Tuesday, November 15, 2011

fruit tree spots....

Hopefully this will be the last major basic fruit and nut planting of my life. Hopefully I will find my way up and out of transition and start-up mode, and settle in to deeper works and longer lessons. But we have a bunch of fruit trees on order for January, and I've been busy the last weeks getting the designated sites ready.
Preliminary observations (especially, soil jar tests and seeing how slowly water drains into test holes) have shown me that most of our soil is a tight, compacted, and poorly draining clay. NOT the best soil for most fruit trees....mostly due to the danger of their becoming too soggy in winter and spring. (For me, it's a matter of faith. I think I can count on one hand the times it's rained here since June, but people reassure me it's coming. And I've also lived my whole life in rainier climates than this....it's a bit of a stretch to imagine anything getting too soggy with only twenty inches a year!) So this means raised sites...mounds or better yet, edged and raised beds. I started to do this with the citrus, avocado, and olives set a couple of months ago (being evergreens, I surmise that it doesn't matter much when they are planted as long as they can be watered, and since everything must be watered anyway, why not snap up the deals on the varieties I want when I see them. But deciduous trees are best planted when leafless...thus the big January planting)
A good permaculture in process feels to me like a kind of vortex which I get to participate in for a while. The task of the designer and installer is to orchestrate the resources at hand into a pattern focused toward the desired yields with minimum waste and maximum yield. Nothing ordinarily thought of as trash is to be disregarded without careful thought. So: Utility pole on our property has so many woodpecker holes we could see daylight through it.....a phone call leads to an inspection, and a hasty decision that yes, it did need immediate replacement. So when the crew shows up I tell them "You could just leave the old pole here...I'll find something to do with it." In Georgia and Oregon, sticks, logs and wood are everywhere. It seems like the main project of the ecosystem in those places is to produce wood. In Georgia I'd simply go cut a pine tree or ten down to get logs to make raised beds with. And when the logs went to compost, I'd put new ones down, if I thought the situation warranted it. But here in CA, every stick is precious. It's more like Bangladesh, where they burn cowpies for fuel! I'm not quite at that stage yet, but I can see it as an option for sure! So here is this utility pole...a huge resource, come at just the right time! ( Not that there wasn't a plan B. In my case the plan B would have been old roofing tin, folded in half and backed up to stout stakes, to hold the raised grade behind) So I made wooden wedges (blue oak is harder than Douglas fir!), then sawed the thing into eight foot sections and carefully split each in half lengthwise (effectively doubling the number of raised sites I could enclose with it) Then I laid them out in triangles at the sites of the most drainage-sensitive trees (the pistacio, pomegranate, apricot, and nectarine. The logs were staked back with aluminum scraps from an old TV antenna we took down. The persimmon, mulberry, and figs can apparently do with shallower mounds).
Then I remembered that the base of the pole had been treated with who knows what....perhaps a problem around food. I was encouraged by the pole's age and general state of decay. But in any case at the two sites enclosed by the base sections, I lined the inner surface with scraps of linoleum flooring which we'd torn up from some nasty kitchen and bathroom water leaks.....again...a use and a sequestration obtained from what might be thought of as "hopeless trash".
Then I became aware of the danger of gophers, and at the same time recalled some earlier observations that they tended to avoid burrowing around where humanure was buried, or, for that matter, around any manure. Stands to reason...I wouldn't want to burrow through it either. But in any case I made chicken-wire baskets to sink into each spot, to foil the gophers gnawing and disturbing the crucial trunk-base and main roots of each plant.
Next, the fill. Four five-gallon buckets of humanure were put to use, plus the last of the soil/charcoal from our predecessors' burn pile, and then I began digging out our future laundry greywater trench. (actually a fairly high-priority project, as we discovered our washing machine drains DIRECTLY into the gully which probably has flowing water at the height of the rains!) Thus the spots were all raised, the humanure safely and usefully sequestered, and most of the sites are now ready (except for the figs) I think our dog attempted to dig up the humanure at two of the sites....some of my coarse starthistle slash then came to the rescue.....a good dog, and perhaps pig, deterrent (there again, I wouldn't want to stick my nose into that stuff, so likely neither would they!)
All for the love and the dream of apricots and all their luscious kin!