Desert Homesteading?????

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by ScorpionFlower, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. ScorpionFlower

    ScorpionFlower Insanity prevails

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    Lenexa, KS
    Hello,

    I'm a new poster and basically found this website via researching homesteading. I was specifically looking for information on homesteading in the desert. I know, I know, big laughs from cyberland echoing my way already, grin. I'm a California girl, but not exactly a typical one, or I wouldn't be living where I do. I grew up between "The Valley" and the "OC" (one mile from Disneyland in fact). I don't like the city, never have. So, over the years I've moved to smaller and more remote areas. A year ago my husband and I bought our first home in a very small desert town which is still techincally in Southern California.

    We now have 4 nubian goats, 2 yearlings one already freshened, and 2 bucks... I know, mistake. We also have 8 buff orpington chicks (was 10 till the neighbor's dogs discovered that dinner was being served fresh at my house). Of course there's also the 5 cats and the chocolate lab. At the moment we're possibly getting a 4 month old Great Pyranees from an animal rescue and are researching llamas.

    All that said, I was wondering if there was anybody else here experienced with homesteading in this region. My biggest problem seems to be with gardening. I haven't a clue! Plant a seed, it's supposed to grow right? LOL I have some corn growing but I think I planted too late and the summer heat is going to scorch them. I also have some sunflower seeds that survived and 2 tomato plants, but I'm sure the sun will get to those too.

    I would ask people in my neighborhood about these things, but the neighbors who are off the grid don't have the water to garden. Those that are on the grid are too good for such nonsense. I am on the grid and therefor have a rather nice well, but no help in learning what I'm doing. All I hear is that we don't quite fit into those nice little zones as nice as the zones think we should.

    Any help regarding gardening, livestock, or any other homesteading tips for desert living would be appreciated.

    ScorpionFlower
     
  2. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    welcome to the forum I am sure plenty of folks in TX will be able to give you advice LOL. I would look at Steve solomons books on dry/desert low water farming check out his web site and online library the best on the net at www.soilandhealth.org Personally if I were you I would move to Arkansas LOL
     

  3. dezeeuwgoats

    dezeeuwgoats Well-Known Member

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    The book Desert Gardening by George Brookbank is the best I've found. He was based in Tucson, writing about desert gardening for a local paper for years. It is my 'bible' for gardening here in Arizona.

    Some of the only things that produce reliably in the really hot months are asparagus (yard long) beans, okra, and eggplant. Everything else seems to give up and die. If you can nurse your tomato plants through - cut them back in the early 'fall', you can get another crop. Cover them for the winter - and you will have perennial tomato plants, which produce lots more the second season.

    I have lived in Arizona for most of my life. Gardening IS tricky - none of the information on the seed packets really applies. We have three short growing seasons, interrupted by freezes in the winter, and extreme heat in the summer.

    I'm nursing my first (multiple) scorpian sting as I write - fun, fun, fun! :grit: If I'm a bit 'off' - you know why! Drat those things!

    Niki
     
  4. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Congrats on the well! (HAving lived in California myself, I understand the importance of water!)

    Some of my Mothers gardening tips.......
    She liked to plant the tomatos where the afternoon sun was blocked to decrease heat stress. The stress from 110 degree weather is eased if the sun is not also shining on them. And, she never planted many tomatos as an indeterminate plant that is 5' tall and 5' wide and supported on a large wooden frame that my Dad would build will give you many tomatos indeed. California has a LONG! growing season! She never cut them back in the Fall, they just started bearing again when they wanted to (Too much heat sterilizes pollen, so for a bit in the late summer the plants may stop bearing.)

    IF you see a nice garden, flower or otherwise, that means the plants grow well in your area. Make note of what is growing and try it in yours.

    The Midwestern Indians used to plant their corn when the oak trees had leaves on them the size of a mouses ear. And, it DOES work.....IN THE MIDWEST! I have NO idea if that works for California, perhaps you could look up the gardening techniques of the American Indians? Especially for your area?

    LAstly, remember to try out all of the cool-weather crops this fall. PErhaps you could garden during the winter since so many veggies survive frost.

    Good luck!
     
  5. blazingguns

    blazingguns Well-Known Member

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    Hi ScorpionFlower, where in the CA Desert do you live? I used to live in Neenach, outside of Lancaster, we had a 2 1/2 acre place, I did not do much gardening, as for me, alot did not grow, or the critters got it, I did good with tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, or anything that grows under ground as the desert sand seems to help with those, but anything up above ground, lettuce, beans ect... just did not seem to work to well for me. I also planted alot of spruce trees, and they tended to grow super fast in that type of soil, where the pine trees just did not seem to take to well. Also had a big problem with gophers there. Vicki
     
  6. xbob

    xbob Member

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    Florida
    Here is a link to a couple in The Sonoran Desert.

    Lots of good documentation and ideas.


    Quote from their site.

    "This website highlights our on-going exploration of some practical aspects of simple, land-integrated living. The emphasis is on simple technologies and skills that address basic needs such as food, water, shelter, etc."

    http://www.omick.net/
     
  7. TexasArtist

    TexasArtist Well-Known Member

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    Welcome
    What town are you in? I used to live in ridgecrest the doorstep of mojave and death valley. Now here's tip for your gardening. When I had mine I went to a parachute school and asked them if they had any old or damaged chutes available. I put pipes up as a border and hung and tied the chute over that. It was so light that the sun still went through but yet didn't burn the plants. Also do some research on which plants do well in sand. If I remember right the strawberries thrived in it. For plants that prefer dirt you could get some of the bakery buckets and fill with dirt and do a container garden. Is there anyway you could go ahead and send your grey water out to give some water to your garden area? That way your not using fresh water all the time? Here I have my sink and tub running out and on the end of the PVC I have some hose that's for R.V.'s so I can move it from place to place ever once in awhile. You just have to remember not to put bad cemicals down the drain.
     
  8. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I used to live in the Victor Valley (before it got huge). I didn't garden, but a friend did. She grew all kinds of stuff successfully. Tomatoes, squash, beans, tomatos, corn and sunflowers. If I remember right, her garden was rather shady, getting it's sun first thing in the morning. Lots and lots of water. That's all I can tell you, but I know she did it.

    Jena
     
  9. JanO

    JanO Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Welcome ScorpionFlower. I grew up in the California Desert (Cochella Valley) and yes it's possible to homestead there. We had about 100 acres of livestock and average temps in the summer were about 118+ degrees. As far as gardening, I always planted in Feb. or early March. Tomatoes, corn, and most other veggies do good, it's just a matter of placement and availability of water. Livestock does good too but you have to think about what they need in the form of water, salt, shade.

    PM me if you have any more questions or need specifics.

    Jan
     
  10. greenbean

    greenbean Well-Known Member

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    Try your local extension Rep. They live there and can tell you how & what to grow, along with watering techniques, etc. I am you neighbor over in New Mexico & I found this site extremely useful for Southwest desert living. http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/howto/howto.html

    To me, desert homesteading is heaven. but there are some things different. Like, I wouldnt let the cats outside, they might just be happy meals for the coyotes.

    There are a lot of fantastic folks on this Forum that will help you along.
     
  11. RobinAnn

    RobinAnn Well-Known Member

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    Thanks greenbean for the link. I'm your northern neighbor in southwest Colorado on the "dry side" of Durango. I feel more akin to NM than I do to the rest of Colorado. We've just built our house here and are looking to do some gardening next year.
     
  12. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    MULCH!!! Lots of mulch. You might want to consider building a brush arbor to shade the garden. I second the grey water bit. And look into tepary beans and other native SW american plants.

    http://www.nativeseeds.org/v2/cat.php?catID=1
     
  13. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Ive grown tomatos and peppers and all kinds of flowers in pots in the Mojave Desert.Shading,protection from wind,and drip irrigation is a combo that works.

    Neighbors swore a tomato wouldnt grow,they were wrong.

    BooBoo
     
  14. ScorpionFlower

    ScorpionFlower Insanity prevails

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    WOW!! I never expected this kind of response!! Thank you everybody! I think I'm still technically in the Victor Valley... maybe. I live in El Mirage, it's half way between Victorville and Lancaster/Palmdale. I live about 1 mile from the LA county line on the San Bernardino side. I have 2.5 acres and we're eyeballing the 2.2 acre lot next to us that's for sale. Right now they want $30,000 which is a pretty good deal for CA. But the town isn't really building up... yet. I hope it doesn't and if it does we plan to hold out and make a profit on the house then high tail it out of CA. Right now our nearest neighbors are 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile from us, and we LOVE it! I'm only about 1/4 mile off the paved road. Call me pampered but I can't live without power as many people here do. LOL Needless to say, being the local girl scout leader, I have kids at my house alot as they don't have power themselves. I don't mind it at all. I end up with lots of help with chores and since we bought a house that was in alot of disrepair it's a blessing. I'm still proud of the deal we got on our place. grin.

    At the moment I have sun flower seeds that are growing around my house, and are doing VERY well... except for the front of the house where they never even sprouted! I wonder if something is different about the dirt in that flowerbed. I also have a bunch of corn still in the small containers. I know they are beyond ready to plant in the fenced area I built for my garden. We dug a trench to put the 3 foot chain link fence down into to try and keep the vermon out. Only problem is that there is NO shade there. I'll definately look into the parachute thing!!! That sounds like a very pratical and frugal solution! Love it! Now I just need to actually get the corn planted as they are currently kept on top of the goats nighttime prison (boys on the inside of the pen and girls on the outside). My girls are big enough that they are reaching on top and eating my corn!!! LOL Little buggers.

    I've been told that the dirt here as alot of acidity??? Maybe I'm wrong on that, it has alot of something. We do have a dairy close by that the trucking company my husband works for delivers for. In fact, even though my hubby is a dispatcher he drives a truck home every night and dumps a load at that dairy. I thought about asking them if we could maybe nab some manure from them for my garden. I've also been trying to compost. I don't have a bin made as yet as we've been busy on other more important projects like getting our electric fence up and running. We already lost 2 female nubian goats and I don't want to lose anymore. Not to mention the before mentioned chickens. For composting I've been taking all the used shavings and alfalfa that the goats waste and move it to a pile close to the garden. Our land is also covered in dead weeds from years of neglect that I'm slowly working on cleaning up. I keep meaning to start collecting kitchen waste to add to the pile, but getting my kids to change their habits seems impossible. They keep dumping it all down the disposal or in the trash still.

    Oh, someone mentioned about the cats being outside. We let them out as they want during the day and TRY to have them inside at night. Out here we have green mojaves, a very deadly snake, not to mention the other rattlers and scorpions (I've found 3 large white ones this week!). I've been told by a number of people that letting the cats "go" outside will deter the snakes. I believe it's working as I haven't yet seen a single snake on our property, last snake season or this one. Now if only I could keep the scorpions away too, YIKES!

    I'll have to talk to my hubby about the gray water! I like that idea, especially since the garden isn't very far from my garage, maybe I can run the gray water from the washing machine and kitchen sink (they share a wall) out there. I don't use bleach and the only cleaner I use is an all purpose one. I'm thinking about going back to only cleaning with vinegar, used to work great and don't know why I stopped. I think I'm going to go back to making my own laundry soap too. HEY, brain storm... I could make goats milk soap and use that to make laundry soap right?? LOL Anyone know about homemade dish soap? For the dishwasher LOL, am I spoiled or just contradictory?

    Ok, rattled yall's eyes off. Time for me to go pick up our friends so they can come over and go swimming.

    Scorpionflower
     
  15. MARYDVM

    MARYDVM Well-Known Member

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    Desert soil is usually alkaline in pH. It also has high Calcium content that binds up iron, so you need to supplement trace minerals periodically.

    I started my garden early this year by digging individual holes of about 3 square feet (after soaking the soil with a slow drip hose - the AZ soil is baked clay, not sand) I filled the holes back in with alternating layers of composted manure and clay soil. Each of these fertile patches are surrounded by undisturbed desert soil and irrigated with a drip system. Right now I've got lots of tomatoes ripening, cukes, zuchinni and eggplant. The grapes, apple, apricot and fig trees I planted last year are all bearing fruit this year. The key to my success has been a never ending supply of mule manure to enrich the soil with.

    Here's a great site for native desert seeds. http://www.nativeseeds.org/v2/cat.php?catID=1