A little something on permaculture in town

Someday, we’ll talk about the irony of a rural land man that lives in town. But for today, we’re going to take a quick look at a short and easy permaculture strategy you can utilize, even if you live in town. Probably not if you live in an HOA, though. 🙂

What you’re seeing in the pictures below is a pecan tree race. Now, a pecan tree race is much slower than, say, NASCAR. It takes a lot of patience. Originally, I put some swales in to capture and hold rainwater. And they worked wonderfully. Every time it rains in my neighborhood, the ancient waterway begins to run, and I capture and hold a magnificent amount of rainwater.

What I did NOT take into account was the planting succession. For whatever reason, my system of swales would not hold any of the useful food crops I planted. Everything died. I tried blackberries, figs, peaches, mushroom logs, and a couple of willow trees. (Willow trees aren’t edible, I know – But they are useful. And my daughter wanted one.) Nothing lived in any of the locations I tried. Finally I gave up, and let mother nature claim her own. Even buying fruit trees on sale became an expensive and losing proposition. And what DID grow there were native and some adapted species that thrive in North Texas. I’ve got a couple of species of ragweed that grow well here. Both the obnoxious kind that makes a gazillion seed heads if left unattended, and also the greater species of ragweed that burns your skin when you try to pull it. And, the greater ragweed grows really nice and tall, and the city will, in fact, bust your chops on that one.

But the best thing that started growing in the yard was native pecan trees. Now, we already have two mature pecan trees on our 1/2 acre. There can only be so many trees on such a small parcel. But they propagate like weeds! If you were to leave one pecan tree out alone in nature, in one year’s dropping, you’d have thousands of seedling pecan trees. I’ve seen it happen, year in year out since we moved here.

Well, this one particular area of the yard is pretty far back, and pretty well unused, and the swales make it hard to mow back there. So rather than beat up my head up against the wall trying to keep Mother Nature at bay, I decided to embrace her and let her do whatever it is she’s going to do. And in this case, Mother Nature wants to grow pecan trees.

I’d go out there and look at the new shoots, and the ones that seemed to grow best, and thrive hardest, I’d trim their lower branches so the strong ones would grow just a little taller and a little straighter. Then, a couple of times a year, I’d go out and look again, and trim again. I’d trim back hard in the fall, and then trim again hard in the early spring. (And when I say, “trim hard” remember that the tree was first pencil big, then finger big, then stick big, etc. We’re not talking about days worth of brush clearing)

Now, 4 or 5 years later, I have what looks like a pretty clear winner. I’m going to keep the contest going for another few years, just in case something happens to Mr. Big, but at some point, all the non-winners will have to be trimmed back and turned into compost. To use permaculture nomenclature, this whole area of my yard would be like a Zone 4/Zone 5. Zone 4 being lightly managed for timber (or nut harvest) and Zone 5 being completely left unattended. Let me give you a brief tour, by way of a couple of pictures.

Now, if you’ll take a closer look at the photo, look beyond the pecan tree grove and you’ll see a chaste vitex tree and a wall of overgrowth. This is the top swale in my landscape, the highest portion of the property. This is where the water from the streambed enters the property. Over the years, various homebuilders and developers have modified and altered the waterway, to the extent that they dumped their fill and excess there, but, generally speaking, the waterway still runs between the two rows of homes. This is really “the wild area” of the yard. I did plant a native persimmon tree back there, and it does well back there. I shaped that portion of the land to have lots and lots of edge. By “edge,” I mean I built small, curvy islands with lots of shoreline (relative to the size of the space). I am hoping that frogs and toads will begin to habitate that area. The Chaste Vitex tree is not native to North Texas, but has been grown in North America for over 300 years. [Chaste vitex] I like the Vitex because it does well in Texas, and provides ample habitat for all types of pollinators. I compost all kinds of stuff back here. Pizza boxes and other pure brown cardboard compost easily, and no one can see them. They soak up the water that comes through the waterway and fall flat to the ground, in short order. I also compost large tree branches and/or logs, scrap lumber and anything that’s too large or bulky for the normal compost heap. This system has been in place for several seasons, and you can easily see all the organic matter developing behind the swale.

The area in front of the Chaste Vitex tree is the pecan tree race track. The pecan tree that’s winning the race is nearly square in the middle of this small plot. This small parcel, in particular, has been the biggest challenge to keep mowed and looking somewhat neat. Well, neat isn’t the right word. “Neighbors less likely to call the city” is probably a better way to say it. I finally broke down, and re-shaped the swale, so that I can get the mower back there. It won’t hold water as well as before, but I had to do something to knock the jungle back ‘some‘ considering I do, in fact, have neighbors. In this area, in addition to the pecan trees, I have lantana, which is a Texas native, and native sunflowers. I’ve got some native sunflowers that grow higher up in the yard, closer to the house. When these go to seed in later summer, we always cut the heads off and throw them down here. They grow if they can. There’s also some a mustard plant you can see if you look to the right, at the corner of the barn. I tried a keyhole garden here, and it didn’t work. I’m letting the mustard plant go to seed before I dig the whole thing up. The mustard plant will provide early spring food for pollinators. I keep thinking I should just break down and go buy a small bag of Texas highway mix. Bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Mexican hat, and primrose line almost all of Texas highways and provide food for native pollinators, and are pretty to look at.

Ultimately, what I’m creating here is a space of native North Texas forest. A small patch, yes. but a spot nontheless. I saw a video on FB the other day, and there is a new growing method that’s taking Europe by storm, and the idea is to create hundreds and thousands of these “micro-forests.” I didn’t know it was a trend, but that’s exactly what I’m doing, only slightly less intentional. Rather than intentional, massive plantings, I’m largely relying on what wants to grow there. In other words, I’m lazy and don’t want to cut the grass. 🙂

A few weeks ago, we were taking a family walk in a park near us. In some locations of Dallas/Fort Worth, they’ve done a good job with creating public spaces that remain more wild than bulldozing everything in sight. Bear Creek Parkway in Keller is one such area. As I was walking, and thinking, and observing, I saw my backyard in 50 years. I’m unlikely to ever see that area reach it’s climax, and the bulldozers may get to it before it can get a chance to fully mature, but I hope not. I’ve created a little tiny, native micro-forest that if left alone, will provide native flora and fauna for generations to come.

I would encourage everyone to think about little a portion of their yard, no matter how small, revert back to nature. You’ll be amazed by the results.

A little something on tomatoes

I am, by no means, an expert on growing tomatoes. But I have learned a couple of little things over the years and wanted to share them.

We used to live in El Paso, TX for about 7 or 8 years. You could actually grow a pretty decent garden in El Paso, if you had:
1) Shade – The sun there is brutal in the summer. You have to shade tomatoes from the afternoon sun.

2) Water. The Chihuahuan Desert is dry like a bone. If I remember right, average annual rainfall in 8-9″. But there was city water, recycled water, and a desalination plant. And if you lived in the river valley, you got water from the Rio Grande.

3) Soil. The soil was already really good in the river valley, and if you lived on higher ground, you could improve the sandy with organic matter in short order.

4) Because the climate there is so dry, you don’t have to worry so much about molds and fungi. Or mosquitoes. They just don’t grow very much there.

I have a specific memory when we were cleaning off the cherry tomato bush on New Years’ Day, in anticipation of a freeze that night. The bush was heavy-laden with ripe fruit on January 1.

But then we moved to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2014. I have found DFW particularly difficult environment to grow tomatoes. When I first here, I met with a local master gardener at the Farmer’s Market. She encouraged me to stay away from the bigger varieties, and stick with the tomatoes that stay small. These would be your Celebrities, Mortgage Lifters, and Early Girls. The master gardener said to stick to tomatoes that “are about the size of a tennis ball in your hand.”

The reason is that the last frost is typically scheduled for around tax day, April 15. Many experienced tomato gardeners have told me stories about trying to rush that and end up getting fooled by Mother Nature. And then, it gets so hot, so early, that the blooms will drop off, without making fruit. There’s a pretty long fall growing season around here, but I’ve had difficulty with getting the timing right.

One of the keys for successful tomato gardens is time. You have to devote daily attention to the plants. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. If you want to grow something you don’t have to attend to, you can grow a field of weeds. But tomatoes require daily care. When I was working in commercial construction, I never had enough time. I often times had to leave the house at 6:00 AM, or earlier, and I was often coming home at 6:00 PM, or later. Now, as I re-design my life, I’m really trying to devote a little TLC in the morning before I start my day. It seems to be working, as this is the best crop I’ve had.

Every morning, I go out to the tomato garden, pinch off suckers and unhealthy branches, tie-off what needs to be supported, look for pests, etc. I go out in the cool of the morning, before it gets hot, so it’s actually enjoyable. Four years ago, I built my garden bed with a woody core. What some of you may know as hugelkulture, except I built my wood structure BELOW ground, rather than woody mounds ABOVE the ground. Which to my limited understanding of German, I believe that a hugel is a mound, so it’s literally, “mound culture” Regardless, I have a wood core bed in my gardens, where the wood has now been decaying for 4-5 years. The benefits are really starting to show.

The tomatoes seem to be able to withstand the brutal temperatures that North Texas has to offer us this summer. I have added some water to them, but, overall, they seem very healthy. I’ve also tried to grow one tomato plant in a straw bales based on an interview I heard. So far, the results are favorable, and I can easily see incorporating this garden method into my current scheme.

You can see the tomato on the left is about to turn red. You can see the size of the tomatoes is about like a tennis ball.

I’m interested to see how these cherry tomatoes will fare this summer.


Flowers on July 15. Temperature is supposed to get up to 100 degrees today. Flowers will likely drop without producing fruit.

Ripe tomato in my hand for size comparison.

I’ve found that surveyor’s tape is the best way to stake a tomato plant.

Chickens love the compost pile near the garden.

Chickens also love tomatoes, whether green or red. You have to keep the chickens away from the plants, or they will devour it.

SOLD – Vacant Land – Build your DREAM HOME in the vibrant LAKE SIDE community of CANYON CREEK.

SOLD – Vacant Land – Build your DREAM HOME in the vibrant LAKE SIDE community of CANYON CREEK.

This nice level lot with is located on a street with numerous new homes and it is one of the few lots available that are on sewer. Amenities include club house, pool, playground, lake access, boat and fishing docks, tennis courts and gated entry. Outside of the city limits but only minutes from all GORGEOUS GRANBURY has to offer. Slow down, leave the rat race and make some memories. This lot is restricted to site built homes with a minimum of 1300 square feet.

Asking Price: $6,995
Size: 0.05 acres
APN: R000004650
State: Arkansas
County: Hood
General Elevation: 819 ft.
GPS: 32.394740, -97.738908
GPS Coordinates:
32.3947113390124,-97.738713145558 ;32.3948879539811,-97.7389931546448 ;32.3948152027543,-97.7390566302559 ;32.3947601287148,-97.7390966539124 ;32.3947399538573,-97.7391047727641 ;32.3945776310396,-97.7388284929305 ;32.3946678858561,-97.7387506125886 ;32.3947113390124,-97.738713145558
Legal Description: LOT: 259 SUBD: CANYON CREEK III UN 7
Zoning: Residential
Power: In the area
Water: By Alternative System
Sewer: By Alternative System
Roads: Paved
Terrain: Flat
Property Tax: $62.12
Time Limit to Build: None
Closing/Doc. Fees: None



Affordable property in Boone County, AR!

Affordable property in Boone County, AR!

Enjoy a peaceful living away from the hostility of city life. This property is surrounded by many towns and in just a 4-minute drive you can visit some grocery stores, several restaurants, parks, shops, schools, much more! Boone County, where the property is situated. Settle in this parcel now consider it your own.

Experience a living that is easier affordable. Call us now!

Buy Now

Asking Price: $1,776
Size:  0.34 acres
APN: 775-00240-000 and 775-00241-000
State: Arkansas
County: Boone
General Elevation: 819 ft.
GPS: 36.458096, -92.914876
GPS Coordinates: 
36.4582610563316,-92.9148752904095 ;36.4579304322867,-92.9148697180834 ;36.45792842095,-92.9147293507793 ;36.4579274421951,-92.914661036576 ;36.4582595703118,-92.9146668439837 ;36.4582610563316,-92.9148752904095


36.4582610563316,-92.9148752904095 ;36.458262528145,-92.9150818006054 ;36.4579334453349,-92.9150800955398 ;36.4579313151471,-92.914931343353 ;36.4579304322867,-92.9148697180834 ;36.4582610563316,-92.9148752904095
Subdivision Name: CEDAR HEIGHTS 2ND SUB
Zoning: Residential
Power: In the area
Water: By Alternative System
Sewer: By Alternative System
Roads: Paved
Terrain: Flat
Property Tax: $29.76
Time Limit to Build: None
Closing/Doc. Fees: $199




Affordabble 0.18-acre Lot in Boone County, AR!

Affordabble 0.18-acre Lot in Boone County, AR!

A property that will give you great memories worth cherishing. The location couldn’t be better. Only a few minutes to Diamond City with a resort, post office, restaurants, and many more.

What are you waiting for? Contact us now!

Buy Now

Asking Price: $799
Size: 0.18 acres
APN: 775-00043-000
State: Arkansas
County: Boone
General Elevation: 853 ft.
GPS: 36.455610, -92.914381
GPS Coordinates:
36.4557686167474,-92.9143126355878 ;36.4557688179539,-92.9145020363008 ;36.4554103450305,-92.9144981434355 ;36.4554100776476,-92.9143088030536 ;36.4554100486468,-92.914288642795 ;36.4557685950955,-92.9142925768368 ;36.4557686167474,-92.9143126355878
Legal Description: CEDAR HEIGHTS SUB
Zoning: Residential
Power: In the area
Water: By Alternative System
Sewer: By Alternative System
Roads: Paved
Terrain: Flat
Property Tax: $19.84
Time Limit to Build: None
Document Fee: $199











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