Permaculture Update

A Pile of Rocks

As promised, I have more photos for you.  Roger and his team have worked with all stops out for this last month and a half.  Lots of heavy labor, skilled work and planning has been done.  One of the big decisions that needs to be made next is about water.  Besides digging a couple of unlined rain catchment ponds, which will perculate run-off into the soil and be dry most of the year, should there be a lined pond that would stay wet all year for birds and other wildlife.  This pond would be cleaned by filtering the water through a bog area.  Also, should I invest in a huge above-ground water tank to collect the thousands of gallons of water that pours off my house roof during rainstorms?  So we are interviewing pond builders, and having pow-wows with other professionals who know about water. 

In the meanwhile, many trees and small plants have been planted, about half the pile of urea spread and tilled in. 

Tilled and mulched

I am not an advocate of tilling in healthy soil.  It tears apart the microbes and underground inhabitants that are what changes dirt into soil.  About twelve years ago when I first moved here, I succumbed to those enticing Troy-Bilt tiller ads and purchased a 6 HP tiller; an enormous investment at the time, but with all this weedy property I thought it would help me ‘fix’ the soil.  The tiller came dismantled.  After a lot of trouble putting it together and getting it running, the machine I bought turned out not to be a tiller, but a device that endeavors to separate your arms from your torso and dislocate each vertibrae in your spine, all without actually tilling anything.  The Troy-Bilt ad photos that show a neatly dressing young woman casually standing by her tiller pushing it with one hand, leads one to believe that the tillers are easy to run.  Actually, the lady in the photo is having a good time only because the tiller isn’t turned on!  She’s leaning on it!  Someone made all those groves in the dirt with a hoe, because that tiller sure didn’t!  You may surmise from that rant that I didn’t have much luck tilling, so the machine sat in my shed until recently.  It was just repaired and yesterday, having been starved for so long, it tried to eat Roger as he used it around my property.  Roger is a big, strong man, so I don’t feel so badly about having been so unsuccessful with using the tiller that I wanted to chain it in a dark celler where it wouldn’t hurt anyone again. Despite the evil tendancies of this machine, much urea has been tilled in around the planted trees, which is the first layer in the plant guilds that form the edible forest garden.  Under the trees, other components of the guilds are being planted.  Those components perform what roles plants in a natural forest hold: mulchers, groundcovers, shade, insect-attractors, nitrogen-fixers, and nutrient-miners.  The guilds will grow larger as the project unfolds.

Jose and Roger with the first load of rocks

Rocks are a wonderful focal point in any garden, and we needed a lot of them.  With predicted rain this weekend, and the probability that the 10-wheeler wouldn’t be able to access the yard with the soil any softer, sped up the delivery date to… ASAP.  Two deliveries of boulders were deposited today, and starting at 7 am tomorrow, several more loads will be dropped.  I can just see all the lizards on the property rubbing their little hands together in anticipation of a great king-of-the-hill push-up contest.  Two sections of my wooden fence had to be disassembled so the truck could pull directly into the yard.  Later, the boulders will be placed with a small Bobcat.  This is a nice mixture of rock, and this first load pictured shows the largest of the boulders.  This is about 12 tons of rock.  I can’t wait for time alone to go climbing! 🙂

I asked Roger if he knew a really good carpenter to help build some items for me, and he did.  Local carpenter Jay Tull was brought into the job and is also a craftsman of skill, inspiration, problem-solving, and a lot of fun ideas.  He made two top-bar bee hives first of all (I’ll go into bee hives in another post, as well as my blue bee garden), using almost all leftover materials on the property.  They are beautiful.  Next, I wanted to build a little fenced area to block off my trash and recycling cans so my long-suffering neighbors didn’t have to look at them anymore. 

Garbage Can Closet or Guest House?

So with lumber and more of that broken concrete (which actually came from his property!), he and Roger’s team are working on an incredible enclosure that probably should be a guest house!  The walls, made of leftover fencing, and a gate will be added probably tomorrow after the cement all dries.  Jay suggested that the cement chunks be cemented in rather than surrounded with gravel for easy hosing down.  There is room for a planter on the side!     Another project Jay is working on concurrently is a chicken tractor. 

Chicken Tractor in the Making

 There are many websites devoted to just images of chicken tractors.  These are portable chicken coops that rest on the ground.  The idea is that the chickens root around in the ground weeding, pooing, eating bugs, etc., which is all extremely healthy for the birds and great for the soil.  Then in a few days you move the tractor a little ways and set it down and they start on a new batch.  I found a photo of one I liked, and Jay is building it almost entirely out of used wood from my old sheds, and wheels off my old gate.  It works like an extremely heavy wheelbarrow; apparently the image I gave Jay to work from used two people to move it, but he’s adapted it for one person.  I’ll show you the finished version in a couple of days.  We’ve already joked about entering it in the Fallbrook Christmas Parade.

Other things that have been going on are the building of benches and seats for viewing areas around the property, using the materials that are here.  Jose and Francisco, Roger’s team, have stripped some of the palm trunks and cut them into chairs.  This shows one set up on the newly repaired erosion area just above the barranca.  Along the fence are planted more stonefruit, and on the other side of the fence are planted berry vines.  The seat overlooks the mature toyons, sumac and willows that grow down the embankment, and a great place for bird watching.  A garden isn’t a garden if there aren’t resting places for you to just sit and listen. 

Stumps along the Liquidamber Allee

 Today Roger saw an adult kingsnake under the native plants on the embankment, and it startled and slithered away.  I think this may be our annual visitor to our upper pond and birdbath.  Every summer he shows up once or twice looking for mice and getting a good long drink from our pond, then disappears.  I’m hoping he has his eye on our gopher population.

California Slendar Salamander

So the loud machinery, sounds of screeching rocks sliding on metal, and the whiff of urea continues on my usually quiet and unobtrusive property.  Some day in the near future it will again be quiet, and all the animals I’ve scared off will return.  Actually, many birds have been enjoying the piles of brush, and Roger has encorporated some brushy piles into the design just to allow the birds and bunnies and lizards small havens.  These piles are small, and are located well away from the house so as not to cause a fire hazard.  Also I was sorting through the stack of old plywood on the weekend and uncovered two California Slendar Salamanders.  One was larger than the other, so I think that was the female.  I removed them to my upper pond area so that they wouldn’t get squished.   These wonderful discoveries of life on my property make me all the more determined to complete this project in as a compassionate and organic way as possible. 

My two elderly dogs, Sophie and General Mischief, have been having such a hard time of it.  They lived their lives here outside, sleeping on an old futon in a small garage-type building.  Now that they are both deaf, and Sophie likes to sneak out to go visit my long-suffering and wonderful neighbors, I’m afraid of them being injured with the gate opening and closing and large trucks pulling through.  So, for the first time in their lives, they’ve had to adjust to living in my library on a sheet-protected couch.  You can see how hard it is for them: 

Suffering Couch Potatoes

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