Sunday, April 22, 2012

Making Seedballs

I'm making seedballs to throw into the main central part of our property. Right now, it's nearly a monocrop of "Bastard Cabbage" as well as "Stork's Bill", a purple flower ground cover. I've collected red and yellow clovers, buckwheat, millet, sunflower, legumes, chia and an assortment of wildflowers. Bees and birds will love these, as well as Gil, our tortoise!
Mixing the seeds.
As our dirt is high clay, I dug up a large bucket full, and mixed in organic compost. Then I added enough water to moisten it through and mixed in the seeds.
Adding the seeds and mixing them into the soil mix.
It's a bit like making cookie dough! 
Each ball is made by scooping the mix and shaping it into a round ball. 
It's important to let them dry. They need to dry quickly, so that the seeds don't start to germinate within the ball. I placed them immediately into cardboard trays in the Sun.
All photos by Steve Niles.
Once dry, Steve threw them into the center of the monocrop. I spent some time in there hacking out dips between the rows, so the balls could land easily.
Finished Seedballs.

A bit too much compost was mixed in, the balls were crackly, but Steve had a blast throwing them! Usually, the point of seedballs is to throw them, let them land and wait for rain. I cheated and watered the last couple of days, but I know I didn't hit them all. Rain is coming in a few days, fingers crossed!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Land Ho! At last!

Rabbit Hole
Steve and I recently moved out to the desert, and now we have an acre of land to play with. It's a rental - we'll see what the future holds - but it's been a dream to have little ranch like this! The area is peaceful - people wave as you walk or drive by. The sounds of roosters can be heard in the morning, birds I have yet to recognize make lovely sounds in the trees.

Having been away from any practical Permaculture work for almost 2 years, it's extremely exhilarating to have such a blank slate. The desert soil here is really just dirt. The land around our home has not been cared for in years, and I make new discoveries every day. We have many unpruned, thus scraggly, Elms that outline the property. There is an abundance of wildlife: rabbits, ground squirrels and moles are all over our place. To the left is a rabbit hole. At night, coyotes might jump the fence.

The back property, with Sonny and Zendra. Photo taken by Steve.

We discovered we have a long untended orchard. At least three peach trees, three grape vines, a possible fuji apple, and a couple I am not yet sure of...

One of the peaches has a large Elm taking over, so I need to address this... Evidence of old bubbler systems are in sight, but there are also broken plastic water pipes throughout. I'll need to get these systems back in order eventually. For now, I have hacked out a bit of a ditch around each one to better catch water, and I definitely need to feed them.

Bastard Cabbage
There are some wild flowers here and there, but overall what we see are mustard/dandelion varieties growing everywhere. Yesterday, I was able to identify the main plant that is growing all over the property, especially in the large dip in the center of our land, as Bastard Cabbage. This plant grows in eroded and disturbed soils, and it has one very large and deeply penetrating taproot (see below right). This is very helpful in areas of dead, dry dirt - the taproot can help break up the soil for the next plant species to come. Bastard Cabbage, though, is very opportunistic, and seen as quite the menace in some areas.

Bastard Cabbage Tap Root
Zendra hangs with Gil
Of course, the common gardening solution is to kill them all off. But right now, their flowers are attracting bees, and I see their thick cabbage leaves as a fantastic source of organic material. It is very clear that the rabbits and other wildlife do not care for this plant, but a big plus is Gil, our desert tortoise, loves it. So he is able to chomp away at that as well as early switch grass that is starting to sprout. 

So my possibilities are: dig some shallow swales in between them to sow Summer wildflowers, and get started for succession and bring in diversity, most likely in the form of seedballs. And something else I would like to try: plant a few veggies in between - and see if we can use these plants as cover from the bunnies. It's all so fascinating what can happen.

Next: beginning the garden area.