Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.


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Timeless Shepherding

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For Bill Jensen and his son, Jim, ranching is in their blood.  Jensen Ranch has been in the family since 1856, when Jim’s great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Irvin, emigrated to Tomales, California from Ireland.  Irvin Lane is still the name of the street where the ranch is located.

Though sheep ranching remains a strong source of rural identity in West Marin, by 2012 it was largely dying out in practice.  Dropping lamb prices, negligible wool prices, increasing predation threats, drought, recession, and inflated land/cost of living pressures pushed many locals to either drastically reduce stock, or get out of sheep entirely.  Many transitioned to just cattle.  No problems with price or predation with cattle.  But no wool either.

Yet despite all this change, and increased drought in more recent years, Jensen Ranch is alive and thriving.  The Dorset — crossed with Suffolk — sheep are in beautiful condition, the grasses are growing freely and evenly, and Jim speaks about the sheep and landscape with avid, active interest.  He speaks of growing the flock, rather than decreasing.  He speaks of traditions and history, but also of experimentation and innovation.

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Source:  Marie Hoff and Dustin Kahn, photographed by Paige Green, January 31, 2017, Fibershed


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A Walk in the Rain Tells You A Lot About Your Pasture’s Health

Is your soil and forage healthy and absorbing rain and moisture? Grab your raincoat and talk a walk with Victor Shelton to see what your pasture tells you.

The amount of residue and/or forage residual left behind and how it stands makes an impact on runoff. The more retardance, something that breaks impact and slows movement, the less runoff. The more retardance, the more likely the increased intake or infiltration of water, unless the ground is frozen or compacted. Tightly grazed or overgrazed pastures have little retardance, so they also have increased runoff. Sadly, this also means poor plant stands, poor roots, and almost always, compaction. Lack of residue, live plants and roots with compacted layers restricting natural soil drainage are usually some of the muddiest areas under wet winter conditions. The combination usually means major pugging and mud.

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We can limit compaction or reduce its impact by minimizing grazing and vehicular traffic under excessively wet conditions, maintaining good vegetative stop grazing heights, maintaining good live vegetative cover, and maintaining or increasing the organic matter over time by allowing adequate rest between grazing periods, which allows for more root growth. Increased root growth and turnover is key to increasing soil organic matter. A one percent increase in organic matter in the soil can increase the water holding capacity of that soil to the tune of about 14,000 gallons of water.

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Source:  Victor Shelton, February 13, 2017, On Pasture

 


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Creek’s floodwaters cut off Graton residents, spurring emergency repairs

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Heavy rainfall this winter has repeatedly made a mess of a highly traveled road near Graton, swelling a creek that officials say needs emergency work to prevent it from closing a key travel route and putting residents and wildlife at additional risk.

As soon as Tuesday, crews will begin repairs on Green Valley Creek near Green Valley Road, clearing vegetation and removing sediment to keep the waterway, a major tributary to the Russian River, in its channel.

 The flooded road has forced many nearby residents to drive far out of their way this winter, as record rainfall has hammered many areas of Sonoma County. The swollen creek has charted a new course across the road near a bridge where it used to flow under. County officials will have to spend additional effort fixing the damaged road surface after sediment and vegetation have been removed from the channel. The road was last closed on Thursday.
Source:  J.D. Morris, The Press Democrat, February 10, 2017


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Revitalizing Wool: One Dish Mat at a Time

Written by Sasha Wirth and photographed by Kalie Ilana Cassel-Feiss, with landscape and sheep photos by Paige Green

A flock of sheep grazes on a golden hillside, on land that has been in the Pozzi family for four generations. Raised primarily for their meat, the shaggy pelts of these British breeds are coarse and thick – much too rough to end up in a knitting basket.  For years this posed a challenge for Joe Pozzi and his fellow ranchers. With little market for this type of fiber, it ended up being sold for next-to- nothing or used as erosion control and mulch in neighboring farms. But one day, all that changed.

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In the early 90’s, a woman approached Pozzi and told him she was interested in purchasing the wool to use as stuffing in comforters. Studies and news reports were slowly emerging that linked fire-retardant chemicals in home furnishings with health concerns. Wool, she reasoned, doesn’t burn and would be a natural, toxin-free alternative.  Pozzi sensed an opportunity.

 

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Source: Posted on January 24, 2017 by Fibershed

 


16-year-old South African Invents Wonder Material to Fight Drought

South Africa is experiencing the worst droughts on record. Eight of the country’s nine provinces are in a state of disaster, with thousands of communities and millions of households facing water shortages. The agricultural union Agri SA has requested over $1 billion in government subsidies to help farmers through the crisis, but a cut-price solution could soon be available — from an unlikely source.  Johannesburg schoolgirl Kiara Nirghin, 16, recently won the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa with her submission “No More Thirsty Crops.” She created a super absorbent polymer that could be used to combat the nation’s crippling drought crisis. Using orange peels and avocado skins, the precocious student created a super absorbent polymer (SAP) capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, forming reservoirs that would allow farmers to maintain their crops at minimal cost. The polymer has the added benefit of sustainability as it uses recycled and biodegradable waste products.

Source:  Expresso Show


How Plant-Soil Feedback Affects Ecological Diversity

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Plant-soil feedback is the idea that as plants grow in soil, they change the soil, and that the soil in turn affects their growth. When the soil surrounding a given plant promotes the growth of conspecific plants, plant-soil feedback is positive. But when the soil discourages the growth of conspecific plants, the feedback is negative. In independent studies published in Science today (January 12), researchers examined how mycorrhizal fungi—which live in and around plant roots and help plants gather nutrients—affect plant population diversity.

Both groups used greenhouse experiments to model plant-soil feedback, examining plants with different microbial symbioses and nutrient-gathering strategies. François Teste of the University of Western Australia and IMASL-CONICET/UNSL in San Luis, Argentina, and colleagues used their resulting data to predict how plant-soil feedback relationships might affect plant diversity in the long run. Meantime, Jonathan Bennett of the University of British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues tested their greenhouse study findings in the field.

“The take-home message is that these below-ground mechanisms—which, in general, we call the plant-soil feedback mechanism—[are] important in driving local plant diversity,” Teste told The Scientist.

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Source:  Ashley P. Taylor, The Scientist, January 13, 2017