Donations From Thunder Mountain Alpaca Ranch

A year ago next week we drove from our winter sabbatical spot in southern Texas to Arizona. We arrived with windy snow and freezing weather at Thunder Mountain Alpaca Ranch, a very hospitable working ranch near Coronado National Memorial. We stayed and helped out for a few months while scoping out properties for Sabbatical Ranch. They blessed us this week with some donations that we're really excited about and very appreciative of!

Pomegranate Orchard

We got enough pomegranate cuttings to start an orchard if even half of them make it. We planted a couple of them in our food forest where they will be able to soak up the hot afternoon sun and provide filtered shade for other edibles that will appreciate it. The cuttings need constant humidity so that's the purpose of the one-gallon greenhouses in the photo above. The rest of the cuttings went into a mix of soil - rich in organic matter - combined with peat moss for added acidity and a generous bed of gravel underneath for good drainage. 

Here's a cool tidbit you may be able to use: Instead of using synthetic chemical rooting hormones for cuttings, you can use aloe vera which reportedly works better and without any potential harm. Pretty much all plants produce rooting hormones but succulents are particularly rich in them, which is why they root so easily.
Pomegranate Cuttings Mini-Greenhouse

Succulent Ground Cover

One of the important principles in soil health is to always keep soil covered with plants, mulch, or green mulch (aka. ground cover plants). The thick leaves of succulent ground cover plants provide excellent shade protection so the life in the soil doesn't get baked away and they reduce soil erosion caused by wind and rain. 

We were excited to get three different kinds of succulent ground cover cuttings - and plenty of them. These are succulents that do really well here. 

Blue Agave

This is a very majestic desert plant. It is also a succulent with elegantly-curved, sword-like leaves that can extend six to eight feet in every direction. It eventually grows a giant stalk straight up from the center that towers as high as 16 feet. The stalk produces yellow flowers that provide nectar for hummingbirds and beneficial bats, bees, and butterflies. Then the plant dies.

We got several baby blue agaves called pups and planted them around the courtyard. Most parts of blue agave are edible when properly prepared and the fibers are soft enough to be turned into yarn.
Baby Blue Agave


Nicknamed the "Miracle Tree," this drought-tolerant, super-fast growing, superfood tree is amazing and has beautiful flowers. It grows up to 16 feet the first year for some fast shade or wind screen. Nearly every part of it is edible and medicinal for humans and animals such as chickens. Its highly nutritious leaves can be cooked like spinach and have seven times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas! Among many other nutrients it is also full of antioxidants that may boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce fat in the blood and body. Studies show it may help rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, memory and a variety of other things. It is even useful for filtering water.

I hadn't researched moringa propagation before hand. There were some dried leaves and what appeared to be seeds that we collected, but it turned out to be dried flower parts. The seeds are actually inside pods. But moringa is one of the edible and medicinal plants we hope to propagate.

Turkey Fighter

That's what we named the new rooster that was just given to us by a different source. We call him Turkey for short. He used to get along great with the turkey at his old home until she went broody on a chicken egg. The cranky, broody turkey went ballistic on our new little rooster and so he was given to us for his own protection. 

I hope we can keep him safe. We learned how to train coyotes by hazing and our local pack will help keep loners away who don't know the rules. But I'm not at all convinced the locals won't jump at the chance for a chicken dinner so we are constantly on the alert.

Turkey is the smallest in our flock. We have recently noticed that all our chickens are looking surprisingly bigger and fitter than they did when they first went to work for us. Now that we have them trained to forage they hardly eat any of the processed chicken feed any more and even the oldest ones literally jog around now like they're full of energy and ready for a marathon. And they're building soil for us with all that vigor!

Even chickens are smart enough to choose fresh, healthy food. Wouldn't you rather eat chemical-free, nutrient-dense food if given the choice?

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