This is the account of my adventure at the Permaculture Design Course at Spiral Ridge in October of 2013 http://www.spiralridgepermaculture.com.
My notes are somewhat muddled about Day 4, and I think they crammed some of the things from day 3 into it, which I already talked about. Our group decided to do the area around the proposed house site, and we were to use an already developed base map. But the base map was not too good so we spent a good piece of the morning messing around looking at the land and trying to get the map right, Actually a fairly useful real life exercise. The maps were posterboard about 2 foot x 4 foot. The base map is black lines showing existing structures that you then use tracing paper to make overlays of the various things that exist on the land…our goal was an overlay of each of the scale of permanence which I talked about last time… Climate, landform, water, etc.
Climate is a piece you look up on the internet, from various government websites. Since the government was shut down, so were the websites. So we copied the information from previous PDC classes. I tried to do some climate research this morning, and found it is interesting and challenging because there is so much information. The lecture was not too useful, partly because the lecturer ( I think it was Jessie) was not wanting to delve into controversy. I think it might have been interesting, because the group was fairly open minded.
We had a lecture about water and Landform next. Landform is contours, slopes, etc and how to visualize on paper. I think they talked about swales some. A swale is a trench on the contour.
The major purpose of a swale is to manage water flow. Cliff has a series of swales to manage the water flow through the top part of his land- I’m guessing maybe only the top 2 acres. I think there will be more swales built as he goes along, or maybe as he moves the pigs and goats along the land ( They graze in patches along contour, so I think they keep track as they go down.)
The other part of Water management is ponds. Permaculture practice likes ponds, because they are excellent ways to store water high on land. But they are also tricky to manage. They leak. Only the very small pond at the top of the land didn’t leak, I suspect they had used that pond fabric in it, but that is expensive to do in larger ponds. I think they are hoping that the other 2 ponds will eventually stop leaking when enough clay sediment collect in the bottom of them. A goal is to build key line dams on contour and create storage ponds. A significant goal with water is to slow it, spread it and sink it onto the land, and not let it run off like the “Grand Canyon” thru the lower part of the Quinn property. Some of the case studies we reviewed showed local increases in the water table due to permaculture practices.
The afternoon lecture was about Terra- Aqua culture…using land and water together… The Austrian Sepp Holtzer uses a series of ponds high in the alps to grow fish and then water the land, but his techniques have not been easy to reproduce other places. Two other models that might be easier to use… Viet nam jungle villages were they use Bamboo, pigs, ducks, fish ponds,crops on contour, the crops are at the bottom of the hill and they are fertilized by the pigs, ducks and fish higher up the hill. Another model would be the Aztecs in Mexico who created “Chinapas” fingers of land made out of willow branches and sludge into the water to create tiny inlets to catch fish and then grow crops on the fingers sticking out into the water.
That evening we were invited to a lecture on the state of the Climate at the Eco-village down at the Farm ( the place I was staying). Attached to the dorm I was staying in (which I would guess was about 20 years old) was a new conference center space which is partially completed. (Cliff says it will never be finished) It was completed enough that it could be used for lectures, but it has no doors, just flaps of plastic where the doors should be. Inside the walls were partly completed with straw bale construction.
At the time the lecture was supposed to start, Miriam and I and the speaker, Albert Bates and 2 other people were there. We indicated that a few others were coming, so they waited about 15 more minutes for the rest of our group to arrive (they were lost or couldn’t get in the gate… another flaw of living at the farm. Albert Bates is a long time resident of the Farm (arrived in 1972, he joked that he was a latecomer) and the De-facto force of the Eco-village. He hired Cliff to run the Ecovillage sometime back, but I don’t think he let Cliff do anything, so Cliff moved on, but they seem to coexist. I also do not think they replaced Cliff when he left. However, the lecture did proceed after everyone arrived. The lecturer was a very young man from a Environmental group in Washington who had a power point presentation, which was followed by a brief discussion. He suggested maybe we could use non-violent techniques like the civil rights movement to mobilize people to march on Washington DC. He pointed out that Washington could easily be shut down. (For a while perhaps) He though we should shame our legislators for their inaction about the Environment. The assembled group was polite but I think we are more motivated to grow food than to March on Washington, who won’t care anyway. Afterwards Miriam and I had wine and ice cream with the Lecturer, his friend and Albert Bates. After about 30 minutes, another elderly hippie named Frank showed up, apologizing that he had missed the lecture. He had been talking to some folks from another town about mushroom gardening and had just returned. He talked at length about his calculation that we could stop global warming if we could sequester enough carbon by planting sufficient number of trees. He had calculated that there was enough arable land to do this on the planet. This was intriguing to me… I remembered the miles of medium strip I had passed a few days before when I drove up to Tennessee.