Today the work finally began on the series of ponds, swales and rain catchment basins that are the heart of the permaculture project. Their object is to catch, channel and hold rainwater so that it percolates slowly down into the ever increasing loam of the forest garden, making water available longer for the plants rather than sheeting off the top of my property and eroding the embankments.
The blue stakes delineate where the water will fill to. The edges are irregular to create more edge space for plants and animals.
Dan Barnes Tractor Work ( at 760-731-0985) has worked with Roger Boddaert in the past, and has done some work on my project already. Dan is an artist with the tractor. Although much of his work is mowing and disking, he has created ponds and swales in the past and really knows what he is doing. If you need tractor work, Dan is your man. He owns several different sized tractors, or he rents the appropriate size and does what you need in excellent time for very reasonable rates. Plus, he’s just a great guy.
Here Dan, Aart de Vos and Jacob Hatch discuss the grading plan. Aart owns Aquascape Associates pond landscaping, specializing in natural ponds. Drawing from his Northern European heritage and knowledge, Aart believes in simplicity, old technology that is proven to work, small footprint and natural environments. He and his manager Jacob Hatch knew exactly what I wanted, and the work that I’ve seen of theirs looks as if man had nothing to do with forming the ponds. Not only did they know what I wanted and were already experienced at it, but their prices are very reasonable in comparison to some quotes we received for ponds that would have looked artificial and have been electricity monsters.
At lunch break, my dog Sophie loved the excavation and gave herself a very good roll in the clay.
At the end of the first day, the rough work on the lower pond is almost done. Tomorrow Dan will finish this and move on to the rough work of the next area. Jacob and his team will begin the contouring of the big pond with the small tractor and by hand.
At the depth of six feet, there was a wonderful layer of clay. The ponds are not going to be lined with plastic or polymer; instead, Aart believes that the compacted natural clay should be good enough to keep the pond filled. The water source for all the ponds, besides seasonal rainwater, is a four-inch wide drill hole that was augured near where the lower pond sits. Water was found nine feet down. A small submersible pump will be lowered to pump water into the ponds. At first the pump will be run by an extension cord. Then it will be replaced by either solar or a windmill… I’m looking into the noise that windmills make because I need and desire my quiet.
This is where all the neighbor’s runoff funnels through to my property in the upper corner. Before it would make a 90 degree turn (or attempt to) in a narrow cement culvert and be diverted all the way down my property and off into the streambed below. Except for when it really rained hard or the culvert became silted in from the neighbor’s topsoil. Then it would flood the entire property and erode everything in it’s wake. This entrance area was cleaned today by Cody, who works with Jacob. The water will still channel through here, but it will be diverted into a dry streambed and on into the swales and ponds. Then it will be held, slowly perculating into the loam and soil to be available for the deep roots of the trees and plants.
Also worked on today by Roger’s team was this arbor to the entrance to the Bee Garden for honeysuckle and other vines to grow over. I’m sprouting luffa gourd seeds; perhaps some can grow up these and hang down over the entrance.
When me and my chilren moved here twelve years ago, we hoped to find buried treasure on the property. What we found in the areas most suseptable to erosion was piles of palm fronds, auto tires, and a buried toilet (which is still there). At the end of the day today Dan called out to me that he’d found the buried treasure.
One of the bottles was capped and was half full of liquid. I sniffed it…. only muddy water. Shucks.