perma project

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by Robyn S., Feb 16, 2016.

  1. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hello everyone, here's some of the story about our project n Ethiopia.
    We have three hectares of land on the perimeter of a small town about half way between Bahir Dar and Gonder in Amhara state. When we signed for the land we had forest on 3 sides which has since been cleared and allocated for housing. Surprisingly this forest was all eucalypts which are grown all over ET for poles and firewood, coppiced every 5-6 years or so. It's the main source of fuelwood as the majority of people rely on it for daily cooking. There are a number of australian trees grown here- eucalypts, casuarinas, red bottlebrush, and surprisingly Norfolk Island Pine - a popular ornamental. We have gentle slopes to the west, a natural spring, and the land was previously a common for grazing, therefore compacted,overgrazed and bare. We have been slowly building swales but have a lot more to do yet. We've planted over 1750 trees and shrubs, built 2 small reservoirs and three diversion channels, dry-stone wall around the boundary,2 dwellings, a toolshed and a concrete-block processing unit of four rooms about half finished.
    We have planted mangos, bananas, custard apples, citrus (aphids are a big problem), mulberry, avocado and anything subtropic we can get. Support species are casuarina, grevillea, pigeon pea,sesbania, acacias, sweet potato,vetch, alfalfa, elephant grass, different beans (but the lab-lab was so vigorous we call it the murderer), and so on. Some things grew very well and some were disappointing - the leucaena didn't compete too well and the tagasaste was a failure. Plus some ornamentals like hibiscus, African Tulip tree, frangipani, and indigenous trees too - wanza, fig, wild olive.
    We had a fabulous crop of pumpkins which we planted as ground cover, and after the rains everyone wanted our grass for livestock feed. Now it's dry season and things aren't actively growing. But our reservior and wells still have water, and we still have a nice cover of grass.
    Sorry it's late now, more next time.
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    building stone walls is a lot of work! sounds like you all have been very busy. :)
     
  3. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Well Ken and I can't take credit for the wall - we engaged a local stonemason to do it. He and his team of 3 took about 5 months to complete the job, all the way around.The only cement is on four inlets for overland water on the uphill side where we used double plastic pipes and on an outflow on the lowest side, which now provides a small pond for people to water their livestock, where they used to walk them down to the river a couple of hundred metres downslope.
    We decided to do this because termites eat the eucalyptus poles in 2-3 years or so, and the barbed wire available here is brittle and unsuitable for straining. Plus people have a lot more respect for a stone wall than something they can just push their animals through or pilfer for their own use, though I suppose they could haul the stones away if they were keen enough. Finally, a stone wall can last for centuries and looks pretty good too. Inside the wall we've planted bougainvillea and then elephant grass. So eventually it will form a firm barrier and wind break with the added bonus of providing a large amount of animal fodder.
    It was a sizable investment but a once-only cost - we didn't want to spend time and money on patching up a ricketty fence every couple of years. Fences are not used much here as grazing is a communal open-range activity. Most governmental compounds have over-built high wire fences which to me look unsightly. So we opted for something more traditional and fits into the landscape.
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    sounds great and yes, agreed on many counts all around, stone fences are to me
    more appealing and also provide habitat for various small critters or snakes, toads,
    frogs, lizards, etc. :)

    i also like that they are a good wind break, which is important in an arid climate. can
    make any veggie production much more effective.
     
  5. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hello again perma people,
    The dry season is truly upon us , so our focus is to keep our newest trees watered for the next month or so; hopefully the short rains will arrive in that time. Water is so important now. Three weeks ago we were given some very special tree seedlings - 2 cashews and 2 sour sops and happyas we were to get them we started fretting about being able to keep them alive. When we arrived home a black cloud appeared from the east and in 1/2 an hour we had a delicious downpour for about 40 mins, even though the sun was still shining in the west. How wonderful! I'll take it as a sign, a blessing, a gift that these trees are approved.
    Every afternoon the wind picks up, full of dust and grit. We don't have solar panels installed yet, and I'm wondering how they would stand up to the barrage of grit and sometimes small stones. Would they scratch the panel coversand reduce the sunlight to the cells?Is there some kind of protective film we could get? Any advice would be welcome.
    We've also had a couple of visitors someone from the Uni and a govt guy who asked to be shown around and then asked if we'd be 'voluntary to share knowledge with the community'. Now I think this is a very interesting development; that someone has approached us. Any thoughts about having people visit the project?
    Good gardening everyone.
     
  6. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Mulch! Helps keep the water you have in the soil from evaporating in the sun/wind.

    While we've had no issues with blowing dust, larger grit (sand) and small stones might be a problem for the glass. For our newly planted guilds we often use bamboo mats erected between posts/cross members to deflect the wind ... would something similar help to protect your panels?
     
  7. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hi thanks for your reply,
    Yes we mulch everything and fortunately we have a big supply of it. There were about 15 species of grasses growing last rainy season and I'm sure there are more, as well as all the other self-sown things that came up. I won't call them weeds, as they serve the purpose of repairing some very overworked soil. The stems are long and sometimes quite stiff; and we don't have a chaff-cutter or quick and efficient way of chopping it all up. I once saw a benzene-powered chaff-cutter for sale that was supposedly designed for making animal fodders, but was shocked at the price - more expensive than in Aus. and it didn't even look rugged. Oh for a decent chipper!
    Right now the house and roof are pretty exposed; once our trees are grown we should get some improvement. But I like your bamboo mat idea, maybe we could place a framework on the windward side and use them for a few years, since the wind generally comes from the west. I'm thinking that the high light intensity of this location means the panels would get plenty of charge before the sun sinks low in the afternoons. Our 5.8 V solar lamps charge in a couple of hours. I've also wondered about wind turbines - but we don't know much about energy generation, we're more plant people really. Know of any good e-books/websites for that kind of information?
    Now that March is here, I guess all you northern temperate permies are thawing out and enjoying your beautiful spring flowers.
    We are trying to stay in the shade and not waste the water. Also now is the long fast, no meat till Fasika (Orthodox Easter).
    So enjoy your lamb..cheers, Robyn.
     
  8. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Greetings permies,
    A little update on our project.
    We've been watching the plants and animals hold on through the dry season as everything tries to save it's energy. The strong westerleys dropped and lovely big fat clouds have been coming in from the east. Finally 3 days ago, thunder and showers arrived about three in the afternoon. Everyone was smiling and admiring the rain. Each afternoon/evening since we've had good showers. The breezes are soft, the air is clear and people look happy; it's Fasika this weekend, and everyone will have a good time. Now their tef, corn and sorghum will grow. So will our fruit trees, perennials and vegies. It's nice not to have to decide which lucky plants will get some water today. The spring had slowed down to a trickle, and one well was still giving some water. A reminder just how important water is...
    We've been continuing with the swaling, so they'll be ready for planting up too. Our workers are keen to grow onion, garlic, corn, pumpkin and cabbage- we want to mix things together in guilds and companion-plant style, and I'm not sure they are won over yet. Let's hope we can convince them- with a good harvest.
    Cheers, Robyn
     
  9. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    rains are always so welcome in an arid or semi-arid climate!

    are you harvesting water into tanks for the dry season or relying upon ground water
    the whole season? a very small pump can run off not much energy and give you
    several hundred extra gallons by the end of the wet season to have as a backup
    during the dry season (to keep tree seedlings alive and to have drinking water)...

    as for protecting the solar panels, with high winds, you will probably want a wind-
    break far enough away that it doesn't cast shadows, but will help keep the direct
    force of winds off the area.

    i'm sure thin layers of plexiglass are available, but will cut down on efficiency of
    panels and eventually degrade in the harsh sun.

    oh, and you do not need a chipper! for many arid climates you want your mulch
    to last as long as possible, so chipping it up means it breaks down faster. why buy
    a gadget when a simple chop and drop will work instead?
     
  10. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hi Songbird and others,
    Most of our water is groundwater - the spring feeds into a large concrete tank about 4,000 litres which was built long ago but is still functional. We have two small reservoirs which hold water for about 4-5 months after the long rains.
    We have a 1,000 litre tank connected to our chika bet (mud house). We haven't yet connected the 2,000 litre tanks to the roofs of the house and processing unit mostly as there are so many other things to do, but hope to have that done by the next long rainy season in July.
    During the long rains our major problem becomes the volume and velocity of overland flow. The swaling and chain of ponds plus a couple of diversion drains address this issue, but the soil is very wet at this time. And our water table is only 4 metres down, dropping to about 6 metres at the height of the dry season. So it's not so much lack of water as management of the flow. Eventually all the water moves down slope to the river, which flows into Lake Tana and joins the mighty Blue Nile.
    Jan to April is the dry, windy time - everything above ground becomes dessicated for a while. If the short rains arrive the whole region blossoms again and the farmers can put in a short -season crop before the long rains. There is talk locally that climate change is breaking up the short rain - long rain monsoon cycle, which is a problem for the cropping patterns here, but less so for trees and perennials, as long as the total amount isn't reduced too much.
    It's an interesting experience to live in a totally different environment, and try to watch the weather and 'read the landscape'. On the surface the country can look quite arid ; there may be water not far down but people have never been encouraged to look deeper for it, or harvest it.

    I doubt that I'd find Plexiglass available here, perhaps in the capital 650 kms away. So we'll leave the flying gravel problem till we visit Aus again, maybe I can get something suitable there. Meantime there is bamboo matting available, and the trees are growing...
    And you're probably right about the chipper. We have heaps of long grasses which last a long time and everything shrubby we chop and drop. I was thinking about the rate of breakdown in making compost as its harder to turn quickly, and always looks stemmy, even when it's dark and earthy and finished 'cooking'.
    Thanks for your comments; till next time, cheers.
     

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