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replacing irrigation with permaculture

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I have given this presentation about five or six times.  And I just finished doing a podcast with Jack Spirko about this while gawking at my presentation.

Twice I started to write an article and never got far.  This is still on my "to do" list.

A lot of the content has been covered in these threads:

creating a creek in a dry gully

grow tomatoes without irrigation

sepp holzer uses no irrigation

the man who planted trees

As part of my presentation, I have a list of 16 things that I can think of that contribute to giving folks the ability to eliminate irrigation.  One or two might just do the trick. 

1) hugelkultur (the article) hugelkultur (the thread)

2) polyculture

3) trees

4) mulch

5) raise humidity for more morning dew

6) keyline

7) terraces

reduce wind

9) swales

10) less transplanting - more seed starting

11) taprooted species

12) paddock shift grazing

13) dew ponds

14) stacked rocks

15) edges

16) shade


sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
Josiah Maughan


Joined: Apr 28, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: wellsville, utah
apparently ( 8 ) is a smiley face?


(
Matt Ferrall


Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
    
    4
Thank you Paul for your efforts!If Permaculture is to be anything different than convention,than it better explore the uniqueness of its solutions and offer working examples to the public.As a permi `doer` for 15yrs,I cannot stress enough the importance of learning to produce resources without industrial/oil based crutches like irrigation.Keep it up!


There is nothing permanent in a culture dependent on such temporaries as civilization.

www.feralfarmagroforestry.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
A new podcast with jack on this very topic:  http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/elimination-of-irrigation
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
Mt.goat wrote:
Thank you Paul for your efforts!If Permaculture is to be anything different than convention,than it better explore the uniqueness of its solutions and offer working examples to the public.As a permi `doer` for 15yrs,I cannot stress enough the importance of learning to produce resources without industrial/oil based crutches like irrigation.Keep it up!


How is it that irrigation is an industrial/oil based crutch? Irrigation was essentially the impetus for static population centers (as opposed to mobile, hunter-gatherers): In a word, civilization. It's been practiced for millennia - long before oil was ever pumped from the ground and long before the industrial revolution. While, obviously, water is a precious resource (becoming moreso by the minute) and shouldn't be used frivolously, not everything can be dry-cropped. There is such a thing as responsible, conscientious irrigation.
Matthew Fallon


Joined: Jan 07, 2010
Posts: 307
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
    
    1
i'm on 5.5's side of the fence i think... right now i'm procuring plastic pickle barrels to piece together a mostly passive rain catchment/drip system run off a water-timer(zero pressure model) it'll use 10 barrels minimum,20-max..  if i didnt water the veggie garden here i dont see how anything cultivated would last.. granted the barrels are of course industrial/oil based..i just cannot afford to buy $100+ a piece wooden wine barrels. these are $11flat. delivered to me.

i AM hoping that my Hugelkultur-ish idea will pay off and hold LOTS of extra water in the beds...
planning to dig 3'+ deep,backfill with leaf,woodchip,shavings,sawdust,paper,cardboard and bury under 2'+ of soil,manure,compost etc... crossing fingers. ill keep a couple beds 'regular' in case that doesnt work out so well...


Baldwin Organic Garden Share  Our home-based garden cooperative.  Tribal Wind Arts Rustic Furniture  & Artisan-Craftwork from reclaimed suburban trees
                                    


Joined: Nov 08, 2010
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
fiveandahalffarm wrote:
How is it that irrigation is an industrial/oil based crutch?


maybe not any kind of irrigation, but California has massive, subsidized irrigation works so they can grow vegetables for all of the US.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
My current irrigation is coal-powered.  That makes me very unhappy. 


Idle dreamer

Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Paul, I'm having a hard time with the title.  We don't replace irrigation with permaculture, we change how we irrigate as part of permaculture. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Granted, there are scads of ideas of what permaculture is and what irrigation is.

For me, based on my knowledge set at this time, it is my arrogant and obnoxiuous opinion that a good permaculture system has eliminated irrigation.

Irrigation is gonna be buckets, hoses, tubes or pipes carrying water to one or more plants.  Permaculture is going to be working with nature to make sure that the plants get all the water they need using the same tools that nature uses.  So those plants will continue to thrive for years without depending on us to remember to water them.



Neal Spackman


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 82
Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
    
  13
I'm currently designing a drip irrigation system for our project in Saudi Arabia but we plan to turn the system off after 3-5 years.  Once our mountain is reforested and we have actual foliage that we can mulch with, we will be able to retain a lot more water than we can now.  I'm trying to think if we could actually get a system established without irrigation in this environment (summer temperatures of 120F, some years no rain, average rainfall <3 inches)


People are the keystone species of the planet. Twovisionspermaculture.com
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
paul wheaton wrote:
it is my arrogant and obnoxiuous opinion that a good permaculture system has eliminated irrigation.


This might mean the permaculturist has to change her diet, if she likes to eat water-needy vegetables but lives in a dry climate! 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Pneal wrote:
I'm currently designing a drip irrigation system for our project in Saudi Arabia but we plan to turn the system off after 3-5 years.  Once our mountain is reforested and we have actual foliage that we can mulch with, we will be able to retain a lot more water than we can now.  I'm trying to think if we could actually get a system established without irrigation in this environment (summer temperatures of 120F, some years no rain, average rainfall <3 inches)




This also sounds like permaculture to me.

The key is organic matter.  You can either truck in organic matter, or you can truck in tubes/hoses/equipment plus water to build your own organic matter. 


Neal Spackman


Joined: Mar 13, 2011
Posts: 82
Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
    
  13
I am currently trucking in organic matter as I commute from Jeddah, and I'll be demonstrating a compost pile with my workers starting in a week.  Another thing we want to do with our irrigation system is demonstrate that in the long term we'll actually raise the water table, despite using water from the table to get the whole thing running. 
duane hennon
volunteer

Joined: Sep 23, 2010
Posts: 391
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
    
  11


Paul said:
"This also sounds like permaculture to me.

The key is organic matter.  You can either truck in organic matter, or you can truck in tubes/hoses/equipment plus water to build your own organic matter. "

I think that using irrigation is ok if it's used to get you to not having to use it. just like building swales or hugelkultur beds. how permaculture would it be if you had to cut down trees to rebuild a hugel bed each year? so with irrigation, are you moving toward an end or is irrigation the end (like California central valley)

wise use of heavy equipment, importing of organic matter, irrigation to set up your system is part of the  permaculture ethic
                    


Joined: Jan 19, 2011
Posts: 27
Location: Central Croatia
My main time for irrigation is when I first plant the seeds.  They are so shallow and that is the first soil to dry out.  If I mulch a lot, won't that shade the seeds?  I spend weeks clearing weeds and grass, then plant seeds, keep them watered, clear weeds some more until finally the little plants are big enough to get some mulch.  Then everything is ok.  The only way to avoid this time consuming process (that I can see) is to buy the plants when they are big or start them from seed somewhere else and then put them into well mulched beds.
Kelda Miller


Joined: Jun 30, 2007
Posts: 763
To Riki's topic:
I make deep furrows and sow seeds in there. Sometimes I'll cover with a window or some plastic or cardboard something to keep moist, but 9 times out of 10 just having deep furrows will keep things moist. (If it's done early enough in the spring). One thing to remember is that seeds don't need sunlight to sprout, they need warmth and water. So you can strategize with that. Like mulch. (But I'd be wary of any mulch that slugs hang out in).

To Paul: I'm listening to the second podcast where you bash rainwater catchment and it's frankly annoying. I have raised beds with lots of organic matter and handwatered a few spots maybe 3 times last summer. And that's not hose-watering, that's a little watering can from water in a 5 gallon bucket somewhere. That's it. Well, I think when I was out of town my housemate wanted to Do Something so he'd sneak out and water, but he was just aghast that I wasn't. So anyway, I'm freaking close to having a system that you recommend. But we still have a rainbarrel, and loads of 5 gallon buckets sitting out in the rain filling up with water.

My main point is this: There are TONS of great reasons to collect free rain and doing so doesn't make your permaculture site stupid, okay?
Would you like me to list them?:
*Moistening seed-starting soil before sowing seeds
*Dunking/rinsing root veggies before I go in the house, instead of using tap
*Pouring water in deep holes that I later plant fruit trees/tomatoes in. Dry farm style
*Emergency drinking water
*Dunking/rinsing my hands off after gardening, instead of using the tap
*Flushing toilets
*Keeping nursery/potted plants moist
*Throwing slugs in to drown
etc.
All I can think of for now.

I get your point Paul, but I wish you'd clarify that the bigger goal is to be irrigation-independent rather than saying that rainbarrels are bad design. Rain falls from the freaking sky, geez! It's Great design to tap into that for more uses.


Divine Earth Gardening Project
Kelda Miller


Joined: Jun 30, 2007
Posts: 763
PS. Just in case I was a little harsh in previous post: I super appreciate you putting this together Paul!
I can't wait for the article to come out and then I'll get it translated into French because the folks I know in Haiti can really use this. They get tons of rain but think that they can't grow food because they don't have irrigation equipment like in the Dominican Republic.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500


      Hello Forum. Im new here if that wasnt obvious.

      Theres a few things you could add to the list in regards to saving water.

      One would be biochar. This does other important things as well, but one of them is regulate water to some degree. It also gives microbial life a better place to live, and in a dry soil this can make a huge difference. 

      Another would be doing simple things to better direct the water. Such as backfilling a trench with mulch in conjunction with some of the other methods here. You can get more water concentrated in one spot and thus deeper into the soil this way.

      If you have a heavy clay soil like myself you can do "waffle gardens" that the zuni tribe used to do. Im doing a modified version of this with great success, though not all my beds are set up like this yet, its a lot of work in my soil. I dig the beds about 18 inches deep and pile up my heavy soil on the sides and fill in with a quality soil I composted myself that holds water well. My soil is VERY heavy clay. drainage is nearly zero its that bad, and this makes a nice effect with quality soil inside it, where the heavy clay holds a lot of water.

      Theres also a few other concepts. Like presprouting seeds, and then pulling back the extra layer of mulch i add in the fall to get to still damp soil, and planting into that. this works well with seedlings to and I have to disagree with the idea of not starting seedlings, with many plants his is ideal imo. It can take a long while for a plant to sprout and get to seedling size, the most important stage of development. In controlled conditions of my lighted interior window water usage for this is much much less then outside, and if I pull back mulch and plant into wet soil with a seedling, if done right it will have damp soil for some time.

        Stacked rocks are mentioned, but just wanted to point out there are as many ways to use rocks as you can think of. they block the sun and wind, and much evaporation. the put mulch in general to shame in these regards, so can be used to great benefit in perennial plantings. Also if youve got a lot of flat ones, you can direct more water into a dripine for instance. Perhaps one you dug out and backhfilled with mulches so water can better permeate. I use them around annuals as well. over my other mulches. in that case I use ones about 2 inches in diameter and make a layer or two.

        I guess this may be covered in the polyculture mentioned but as strange as it might sound, in a dryland orchard in a semi arid region, actually making sure you have understory plants can effectively ensure water gets deeper into the soil, by following the plants roots. In that vein I forget the explanation as to why but yucca will enable the water to be more accessible by plan roots. so a pile of decaying yucca used as a mulch will enable allow he water to work in more complete ways. I forget where I read this, but Ive tried it and noticed a difference, an will be trialing it more as time goes on.

        I can likely think of more and will come back to add them. but the biggest one, which can do the most profound things taken by itself is BREEDING. We need folks to start breeding plants for these types of set ups and systems. Just some examples from my own breeding work. I tracked down winter habit peas and lentils.(I mean actual pisum sativum with a winter habit most winter peas are austrian peas) As well as grains of every type. I also tracked down the most drought tolerant examples of each of these. Winter is when I get the most of my water. With the grains Ive all ready been trialing many and getting good results totally dryland over winter and havent yet built my soil 100 percent, nor havve I yet crossed them to the drought tolerant examples I have. So theres a LOT of potential there....

     
     
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
Pneal wrote:
I'm currently designing a drip irrigation system for our project in Saudi Arabia but we plan to turn the system off after 3-5 years.  Once our mountain is reforested and we have actual foliage that we can mulch with, we will be able to retain a lot more water than we can now.  I'm trying to think if we could actually get a system established without irrigation in this environment (summer temperatures of 120F, some years no rain, average rainfall <3 inches)




You COULD get a system established there without irrigation or outside inputs, but it would be very slow going at first. Rocks alone make great water barriers. Theres a video floating around of a guy who greened up a barren place outside of tuscon. I think it gets a bit more then 3 inches but its still very barren and arid. All they did was make indention's in the ground for water to pool and debri to gather, and seeds to have a spot to gt  start. They seeded the area and when the rains ame they had a prairie. If they had purposely use deep rooted perennials and cut them back yearly from that point on they would of had a source of organic matter. As I said pebbles or rocks offering these perennials a buffer from the sun and wind and the like. They could also plant plugs into such a set up better ensuring established plants when the water does show up.....

  Id go the route you are as well, just pointing out with determination there ARE simple and even semi passive ways to build biomass nearly anywhere. For instance you could make those indentions and seed and area, simple as that. Come back later and rock mulch established plants or not.... they will slowly build up their own biomass and ability to retain water. So you could do this to large areas without much capitol to thwart desertification or better fill a water table in a dry area next to a city where the water tables are over used....
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
  that is very good news!!!  still not exactly mainstream yet. It will be in time, its simple math in my mind.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
5) raise humidity for more morning dew

Can anyone explain this one?
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
As temperature falls the partial pressure of water falls, which causes the water in the air to be squeezed out onto cool surfaces, this is due. The more humidity you get into the air before the temperature falls the more you can get back out. If you have one lone plant in the middle of the wind swept sands any humidity built up around that plant from evapotranspiration will get blown away, however if you have a dense stand of plants that humidity is held onto a little better (which is why fungus will take over fruit trees that aren't open enough). Additionally you can do things like making a pond at the bottom of a hill, the updraft from the hill carries humid air off the pond and then when temps drop the moisture is wrung out onto the hillside. It's basically how rain works only on a tiny scale.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
  amazing. ive never come across this until now.... Im working on a small pond this summer actually, i will have to make sure i maximize the potential interaction with my hillside. It is not a variable i was considering. although now that i think of it, I did know biomass did this to some degree. Ive got some interesting experiments going on in that regard on a mulched area I did nothing to but mulch. the plants moved in and taught me various lessons.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
Additionally you can do things like making a pond at the bottom of a hill, the updraft from the hill carries humid air off the pond and then when temps drop the moisture is wrung out onto the hillside. It's basically how rain works only on a tiny scale.


thanks emerson, i have the perfect spot for this.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500

   Funny thing is your talking to a person whos spending the summer building a half acre catchment among other things. Yes i know it can be done larger scale. Its rather expensive though in my case anyway, and not likely to be economically feasible for most, especially when there are other crops....

    i certainly never implied dryland farming is new, only that it can be used where it was not before, or atleast not as reliably as we can do today. Of course it can feed the world, because though heavily irrigated areas might produce a bit less, (although alternative cropping systems could still outpace it in different models) many areas not used well or at all can be productive. 50 percent of the worlds beef comes from arid regions, and all of these im aware of can increase yields greatly.

     in regards tot he dustbowl they expected to much from the area, and had extremely poor systems. they perpetuated the dryness of the area, when they COULD of had the area a bit wetter then usual, and the drought would of had less impact, and the dustbowl would not of happened.... these practices can REVERSE desertification. Unlike current practices which increase it.....

     As far as shipping food, I dont care what you grow. Id be rooting for folks to widen the range and push the envelope, trust me on that. Im working on doing this with the full range of foods myself. you might not believe me if i told you.  my point wasnt to imply things can be hard so the shouldnt be tried, or anything similar. Only that some things are much easier to grow in many areas or impossible in others. I highly doubt people will stop transporting food. Id be perfectly fine if thats how things turn out, and have a solid range of foods adpated to my eco system, I just doubt that will be the case. really it doesnt matter though, its not up to us and anything we say at this point is opinion, and guessing. transporting food isnt even remotely un sustainable, especially when in your worldview the economy would be vastly different. there would be much less shipping going on in other areas as well. Much less processed junk being shipped in 20 directions etc. If you take it down to trains shipping staples and the like it would be extremely easy to sustain that, and likely more.

    I dont understand what you mean that trying to match industrial ag would be at odds with the stated goals I always assumed wed want all people to be fed? In which case we have to match or beat it system wide. that is the exact goal actually, doing that in a way that will last through the ages, keeping fertility and water tables intact. Rather then beating eco systems into the ground as we do now. Of course theres also the fact irrigation is not detrimental at all levels in all areas. In my area it is. If we had local ag and it relied on irrigation wed devastate the water tables over time which in turn would slowly make the soil accept less water and it would be perpetually drier. humans did exactly this to the middle east long ago, it used to be wet and fertile.... Its time to rebuild eden.

   I also think a lot of progress will come when we get animals back to more natural diets. they evolved eating forage not grains. this also includes parts of plants humans do not use. Lots of efficiency to be gained there depending on how you look at it.
     
Bull norris


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 50
Location: Chanute Kansas
The more i think i learn the more comfused im getting.
Im looking at 15 acers in arkansas, all i can think is what would the great Sepp Holster do with this ? 800 feet above sea leavel. What should i try first?
  Im thinking a little bet of everything i can come up with.
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
SILVERSEEDS wrote:
   Funny thing is your talking to a person whos spending the summer building a half acre catchment among other things. Yes i know it can be done larger scale. Its rather expensive though in my case anyway, and not likely to be economically feasible for most, especially when there are other crops....



Permaculture doesn't have to be expensive at all to set up, in any format. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I divided this thread into two threads.  The other thread is still hidden for now and covers lots of topics that don't really stick to this topic.  If I get time I'll move some of that stuff back.  Probably to the meaningless drivel forum.

I want to remind people to be nice, stay on topic and remember that what you write needs to also be something I am comfortable publishing. 

When you state a "fact" and it turns out that your fact strikes me as an opinion, there is a good chance that I'll delete that.  I suggest that you present your position while allowing others to state their position.  May the best position win.

If somebody posts something that you don't agree with, stating that their stuff is patently false will get your stuff deleted.  If you write something long a beautiful and awesome and there is one hint somewhere of bashing something, I'll still delete the whole thing.

I suggest that before you hit the "post" button, you look for the word "you" in what you have written.  That's what I do.  I literally search a page for "you".  And I usually delete those posts.  "You're stupid" "You're patently wrong" "You don't know what you're talking about" "id you actually read the book?" "What sort of moron are you?"  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete. 

I ask the folks present their position without bashing the positions of others.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
Permaculture doesn't have to be expensive at all to set up, in any format. 


Well permaculture can be as cheap or expensive as you need or can afford. setting up something to fill a cistern which was what i was talking about in the quoted part here though takes infrastructure. if you know of a cheap way to fill a cistern i am all ears. Im about to be setting one up myself, id love to find a cheaper way.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
If you have a new topic, you can start a new thread.  Please stay on topic.  This topic is about replacing irrigation with permaculture.

(I just split some new posts to a new thread)
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
SILVERSEEDS wrote:
Well permaculture can be as cheap or expensive as you need or can afford. setting up something to fill a cistern which was what i was talking about in the quoted part here though takes infrastructure. if you know of a cheap way to fill a cistern i am all ears. Im about to be setting one up myself, id love to find a cheaper way.


Build one yourself via recycled materials and then it costs nothing.  If Michael Reynolds, the maker of "Earthships" can do it, so can we.
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
It's important to remember that your time is not free. If you work 10,000 hours on a building and are not gardening then it's safe to say that all the resources that went into getting you fed and replacing the clothes and tools you wore out ought properly to be accounted as costs of that structure.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
Build one yourself via recycled materials and then it costs nothing.  If Michael Reynolds, the maker of "Earthships" can do it, so can we.


what type of materials? i cant imagine what i could cover a half an acre with that isnt toxic, and i can build a reliable long lasting system out of. your the third to suggest this to me. and when i ask what to use I get things like, "look around"..... I live in a small secluded town. theres really not a lot of scrap materials around. micheal reynolds is building buildings that he pieces together with store bought materials. Its a totally different paradigm as far as i can see. I used to be in contact with his designer for their gardens, I should get back a hold of her since its spring.
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Emerson White wrote:
It's important to remember that your time is not free.


No offense, but that is a matter of opinion.
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
Perhaps I should have said that it's important to remember that your time is not with out environmental costs.
                                              


Joined: Mar 30, 2011
Posts: 500
Remembered another one, im not sure was covered....

"dust" mulching. this is a tactic of real dry areas. because of how water evaporates, if the surface of the soil is wet, it will happen faster then if after it rains you put down  layer of dust if rains not expected. this might not be worthwhile in the middle of monsoon season for instance. Or maybe it is...

But Ive found it rather effective in my trials. surprisingly so actually.
                            


Joined: Feb 10, 2011
Posts: 9
Hi all, I'm new to the forum, having come over after hearing Paul's interviews with Jack Spirko at thesurvivalpodcast.com . Those were excellent episodes, and the whole aspect of permaculture and "Greening the Desert" has got me pumped. I have 40 acres of desert land in southeast Arizona that I want to turn into a retirement ( 5-7 years) property that my wife and I can live on, gardening heavily and raising chickens, rabbits and fish (aquaponics).  The land is dead flat, gets about 13 inches of rain per year (3600' ASL) and has been abandoned for years.

The good news? It is near a highway and small village, has electricity and a good well.
I would like to start building the soil, but can't be there more than one weekend per month for the next few years. I am experimenting with zero pressure irrigation to start growing trees/foliage and building the soil. I don't want to leave my well pump powered when I'm away, in case of leaks or vandalism that might cause it to run for weeks. 

I'm thinking of digging trenches and planting hardy southern trees in them, perhaps lucaena,  with ample mulch, and  hopefully some drip irrigation to help them along.

I'd appreciate other ideas, but please keep in mind that this project is powered by me and my wife, with no heavy power equipment available to start off with.  If I can arrange a backhoe later, I'd like to do some swaling and try to build a small pond that I could grow tilapia or channel cat in. Yes, I'm starting with aquaponics now, but if aquaculture is doable, (and after hearing about Sepp Holzer, I believe almost anything is possible)  then I would like to make that a goal too. 

I live in a cubicle 9 hours a day. When I'm outside, working in our garden (1.7 acres near Phoenix) the stress disappears and I am happy.  I'd like to retire to a sustainable lifestyle. Thank God my wife feels the same. We have a great piece of land, but due to the housing downturn, we will not have enough equity in our home to be able to afford to keep it once we retire.  It is sad, because we have over 65 trees growing on it. Pecan, apple, peach, plum apricot, olive, mequite, oranges, grapefruit, etc.  we're really treating it as a homestead, even if we can't realistically stay there past retirement. It will be our way to learn the skills we need to take with us to our 40 acres. Gardening the desert is a lesson built on many mistakes. We're starting to have some success and are encouraged.
sorry for blabbing on.  It's just great to be here on the forum with other people with similar interersts.

Thanks Paul, for all the great things I've heard and read from you.

Regards,
AZGuy
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This is me at the Missoula public library answering questions after we watched a Sepp Holzer movie. The question is how do you raise water sensitive garden plants without irrigation.

Techniques listed in this video include: polyculture, more humidity leads to more morning dew, hugelkultur, and tap roots.



paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
podcast:  http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/340-podcast-047-gaias-garden-chapter-5/

 
 
subject: replacing irrigation with permaculture
 
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books