Joe Banden

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since Apr 19, 2017
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hunting trees woodworking
Central, MT (Zone 4b)
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Recent posts by Joe Banden

Jeff Hodgins wrote:I'm not sure of your soil type but if it's very permiable you can dig very big holes (2 feet wide 3 feet deep with straight sides) and plant the tree in it. The sides block wind and sun conserving water. I like to refer to these holes as mandalas because in the Vedas or some Hindu text it says that the Kriva is at the center of each Mandala. Or the entrance to the underworld is at the center of each circle.

That's another good idea for me to try! Love this website. I kind of did this in the runoff ravines, but not nearly that deep. So probably only a foot or so of protection. I'll add it to my list.
1 year ago

Chris Wang wrote:I would plant some trees in cages to start with. I get very good success planting (seed or saplings) in cages and literally 0% survival without cages or other exclusion. While controversial on this forum, I sometimes use fertilizer to help plants establish quickly.

Check out this thread, if you havn't already. It is a different climate, but much of it will be useful.

Nicola Stachurski wrote:I am interested too.

I live in an Australian subtropical area that has lost it's Wet Season over the last decade. That means it is now arid- though I doubt many locals would agree.

The last few years have been a bit dry, but it was much worse in the early 2000's and many other times in history. While it is possible that a new weather pattern may be starting, the long term trends show it is actually wetter and hotter now.

Chris, I definitely don't mind using fertilizer. And I have made almost a hundred cages for my seedlings down here in New Mexico, don't know why I didn't take any up with me and at least put them around the more promising spots, I'll have to take some with me next time. Thanks for the link, now I have something to read!
1 year ago

Nicola Stachurski wrote:I am interested too.

I live in an Australian subtropical area that has lost it's Wet Season over the last decade. That means it is now arid- though I doubt many locals would agree. There is always one sizeable flood event every year, it's just that all the other summer storms seem to have disappeared. Being a gardener and a greenie, I've been watching more closely than some.

Actually, one of the signs to me is that, as I have driven around the local area. I have seen 2 dams on 2 different properties that are being excavated to make them deeper. My husband was until recently working as an excavator operator, and has had a number of jobs in the last 6 months digging out dams or installing watering troughs for stock. There are a lot of cattle and horses in this area (even dairies), but I suspect the rainfall will no longer support the same level of stocking. If the weather patterns continue in the same way, it will be interesting seeing it play out in public discussion.

Joe, I would imagine seeing a lot of improvement in vegetative cover after fencing out the horses. Has this happened?

Nicola, the sage has bounced back vigorously. We actually jumped a couple antelope hiding in a thick area. Was a good feeling to see them bounding away. It went from a few stunted looking bushes on the property to almost what I'd describe as a hedge. Hoping that biomass cycle will be positively influenced by the sage as it's tough and obviously native.
1 year ago

Alex Arn wrote:Thanks for the reply, Joe.  There are a lot of debris scattered around the old homestead so I will take a look when I am there in a few weeks and see if there is any wood I can use to do something similar.

One thing I wanted to try but didn't have enough stone for, was to create stone piles on the prevailing wind side to both protect from the hot dry winds, and apparently the stone acts almost like a dehumidifier and can create a tiny oasis from the condensation. If you have that type of debris on the homestead I'd be interested to hear if that works as well.
1 year ago

Alex Arn wrote:Joe, what did you end up doing?  I'm in a similar situation with a property in Northern Wyoming (10 inches a year) and I'm curious what worked for you and what didn't.

Alex, I did end up taking my 8000+ seeds up there. No major earth works as I didn't have the time or equipment. What I did was wander around and look at where water was natural moving. I did take several pallets, a quarter cord of wood, some old plywood, and some large stone/concrete chunks. I placed pallets in slightly sunken areas I dug out and placed seeds along the rows, the plywood I also placed on slopes with seeds at the bottom edge. Where I already had runoff erosion I placed the logs and rocks throughout the property as dams/water holders. It had rained the previous week so I had a general idea of where water pooled and stayed.

I only had a couple hours to stop in on my way by last spring, but the pallets had 4-5 seedlings, the plywood was disappointing at 5 sites but one site did have two tiny shoots. Didn't have time to investigate all the rivulets, but I believe I did see quite a few of the Siberian elms poking up through the sage (i just walked down the upwind property line with my basket of those seeds and let the wind take them).

I think I'm going to wait another couple years before even thinking about thinning the pallets, doesn't look over crowded. Next time I go up I'm going to take a couple bags of dry land pasture mix up. As well as a pickup bed full of pallets as those seemed to do the best. And I'll try to take pictures this time around.

Long story short, pallets on gentle slopes that are sunk slightly below grade seemed to do the best for me.
1 year ago

Contacted the local NRCS about pond viability and trees.

For the pond, he said that the soil does have some various clays in it which is good (sent me the soil report). Just 2 inches of clay loam, up to 14 inches of clay underneath that is a mix of clay and then bedrock not too far down. I'm guessing I have even lower levels of loam in the topsoil due to the winds and the horses eating everything down to the roots. He didn't think it would be very useful effort to divert/combine the swales as they just don't have the area required to collect enough water. He did say he has a small pond on his property in the area that is filled for a month or so in the spring and waterfowl use it on their migration and he marked a few places on the map where he thought were more promising than others, thankfully corresponded with some of mine. His suggestion was to use an excavation type pond (image below), 3-5 ft deep and 50-100 feet wide, but that seems counter-intuitive from what I've read, that you want a deeper and narrower pond in dryer climates to minimize evaporation.

For trees he basically said it was a waste of time and money to try any from seeds, which is a blow. Said without drip irrigation for the first five years or so and using seedlings from the conservation nursery instead of seeds, it was highly unlikely anything would grow. But, already ordered seeds and I'll put them down. Not going to be doing much good in my fridge and I don't have the space/time/pots to start 8000 seedlings. Even if 0.5% somehow grow, thats 40 of the toughest trees and maybe they'll be nurse trees to the rest. Can only hope.

He did say he'd love to come out and look at the property with me, so thats a bonus. Maybe he will have more insight and specifics after visiting. Maybe I can find some bored local teenager to truck water out to seedlings. Don't know if putting in a well 20 years before moving there would be the best idea.
3 years ago

Mark Kissinger wrote:Generally speaking, and depending on your terrain, starting high can mean smaller installations at first, from which you can determine the downstream effects, before starting your next round of "adjustments", which can tend to grow in size as you work your way down the slope.

You are on the right track...I'd say...

Yeah I'm thinking the higher up the hill the earthwork is the less depth it needs to be because the water hasn't gotten to full speed/there isn't as much of it rushing down the hill. And if I can get a little one going at the top and trees/bushes going on it, then the downhill seeding effect you talked about might work better once I have time to get larger works in place later.
3 years ago

Mark Kissinger wrote:You might also consider the non-tree species that you might seed (grasses & shrubs) which can provide the edges of vegetation to provide ground cover and habitat while the trees become established. Diversity equals ecological strength.

Encourage the "human-friendly" pioneer species to cover any available niche as quickly as possible, by seeding barren areas with human-friendly pioneer species, especially as you establish your swales and cause the accompanying disruption of the existing soil horizons. Then plant succession will generally take hold to provide biological yields that suit the climate and terrain.

Determine if your intent with the property is to restore an ecological "natural" order, or to create a "human-friendly" ecological order (Which Permaculture Zone (s) are your designing for as your goal?)

I follow this thread with interest, as I am preparing to do the same on my high-desert open range land ecological regime property.

Same problems, different amounts of water.

I think the juniper, olive, and chokecherry can act as the sheltering shrubs. Read that juniper won't get very tall with low water and low attention. And I'm definitely going to make mini swales/terraces on the ridges where I'd eventually terrace to help the seeds get established and look at the washout courses to see where the water goes and try to take advantage of that as well
3 years ago

Mark Kissinger wrote:Or you could start out as high on your slope and install small strategically located seed fields, using local materials and small-scale rain-gathering methods..
Start small and observe the results.
The least effort necessary to get started, leaving the expensive stuff until more planning can be done.

Yes this trip will be a much smaller endeavor in the planting department. A lot more measuring, planning, and exploring. Especially since I haven't been to visit since the grazing pressure was reduced. See how the land is doing and take some of the points you all have made and try to figure out how to apply them.
3 years ago

Devin Lavign wrote:If you have enough rock on your land, you might want to install check dams in the gullies.

Don't think I have enough large rock, but I definitely see the benefit to check dams or even full on impermeable dams somehow to hold that water against the hillside. The video from terraces to dams/gabions is probably what I'll end up doing. As the ridges are too steep for swales I think, or just swales on their own anyways. I think for now without too much expense or bringing in outside clay or lots of logs I could use the existing gravelly soil to pile up at the end of the gullies and at least slow the water and hold it there. Or a succession of piles. Better than nothing.

Devin Lavign wrote:You mentioned not having clay to retain water.

That was just for ponds, I think if I can slow the water down with terraces on the steep part of the ridge, check dams in the gullies, and maybe some swales on the flatter parts in the Southwest corner of the property than I'd be making great strides.

kevin stewart wrote:Hi
What about critters eating all those seeds?

At my place the seeds would not last the night.  One year I walked around with sunflower and bean seeds in my pockets. Occasionally I would stop and kick a shallow hole in the ground and drop some seeds in. The next day I would see bean seeds dug up but the sunflower seeds were gone.
The same year I dug spade wide swales. I tossed a collection of bean and wild bird seed, just to see something grow. If I left the smallest seeds uncovered too long the ants were carting them off.

I haven't seen too much in the way of bird activity, but that was before the vegetation started coming back after the grazing pressure was removed. You're right that is a consideration, was hoping to mitigate that by the number of seeds I put out. But, now that I've got all these earthworks problems going around in my head, I might put out less seeds this trip. I wish I could put Mesquite up there, I don't think it is cold hardy enough. The ones I planted here in New Mexico from seed seem to be doing great. Only a month old and putting out their second set of leaves.

Michael Cox wrote:I'll second the calls to look at the water harvesting and potential for earthworks. If you get this right all your later work will be made much easier - your trees will establish better, you'll build fertile soil and you'll prevent erosion.

I don't think hugelkulture is appropriate in your situation - it needs resources that you don't have available on site - but you might consider it for small specialised areas.

Check dams and gabions will help in some of the eroding gullies, but you also need to address the surface run off from higher up the slopes. On contour swales, starting at the top of the hills would be a good start. These take time to get right, both for the earth moving and for laying them out properly on contour in the first place.

However you don't need to get the whole thing done in one go. I would pick a priority area and run some experiments for a year, then see what works for you.

Michael, I agree with you. Started out just asking about trees, now this has spiraled into a major project! Not that I'm complaining, thats the great thing about forums like this, gather all the minds and throw spaghetti to see what sticks. Now I'm looking for a local bulldozer, I don't think the neighbor's tractor w/ bucket would be able to do the terraces I'm looking for. Now instead of just seeds and some scrap wood I'm thinking about A-frame levels, heavy equipment, and some major planning!

3 years ago