Donner MacRae

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since Jul 26, 2019
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dog forest garden homestead
North Central Idaho - Zone 6B/7A Average Rainfall: 25 inches
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Recent posts by Donner MacRae

Greetings F,

"On a small scale, broad-forking could work, though perhaps using a spade to prise small V-shaped trenches on contour would be more effective – backfilling the trench with compost would further benefit silty/sandy soils."

Apologes for the delay, I've been ruminating on a couple of your suggestions...

The area I will be prepping come spring will probably be too big to use the prising & backfilling technique over all of it. However, you've made me believe it is worth the additional time and effort to do it over the areas that I eventually plan to convert to food trees.

As for the methodology, I think it might be easiest to lay the composted organic stuff down first, then lever the soil open with a broadfork until it (the compost) falls down into the cracks...if I have time, I may even make two passes over these areas to get an extra shot of OM into the soil and working right away.

Heck, now I'm excited. =]  Thanks for this idea!

"I have an urban backyard and a rural property and plan to do small keylines on the urban, keyline AND swales on the rural...haven't been able to do either yet as we're experiencing a severe drought (...) With the on-gong bushfires at least I won't need to use potash because it's falling from the sky!"

Are the fires upwind of your place, then? Yikes, I haven't had time to follow the news... All I can say is stay safe, brother. I know bush fires can move quickly in your kind of country when the wind picks up.
2 years ago
"If I'm guessing correctly, your silty loam would be like fine sand with organic matter holding it somewhat together?"

Texturally, this is a loamy soil with a high silt / low sand / moderate clay content. (It falls out at a ratio of roughly 70% silt - 10% sand - 20% clay.)
Ksat (i.e. speed at which water is able to permeate the soil) is projected by our USDA to be low-moderate (no perc or permeameter testing done yet).
Organic matter is roughly 3% within the top 12", but drops off quickly after that.

I don't think it's a sandy soil, per se - that would imply that it's a faster draining soil, no? From what I can piece together, it's more like a slowly-draining, dense, silty soil that (barely) falls within the parameters of a loam.

Building the organic matter (with as little disruption as possible) and improving drainage are two of my top priorities in the next few years. Down the road a piece, I'm hoping the irrigation guidelines you've posted for establishing & drought-hardening trees will prove applicable within my soil + climate situation.

[Edited for clarity]
2 years ago
Greetings R Scott,

Thanks for replying to this...pro'ly an oddball question.

I just keep thinking to myself that if broadforking frees up moisture to move between wet and dry areas, then (assuming the tine furrows left behind by this type of cultivation become the paths of least resistance) these should follow the Keyline for maximal effect.

The effect could well be too small to notice, of course (and would undoubtedly fade away as soil particles get moved around, etc.).

Anyway, Cheers!
2 years ago
Wow, F Agricola...great post. (And great news, too - for the past ten minutes, I've been wondering how I was gonna supply all those extra liters...)

"It's important to only do deep watering at the drip line of the tree (...) Though, it is dependent on soil type, we mostly have heavy red and grey clays with a very thin overlay of friable soil and leaf litter."

Would this also be the recommendation for silty loams with moderate clay content? (Do you happen to know?)

Many thanks
2 years ago
Did I misuse the term perennials? Oh....shoot. Well, I'm already aware that I don't know a whole lot...  How about my original question?
2 years ago
Hello to all,

First-time poster in the Rainwater Catchment forum - hope this thread is on-topic (or at least, I hope it's less off-topic here than it would be elsewhere).

After reading 'The Keyline Plan' by P. A. Yeomans recently, the impression I have of the Keyline system of water conservation is that it is mainly applicable to large, open tracts of land which are tilled or mechanically cultivated on an annual basis. (I.e., it wouldn't be possible to implement Keyline techniques within, say, polyculture guilds which are mainly composed of perennials.)

Okay, then, here's a question... Would broadforking the soil along Keyline contours in an open meadow-type environment help to equalize soil moisture levels between the wetter and drier areas (at least over the space of a single wet/rainy season)? I'm specifically thinking about silty loams which do not have much organic matter and have low Ksat/saturated hydraulic conductivity.
2 years ago
Greetings James. Greetings Amit and Travis.

I came in here to post last night (before RedHawk had posted his reply)...unfortunately, the computer I use for internet did its crashing thing.

Posting this now while things seem to be working -

"My speculation is that the data has not been collected, as I think it would be quite costly and labor intensive to gather tens of thousands or more samples and then run the tests."

I guess that makes the most sense....it's just an empty value set. Confusingly (if this is the case), they included an option in the database to "Interpret nulls as zero". Even when this option is left un-selected, the values returned for the above parameters are 0 (or 0.0).

Greetings RedHawk,

"The missing data you listed is data that would come from a "complete" analysis, not the normal testing that most people are satisfied with, that is why items show 0.00, there isn't any data from the soil test."

Aha -  then, the data for these parameters is obtained from local soil-testing. That would lead me to believe that these data may only be available for areas where Order of Soil Survey is listed as either 2 (Intensive) or 1 (Very intensive), and zero-values can otherwise be disregarded.

"Most folks don't want to spend the extra money for complete testing and for most folks it really isn't necessary for their needs."

Well, being that I'm a relative newbie to soils-related stuff, I wasn't sure if these parameters were among the most important ones to consider when evaluating land - except I can see that one of them has a bearing on the salinity of the soil, which sounds like it could be an important variable to pin down.

Thanks for shedding light on the matter for me.

[Edited for clarity]
2 years ago
The question has been consuming mental resources at times when - frankly - I don't need the distraction. So, I finally decided to look it up.

I had my doubts it was from soil organic matter... (Turns out, it isn't!)

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/where_do_trees_get_their_mass_from
2 years ago
I've noticed something odd while using the WSS (Web Soil Survey) portal...

Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) is often - if not always - rated 0% in the top 48 inches of soil (and this will be true across all soil units present)
Electrical Conductivity (EC) is likewise rated 0.0, across all depth ranges and soil units
Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR) is also rated 0.0 across all depth ranges and soil units

I've just looked back at a number of previous soil reports, and (in every case where this info was collected) these parameters returned zero-values.

Is this data simply missing from the database?
2 years ago