Nov 29, 2016

Thinking of Ecological Restoration

I am laying out the progression for ecological restoration of a “denatured” site.
Many components in trophic layers to rebuild plus time, space, and succession to consider

You cannot restore a hydro-logical cycle until you have restored the ecological cycle and biological cycle, which needs the abiotic catalysts of soil nutrients, OM, and moisture.
Available Water Capacity is increased through pioneer plants and the slower biotic transpiration replaces abiotic evaporation.  Slowed loss of water as vapor or run-off allows for increased infiltration through deeper soils by gravity.  The soil is then deepened and fractured by roots and organisms seeking moisture and the nutrients. Drought is buffered with biologically captured soil water.

The progression leads in successions from grasses and forbs to shrubs and eventually trees. Woody material increases the carbon nutrient sink supporting mycelium and fungi.
Daytime transpiration assists night humidity. In the morning as the warming moist air condenses on the cooler leaves, the hydrological micro-cycle is initiated within the forest.

Eventually, once the carrying capacity is stabilized, animals appear or can be introduced. Livestock of some kind is required in all ecological systems. These animals consume the excess biomass and return it to the soil. Trophic levels are now complete with primary producers fed by the bacteria metabolized excrement of mega-fauna.

Within years the trees comb out precipitation from the humid winds. Soil is cooled and rampant with organisms of all sizes. Burrowing rodents turn the soil as birds spread seed across the land. Continuous accumulation of organic material from primary producers increases biomass and biodiversity assuring the resilience of the site.

At first would seem that this can only happen beyond a life time. Hundreds and thousands of years of rock decomposing into soil from the acid of rain. Temperature changes causing the rock to fracture and break into pieces. Lichen's and moss beginning to grow within those spaces. Sending a time frame beyond that of human observation.

Nov 1, 2016

We Are the Re-Generation

We are not Millennials
We are not Gen-Xers
We are not Baby Boomers, Gen Y, or Z.

We are the Re-generation,

Renewing the soil.
Rebuilding forests, watersheds and wetlands.
Regenerating prairies and lakes.
Redefining farming for perhaps the first time in generations 
and building perennial systems that will support our farm families for generations to come.
We save the soil and we save the farm…we save our place on this planet.

Who else is going to do this?  Cities?  Corporations?
All manufactured landscapes reduce the carrying capacity of our planet.
Show me a value of a street, building, or sidewalk that creates a net gain in the capacity of natural systems. Natural Capital is the real value of a place.
The ecological functions within its natural systems define a sites carrying capacity.

Land and water are the only resources for corrective measures; by raising their carrying capacity. Live in the Biotic World, surround yourself with living things and know the difference. Having us here should be a net gain to the planet and its future inhabitants.
Courtesy of Bill Miller, Regenesis Group

Jul 7, 2016

Intensity of Storms Causing Water to be Less Available for Storage.

Two huge rains today, so far. Cats and Dogs, Lamas, Wildebeest. So much at one time we lost way too much to overflow. We increased the size of our downspouts by 33% and still cannot handle the roof run-off. Gutters are fine, Downspouts are adequate. Now the drain tile pipe in the ground is backing up. Overflows at the top. we need to increase the drain tile slope for sure so it drains away faster and possibly a larger diameter pipe. I have been watching this progress for more than ten years. Everything needs to be oversized for the extremes, since the extremes are now the norm. The drain tile backs up three feet above the ground. More slope will create more siphon effect.

May 9, 2016

SouthWoods Video Shorts. Design with Daniel Halsey

Weekly Videos.

BTUs from Tree Species

Fire Wood BTUs by Species
 Its Surprising, the difference between wood species and their output. The efficiency of the stove or fireplace makes a big difference for the actual BTU delivered to the heating system.  Dan

The Energy Content of Wood Species

By September 1, 2015
Method of Calculation: A Cord is defined as a tightly stacked pile of wood with the following dimensions: 4′ x 4′ x 8′. This volume (128 cubic feet) contains an average of 85 cubic feet of wood and 43 cubic feet of air. Each pound of wood contains 8660 BTU’s, but with well-seasoned firewood at 20% moisture, only 6200 BTU’s are available.
Example using Osage Orange: 57 lbs/cu.ft. x 85 (cu.ft./cord) = 4845 (lbs/cord) x 6200 (btu/lb) = 30 (mbtu/cord)

(Dan's Excel Spreadsheet version by BTU)

Available Heat Value of Wood per Cord by Species (Sortable Table)

Common Name Species Name Pounds/Cord MBTU/Cord
Alder, Red or White Alnus rubra or rhombifolia 2,380 14.8
Apple Malus domestica 3,485 21.6
Ash, Black Fraxinus nigra 2,890 17.9
Ash, Green Fraxinus pennsylvanica 3,400 21.1
Ash, Oregon Fraxinus latifolia 3,230 20.0
Ash, White Fraxinus americana 3,485 21.6
Aspen, American (Poplar) Populus tremuloides 2,210 13.7
Balsa Ochroma pyramidale 935 5.8
Bamboo Poaceae bambusoideae 1,615 10.0
Basswood (Linden) Tilia americana 2,210 13.7
Beech, American Fagus grandifolia 3,655 22.7
Beech, Blue (Ironwood) Carpinus caroliniana 3,825 23.7
Birch, Black Betula lenta 3,890 24.2
Birch, Gray Betula populifolia 3,145 19.5
Birch, Yellow Betula alleghaniensis 3,570 22.1
Birch, White (Paper) Betula papyrifera 3,230 20.0
Boxelder (Maple Ash) Acer negundo 2,890 17.9
Buckeye, Ohio Aesculus glabra 1,955 12.1
Butternut (White Walnut) Juglans cinerea 2,125 13.2
Catalpa (Catawba) Catalpa speciosa 2,380 14.8
Cedar, Eastern (Redcedar) Juniperus virginiana 1,955 12.1
Cedar, White (Whitecedar) Thuja occidentalis 1,870 11.6
Cherry, Black Prunus serotina 3,145 19.5
Coffeetree, Kentucky Gymnocladus dioicus 3,060 19.0
Compressed Sawdust Logs * Firelog 2,000 16.5
Cottonwood (Balsam Poplar) Populus trichocarpa 2,040 12.6
Dogwood, Pacific Cornus nuttallii 3,995 24.8
Elm, American Ulmus americana 2,975 18.4
Elm, Red Ulmus rubra 3,060 19.0
Elm, White (Russian) Ulmus laevis 2,890 17.9
Eucalyptus (Red Gum) Eucalyptus camaldulensis 2,975 18.4
Fir, Balsam Abies balsamea 2,125 13.2
Fir, Concolor (White) Abies concolor 2,295 14.2
Fir, Douglas Pseudotsuga menziesii 2,805 17.4
Hackberry Celtis occidentalis 3,145 19.5
Hemlock Pinaceae tsuga 2,465 15.3
Hickory, Bitternut Carya cordiformis 3,825 23.7
Hickory, Shagbark Carya ovata 4,080 25.3
Holly, American Ilex Opaca 3,995 24.8
Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood) Ostrya virginiana 4,250 26.4
Juniper, Rocky Mtn Juniperus scopulorum 3,145 19.5
Locust, Black Robinia pseudoacacia 3,740 23.2
Locust, Honey Gleditsia triacanthos 3,825 23.7
Madrone, Pacific (Arbutus) Arbutus menziesii 3,825 23.7
Maple, Big Leaf Acer macrophyllum 2,890 17.9
Maple, Black Acer nigrum 3,400 21.1
Maple, Red Acer rubrum 3,230 20.0
Maple, Sugar Acer saccharum 3,740 23.2
Maple, Silver Acer saccharinum 2,805 17.4
Mulberry Morus rubra 3,740 23.2
Myrtle, Oregon (Pepperwood) Umbellularia californica 3,485 21.6
Oak, Bur (Mossycup) Quercus macrocarpa 3,655 22.7
Oak, Oregon (Garry) Quercus garryana 3,655 22.7
Oak, Post Quercus stellata 3,825 23.7
Oak, Red Quercus rubra 3,570 22.1
Oak, White Quercus alba 3,910 24.2
Osage Orange (Hedge) Maclura pomifera 4,845 30.0
Persimmon, American Diospyros virginiana 4,165 25.8
Pine, Jack (Canadian) Pinus banksiana 2,380 14.8
Pine, Lodgepole Pinus contora latifolia 2,465 15.3
Pine, Norway (Red) Pinus resinosa 2,890 17.9
Pine, Pitch Pinus rigida 2,635 16.3
Pine, Ponderosa Pinus ponderosa 2,380 14.8
Pine, White (Eastern) Pinus strobus 2,125 13.2
Pine, White (Idaho) Pinus monticola 2,236 14.3
Sorrel (Sourwood) Oxydendrum arboreum 3,060 19.0
Spruce, Engelmann Picea engelmannii 1,955 12.1
Spruce, Sitka Picea sitchensis 2,380 14.8
Spruce, Black Picea mariana 2,465 15.3
Sycamore, American Platanus occidentalis 2,890 17.9
Tamarack (Larch) Larix laricina 3,145 19.5
Walnut, Black Juglans nigra 3,230 20.0
Willow Salix 2,295 14.2
This list was inspired by and enhanced from the fine work found in Sweep’s Library.

Jan 26, 2016

Press Release, PRI/USA Grant Awards 2016


1/28/16 Reno, Nevada.
The Permaculture Research Institute/ USA  awards a $5000.00 URBAN HOMESTEAD GRANT to the Be the Change Project; managed by Katy and Kyle Chandler-Isacksen of Reno, Nevada. The urban homestead is dedicated to permaculture, service, community building, climate and social justice work - particularly at the neighborhood scale.  The heart of THC is the half-acre urban homestead located in a socio-economically diverse part of Reno where Katy and Kyle host classes, workshops, tours and field trips.  The Be the Change urban homestead is electricity, fossil fuel, car-free, and is an example of simple living that highlights permaculture principles in action.
With PRI/USA support, Be the Change will be improving both their urban homestead and the development of an Urban Folk School.  This re-skilling and permaculture learning center will become a food forest, urban intensive garden, and research site for “permanent culture”. The food forest and garden will be powerful hands-on learning tools for neighbors, young urban farmers in training, school groups, Reno’s permaculture guild, City officials/commissions, visitors, etc. The Urban Folk School provides a location for community gathering and organizing toward improving quality of life in the neighborhood and city. The site is also a wonderful public space to demonstrate permaculture’s capacity to take barren urban land and make it a beautiful and productive habitat for neighborhood humans and wildlife alike. 

Funds will be used for;
Food, Plants, and Habitat Development:

  1. food forests and nursery (bare root plants and seeds, mulch, extra compost and amendments)
  2. Intensive gardens (low/mid tunnels, row covers, soil building and planting tools, scale, food cleaning/sharing station, green house shelves/trays)
  3. integrated animal systems (fencing, animal tractor materials)

Drip irrigation materials for food forests, intensive gardens at both sites. seasonal  growing under row covers, and poly tunnels.

Reno Rot Rider Compost System
  1. Bike and trailer parts, bins, buckets, tools
  2. hitch, and hitch connector kits, tires, rims and tubes, hardware
  3. aluminum ladder for a frame, EMT conduit, steel signage and learning/sharing materials

PRI/USA is a non-profit service organization directed by Daniel Halsey, Geoff Lawton, Rhamis Kent, Owen Herbutzel, and Neil Bertrando.
Grants are awarded as beneficiaries apply, show resilient permaculture practices, and demonstrate a commitment to raise awareness of permaculture principles. Grants range from $5000 to $10,000.

Making a Plant Symbols Library, Part 2

Get organized and get fast. Spend your time thinking about the strategy, not the software.

Making Plant Symbols Library, Part 1 (Short) Then see Part 2

Organizing the plant symbols and creating time saving tools.
Part of the SouthWoods Advanced Professional Design Cooperative.

How to Use a Standardized Scale for Permaculture Design

In a quest to stream line the design process we use a standard scale for all our work and then resize the artwork for final delivery. That way we always have the same plant symbols available at a common scale and the math is simple too. We are also changing our labeling to clean up the process and add more information. Don't number the plants, "ID" the plants. As always , its a work in progress.

Nov 16, 2015

Air Cleaning Polycultures for the Home

Air Cleaning Polycultures for the Home

With growing trends of urbanization and people spending more of their time indoors, the quality of indoor air is an important health consideration. Homes in cold climates reduce airflow as windows close and most apartment builds offer little ventilation. The increased use of synthetic materials over natural fibers and minerals, along with chemicals used in building materials have brought increased volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the home and work place. These air born VOCs range from carcinogens like formaldehyde to petrochemicals like benzene and xylene. This is added to more familiar household chemicals such as alcohols and ammonia. Obvious sources like paints and adhesives combine with subtle sources like grocery bags, cosmetics, paper towels, and upholstery. All emit this wide range of chemicals into our indoor spaces and the air we breath.
As building practices better seal buildings from outdoor air, we are also creating the problem of trapping these air born chemicals indoors. When The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began researching how to maintain a healthy indoor environment for astronauts traveling to the moon (which is an excellent extreme example of our indoor air problems, they needed to address high amounts of chemical emissions and with no possibility of outdoor air exchange) they quickly realized that the best air and water filters were not products of their own engineering, but from nature: plants.
A series of studies conducted by NASA and Wolverton Environmental Services, Inc. assessed the air-cleaning properties of a wide range of common indoor plants, identifying their varying capacities for chemical removal.  Subsequent studies have also found microorganisms in the potting substrate important contributors to emission absorption. The collection of plants that have been identified as air-cleaning species can grow in a large range of  indoor environments. Furthermore, their use is not limited to air cleaning potential; for all of these plants can contribute additional functions to our indoor spaces whether it be ornamental, medicinal, or edible. Taking into consideration the unique micro-climates and need of your home, you can build your own efficient air filtration system with a polyculture of air cleaning plants. The Natural Capital Pant Database has documented these plants to help subscribers build their own air cleaning polycultures for indoor use. 

Two polycultures for indoor air cleaning
Indoor air-cleaning polyculture 1:
  1. -Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) 
  2. -Sword Fern/Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
  3. -Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
  4. -Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  5. -Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
  6. -Australian Sword Fern/Kimberley Queen(Nephrolepis obliterata)
Features: Best in part to full shade and high humidity, have high transpiration rates, sensitive to cold temperatures, all grown for their foliage with the exception of the peace lily (which has a white spathe/spadix structure).
Chemicals removed: Formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, xylene, ammonia, alcohols, carbon monoxide.

Indoor air-cleaning polyculture 2:
  1. -Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
  2. -Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  3. -Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii 'Alii')
  4. -Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
  5. -Aloe (Aloe vera)

Features: Best in full sun to part sun, low humidity requirements, med-high temperature requirements, high insect resistance, very ornamental plants with varying textures and colors. 
Chemicals removed: Formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene, xylene, ammonia

 Ref:  Wolverton, NASA

May 23, 2015

Touring the Cedars of Lebanon

Hosts Nadine Modad of AUB and Charbel Abou Haidar Land O' Lakes Farmer to Farmer Program

Nabil Nemer, USEK

The Salida Lodge at Tannourine Cedar Reserve

Apr 18, 2015

Blocks of Change

So many issues with change. We are baling Sand Love Grass for soil OM in the red sandy soils of West Texas. Two balers have tapped out, saying the ground is too rough. An ecologist said we should burn and/or disk the entire 160 acres of bumpy sparse grass land, while I see the plowed cotton fields blowing away nearby. Grazing is expensive if you want paddocks, otherwise cattle ranchers are happy to let the cattle in and eat it to nothing.

With tufts of grass far apart. what is the low calorie solution. Scything seems too energy costly. Long term, we need OM, ground cover, wind abatement. All on 6 - 12 annual inches of rain. No key-lining or sub-soiling needed.  For now we are focusing on the zone 1 homestead, hoop houses, berms, and plants. The field will wait.

Apr 15, 2015

Slugs Occupy Vermicomposting Farm. Good, Bad, Ugly? Depends.

In seeing the slugs in the worm boxes at American University in Beirut,  I thought I would investigate whether they are carnivorous. Some are. Its good to familiarize ourselves with co-occupants in the worm ecology. I wonder if they eat the worm eggs.
Testacella haliotidea Draparnaud

A Leopard Slug is omnivorous, eating other small slugs. But mostly eats fungus and OM.
Leopard slugs are know vectors of meningitis (just don’t eat them raw).    This photo is from the AUB worm farm.
Probably not an issue and not a plant eater.

Worm-Eating Slugs Family Testacellidae

Fauna of Soil Ecology
This carnivorous semi-slug  spends most of its time underground, where it   hunts and consumes earthworms, snails and slugs . The shelled  slug  is commonly   found in disturbed habitats like gardens, parks and agricultural fields.   This slug  is able to burrow to depths of up to one meter during periods of   aestivation. This animal has not been reported to feed on plant material and as such should not pose a threat to agricultural produce.  The ecological impact that this species may have on other terrestrial   mollusc  species has not been documented.

Worm-Eating Slugs (Testacella species, Family Testacellidae): Found in Europe, Africa,  Britain, and Islands in the North Atlantic. These slugs with a shell (yeah, they are still called slugs, not snails) primarily eat earthworms and live most their lives underground. There are some reports of these slugs eating insect larvae as well.
Ghost Slug (Selenochlamys ysbryda, Family Trigonochlamydidae): Found in the UK and Europe down to Turkey. Also a earthworm eater.

Mar 26, 2015

Permaculture Master Planning Course - Daniel Halsey

Permaculture Master Planning Course with Daniel Halsey

Location: Red Deer - TBA
This event occurs daily from August 11 - 14 starting at 9:00 am until 5:00 pm.


The Centre for Urban Agriculture in Alberta
is pleased to host Daniel Halsey of the Permaculture Research Institute USA for a 4-day Permaculture Master Planning course from Tuesday, Aug 11 through Friday, Aug 14!

Please note: This intensive design course is limited to 20 people. Having completed an Introduction to Permaculture workshop or the full 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate course will enhance your experience but are not required to take this course. All proceeds go towards the certification of The Centre for Urban Agriculture in Alberta as an Urban Permaculture Research Institute.


Design your landscape working with nature by recognizing that our ecological landscape is filled with possibilities. Locked-up in urban lots, fields, or broad acres are the means to sustain an abundant lifestyle for growing food, collecting fresh rain water for domestic use, and reducing dependence on purchased consumer resources. This four-day intensive design course will unlock the ecological capital that abounds within your own landscape and the neighborhood that surrounds it.

Participants will be taught the skills and foresight needed to assess, conceptualize and design a property into a perpetual harvest garden that aligns with and leverages the local climate and available resources. Learn ecological landscape design language and techniques while using the permaculture design process to create an ecologically-resilient residence and harvest-abundant landscape. (Full course details below - subject to change)

Trainer Bio:

Daniel Halsey, MPS, PRI Certified Designer and Instructor
Dan is a certified permaculture designer and teacher for the Permaculture Research Institute USA. Certified by the International Permaculture Research Institute (Australia), Dan travels nationally and internationally teaching permaculture and ecological design to permaculture design certification students, homesteaders, and landscape designers.

Co-author of Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems, and originator of the Natural Capital Plant Database, Dan and his wife Ginny manage self-sustaining forest gardens of fruiting trees, shrubs and nut crops at SouthWoods Forest Gardens, a permaculture design, demonstration, and educational site located on a twenty-five-acre wetland savannah in Prior Lake, Minnesota



Please note: This intensive design course is limited to 20 people. Having completed an Introduction to Permaculture workshop or the full 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate course will enhance your experience but are not required to take this course. All proceeds go towards the certification of The Centre for Urban Agriculture in Alberta as an Urban Permaculture Research Institute.

Registration Fees:

$675.00 + GST* per person
*includes a copy of Integrated Forest Gardening, lunches and snacks / beverages

(early-bird rate $600 if registered and paid by May 31, 2015) - cash, cheque, or e-money transfer accepted. Registration deadline is July 12, 2015. Sorry, no refunds available after the deadline.

To register please contact Rene Michalak at 403-505-4550 or by email at

Student materials list is provided below; some items will need to be purchased at a specialty art or office supply store if you do not already have them; we recommend Alberta Art & Drafting in Red Deer.
  • T-square 36”,
  • Drafting tape,
  • Triangles: 45-90 degree & 30-60 degree,
  • scissors,
  • compass,
  • drafting pencils - HB, B, 2H, 4H,
  • 8 scale ruler,
  • large and small circle templates,
  • tube for carrying drawings,
  • 8-scale graph paper;
  • sheet size 24” x 36” (approx. 4 sheets), 24" x 36" vellum paper , 2 sheets bumwad (tracing) paper,
  • glue stick or double-stick tape,
  • eraser,
  • black ink pens - minimum of 3 tips: narrow, medium, bold


There are many quality and affordable hotels in the Red Deer area. Local camping and billeting options are also available but please book your accommodations early (summer is a busy time for tourism):

Full Course Details:

(Subject to change)

This 4-day course will culminate with each participant completing a technical design ready for implementation. Make sure you keep time available outside of class to complete the assignments. Students working on a personal design for their property should secure a detailed property map prior to the course.

Who should attend?
Landscapers, architects, landscape architects, homesteaders, ecological designers, teachers, resource engineers, home/land owners, and permaculturists!


Course delivery is a combination of 3-hour lectures, demonstrations, and practice sessions with extensive homework assignments (4 to 5 hrs). The course wraps up with a final design workshop finishing the concepts with plants, materials, and final critique.

Day 1 - Homestead Design I: Base Plan and Homestead Site Assessment
Overview Paper Language, Bubble Maps, Concept, Draft, Final Draft, Final Design
Assignment - Homestead Base Mapping Measurements. Demonstration: Site Assessment and Base Mapping

Day 2 - Homestead Design II: Permaculture Concepts for the Sustained Homestead
Classroom Pencil Practice: Tools, Landscape Symbols, Complete Your Base Map, and using "bumwad". Assignment - Finish base map and start bubble maps. Demonstration: Access, Water Works, and Homestead Resources
Day 3 - Homestead Design III: The Design Progression
Classroom Pencil Practice: Refining the concepts, allowing natures energy flow to enhance soil fertility and transfer bubble concepts to draft design. Demonstration: Systems Thinking and Design

Day 4 - Homestead Design IV: Concept and Draft Design Workshop
Style Demo, Practice and Supervised Work Session. Determining plant size and placement, polycultures, ecological functions and seasonal access. Assignment - Complete draft design. Demonstration: Polyculture Design, Ecological Facilitation, Resource Partitioning

Final Design and Supervised Work Session
The final steps to a sustainable design: Plant Selection, Ground Covers, Material Calculations, Implementation Notes and Logistics. Demonstration: Plant Database Queries and Internet Resources on Urban Design

For more info on Dan's design process check out, "How to Create a Permaculture Design" at - it's a 20-minute video where the theory of Permaculture pattern design is explored using Dan's SouthWoods Forest Gardens demonstration site. Here's the teaser trailer...

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Jan 20, 2015

What is our ecological function on the Earth?

Through research and investigation every plant and animal on the earth has been categorized for its characteristics and ecological functions. Every animal except human beings. What is the ecological function of mankind on the Earth?

Having studied and designed agricultural ecosystems as well as sustainable homesteads, I have come to the conclusion that the ecological function of mankind is to raise the carrying capacity of our planet. We can by good design and good decisions actually increase the availability of food, clean water, clean air, and the resources for a comfortable lifestyle.

On my own homestead and on those I have designed it is obvious that it does not take much effort to create a self sustaining and resilient food production system. It is a system that over-yields and can feed many more people than those occupying the land. It is also a system that feeds all the plants and organisms that support it. The principles of permaculture, holistic management, and a restorative culture make possible the vision to create a new future where everybody gets fed.

Jan 6, 2015

First Year Wintering Livestock, Goats for Now

When you enter permaculture and begin listening to the land, you soon learn to sense the site conditions as they change, sometimes before. Each season fine tunes our perception to deeper detail. It wasn't until I owned and tended livestock that I truly felt the harmonics of change.

The sensory connection to the land is immediate upon the implementation of a design or planting space. The connection with a living creature, especially one as intelligent as horses, goats or pigs brings a whole new level of understanding. Watching the thermometer, wind, and humidity brings a realization that something else is out there enduring the conditions that would otherwise make quick history of ourselves.

Dec 30, 2014

Beneficial Habitat: Beetle Banks

Ground Beetle
Large expanses and widening fields for crop production have substantially limited the access of beneficial insects to field crop prey. The ecological services provided by naturally occurring pest predators is increasingly impeded spatially as the fields grow. The field edges, being the over-wintering and refuge for beneficial insects, are the primary source of conservation pest management in many crops. As much as 35% of pest management and crop protection comes from naturally occurring biological controls. Increasing the natural capital needed to enhance the supportive habitat is a low investment and a high return strategy for growers. 

This technique is also important in the ecological design of food production areas on homestead or in a production orchard. Many times we think of beneficial habitat for the use of pollinators and flying insects. We need to remember that there is a great diversity of beneficial insects that need habitat. Beetles play an important role in controlling past populations in our growing spaces.

Beetle Banks, suggested by Southerton (1984) are grassy ridges within crop fields, which by their position, decrease the travel distance of flying or crawling beneficial insects. Field edges of rough Tussock grass covered banks (Luff 1966) support a high density population of Caribidae ( Large Ground Beetles) and Staphylinidae (Smaller Rove Beetles) (Thomas 1991).   
Rove Beetle
Reducing the distance from edge to edge increased the frequency and duration of insects in the center areas of the fields. Especially in Spring, as the insects migrate further into the field following aphid and other pest populations. Although Collins, et al (2002) refers to it as decreasing field size, I believe the banks are an integral part of the field itself and a permanent fixture within the cropping system. The control of cereal aphids has been the motivation for many of the studies to be cited. Polyphagous arthropods are important players in the natural biocontrol of wheat pests. Conservation Biocontrols are the  " ..techniques to encourage and conserve populations of naturally occurring (pest) predators..." (Collins et al, 2003).
According to Collins et al. (2003), the most needed Integrated Crop Management (ICM) component is natural biocontrol agents (BCA).  The most important BCAs in Cereal aphid control are polyphagous (predators of multiple prey, not specific) arthropods. Since expanded agricultural intensification has removed or degraded field boundary areas, added habitat spaces are needed for increased polyphagous predator benefit.

Field edges of rough Tussock grass covered banks (Luff 1966) support a high density population of Caribidae and Staphylinidae (Thomas 1991).  Beetle Banks, suggested by Southerton (1984) are grassy ridges within crop fields, which by their position, decrease the travel distance of  beneficial insects, flying or crawling. Reducing the distance from edge to edge increases the frequency and duration of beneficial insects in the central areas of the growing space. 
Function of Beetle Banks
The function of the beetle banks is to increase supportive habitat for conservation biocontrol, reduce stress on predators of crop pests, and the travel time from over wintering habitat to field center.  The over-wintering refuges (Beetle banks) are placed mid field and allowed to regenerate foliage from seed and natural sources. Colonization by local plant, animal, and insect genera may take time to disperse from existing habitat.  Transfers from previous spaces are affected by soil, distance and quality of field margins, and insecticide used in field areas. Generally, banks are seeded and left to natural species movement (Collins et al. 2003).  From all studies reviewed, none inoculated the beetle banks with field margin soils or plants. Barren strips were seeded and started without the trophic system existing in the unplowed habitat of field edges. Using the comparison of the field margins as the banks mature gives a good baseline for the progress of the monitored insects. In practice it may be better to transplant dormant grasses and soils from the margins into the banks to inoculate and accelerate the banks succession

Key design considerations

Provide plant diversity and structure in the buffer.

Protect buffer from disturbances (e.g., pesticides, tillage).

Predation of insect pests generally increases with the percentage of buffer habitat in the area.

US Forest Service 1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
Locate buffers throughout the fields and landscape to encourage dispersal of beneficial insects.

Buffers may provide habitat for some pest insects but this can be reduced by selecting appropriate plants Beetle banks are long, planted berms that provide habitat for beneficial insects.

The Goal

  1. The manipulated habitat increases the population of beneficial insects
  2. Beneficial arthropods move from the enhanced habitat to have an area of agricultural value
  3. The beneficial arthropods established and/or remain in growing space long enough to provide an significant impact on the pests for increased harvest              (from Loughner R. et al, 2010)

Do beetle banks do this?

Can the habitat enrichment increase PCs enrichment and the supporting trophic levels to sustain an ecological and best economic benefit?

Design and Installation

•With farm equipment, the bank is created by careful two-direction plowing, with furrows plowed against each other, during autumn cultivation.
•Machine drill or hand sow with a mixture of perennial grasses including at least 30% tussock-and mat-forming species (in the UK, these include orchard grass (Dactylisglomerata) and Timothy grass). •The rest of the mixture can consist of fescues and bents.
•For good establishment these can be sown at a rate of 70 kg/ha (62 lbs./acre).
•Three mowing cuts may be necessary in the first year (when the sward reaches 10cm) to encourage grasses to tiller and control invasive annual weeds.
•Once established, cuts are needed only to encourage dead tussocks to regenerate, and to control woody species (approx. once in three years).
•Being within the field, beetle banks are particularly susceptible to pesticide drift.

Dec 28, 2014

Using Adobe Illustrator for Ecological Strategy and Landscape Design

Using Adobe Illustrator for Ecological 

Strategy and Landscape Design 

 January 23-26, 2015

An intensive course with direct instruction for learning Adobe Illustrator skills and work flow.
Click to register here: SouthWoods AI
By popular demand we offer this intense training to get pencil design and ecological concepts into professional graphics on computer.  Small intensive design classes are limited to 12 tables. Register early.  Classes will be held at SouthWoods in Prior Lake, MN. See details below. Any class can be taken individually, however the Adobe® Illustrator  series is a progressive learning format building from all sessions. New students must sign up for HLDS to attend the Illustrator training. Past HLDS students or experieced designers may take Illustrator training as a stand alone course.

A trial version of AI can be downloaded at:
Students will have access to tutorials, example files, templates, symbol libraries, take home exercises, importable survey graphics, and much more.

Instructor: Daniel Halsey, MPS, Certified Designer and Teacher of Permaculture Design

Session 1   Digital Design Training I: Basic tools, layers, and software operation  
Session 2   Digital Design Training II: Using Tools, Workspace, and the Digital Base Map

Session 3   Digital Design Training III: Pencil Concepts to Digital Graphics, Symbol Libraries
Session 4   Digital Design Training IV: The Key, Plant Lists, Call Outs, Output
Session 5   Digital Design Training V: Supervised Work Session for Active Project Sites
Call SouthWoods for sponsoring a series at your location.  612-720-5001  

Digital Design I: Basic tools, layers, and software operation
Overview- The structure and features of AI and how we it them in design. Each week we will have case studies, incorporate the design process, and look at the step by step layering of information and details . Assignment: Take home hand-outs and practice symbols and graphic styles.

Digital Design II: Using Tools, Workspace, and the Digital Base Map
Classroom Tool Practice: Tools, Making Landscape Symbols, Importing your resource files and base map to the title block.
Assignment: Bring finished basemap to next class, output BW copy at OfficeMax.

Digital Design III: Pencil Concepts to Digital Graphics, Symbol Libraries
Classroom Skill practice: Refining the concepts, shapes, and readability. Looking for patterns in the landscape.

Digital Design IV: Supervised Work Session for Designs
Style Demo, Practice and Supervised Work Session. . Assignment - Complete draft design Demonstration: Calculating spaces and materials wih Acrobat.  

Digital Design V: The Key, Plant Lists, Call Outs, Output and Narratives

Materials List: Laptop PC or Mac, Updated Adobe Illustrator Software, Plant Database Access (supplied),
Printer (at home), Adobe Acrobat for PDFs, Internet Access, & Drop Box® Access Account (No iPads or Surface PCs).

When:  Friday Night, Saturday 9-4, Sunday10-5, Monday 9-5, (24 hours of instruction)           
Where: SouthWoods Forest Gardens, 17766 Langford Blvd, Prior Lake, MN 55372
Limited tables so design classes are limited to 12 people. 
$400 for the weekend. Lodging not included.
$500 for LACES credits.

Permaculture and Polyculture Consulting and Design

Permaculture and Polyculture Consulting and Design
Getting to know your property, the plants you have and those you can grow, is a fulfilling endeavor. With most I am the steward of the land. I give them good soil biology and they do the rest. If I group them in cohesive plant communities, they respond with greater yields. If I encourage the micro-organisms (Fungus and bacteria) , the roots obsorb more nutrients making a pest and disease resistant plant. A stronger plant that gives us more organic food and takes less energy.

A Ten Acre Farm Transformed to an Edible Forest Garden

A Ten Acre Farm Transformed to an Edible Forest Garden
Self Renewing Fertility, Soil Building, Water Catchment, Tea Trail Swale, Erosion Control and Native American Medicinals