights. Storms can be pretty serious and the local pines atr prone to fall in the wind. Spring tends to be fairly early though with things starting to warm up around late Feb/March and spring being subsumed by summer by the end of may
 
Simon Forman
Posts: 16
Location: San Francisco
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Ah, thanks!  I think the place I'm hoping to get is just under 1800', so hopefully it doesn't get too much snow.  I was looking up climate information and apparently the lows are are around 32°F, which, if true, is good news.

(I grew up in San Francisco where the weather has no particular relation to the time of year, and "seasons" were just something I saw on TV.  Then I spent a year in Colorado, up in the mountains, and got to know and appreciate Winter.  It was pretty obvious why every cold-weather culture seems to have a big holiday in the middle of Winter: you need it to stay sane until Spring, eh? :-)  Then I spent some time in Montreal, and learned that what I thought was a cold Winter in CO was just Tuesday in Quebec. So yeah, 32°F? No problem.)

 
Simon Forman
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I'm either a madman or a genius, or both: I put a deposit down on three
Kunekune piglets.  Two gilts and a boar piglet, suitable for breeding.

If we don't get the parcel we're looking at I'll find someplace else to
raise them.  When they are still young it's not unthinkable to treat them
like (messy) pets and keep them indoors.  So far all sources I've found
on the web agree that they do not soil their own bed, and there's
actually quite a lot of good grazing and foraging area right around where
I live in SF at the moment.  That would be fun: three pigs on leash,
strolling to the local overgrown field to eat lunch.  Kunekune's don't
really have necks though.  They're round. I think even a harness would
just slip off.  (My mom's dog is like that: he's a weird
sort-of-corgi-shaped little fella and he's just conical from the
shoulders to his snout.  More than once he has slipped his collar or
harness by simply standing still.  You keep walking and the thing just
slides off of him.)

Anyhow, three half-grown piglets aren't going to make a dent in forty
acres, which fits in with Year One being mostly about observation (and
laying in the kitchen garden and building a little house.)  Apparently
it's a good idea to let the sows wait until after their first year to
have their first litter, so there won't be more pigs for at least a year
and a half to two years.  But then I can expect 8-12 new "kukus".  That
means three years before we can expect big things from the pigs in terms
of changing large regions of the land.

Three years is enough time to learn a lot about these guys and their
effects on the existing flora and fauna, and also plenty of time to get
small trees established.  (Everyone also agrees that Kunekune pigs don't
bother bushes and small trees.)  Then again, maybe I'm underestimating
what three pigs can do?
 
pioneer
Posts: 97
Location: Sierra Nevada Foothills, Zone 8b
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Not to be a naysayer but Redding is hotter than anywhere I've ever lived. And I've lived in Baghdad. Similar vegetation.

Also, why buy pigs when there are so many running around up there? Just build a fence around your property and viola, you're a pig farmer!

But in all seriousness, if you can make this work you will be the man. Don't let me dissuade you. Catch a LOT of water (safely) up high and disperse it effectively, you'll be ok. Do not go into this without a track hoe. That's my advice.
 
s. lowe
pollinator
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Simon, everything Dan said is spot on. State record hogs are all over the South west side of that valley.

If you can trap water and get organic matter into that clay soil you can grow a great garden though.

For immediate income, figure out how to monetize manzanita
 
Simon Forman
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"State record hogs"?  Are there really so many pigs up there?

I appreciate the heads up, I can deal with heat and cold.  And yeah,
caching water pretty much all over is part of the plan.  Eventually it
will look like rice paddies from the air, separated by ranks of bushes
and trees.  I saw footage of the fire tornado that loomed over Redding. I
can't overstate the respect I have for fire.  When I was up in Middletown
it was like living in a ready-to-go pyre.

It might not happen at all: it turns out most banks don't want to lend a
mortgage on land with no buildings on it.  It seems like a Catch-22.  I'm
checking out a few sketchy mortgage lenders now but the plan might be
DOA.

To me it seems a no-brainer: I found a previous record that showed that
it appraised for ~$350k before the house burned down, it's only $80k now,
so just build a new house and you're golden, eh?  Even if you make a
conventional home instead of an aircrete dome or something like that it
wouldn't be that expensive would it?  Or am I just naive?


I looked it up on the Shasta County GIS system and the majority of the
land is "CbF — Chaix sandy loam, 50 to 70 percent", which means:

> The Chaix series consists of well-drained soils underlain by weathered
granodiorite. These soils are on mountainous uplands. Slopes are 5 to 75
percent. The vegetation is mostly ponderosa pine, incense cedar, black
oak, canyon live oak, bear clover, manzanita, ceanothus, and annual
grasses. Elevation ranges from 1,200 to 3,000 feet. The annual rainfall
is 35 to 50 inches, and the average annual air temperature is 56° to
58°F. The frost-free season ranges from 175 to 225 days.

> In a representative profile the surface layer is about 8 inches of
light-gray and very pale brown sandy loam. The subsoil is 16 inches of
very pale brown, heavy, sandy loam. The substratum is 10 inches of
variegated very pale brown and white light sandy loam. Reaction is medium
acid throughout the profile. Weathered granodiorite is at a depth of 34
inches.

> Permeability is moderately rapid in the subsoil. Effective rooting
depth is 20 to.40 inches. Available water holding capacity is 3 to 5
inches.

> The Chaix soils are used for timber production and grazing, improved
dry pasture, and watershed.


Now "granodiorite" is a rock similar to granite (I looked it up on the
wikipedia) and according to this it's just a yard or so below the soil
surface.

So that's something to think about.

FWIW, the manzanita is one of my very favorite trees (along with the
madrone) but I didn't see any in the photos and video of the land that
are available.  I should just go ahead and post the link here:

http://wildwestlandcompany.com/property/44-acres-with-views-of-mt-shasta/




I figure you can sell manzanita wood online as-is.  I recall the guy who
sells tumbleweeds.  Popular in Japan and Hollywood (for Westerns).

9779-topo-002.png
A topo map of the property.
A topo map of the property.
 
Simon Forman
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So if you look at the photos and video what do you see?

The Carr fire came through about two years ago.  It seems like the ground
cover and shrubs and bushes are doing great but pretty much all the
trees died.  (There are some manzanita on the video after all, I think.)

I see plentiful forage/grazing for chickens and Kunekune pigs (I'm gonna
call 'em "kukus" for short) and just heaps and heaps of wood ready to be
collected (w/o having to kill a tree or take it from the ground where
it's already decomposing and hosting critters and fungus and stuff.)  All
the little scraggly bits and the branches are perfect for hugelculture,
swales, and erosion control, and the trunks are good for construction
etc., and all of it it likely fit for burning.  (Another great reason to
cut the dead trees down.  They've had time to season, eh?)

Forgive me for repeating myself, but now that you've seen the site it
makes sense, right?

1) Walk the contours with an a-frame or water-bottle level.

2) Go through with a tree-trimmer and take all the branches from nearby
  dead trees and pile it along contours with a slight grade from the
  valleys to the ridges.

3) Set up electric fence to make long narrow paddocks with the branches
  as the uphill and downhill boundaries, so that the pigs tend to level
  out the ground.  Here you would do things like adding enough water to
  get the mud squishy and then coming through once or twice a day with a
  shovel and putting mud on the branches; feeding the pigs from the
  uphill side so they scrape the ground down, then eventually piling
  rocks and staking with more branches to firm up the emerging terrace.

It would be slow, but that's okay because you don't want to get too big
before the rains come and test your bramble-terraces.  You're also
growing things in there that help stabilize them: vines and bushes and
new trees...

I had visions of making aircrete terraces and pools all over, but this
seems more ecologically sound, and much much cheaper and easier.
 
Simon Forman
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Location: San Francisco
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I drew some lines to visualize the ridges and valleys (what do you call tiny little valleys with seasonal creeks in them?)  And then I marked the flat (well, flatter) spots for possible pond locations.  (North is to the right.)

What do you think?
9779-topo-002-with-lines.png
Topo with lines indicating ridges and valleys.
Topo with lines indicating ridges and valleys.
9779-topo-002-with-lines-and-ponds.png
Topo with possible pond sites.
Topo with possible pond sites.
 
s. lowe
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I think its a solid plan Simon. I've spent many hours fantasizing about similar stuff at my buddy's place on the other side of the valley.

My biggest suggested amendment would be to plan to find mechanical help or plan to be veeeery patient. That soil is like stone half the year and from what I've seen it takes 3 or 4 years of heavy organic matter additions to make it remotely friable.

I'd would be interesting to see what pigs managed in the system your describing would do to that process. Please keep us posted if you're able to get on this project
 
Simon Forman
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Thanks for the encouragement, I really appreciate it.  Somehow it didn't occur to me that getting a mortgage would be the hard part.  They don't just hand those things out on the street corner?

I haven't given up hope yet but it's not looking good.  Even the sketchy lenders don't want to talk to me.  Heh.

I know what you mean in re: patience or machinery.  I've got a DVD of Geoff Lawton talking about using earthmovers to sculpt the land to harvest/hold water, which got me used to the idea.  In re: this 9779 Falcon's View parcel it seems like the patient way would work out with the growth of the pig herd.  With 44 acres you could develop the kitchen garden intensively and take your time with the "back lot".
Take the spare organic matter from forty of the acres and pile it on one acre, see what happens...
 
gardener
Posts: 1725
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I'm traveling right now and staying in Redding tonight.  It's a lovely town (with a couple of great antique malls, which my wife and I enjoyed today).  We didn't get time to go down to the river, but it was 105 degrees out today, so I wish we'd have gotten in earlier and gone for a swim.

That's stupid hot.  

I've been here in the past and not been able to see anything because of so much smoke from forest fires.  Yikes.

Best of luck to you with this project.  It's a beautiful place but not without it's challenges (the summer heat being foremost in my mind).
 
Simon Forman
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Did it cool off at night?  I've spent a day or two in Redding and it made a good impression on me.

In re: the heat, 105 really is unreasonable :) but there are ways to cope.  The wofati design isn't just for cold weather, eh?  And reflective mylar can help, although of course it blocks light.

I'm afraid I was really naive when I comes to borrowing to buy land and this project was pretty much just a pipe dream.
 
s. lowe
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Sorry to hear you're hitting stumbling blocks Simon. I also have found that purchasing land without a livable home on it (as defined by the lender) is pretty close to impossible unless you have other assets to put up as collateral.

Hopefully you are able to find something, I think you're looking the right area. There seems to be a lot of untapped potential for natural abundance around there and the land is undervalued in my  opinion. That's a rare thing for California
 
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