I have not written in a while. Some of that is busyness, some of that is laziness. Although, honestly, I haven’t really felt like writing much. I’ve committed to being here for a year, starting sometime in early December of 2013. While I will definitely be here until next December, the question remains as to my remaining presence thereafter. I may find enough reasons to stay longer, and I am busily growing roots and forming ties to make sure that my year here is worthwhile. 

Below are some photos taken of my little homestead in the past few days. Mostly, I’ve been working on earthscaping my patch. This means digging swales, irrigation channels, and lowered beds.

First Swale

My First Swale!

Swales are dug along the contour of a slope to slow and capture water. This is especially important given the conditions of the field above. It is almost entirely devoid of ground cover vegetation and it slopes down towards the van. Also, storing the water in the ground is key given our extremely dry winter this year. In large rain events, the swale may flow over into an overflow channel at one end. I may use this water to fill a pond or dig another swale below this one on the slope.

Or I may use the water to fill a dendritic irrigation system like the one pictured below.

DendritesBranching channels ensure an even spread of water through the landscape with flooding induced in specific regions. Given the hardness of the clay rich soil, I first incised a small channel with a broad hoe, then filled it with water. As the water settles, the ground gets much softer, allowing the channel to be dug deeper. I repeated the process until I had the desired effect. In recent days, I’ve allowed the channel to run dry, as it is especially well suited to watering the root systems of plants in the forks of the channels. Until those systems have grown enough to take advantage, however, I’ve found surface watering to be more effective. Watering efficiently is pretty key as I only have about 20 gallons to use a day from our house-well. 
In an effort to maximize the effective use of water, I’ve built several garden beds. You’ll see two in the below image. 
Two Beds

A Tale of Two Beds

The background bed is one I built several months ago. At first I tried to dig down into the dirt to create a ground level hugelkultur bed, but wasn’t willing to wait. So I enlisted the family and piled a bunch of horse poop on there. I’ve been watering every couple days for a while now, and am waiting to see what comes up. I planted canna lillies, comfrey, and black radishes and have some grasses and alfalfa growing up. I’m hoping that rooting plants will help break up the clay below for future plantings. 

The foreground bed is designed to retain water and built somewhat like an old-school pond. I dug down a couple of feet over the course of a week or so — soaking, digging, soaking, digging, tarping up overnight to retain moisture. Then I recruited my cousin Gabe to help me “puddle” it. That is, watering until the dirt starts puddling, then stomping around, trying to build up a solid clay layer on the bottom and along the sides. I lined the bottom with sticks to break down over time (ala a hugelkultur bed) and layered horse poop and leaves, making sure to soak each layer. Cardboard placed on top serves as a moisture and weed barrier, and the top layer of manure and leaves finishes the lasagna. To reduce evaporation, a loosely placed brush structure over the top shades the bed and reduces the impact of hot dry winds.

I’ll be continuing to earthscape, water strategically, and expand my little garden.


Sorry. That needed to be said.




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