The center area of our land is fairly flat and clear. We’ve decided a section of this will be our primary homestead area in the next year or two.
We’re not moving the camper over there until we’ve got a well, so that we can have enough water to quickly get some trees and vines going. As bare as this area is right now, we’d bake in the 110 degree summers. I’d also be worried about wind. We can get 40-60 mph gusts when storms move in and currently there just isn’t anything close enough to buffer it. So, before we move over, I intend to do a heck of a lot of work.
The area I’m focusing on is only about one-third to one-half an acre.
My first goal is to get things growing. Anything is better than nothing! The ground is very hard packed and compacted, so the little bit of rain that we do get just runs merrily away. We average 10-12 inches of rainfall per year, so I’ve been working on ways to harvest some of that. The first step was to get the rain to actually soak into the ground. When the ground is as hard and smooth as rock, water just runs off.
The picture above shows the holes I’ve been digging. I can’t double dig yet so I started with just shovel depth. I have to jump on the shovel, wiggle it some, jump and wiggle more, until the blade is finally all the way in. Then I pry on the handle until the entire area loosens and lifts. I drink water, catch my breath, then repeat the process nearby.
The idea is to create little drop spots where the water can sink in deeper. When we get a lot of rain, these little holes will catch extra water so that plants can start sprouting in and around them.
Over time I’ve started connecting holes together to create strips that will catch water before it runs off into the gullys and washes. Over the past several days I’ve discovered these are called swales, and they’re used regularly in rainwater harvesting and permaculture projects. Cool! That means I’m on the right track.
I’m adding horse manure as I’m able, because it creates an amazing sponge-like texture when it’s wet. Besides, I need any organic material I can find since nothing has been growing in this area.
I recently scattered wheat and kidney bean seeds in the hopes that they will sprout and start conditioning the soil over winter.
This last picture shows just how beautiful the desert can actually get. This is one of several areas we have scattered around our seven acres. Water collects in these areas and the plants go nuts! Here in a few years my field will be well on its way to this beauty too.