I am a complete newb to permaculture. I have been doing research but having a hard time understanding the lingo.
1. I live in Laton CA. About 25 miles south of Fresno. We have amazing soil, but only about 11 inches of rain a year. A well is out of the question thanks to farmers draining the groundwater. Summer highs a little over 110. Winter lows in 30s and sometimes 20s. I inherited about 4 acres with nothing on it that has been sitting for many years. I would like to make money with this land as well as introduce permaculture to my area.
2. I am doing research while I can. Going to order the rainwater harvesting books by Brad Lancaster. Figure thats a good place to start. What are other good books or websites I could look into that would apply to my circumstances?
3. If in my position, where would you guys start? Sunken hugulkultur, sheet mulching, what to plant, etc. My immediate problem to solve would be irrigation for a garden.
Thank you guys for all the work you have done for the rest of us to learn!
I liked how you spelled 'newb'. I'm prefer the 'noob' spelling
I am working on a suburban Permaculture project right now and can share some of my insights. Keep in mind that I am a 'noob' too. In the desert keeping water in the ground is most important!
Try to prevent wind induced evaporation with some wind blocks (cactus, yucca, old fencing, abandoned lumber, etc.)
Geoff Lawton said "shade is more important than mulch" in the desert. I too have seen plants grow better, more moisture in the soil, in some of my partially shaded areas. Try to prevent solar induced evaporation by planting pioneer trees. In my region Mimosa (nitrogen fixer) and Siberian elm will grow in the driest and sun baked ground. These trees are considered weeds by most. Sonoran scrub oak will also grow in dry baked ground (with some help) give you some acorns and you can use the tannins extracted for topical medicine or tanning leather. Other nitrogen fixers that will do well in your area are: pecan, walnut and pistachio. The hot summers will allow the pistachio shells to crack, but these trees probably need more tender loving care to get established than pioneer plant that need very little TLC. Apricots will also do well in your climate.
Try to prevent the loss of soil and evaporation by disturbed soil with perennial grasses. I believe 'Indian Grass' is in your region and will grow without help.
I go recommend mulch too, but putting it over the entire property is probably beyond your ability. Mulch the areas around your house, zone 1, and if you have more into zone 2. Zone 1 and 2 are were you will be able to focus most of your efforts. This is probably also were you will be able to collect rain from your house. I recommend to focus most of efforts in the zone 1 and 2 areas for the first year or so to establish good soil. Try to let the pioneer plants do most of the work in zone 4 and 5, the areas where you can visit only rarely and cannot spend a lot of time on. The zone boundaries and amount of land in the zone are your choosing, of course.
Also very important get to know the water flow patterns in the land. See where the erosion is from rain run off. What areas have a good micro-climate for retaining moisture? Start to modify the land to capture and hold water. Remember this phrase for water utilization: Slow it, spread it, and sink it. You'll get the techniques from Brad Lancaster's books.
I hope this helps get you started. I'm sure you will soon become an expert. Be patient with yourself and the entire process. It will take time. Good luck and keep us posted!