Hello from Baja California

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by BajaJohn, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    Located in the town of Loreto in Baja California Sur, part of the Mexican peninsula that extends south of California. I am about 1300 miles south of Los Angeles, my previous home for 20 years. Before that I grew up and went to college in England. I learned to garden from my parents but didn't have a garden in Southern California, so this is my first attempt to garden in a subtropical climate.
    The climate is desert with summer days reaching 35C. Nights don't get much cooler because the nearby Sea of Cortez is a huge heat sink. Winter temps get down to about 12C occasionally. Over 300 days of sunshine a year. Cloudy days are rare with annual rainfall of about 7" +/- 15". In other words very variable annual rain with some dry years and some years with extensive flooding during a hurricane (accompanied by a spectacular emergence of otherwise never-seen frogs).
    I'm a retired scientist and just a hobby gardener though participating in the development of a community garden program to educate local families how to raise crops and teach about the environment (which is spectacular - it is a World Heritage Site, mostly because of the Sea of Cortez - described by Cousteau as the aquarium of the world). Huge Cardon cactus (pachycereus) grow wild with their bitter but edible "pitayas" along with other pitaya varieties (stenocereus). Mesquit grows in abundance and the huge, dry Arroyo are home to spectacular wild figs perched halfway up 30 meter cliffs with roots down to the Arroyo below.
    The soil here is alluvial and drains well. I inherited my garden when I bought the house (as much for its garden as anything else) 4 years ago. It had been neglected/abandoned for about 10 years but has several citrus (lime, lemon, mandarins, orange and grapefruit) and mango trees (varieties locally known as ataulfo, manzana and mamey). I've also planted what turned out to be a very sour pomegranate and a lichee that is flowering for the first time this year. I also have a vegetable area where I am slowly learning what will grow here and, more challenging for me, what times of year my crops prefer to grow. Also experimenting with extending production into the very challenging summer months.
    Thanks for reading along if you got this far and hope to meet you in the forums.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Greetings John and welcome,
    After our just-past winter, your temperatures (and proximity to the sea) sound like heaven to me!
    Do a forum search on "baja" and you'll find a couple of other Permaculturists in your area.
    Does your property include an arroyo (wash) that could be gabion-dammed to slow/spread occasional deluge water and build-up sediments?
    Looking forward to hearing more!
     
  3. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    Thanks Gandalf. Many "snowbirds' drive their trailers down here for the winter to get away from northern winters. I pay for it in the summer months when temperatures rarely get lower than the mid-30s C day or night. My house is about 1000sq m in the middle of town so the only water I see here is in the occasional storms when my street becomes a river. No dams allowed! There are huge mountains nearby which shed their water very quickly. The local arroyo just out of town is usually bone dry until a storm. It must be 100 metres wide in places but floods to about 10 feet deep, sometimes taking the road and bridges out. I've seen 18 inches of rain in 24 hours.
    I did the search for Baja and found a few members but their last posts ended in 2015. Some noted where they were so I may try to find them and drop in when I travel nearby.
     
  4. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Wow that's a lot of rain in one event! You'd have to go quite high up the arroyo to have a gabion that wouldn't wash away with the roads and bridges.
    In re-reading your original post, I see the surrounds are part of a World Heritage Site, so I get the "no dams", although hills/mountains that shed large rain events quickly are a huge opportunity to slow the flow and sink the water ... usually to reforest the slopes.
     
  5. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    The World Heritage designation is largely due to the Sea of Cortez a few minutes walk from my house. Pretty much all of the environmental efforts here go to protect the sea which is under tremendous pressure. You may be aware of the conflict between the fishermen here and the near extinction of the vaquitas.
    Despite summer water shortages their are no efforts to manage water - or even a willingness to recognise that it should be done. The local county has population of about 15,000. The entire region, encompassing 2 states is almost half as big as California but with a total population of only about 5 million. Most of those people are in large cities which are few and far between. It is a 5-hour drive from here to the nearest big city.
    We are one year into a project to create a community garden in the desert with one goal of increasing environmental awareness and another of self-sufficiency. Funding and even enough knowledgeable people to help are challenges. I'm also having to learn about a completely novel environment with an ecosystem populated by things I've rarely encountered previously. For me they have very novel lifestyles. I used to feel sad for the sunburned cactus, totally black and apparently dead for years until I revisited them a short time after rain ended a long drought period. Those same plants were bursting with new, green growth. They had just been dormant, waiting for rain. Well adapted to their environment which to me was harsh but I began to wonder if, for them, it was just perfect!
     
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  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    sounds like a great place to be learning a lot.

    with such heavy intermittent rains, keeping any kind of
    cover in place is a challenge. my guess is that most of
    the forests are long gone, but if you can find upland areas
    to restore and people willing to do the work it can give
    them back some flowing water during the dryer spells.

    the sad thing about the sea of cortez is the loss of the
    Colorado River Delta area. i'm sure that has vastly
    impacted everyone in that area.
     
  7. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    There are some remarkable small family farms in the uplands that are very productive. Some are so remote that there is a full-time mule train operator supplying them and taking their produce to the nearest town. Some farms are a 5-day mule ride from town. Water management is a significant issue for many but they have just ridden out an 11-year drought. There is a movie called Corazon Vaqueros about these farmers.
    The Sea of Cortez gets pressure from so many different places. I spent years in a sailboat living here. I met one second-generation sailor who grew up on a boat in the Sea of Cortez decades ago. I found the Sea spectacular with an incredible abundance of fish - and aquatic mammals. He lamented that he remembered a Sea with far more life in it than we encounter today. Some ports are full of maybe hundreds of decaying shrimp boats because shrimping have been so depleted. Shrimp and other fish depleted largely by Japanese fleets that the government licensed to fish in Mexican waters until recently. Local fishermen have lost their jobs because they are no longer allowed to fish with nets. Only sportsfishing is allowed because that brings in loads of tourist dollars but even that industry is shrinking because the catches aren't as good as they used to be. A copper/gold mine was recently reopened in Santa Rosalia, a few hundred miles from here. When I visited the harbor in Santa Rosalia, the water was literally black. Twenty or so miles away the water was so clear that we could sit in the boat and watch fish on the seabed 30 feet below us. Now there is a move to open up a new mine a few miles north of here..... Shudder!
     
  8. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    It looks like I must be doing something right in my garden. I've got worms! The natural soil here is so dry that it is accepted that worms are uncommon here. Last year I encountered only one worm - in an irrigated part of my garden. The previous 2 years I found none. This year, after 3 years of adding about 3 cubic yards of compost per year to my veggie patch, I sowed potatoes in a compost-filled trench. They are ready now and yielding quite well but the biggest surprise was the mass of 1-2" long worms squirming about in the compost. They seem to have populated only the compost as I haven't found them in any soil. The challenge now will be to keep them going through the hot summer when tradition suggests the garden should be emptied, dug over and left to dry as the wildlife extracts pests from the loosened soil. I'll be attempting some vermiculture but suspect it will be a challenge in the 3-month long spell of 90F+ that barely moderates at night.
     
  9. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i keep worms in buckets here and it does get hot in the summer, but not
    as likely as you have down there. your inside cellar area near a wall may
    keep them cool enough.

    the nice thing about keeping them in buckets is that the moisture stays
    in there. i don't drain any of their liquid off. keep 'em covered (an old
    unholey shirt held on with elastic will keep the flies and worms (out or in
    respectively).

    dirt worms and compost worms are likely not the same species in many
    locations. in your climate and location i don't know what many be native
    and or possible. i do know that the dry spells and the clay here make many
    earth worms struggle, but once i get the soil amended then they will survive.
    i try to dig some organic material down deep enough so they have easy places
    to hide out during the hot part of the season.
     
  10. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    Thanks Songbird. I'll be trying the things you suggest.
     
  11. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    p.s. congratulations!

    :)

    i have a similar miniature celebration every time i find worms surviving
    in my gardens for a change. usually it takes two to three years before
    i see much effect for the earthworms, the compost worms are much
    faster to show up (making hay when the sun shines?)...

    here is a link to my version of worm composting (which is not what many
    people do when they do worm composting):

    https://www.anthive.com/project/worms/

    cheers!
     
  12. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    Haha - you understand exactly how I feel. Already transferred some to a bucket in a shady corner of the garden and have started to provide potential nourishment like dried and green leaves. Do you mix the feed into the soil with the worms in it or just leave it on the surface? I felt a bit wary of disturbing my worms in their new home.
     
  13. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    because i have several species in some buckets i mix some of their food
    in and also leave some near the top. the dirt i use also works very well
    for covering up smells (fruit rinds, fermenting strawberries, etc.). i keep
    a large spoon handy and scoop down the side as to minimize how many
    i disturb (and i do regret it when i accidentally kill some).

    the sad truth though is that many of the worms you grow and transplant
    into the garden will not survive (the youngest ones will have the best
    chances), but more than anything you are also adding the bacteria and
    nutrients for the next generations of worms and plants.

    the earth worms are ok with some disturbances. it is the much larger
    worms which do not do well in captivity. the composting worms will
    probably stick closer to the surface or may avoid the dirt alltogether.
    the composting worms i keep, which are the largest population in the buckets
    here, live in the top 15cm, but will venture down deeper if it gets too hot
    or dry. they are very good at mixing the soil and the organic materials
    together. i don't have many pure compost worms (red wrigglers), i do
    try to keep some, but the other worms out compete them. the several
    species of earthworms are vastly slower to increase.
     

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