Tag Archives: propagation

Willows Edge – First Casita Campout – April 2021

Pursuing study and projects oriented toward alchemy and ecology, I have had the privileged opportunity to start a land project at Willows Edge Agroforest. This project is intended to make space for ecological mutualism and for a mother tree nursery that can be used to start a variety of tree nurseries. There’s lots of updates I’d like to share about that, but even with the work done and the photos taken, it takes time to report out about it.

Here’s a gallery to share a big weekend at Willows Edge. This was the an eventful occasion: the weekend of my ‘golden’ birthday, my first time camping out in the workshop-cabin now referred to as the casita (Spanish for ‘little house’), the completion of finding permanent homes for the hundreds of trees I began from seed in Fall 2019, and first sight of the organic farm starting on a lease of 2/3rds of this area. A great five days with friends and allies, human and otherwise, shared with much thanks.

To view the album, please visit the Alchemecology page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Alchemecology&set=a.3744731438982390

Tracking agroforest tree plantings and farm features using QGIS

Asked how tree crop enthusiasts are keeping track of plantings and related info, I shared this info:

Metal tree tags on locust stakes are low-tech and work reliably. Next best is grease-pen or indentations on metal or vynil tags, attached to trees themselves. Overall, it’s great to be pro at plant ID, but that doesn’t always work to differentiate between cultivars.

For a more advanced, digital approach, I use QGIS. It offers the benefits described in a comment above about ArcMap, but it is free and open-source software. It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it is a very powerful tool and it can interface with other geospatial technology including GPS, Google Earth, and iNaturalist. Google Earth has an easier learning curve and has more than enough features for most users. If you want to go the QGIS route, I recommend trying the following steps to begin with, and feel free to ask questions in the comments or on gis.stackexchange.com.

  1. Install (and if you can, make a contribution to) QGIS https://www.qgis.org/en/site/.
  2. Find and download raster files (.jpg, .tif) for overhead views of your Area of Interest (AOI). These files are referred to as aerial imagery or orthoimagery, and in the U.S. you can get them from county GIS websites or from https://nationalmap.gov.
  3. Follow a basic tutorial about raster vs. vector file types, and creating shapefiles.
  4. Create a polygon shapefile for your AOI boundary- Create a point shapefile for your individual plants.
  5. Add new attribute fields to your ‘plant points’ shapefile to describe characteristics you want to keep track of. Here’s some fields I use (+ examples/explanation):
    • species (corylus spp.),
    • planted_date (fall 2019),
    • permanent (y/n in case it is to be transplanted),
    • measured (y/n to indicate if its location is precise or estimated),
    • source (to keep track of cultivars, purchases, etc),
    • updated (date for when this entry was last updated, since inevitably the records can get out of date; update this every time you update any other field for this data row)
    • notes (misc info that doesn’t fit cleanly in other fields, try to use this sparingly as it is better to have distinct fields in case later on you want to select or analyze plants based on some attribute)
Screenshot of QGIS in use for agroforestry mapping
Here’s what QGIS looks like in regular use for me. You can add shapes as points, lines, or polygons, which can represent individuals, linear plantings, or orchard blocks. This screenshot shows an individual tree point selected, with the kind of info I described above and more displayed on the right-side ‘attribute table’.

At this stage, you will have a powerful, interactive map of your AOI, with individual points or polygons to depict features of interest on your property, and those features can have a miniature (or massive) database of characteristics associated with them. You can have as many or as few fields as you’d like, and you can even associate fields (e.g. feature_ID) with other datasets, such as yield records or amendment history for an orchard block.

In practice, as I plant or inspect plantings, I jot notes in text messages to myself or on a muddy piece of paper, and then I digitize those notes by updating my QGIS project for the plantings. A text might be as cryptic as “purp os willow x4 3′ e of ne hazels” and I use those notes to enter four purple osier willows planted at 3-foot spacing starting east of the northeast hazelnut hedge. As long as I don’t wait too long between field notes and digitizing, it works well enough, and this could be much more precise if I wanted to take the time to GPS-locate each planting.

Lastly, if you are just getting started with GIS tools, I suggest exploring a basic tutorial about Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS) and about Georeferencing. That will help you get ahead of GIS software’s more confusing aspects, which many people don’t learn about until they are tangled in problems with coordinate systems. Using a CRS appropriate for your region and consistent for all layers in your project will help you avoid problems and make accurate spatial measurements and maps. Again feel free to drop questions in comments or visit the very helpful gis.stackexchange.com.

Example map from QGIS
Here’s a finished map from QGIS. It is not as easy to make proper maps in QGIS but it is possible – a tutorial will save you a ton of time vs. winging it.

Starchy Perennial Plant Ally: Sunchoke

A long term steward of the northeast, Sunchoke aka Earth Apple aka Jerusalem Artichoke aka Helianthus tuberosus. This plant is a sunflower species with a starchy, potato-like root that propagates itself (usually easily) from year to year.

In the video below, Ben Falk harvests and discusses a 400sq.ft. area that grows sunchokes year after year, with minimal maintenance, while building soil. This year’s harvest offers 90lbs of starchy “J-choke” tubers, leaving some in soil to regrow the patch for next year’s harvest. He notes using them as pureed soup after some slow cooking, as well as pickling and lactofermenting them. I have only had them a few times. When I cooked them I cut them thin and stir fried them, cooking them for a while and adding other veggies and seasoning into the mix. They are dense plants and feel like a good staple, able to significantly help mitigate ‘the hunger gap’ as Ben says regarding strains on food supplies and ecology. I look forward to growing, harvesting, and cooking more of this perennial plant ally.

I give thanks.

Field Tree Seeding (Acorns) – April 28, 2020

A nice day planting tree seeds in a field with a dear comrade. This completes my Winter 2020 seed stratification plantings. About 80 acorns went in modular air prune beds, with probably 100 more going in a section of a field that will no longer be mowed (last mowed last summer). In adjascent sections as seen in an image below, there is an area of hybrid hazelnut and shagbark hickory seed plantings (see images & video from that planting), and an area of black walnut dispersal.

As these areas stopped getting mowed they will begin succession toward forest. With some extra help from existing plant and animal communities, these planted seeds making their way up, and ecosystem management / caring disturbance from above: may this field become a bountiful food forest.

What does productive ecosystem restoration look like to you? What about mutual benefit? I consider these questions as I watch this water and seed this field.

Photos from this workday field planting trees from seed are shown below. As I work out a system for sharing photos and videos, I appreciate feedback on viewing options! Please let me know how the gallery works for you and if you have any suggestions.

Continue reading →

Pond Muck Plantings – April 19, 2020

This post begins an exciting series in the Alchemecology project. I’m starting to post media from an agroforestry project I describe on the Willows Edge Agroforest page.

I’m exploring different image gallery options and am open to input. Please let me know suggestions or feedback in the comments below!

Small 3 pool hand dug pond
Field Scuffin’, Pond Diggin’, Mound Muckin’, Tree Plantin’. And some nursery bed seeding with a significant friend.

In those post I share photos from a workday digging small pools in Willows Edge’s wet field. Each pool was dug independently, dammed from the other pools during digging. I did this to get easy access for filling up 5gal buckets of water and to get various other benefits of small ponds in agroforest systems. Some important benefits I’m working with: soil for plantings and mounds, and improved drainage and landscape complexity for the surrounding environment. Read more to see pictures and descriptions!

Continue reading →

Field Tree Seeding (Hazels and Hickories) – April 06, 2020

The surplus of my Winter 2020 seed stratification is going toward the seed bank of this back field as it rewilds. I had planted around 80 shagbark hickories and 800 hybrid hazelnuts in air prune beds earlier this Spring. The field section being planted was mowed Summer 2019 and most of the field has been hayed for years in the past.

These seeds serve as a subtle bump toward hazels and hickories in the decades to come for this forest. The potential of these seeds will be supported by my attention and selective-removal or support for certain species as ecosystem succession brings this field through the stages of life. In adjacent sections I’ve broadcasted and planted some black walnut seeds [and later on planted acorns], and I’ll continuing building the seed bank of useful ‘provision’ trees as this area reforests. In this area, I’m aiming for low-input food forest restoration.

Photos and a video from this workday field planting trees from seed are shown below. As I work out a system for sharing photos and videos, I appreciate feedback on viewing options!