Happy Winter Solstice! It seems the perfect time to share an update on the land restoration project!
Land restoration is a long game project. There are no quick fixes. Much like building a relationship with a horse, it takes the time it takes. I am building a relationship with the land here. Horses I know, this desert landscape, not so much. And yet, even the addition of a few trees, covering the bare ground between them in mulch of partially composted horse manure and old hay, changes the whole feel of the property.
A vision is taking shape in my mind of ways to rearrange horse paddock fence lines to incorporate ‘green belts in between them. Strategically placed to soak up the rain water when it happens, so that the paddocks can dry out efficiently and the horses no longer have to wade around in mud for weeks on end. I used to think the solution was all about drainage, but drainage is nothing but a short term band aid in a horse paddock where their hooves compact the soil, creating low spots. Where they break up the dirt, creating fine dust that blows away in the next wind so that after a few years all that work on drainage is a moot point. Short of hauling dirt in from elsewhere to build it back up, options become limited, maintenance ongoing.
That’s the thing about the desert. How do you keep the dirt from blowing away when the wind blows? How do you keep it from washing away in the rain? I live on the edge of a wash, anyplace puddles decide to form, as the water slowly seeps into the clay, looking for a place to go, the only option is the wash. Ever vigilant for the formation of cracks that can turn into sink holes where the water carves out large cavities just beneath the surface, the crust on top eventually giving way to gaping holes in the earth. Erosion is the enemy.
Dirt erodes. What we need here is soil. Rich soil that supports plant life. Plant life that puts down roots, binding the soil to prevent erosion. This sandy, clay desert has strategies for grabbing the infrequent rains and holding them. Cryptobiotic crusts with their crenualated surfaces retain the water long enough for it to soak in, covering the sand in places undisturbed by humans. Some say it takes hundreds of years for that crust to form and establish. The long game indeed!
This week I should get the first layer of work in from the Permaculture consult that started several months ago. She’s been researching weather, wind, temperatures, sunlight, soil, the plants that already grow here. We did a survey so we know our exact property lines. She hooked me up with the extension office and I have 77 baby bare root trees coming this spring. One of the goals in rearranging fencing is to create a baby tree nursery close to the house. It’s funny sometimes how things happen. One day a few weeks back a contractor pulled in the drive. He was cleaning up a property down the street and wanted to know if I would mind if he dumped some composted manure into the wash. Heck no! I told him to dump it in my manure pile and I’d use it! He dropped more than 10 full sized dump truck loads of fully composted sheep and goat manure! My neighbor and I are spreading it anywhere we can think of that we might want to plant things. It was like a pot of gold dropped into my lap! What a great foundation for my tree nursery!
When the first layer of work comes in I’ll have what’s known as a base map. A clear map of what we have now, along with a comprehensive list of everything that will grow here. As the vision for the property continues to unfold, I want to do it all now. But hey, today is Winter Solstice. It’s the shortest day of the year. Winter is the time for planning. I’ll have to learn patience, and rest up, so that I have the energy to execute the plan in a few short months! Time to hunker down with my plant list and decide what I want to grow here.
Time to be creative.
Here’s to the the shortest day of the year, and to the increasing daylight hours to come. Wishing everyone the very best this season has to offer!
When you have a moment, come check out the new home of Tango with Horses Online!