In 2012 CBP started making raised beds in typical fashion, non-treated lumber 4 x 8, filled and planted. In addition we cultivated more raised rows, most about 6 feet wide and as long as 25’ long, planted those with annuals, set up wind breaks, dutifully watered and watched to see what happened.

Hoop_Houses

Up until that point no new trees had been planted and the property was pretty much the way Will found it when he came to live here full time in July of 2009 and found the orchard trees dying, the original irrigation system horribly inefficient causing the well pump to be constantly over taxed, over an acre of attempted lawn losing the battle to both Bsk climate and hot searing wind and sun resulting in large burned dry grassless patches.

I won’t even bring up what appears to be ancient serpent mounds (you can see in Google Aerial photos) that were in fact remnant moguls from an abandoned motocross track two owners back. Neighbors have stopped and asked us if we’ve found any buried cars yet, disposed of by the grand theft auto / bank robbing third owner back. Not yet.

Old_MX_Track

To live here, on a 21 acre parcel, in a sea of deadly mono crop dry Wheatland surrounded by thousands of acres of ONE SPECIES of vegetation is to be an oasis of sorts in an ocean of unsustainable insanity. The soil wasn’t soil when Will arrived here – it was dirt – supposedly “Ritzville Silt – Loam” is the classification given on the NRCS office soil map, but the Loam had long since given up, a victim of over cropping, over grazing and over neglect. In fact the person who sold the property to Will remarked “I never did find one earth worm all the time I gardened there” and that was 5 years before he sold it to us.

Big_Ag_Dust

While he had tried his best to take a run at mulching, he knew no one and had to rely on one farmer to fill the 30’ flatbed truck with old end of the year straw that the guy had left over and sometimes that was hit or miss and besides, have you ever tried to unload a 30’ flatbed of 12 ton of straw by yourself? It was slow going.

One of the main tenets of PC is Observe – don’t react, don’t jump mindlessly into reactionary mode but plan, design, know where it is you need to go. In 2012 the vegetables in the beds went crazy, there were plants everywhere and so were the grasshoppers and instead of declaring war we watched and watched and watched. Big deal we lost some new transplants, ok to be honest more than 30 but so what. In 2013, although we have no hard scientific evidence, only anecdotal observation at best, there were significantly less grasshoppers. Why?

CBP is 8 miles to the nearest town but they have lots of trees and lawns and shrubs and organic matter – let’s call it Biomass, Mulch, Wildlife habitat, Gold. It also happened that I was invited to give a talk on composting at the local Library and one thing led to another and I got an email that someone’s local relative had what amounted to 7 full truckloads of not just straw but 2 year old straw. Again, Gold – 14 tons of it. I got thinking about the town’s Biomass and wondering how to capture some of it. Of course one stop into the County office to talk with Mr. I’m the Boss told me they weren’t going to be much help (in fact it’s called the Dept of Making You Sad by Paul Wheaton). When did stupid ever stop me? Never.

I know a landlord and three landscapers so we had our own private meeting and since that time we have hauled nearly 12 tons of others peoples unwanted stuff and dumped it on the property. Yes we’re extremely selective about where we utilize it – pesticides etc. and it goes towards making soil long term to be ready by 2018 for planting trees – again – Design Plan and I forgot to mention the Starbucks contract which has provided us with 3 tons of coffee grounds since March of 2012 which we have promptly dumped all over the two acre section Will Kearns is restoring.

So standing on the deck at 7pm on a warm May evening we heard a sound and thought no, those can’t be crickets, where would they have come from? Grasshoppers are everywhere and the fear that we could become an all-you-can-eat-buffet was a very real possibility and one that concerned us. In fact last year the landlord (who provides a space for CBP to park the flat bed on one of his rental properties) asked me if we were in the middle of nowhere and explained he had significant problems with inviting every bad pest in 30 miles to his Oregon organic property when he tried to create an oasis.

Google search: sounds of crickets, sounds of grasshoppers, what do crickets eat? What do grasshoppers eat? Where do crickets live? Where do grasshoppers live?

Aaaahaaaaa. Grasshoppers and crickets are in the same family (Orthoptera) but grasshoppers are strictly vegetarians and like Dry Grassy environments relatively devoid of trees. Crickets enjoy Moist Treed environments, full of rotting organic matter and are omnivores. When they have enough decomposing organic matter, and other insects to eat they prefer not to eat vegetation (like annual vegetables) and they do in fact eat grasshoppers.

Eastern Washington has a couple of native crickets like these two:

Black Field Cricket

Black Field Cricket

Tree Cricket

Tree Cricket

So back to standing on the deck after our Google search. It turns out that by implementing a sound permaculture design, with all the inherent; learning, knowledge, PDC’s, research, principals, concepts & theories that any degraded property can move from imbalance to ecological balance. Mulching doesn’t have to be complicated. It restores and protects water hydrology, existing trees, turns dirt to soil, provides cover for a multitude of species and helps new trees thrive. And, if you don’t overreact, but do take the time to observe,  you can enjoy the sounds of crickets.