Desert Water

These collection of clips are from the desert in the south of Israel. These are usually sudden events (though fairly predictable after rainfall events) in otherwise open and dry river-beds. Vast amounts of water that could have been held, directed and put to some kind of ecological use … but most of it just flows through (I don’t know where to).

Sepp Holzer Creates a Spring Beneath Terraces

Sepp Holzer’s ingenuity at work. In constructing terraces he comes across a hardpan layer of clay. He lays about 100 of slitted pipes that drain naturally with the contour of the hardpan and those pipes collect into a cistern which is used to create head pressure for a house downhill from it. The terraces are forested, quality, naturally mulched and fertilized soil is built, that soil retains lots of moisture, moisture stops draining at the hardpan, meets the slitted pipes and becomes a spring … now flowing at 5 liters per minute all year long (regardless of climate):


via zach @ Permies


Water First

I really need to get this short post out of my system because its stuck in my throat …

When I first learned about Permaculture I got lost in a bad way. So many bits and pieces of information are associated with Permaculture that I could not make sense of it all. Particularly I couldn’t find any point of origin … something that provides a view I could relate to. A first crystallization came when I finally understood something about soil fertility … that the main crop on any farm should be fertile soil. Food that you can eat or sell or feed to animals is an extra layer … what is left after soil fertility has been improved (as opposed to the cycle of depletion typical of standard agriculture).

It is said that labyrinth puzzles are easier to solve from the end to the beginning. Soil fertility is now an obvious part of my consciousness (simply put: hugelkultur beds and forest gardening). In that spirit over the last few months I feel as if I’ve taken another step back towards the beginning of this puzzle. The new step is water. It is impossible to do anything without water.

We have a well that supplies our house needs but is not enough to water plants and gardens. Some people in our area dig large water holes that tap into the aquifer and they rely on it heavily (last year we saw quite a depletion during the drought) … we prefer not to do that (for numerous reasons).

The thing to understand about water here isn’t that there isn’t enough … but that it comes in unpredictable bursts. The trick is how to store water when it is available in such a way that it can be used when it isn’t.

They say that when you buy a certain brand of car that you suddenly see many more similar cars on the road. I don’t know if that is the case, but since my consciousness has opened up to water I seem to be flooded (no pun intended) with information about water … as if everyone has awoken with/for me.

So until I find the next first step … water is it!

Water Walk

Yesterday we went for a walk around the valley in which Bhudeva is located (into which we envision Bhudeva expanding). It was a cool and sunny day. We walked around the first two-thirds of the ridge surrounding the valley but gave up on the final third because cold air was blowing into our faces and we are both recuperating from slight illness.

Every time we go on such a walk we see more, the valley reveals itself to us.

The north-facing slopes are in better ecological shape, or at least in a lesser state of deterioration. They are partially forested, though the forests are not smartly planted nor properly maintained. The slopes are softer and in some areas there are terraces. It has some very old fruit trees with good yields (given enough rain).

The south-facing slopes are well on their way to desertification. Above the keyline they are for the most part bare, steep (much more than the north facing slopes) and collapsing. At and beneath the keyline there are plenty of beautiful locations for additional houses for people who will join us in the future.

However the feature that most struck us in the poor south-facing slopes was the intricate and interconnected array of gullies. Though they are a product of erosion they are also naturally built water reservoirs. It is as if the land itself has taken measures and is slowly preparing to take in more water to heal itself. We could see substantial water storage laid out in beautiful, naturally dug shapes throughout the landscapes. Relatively small damns dispersed throughout the landscape may make a huge impact on the landscape. These formations also traverse the slopes traveling in soft paths from top to bottom.

We’ve been told that a stream once ran down into our property (on the eroded north facing slope). We could see a potential for two such streams and are very much looking forward to performing earthworks that may yet bring them back to life.

We also realized that the valley offers endless niches of diverse microclimates that are like a playground for generations to come. For traditional farming this place is uninviting … it is very hard (in many places impossible) to work in open, plowed, monocultured fields. However for us it has endless possibilities and potential. This is what makes it ours (even the parts we do not yet own) … we  see it.

The walk invited me to continue my own process and practice of surrender. To realize that we have already taken a huge step. We are here. There is still so much to do … endless work actually. There are still questions on how we’ll be able to do it … still many unknowns. But … we are here.

Keyline Design At the Beach with Darren Doherty

Water has been a prominent subject on my mind in recent weeks (months already?). With the understanding that fertile soils are the basis for any … ummm … life! well established in my consciousness the door is opened to the subject of how to restore (and maintain) eroded soils (of which we have numerous kinds on our land). Water has appeared as THE answer.  It surfaced in two distinct ways.

The first was Sepp Holzer’s new book Desert or Paradise. I have mixed feelings and thoughts about this book which feels less complete then the exceptional Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture (I have plans to start doing book reviews, but plans are rolling out slowly these days). Then came this excellent series of videos by Darren Doherty whom I’ve only recently discovered and whom I’ve grown to admire. In this series he demonstrates core ideas of keyline design … at the beach. Here is part 1 (of 5):