Sequestering carbon in the soil and the importance of holistic ranching

Another very interesting Mercola article:
How Grazing Cows Can Save the Planet, and Other Surprising Ways of Healing the Earth
Dr. Mercola interviewed Judith Schwartz:

… Basically, when grazing animals graze, they’re nibbling on the grasses in a way that exposes their growth points to sunlight and stimulates growth… Their trampling [of the land also] did several things: it breaks any capped earth so that the soil is aerated. It presses in seeds [giving them] a chance to germinate, so you have a greater diversity of plants. [Grazing herds] also press down dying and decaying grasses, so that they can be better acted upon by microorganisms in the soil. It keeps the decaying process going. Their waste also fertilizes the soil.”

Biological Farming Solves Many Pressing Problems

My first passion and career was being a physician, then an Internet educator, and now I’m moving into high-performance biological agriculture because I really believe it’s the next step in our evolution. We must shift the way we produce food because the current system is unsustainable. And while this information really is ancient, it’s not widely discussed. There’s only a small segment of the population that even understands this natural system, and the potential it has for radically transforming the way we feed the masses AND protect the environment at the same time.
I thoroughly agree with the recommendation to get involved personally, because it’s so exciting. For me, it’s become a rather addictive hobby. Once you integrate biological farming principles, you can get plant performances that are 200-400 percent greater than what you would typically get from a plant! What’s more, not only does it improve the quantity, it also improves the quality of the food you’re growing. These facts should really be at the forefront of everybody’s mind when they think about farming, as it’s the solution to so many pressing problems. …

We hope to get chickens by spring and we’ll see how that goes.

Desperate attempt to kill the gophers with truck exhaust

Last summer the gophers again invaded our lower garden. Jose set the traps several times, but we just did not catch ANY gopher. They cleverly buried the trap every time. We finally gave up and were VERY lucky they didn't go up to the upper garden as last year and we got the most delicious melons there.
But we also have TREES in the lower garden and more and more mounds appeared. Since we had to run the truck for 20 minutes to do our annual liquid glass leak fix prior to adding antifreeze, we decided to finally try the exhaust kill technique.
I was reading about that last year and I also read that this is ILLEGAL in California. At the last gardening club meeting we discussed various methods to kill gophers, including putting some gum in the holes. I gave that some thought, but it seems like a very cruel way to kill an animal. Many people kill themselves with vehicle exhaust, so it can't be too painful and I decided to try this first:
12-11-12--gopher-exhaust-kill
It so happened that we had an old shop vac and the hose fit perfectly inside out truck exhaust pipe. I made sure I taped it up good with duct tape.
It was VERY convenient that the gophers had decided to dig right outside the lower garden by the driveway. Jose found an open hole about 20 ft away and he could smell the exhaust until he filled the hole, so we are hopeful that they died a peaceful death.
If not, we'll have to resort to gum.
Here's one of the pluots we planted last year:
12-11-12--dead-pluot
It looked pretty dead for several months and yesterday it pulled right out of the ground.  Looks like the gophers got it.

We're under gopher attack

It took them FIVE years to find me! I had gophers at my old place and my little 4′ x 8′ garden plots were completely hardware cloth lined and fenced. I didn’t think I’d get gophers here because the soil is so rocky, but here they are.
And once

they arrived about a month ago they destroyed our gardens as if they hadn’t had a good meal in 5 years. We lost almost all melon and cucumber plants in both gardens.
As soon as we discovered them we ordered a trap online. When they buried the trap and we caught nothing, we got gas. I didn’t like it and it didn’t work. We put the gas stuff in the holes leading out of the garden and it did nothing.
And finally today we caught the first gopher in the trap:

I didn’t realize until I took the picture that it was still alive and Jose then shot it. We definitely have the wrong trap!
Here is the trap we bought on Ebay: Cinch Regular Gopher Trap
So we looked at a Pest Guide and ended up ordering a couple of Gophinators. They’re a lot smaller and hopefully kill them quickly.
Several people also suggested getting one of those vibrating spikes or windmills because gophers don’t like the vibration. I tried one of those spikes at my old place and it did nothing. I think they work in areas where there’s plenty of food and they’ll move to a more quiet area with just as much food. We are surrounded by desert and probably have the best gopher food within a mile.
I hate to have to kill any animal, but I can’t imagine having to gopher proof all our garden areas and every tree we planted. In spring we did some yard cleanup at my old place and one of the trees I had planted at least 8 years earlier had “fallen over”. I had NO roots, the gophers had killed it.
Fortunately they haven’t found the greenhouse yet. We’ve been getting great Armenian cucumbers and the tomatoes are doing great too, have to post some pictures next.

Critter update: fat lizards and tomato worms, Mojave Green moved into live trap

That’s the biggest tomato worm I’ve ever seen, the size of Jose’s index finger:

7/12/11: Beautiful tomato worm (click for larger image)

I had not realized how pretty this worm is until I looked at the large picture. It’s too bad they’re so damaging and you just can’t let them live.

Also saw this fat lizard: Continue reading “Critter update: fat lizards and tomato worms, Mojave Green moved into live trap”

Considering keeping bees – Africanized bees not as dangerous as portrayed by media

Jose has been talking about keeping bees and since we've had so many bees visiting our cattail bucket / ponds last summer, we're actually considering it.
Neighbors half a mile from us had bees move into their camper and I wish we could have gotten those.  But we're still clueless about how to handle bees and they had the exterminator scheduled for the next morning.
So I recently saw posts by Mike the bee keeper in the organics Yahoo group and I inquired at his Natural Bee Farm site about the danger of Africanized bees.
Mike posted his detailed response and as so often, the media tends to blow dangers out of proportion. I was surprised the bees didn't sting me when I refilled the cattail bucket from the garden hose.  One time it seemed like hundreds of bees were swarming out of the bucket, not exactly happy!   I started watering after sundown when the bees had left.
We bought delicious raw honey from Flagstaff at Grandma's Best in Kingman.

The Mountain Top Honey Company varieties include cat claw, mesquite and wild flowers.  There are no local bee keepers?
Of course we have a lot to learn before we actually get some bees and I'm just so happy that we had so many bees visiting.   There will be more water for them next summer and there should also be many more flowers.

Funny and read BEFORE you get chickens!

We've been talking about getting chickens, but it would cost several hundred dollars to build a cage to keep out the coyotes and bobcats.
Jose is vegan, I can eat only so many eggs and I'd never eat my pets.
And then there is that lack of bugs — chickens can't live off aphids, there are only so many scorpions and centipedes and there sure isn't much grass growing in the desert.   We'd have to feed them.
Grow maggots for the chickens?

So, You Want to Be an Urban Chicken Farmer? Read This First.

By Jim Schutze, Fri., Jul. 23 2010 @ 1:21PM

urban-chickens.jpg
You don't want to see the other images we had for this post.

It's weird. Today I have no appetite at all, and I am seriously considering never eating again, but I have been thinking about nothing but food all day and how we don't think enough about where our food comes from. I mean really comes from. Yesterday when I went home I had a big problem with my wife's maggotometer. Continue reading “Funny and read BEFORE you get chickens!”

Mojave Green snakes or why to always wear gloves and boots when working in the desert

We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning up already, but there’s still more to do.  And I rarely wear gloves or boots …

We already had two mojave green rattlesnakes this year and last week we found two more, although one wasn’t that green and maybe it was a diamondback.  They got comfortable in an old drainhole behind the house and we just decided to fill it in.   It’s right next to the bird feeder and it was a nice shady hole.

We’d been walking over the board several times a day and the dogs always chase squirrels at the feeder, so we’re lucky nobody got hurt. 

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crotalus_scutulatus

Venom

Rattlesnake venoms are complex cocktails of enzymes and other proteins that vary greatly in composition and effects, not only between species, but also between geographic populations within the same species. C. scutulatus is widely regarded as producing one of the most toxic snake venoms in the New World, based on LD50 studies in laboratory mice.[12] Their potent venom is the result of a presynaptic neurotoxin composed of two distinct peptide subunits.[

We hate to have to kill any animals, but “safety first!”

Fortunately both snakes were sleeping hard when Jose first lifted the board to fill in the hole:

 

 

 

A few more pics:

Continue reading “Mojave Green snakes or why to always wear gloves and boots when working in the desert”

Attack of the leaf-cutting bees

A few days ago I went to check on the grapes, as I usually do after I get up.  I go for a walk to check on all the food plants, always thrilled when they’re all still there.

That day I was shocked when I looked at the grapes.  Something ate huge parts of the leaves!

At first I thought it might be the “ferocious brown bugs” and I checked the next night several times.  Didn’t see a single bug.

So the next afternoon I’m looking at the grapes again and tons bees or wasps were buzzing around. 

I quickly searched the web and it didn’t take long till I found several sites about the leaf-cutting bees.  This one is funny:

BUG OF THE MONTH: August 1996: Leaf-Cutter Bees

I always like late spring and summer, because as soon as my roses start looking good, I can be pretty sure the leaf-cutter bees are not far behind. …

… Next time you see round or oval holes in your rose leaves, notice if they are regular and neat in outline (rather than ragged, like beetle damage is). If so, don’t be dismayed. Just wait quietly and you may be rewarded by seeing first-hand the efficient, elegant work of the leaf-cutter bee.

I took the advice, went back outside and waited quietly.  They are PICKY and don’t just take any leaf.  They buzz around until they find the perfect material for their nest.  Finally a bee landed on a leaf and started cutting.  Absolutely fascinating!

Efficient and elegant, just as promised.

I did some more reading and the only defense is to cover the plants.  Well, the grapes are growing rapidly and the bees don’t touch new leaves.  So I just hope they’ll soon have enough building materials for their nests.

And in the meantime, I’ll admire their elegance.

Saved the lizard with the jaws of life

I hate when I see a lizard caught in the hardware cloth.   It usually happens about once a year.  Last year I found a dead lizard in a fence and in previous years I saved a few.

A few weeks ago (4/20) I checked to see what Butch was so excited about and there was another stuck lizard.

At first I hoped he’d get out on his own if I just keep Butch away.  I brought the rock so he’d get more leverage instead of just hanging in the fence.

 

After a couple hours or so I finally decided to get some pliers.  I was worried about how to cut the wire without hurting him since he totally filled the entire opening, but with some electronics wire cutters it actually went very smooth. 

My other worry was that he’d try to get out before I was done and hurt himself. Those cut wires are deadly, or at minimum very painful. 

Fortunately, he didn’t move until I was done cutting all around him and bending the ends away from him.

And then he took off like a rocket.

Hopefully lives to eat the strawberries 🙂