Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pruning like a forest

So nobody prunes the forest, but natural elements like storms and cyclones can open up the canopy to allow fresh light in. We constantly have trees fall over during our wet season, for example, which is nature pruning itself for the benefit of the overall system. The soil needs something to replenish it by having the plants drop their branches, trees and leaves.


I dug a little more on my swale, and with reports we could have more storms during the week, I thought to find something to cover the soil with. I had a few plants nearby which could do the job.

Enter my pruning like a forest, because by the look of them, it was time for some plants to be rejuvenated as well!

In decline

This is Wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium, which I've already started to open the woody shrub up with my secateurs. You can tell when they are ready to be pruned when the leaves start to turn yellow and especially after they've set seed - which mine had already done.

Yellowing and dried leaves

Woody perennials really need to have their canopy cut back or they risk forming deadwood. With no air circulation or light, new growth cannot make its way through the canopy. Add too much moisture during the rainy season, and its perfect for some branches to simply die.

Why wait for that to happen when you can help nature along with the process?


By removing branches, I get sunlight and air to reach the new emerging growth. What's more, I get my free mulch and seeds to throw around where I need them.

It's a win for everyone, and look how close my plant was to the area needing mulching, underneath the mulberry tree.

 Wormwood prunings, and mulberry tree in centre, background

But I didn't stop at the Wormwood, because I also had a curry plant which needed some attention. I love both these plants because they're incredibly hardy in drought, but they're very susceptible to dying from the inside out, if you don't give them enough air circulation.

Curry plant

I get most of my deadwood on the lower branches, because there's the least amount of air circulation between the plant and the hot retaining wall. By giving it a trim, it benefits the plant and I get extra mulch for my time.

If you have lavender, they also benefit from treating them the same way. Plus all these plants smell so lovely when you're working with them!

New swale under the mulberry

Altogether, it was enough material to spread a thin layer over my newly dug soil. It won't take long for the prunings to dry out, then it will be ready for another thin layer of something else I can find to trim.

I have made several successful cuttings from the wormwood and they are in the process of getting bigger...


One year in the ground, and its tripled from the size I started with. Wormwood is a fast growing shrub, and definitely part of my chop and drop mulching crew. If you have a hard time growing some of the more prized permaculture plants for chop and drop, like pigeon pea, tagaste and arrowroot, simply because you don't have enough moisture, consider the wormwood, or any water wise plant that will grow in your conditions.

Its not going to benefit the soil as much as other plants (especially nitrogen fixing ones) but its going to grow and provide mulching material for the soil, nonetheless. Having something is better than having nothing.

Next time you're tempted to buy a bale of something for mulch, have a look around your garden and see what needs to be pruned like a forest.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Swales in action

I don't always get a lot of pictures of our lower gully flooding, because I don't like to go out in a storm. Even when it has passed, I prefer to stay high and dry, because we have a lot of tall eucalyptus trees which have been known to fall down or drop branches in heavy rains. But with the recent storm we had yesterday, I was curious to know how all our earthworks have been performing.

I'll start with the top swale, and work my way down...

Pond dug in middle of a long swale
to hold water for longer

This is probably the first swale we ever dug, to divert water coming off the street, away from the house. We made a deep pond which once had pigeon peas around it. The falling leaves helped to seal the pond. While the rest of the swale drains pretty quickly, the water in the pond stays around for up to a week or more afterwards, depending on evaporation.

The middle swale, on the same level as the house, also captures and directs any excess water away from it. The pigeon peas are planted above the retaining wall and their falling leaves have helped seal this swale too, so it holds water for several days after a rain event.

Both the top swale and middle swale are not connected, but the middle swale overflows to the new swale I dug, lower down the slope.


This is the swale full of water now. The level was spot on and it didn't break its banks, before draining from the overflow. I will build a proper spillway when I've finished digging this swale, but the temporary overflow did the job of allowing the excess water to drain away, once it was full.


This is the overflow from the swale near the mulberry tree. I was very pleased with how this swale performed, even in its early stages of development. It was a moderate rainfall though, so it needs more work if its going to cope with the heavy downpours we can get during summer.


And this is what the swale looked like after about an hour. The water seeped through the ground much quicker, because it has not been sealed in the same way the other swales have. Its located under a mulberry tree though, so its leaves should help to seal it when they fall in winter. We have also placed a lot of dried grass as mulch, over the swale too.

Mulberry tree #1 higher up the slope

Once finished, this swale will connect to another swale down the slope, and then overflow into the main lower gully. This is where all the action happens. Especially since several properties adjoining ours, don't impeded the water flow, and it comes rushing in at a fast velocity. We've built a dam out of plant debris, to slow the water and catch anything coming down stream. I found a lovely plastic cake container this time, which won't be going out to sea.

All stop

This is the dam we built - still designed to flow, it just slows the water down somewhat. If you click the image to enlarge, you can see the cake container lid, about a third of the way down, in the middle of the picture. When the water drops I'll fish it out and put it in the recycling bin. Someone upstream likes to eat cake.

You can see by the foam where the arrow is pointing, showing where the water breaks its banks. This then leads to our new project, of a pond designed to capture and store some of this seasonal overflow.

Lower gully is completely flooded

Our log bridge didn't get swept away, because the water tends to break its banks to get away first. You can see the pond is well positioned to take advantage of these flooding events. Our intention is to open up the initial entry where it first overflows (image above this one) so we can spread the water further away from the back of our house.

 July 2014

Just so you know, our house is on a big slope, so we are safe from flooding, but I don't like to tempt fate with blind trust. Its better to plan for even greater downpours, than the Queensland flooding of 2011. That's why we try to manage the flows of water around our property, allowing for even greater forces to be subdued.

Back to yesterday though...

Lower gully

The rain stopped, but the lower gully continues to flow as water drains from upstream. The flooding looks widespread, but its by design. Instead of having fast flowing water, carving out a deeper crater to get away quicker, we spread the water out by impeding its flow. Less land erosion happens this way.

Our intention is to widen this space even further for water to spread out and slow down again.

Water moving slowly

This area is down stream from our pond but still on our land. Mulberry tree number two, has to endure temporary flooding. We planted it on a slightly elevated area so the water can pass around it. The water level tends to drop after about an hour.

The mulberry benefits from the temporary flooding by receiving nutrients from upstream. The tree also benefits the land, by knitting the soil together with its fibrous roots. I will be curious to know if the fruit on this tree will taste sweater than the fruit on the swale above. That's if the birds will ever allow us any fruit!

Combing the water

Once the water dropped a little more, I could see how the grass in the main channel has been swept over. Every individual blade of grass, interrupts the flow, like running water through a comb and it has the added benefit, of protecting the soil banks from erosion. This is why we let the main channel get choked-up by whatever can grow there. We don't mow it down, except for around the log bridges so we can use them safely.

Still holding

An hour after the storm had passed, I was surprised to see our newly designated pond area, was still holding water. The water had drained from the new swale by then, but this pond (we have yet to finish digging) was still holding onto its store. The puddles are where David has removed trees, or has dug around them to get access to the roots, to remove them.

This will be a natural asset to the property once completed. Make no mistake though, nature will continue to reshape this area. Its where a lot of forces meet and there's bound to be movement outside our containment areas - and possibly even in them.

I don't want to give the impression we can completely control the overflows of these gullies. Our design is based around lessening the impacts, while capturing as much of those elements on our property as possible.

To see what these areas looks like without water, go to "It all connects"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Prolific as a weed

I've had a free resource growing in every backyard I've ever lived in. They're called weeds and they're incredibly prolific. I was raised to think a weed was an annoyance to be controlled. Some weeds are an annoyance, but I've since learned they can be just like any other plant in my garden - they serve a useful purpose.

A sloping footpath covered in dead weeds

In spring, the weeds first emerge. In summer, they grow too prolifically to control and in autumn they set seed and start to wane. This is the perfect time to turn those weeds, back into the ground they emerged from. Footpaths, once encroached by hanging branches and tufts of weeds, are now covered with a layer of mulch.

With another year of seeds to cover the ground, I'm ready to grow next years crop of free mulch and nutrient accumulators too. I want those weeds to set seed so I can have more free mulch next year. We mow our footpaths so we're not walking on weeds, but the edges always seem to amass weeds the mower can't reach.

March 2015

When these side-dressings of weeds begin to wane, that's when I turn them into mulch. I pull them out in autumn and use it to mulch, not just footpaths, but for around plants too. These are my saltbush plants I made from cuttings last year.

Once these bushes get some more size to them, the weeds won't be so much of a problem. That's because the shrubs will shade them out. In the meantime, I feed them back to the shrubs to help them grow.

Saltbush - originally in the ground
November 2014

Am I worried about being overrun by weeds? Not really, as they're just like any other living plant I own. They are my chop and drop mulch, instead of carting mulch in. I've discovered chop and drop mulch, breaks down much quicker, and is less likely to mat together causing water penetration issues.

Plus its right there for the taking! Every year. Dependable. Come drought or flood. I don't have to worry about this particular crop failing to produce a harvest.

The dreaded Burr

There is one weed however, which does cause us problems and that's burrs. Because burrs can prick your feet, even when wearing thongs. They can even come into the house on soles of shoes, and catch tender feet unawares as well. Both our kids have been introduced to the "ouchie" of burrs now, and autumn is the time they start to become an issue.

And yet, I still cannot bring myself to poison them, because they cover the ground where grass won't grow. The burrs only grow in compacted ground or where the soil is so poor it won't even grow grass. In this case, the burrs job is to cover the earth and bring up nutrients for the soil. With enough nutrient, the ground will start to grow more grass.

Although I don't enjoy the autumn "ouchie", I've got to respect the burrs role in the soil.

I have strategies to thwart the dreaded burr though, and one is by adding mulch on top. This gives grass a better environment to grow in. By improving the water holding capacity of the soil, grass will out compete burrs over time. I've run guinea pigs and chickens in tractors to thwart burrs too. They eat the emerging plants, and manure left behind improves the soil conditions for grass to out compete the burr once again.

Paving in front of chicken coop

But my very last strategy where I cannot thwart burrs from compaction of the soil, is paving! I've found paving in high traffic areas is the only solution, because the soil is never going to be allowed ideal conditions to improve. It doesn't matter how much mulch you put down, the soil is always going to compact in high traffic areas. So I have no problem with paving them over.

 Brick paving ramp to verandah

Especially if its recycled paving through using old broken concrete, or in our case, recycled bricks and paving from other people's leftovers. Unlike concrete slabs, paving allows water to penetrate the ground below too.

There will always be those weeds which make life extremely difficult, but the majority of them are very useful in the garden. Its the one crop you can almost guarantee, won't fail. It will always be there to mulch your garden.

My life has gotten a lot better, since I stopped trying to stop weeds being prolific, and used their natural tendencies in my soil's favour instead.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The old ways

I have been trying to shape this land for a while now. We've tried different strategies and seen a lot of failures. So I turn to the internet to research what works and what doesn't. Inevitably, there comes the discussion about yields, sustainability and how everyone views that differently.

 Modern farming

Conventional farming seems to think modern agriculture is the only way to feed the world. Unconventional farmers however, want a moratorium on killing everything in sight. There's a tussle between who's right.

It got me thinking recently, about my own farming experience. I don't mention it much, but I come from several farming backgrounds. My mother and her siblings, grew up on farms. They killed rabbit and poultry for food, grew fruit and vegetables, with just enough to sell to pay the bills.

An old fashioned way to pick fruit

It wasn't an ideal life, it was hard work, but as the seasons came and went, they always seemed to be healthy and have food they produced themselves. My grandmother married several times in her life. In the beginning it was a grape farmer in a winery area, and at the later part of her life, it was a cattle man, much older than her.

But the stories I heard from that last marriage, were quite valuable in retrospect. At the time though, I thought they were weird (like from another planet weird) because I was used to a completely different way of living. How could a man spend most of his life in the saddle, living with his cattle? How could he get up every day in the small town we lived, waiting to trek to his property and check the cows? Wasn't town more exciting? Weren't cows boring?

Sale yards

I overheard my grandmother saying in a conversation once, that her husband was well respected in the farming community. I didn't realise how well, until I attended a cattle sale at the local yards. Everyone wanted to shake his hand. Every man wanted to steal his ear. He couldn't move a few meters before someone else stopped him. He was always polite to people, but you could see he was never far from the cows either. Looking back now, he was really quite obsessed with cattle.

I started to piece together the stories I heard in conversations - the little things I had no idea about at the time, but always seemed important for my grandparents to discuss. I never heard my grandfather complain about the weather. He was an astute observer instead, always noting where the wind was coming from, and if the rain was coming from the west, to expect bad storms. He never got it wrong.

Weather watching

I remember my grandfather remaining resolute that a government subsidy was a bad thing too. He didn't want to be told how to treat his land, in order to be eligible for a subsidy. He seemed far happier for avoiding them.

Whatever he was doing as an experienced cattle man though, it was certainly noticed in the yards, because his cattle were consistently getting the highest prices, even during a drought. He had fewer cattle to offer than some, but you could be sure, ALL were the finest quality. And what would you expect from a man who dedicated his life to living with his cattle?

Life in the saddle

From what I can gather from my grandfather's experience droving cattle, is that whatever those animals experienced, he did too. If it rained, he was in it. If it was hot and dry, he experienced it with the cattle. Over the years, I'm sure he must've observed the natural features on the landscape which provided enough protection, shade and water, for everyone to depend on.

Why would someone who knew the value of such features on the landscape, suddenly take a government subsidy to remove those elements and start poisoning his land, as a matter of course? It was the conventional way, but it wasn't my grandfathers way.

 Life outdoors 24/7

My grandfather knew the value of the old ways - tried, true and dependable. If anyone thought him weird, they didn't tell it to his face, because they were too busy asking his advice for the pick of calves at the sales. It didn't matter how good the stock was however, if they were taking them home to conventional land practices.

I remember visiting his land as a youngster and it seemed so messy. Everything was overgrown. But then I was raised in the controlled environment of trimmed hedges and cut lawn. As an adult now though, I can appreciate those overgrown masses, were actually windbreaks.

An example of a windbreak

His cattle were never truly exposed to the elements. In fact, they had quite the cozy home for bovines. Whenever they saw his car enter the top paddock, they would slowly walk along the windbreaks to meet him. I was fascinated by their orchestrated procession, and never knew why they preferred that particular course. It seemed to go the long way around. I can hazard a guess now though. Why walk out in the open, with the sun and wind on their hides, when they could walk the cool path beneath their hooves, next to the shrubbery instead?

It took a dependable farmer, who went out into the elements with his animals, to know what had true value on his land. If he experienced the benefits for himself, how could anyone pay him, to remove those things from his animals?

 Water is an important resource

In one way, his job was made harder by failing to mechanize and maximize production. On the other hand though, he could spot a problem with an animal early, before it became fatal. That's because he was out  in the environment, keeping only what stock his land could handle. He was extremely astute at noticing when the balance became even slightly changed, and it was his responsibility to adjust.

When I read about what is the best land management practices today, I see a lot about what scientists tell farmers is good to plant or remove. Also there's a lot about the importance of yields. All garnered from research conditions dependent on fitting the mould. While these are not necessarily bad things, of themselves (information is not inherently evil) but they seem to have dominated the conversation, so that maximizing production is considered the norm, and sacrificing yield, is considered financial suicide.

A farmer's companion

Multiple species inhabit the middle ground though. It's where they can advantage each other by interconnecting. Like the messy windbreak my grandfather kept completely dishevelled. He had a multitude of species of animals, living their life cycles around that shrubbery, which ultimately benefited his cattle. Birds are natural pest eaters after all, and lots of birds eat lots of bugs.

But his bovines were also eating food (and medicine) nature intended for them to eat. That's why he always fetched the best prices at the sale yards. He didn't waste his energy fighting the natural elements with poisons. He spent a lifetime, learning to embrace the natural elements to his advantage instead. I guess something only living in a saddle for weeks on end, could teach you?

 When all is said and done...

My grandfather died a happy and wealthy (though you wouldn't know it to look at him) cattle man. Unfortunately once he died, so did much of what he knew. None of his children wanted a part in the old ways. Not completely.

I wish I could have stolen my grandfathers ear, to ask him about land management though. I was too young then, and didn't know I'd be managing land myself at some point. But I still have the small conversations I overheard and the memories of his unkempt acreage. The old ways seemed to be more about contemplation of a hundred different strategies to manage something, as opposed to only the one.

 Freedom to choose

Specialization of modern agriculture made everything the same. We've lost a great deal of diversity in that process. So as meagre as my farming experience is, I want to write it all down, as a small contribution to the larger picture. And that picture is all those unconventional land stewards, striving to go against the grain of modern conventions.

It is the unconventional farmer who inhabits the middle ground - where the natural cycles are respected and enhanced. Technology is used only for the benefit of the land, and still allows the farmer to connect on a personal level.

The unconventional farmer will also have more conversations around food, than just maximizing production. We're making and seeing connections in our natural environment, that takes years to practice observing. We're raising families or animal families, that doesn't make our lives picture perfect either.

Talking about it, normalises the natural challenges that comes with our environment of living things. Although he's long gone, my grandfather's memory was a reminder that the old ways, endure, so long as someone sees the value and puts them back into practice. We should be willing to experience some of the conditions we subject our food to, if only to learn how better to protect our investment.

(SIDE NOTE: None of these pictures are mine, they are borrowed from a free photo resource here)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sealing the pond

With our new pond project, we thought we may need help with sealing, because this particular area is known for its sandy-loam soils. Our pond is right on the edge of a (formerly) active gully, so it has collected quite a bit of silt over the years.

 Project to date - logs roughly mark pond

We aren't fans of pond liners though, not least because of the toxicity in manufacture and price, but also because we know nature has been sealing ponds very adequately, for a very long time. We just had to learn the process of how to do it. So began my research for knowledge.

First, this link has a thorough discussion on the topic of "gley" or "glei" if you're speaking Russian. Which is just the layering of biodegradable material over the surface of the pond. It creates anaerobic conditions which mats together, or seals the pond. I've seen this done naturally in our middle swale, thanks to the pigeon peas I planted above them.

 Natural swale seal

They dropped their leaves and when they broke down over several seasons, eventually made a black-green slime. I had no idea at the time, this was nature sealing our swale. Yet its very distinctive, where the organic matter fell, the swale holds water. Where it doesn't, the water sinks through.

But I really like Sepp Holzer's approach to pond lining - just add pigs! The way pigs agitate the water with their hooves, they compact the soil particles regardless if the soil has clay or not. Sepp imitates this process, with the use of a excavator bucket on machinery. We won't go that route ourselves, but if you want to learn more about Sepp's techniques, visit this link.

For pretty pictures of ponds, using Sepp's techniques, see this link. You may find more information by clicking on the images.

We will probably start by adding lots of organic matter to the surface of the pond, once its dug and plan to have some deciduous trees nearby to continue the process.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A new project

Click images to enlarge

So what can you do when there's not much money, but land is at your disposal? Well, you can make dirt, or you can just as easily, move it. I can't think of anything more enjoyable. And that's exactly what David embarked on doing today, with his trusty hand tools, a bit of sweat and even the shirt from his back!

We like to keep our work simple.

The beginning

We're renovating a patch of land, which we originally dumped tree trunks on and attempted to grow some volunteer plants from our compost. It made some lovely soil, grew some grass and even sheltered insects from the sunlight, but nothing which originally sprung from the compost, actually lived very long.

 The plan

That experiment was a dud, but we realised the area would make a great pond - something we could direct water from the main gully to. But first we had to pull up those decaying logs. By we, I mean, David.

Termite candy

I was able to steal a few moments from Peter napping inside, to take some pictures of David's handiwork. There were logs in various stages of decay, as well as plenty of broken down sticks. There were even some amazing fungi growing on some of the logs. So many things happening in this area we disturbed just a few years ago.

Natural bling!

As David moved the logs out of the way, there was some fairly good topsoil to put aside for later.

I like how we mostly use hand tools in our land work though. It takes a lot of time, versus the mechanical methods available, but its cheap and if you look after your tools, they never break down.

A great way to spend the day

The other benefit of using hand tools, is that it helps keep your own organic matter, maintained. We once used hand tools because we didn't have the money for mechanical ones, but now its something we're happy to adopt - not as an inferior substitute, but as a means to connect with the soil, and our own bodies.

In turning the soil, we turn our muscles and both are the better for it. I get my workout, when I dig the swales.


So this is what the area looked like, once the pile of logs was removed. David got busy with the shovel and carted that topsoil away. Then it started to look a lot more civilized.


Because we're digging this area down, to make a pond, these small trees will have to go. In fact, quite a few trees, outside this picture has to go. But its all for the purpose of making something better. We'll plant more trees of course, and building a place to hold water, will increase the network of living organisms.

The tree leaning in the foreground, was the first one to meet David's mattock.

It was the second tree, I have since been informed, was responsible for breaking the mattock! Its not called Australian hardwood, for nothing. What was I saying about hand tools never breaking down?

That mattock has seen some mileage though. We bought it, when our first mattock split its wooden handle. After we got it repaired, we had two invaluable devices for moving dirt with. They helped build the many retaining walls around the property. It's done some serious dirty work!

But now it seems we're back down to one. I know any mattock we buy to replace it though, will be money well spent! David's back out there with some shovels an axe, and determination to take out one more tree, before the day's through.

As an interesting side-note, when I looked for labels to put on this post, I found Health, Land and Water management. Seeing those three things together, I realised, that's what its all about - our health and that of the land and water. We come outside, nearly every day, for those very things.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It all connects

It's coming to the end of our monsoon season, so the storms aren't as intense, but still bring with them some rain. These will reduce further into winter, and won't really start again until next summer. We always seem to miss the spring rain, unfortunately.

I thought I'd take the opportunity with a recent storm, to explore how we're dealing with water run-off. Normally it would all just run down the slope as quickly as possible, until it reaches flat ground at our lowest gully. This creates soil erosion however, so over the many, many, many years, we've been digging a series of swales to direct how the water flows.

Click all images to enlarge

Forgive the weeds. Its autumn and we're slowly removing them and mulching the swales and plants with them. A season of natural equity goes back into the soil.

We have one swale on the top slope, directly above the house, which redirects water that comes from the street and our neighbours' driveway (above). But there's also a middle swale, which wraps around the immediate vicinity of the house. Any water which collects, gets moved slowly north. These middle swales, always fill relatively quickly and seem to drain within 24 hours.

Same middle swale
House, left, cross the swale to reach both chicken coops, right

We've built these over several growing seasons, and even used them as dumping grounds for prunings. As they break down, they fill any ruts we have in the soil, but also act as filters for the water which passes through. It's been wonderful at recycling our natural materials, with the bonus of slowing the flow.

As much as we try to capture and retain the water on level swales (dug on contour) it inevitably has to travel down a small slope, because, well, we live on slopes and that's the way gravity works.

From here, the water would normally launch on the north facing ski-ramp, and chew its way down the slope. But not since we've dug our newest swales. It's a slow process digging by hand, but the job inevitably gets done. Swale 1 is in the middle of construction, and swale 2 is yet to be started.

This picture doesn't really illustrate how long the swales are going to be, but shows the path the water is going to take nonetheless. Its going to travel twice down the slope, with strategic spillways in the swales, to move the water further down hill as they fill.

We already have a semi-mature mulberry tree to help take up some of that moisture and nutrient flow, but we also have a mango tree in the distance, out of shot. More on that in another post.

But now this is where it gets interesting...

Where does all this water lead, you may ask? Straight to the flattest ground, which happens to cut through the middle of our property. This is where all the water events, end up merging together. We get water from our own property meeting with water entering from our neighbours lands, which all deal with the water coming off the street above.

Its a network we're hoping to tap by slowing the flow - especially the velocity where the water enters from our neighbours land. They've built a concrete culvert to cross the gully to their house. The water sheds from the bitumen road quickly, enters several properties with no means to slow the flow, then it shoots like a bottleneck, through our neighbours concrete culvert.

The speed in which it enters is so forceful, it cuts a new path nearly every time. It digs deeper and deeper into the soil, creating chasms at least a metre deep on our neighbours side. Our only hope to stop that kind of erosion happening on our land, was to choke it out with natural materials - in this case, grass, weeds and what-have-you. We're somewhat chuffed you cannot see the enormous erosion channel that used to be here. Its been choked out with thriving grasses growing on old debris instead.

We had to slow the flow by using a similar strategy to the middle swale - by dumping old prunings and such into the channel. Not in all of it, mind you, just at strategic points so the water could spill over if there was too much. We don't burn our debris (not until we get a wood heater) but we tend to drown them instead. Aren't we lovely.

Mulberry tree #2
water flows to the left (mostly) but can also spill over to the right 

A little further down stream, is a somewhat younger tree to our first mulberry, and its planted here to take advantage of the water and nutrient flow. We thought the first mulberry grew fast, but this one is on steroids. Its about half the age of our original tree but growing twice as fast.

What I have just shown you in these series of photos, has been many years in the making. We are still doing a lot of work, but nature is helping us too. With each monsoon season that passes through, more elemental forces help to shape our lower gully. We have a lot of gullies on our property, this just happens to be the biggest and with the most potential to tap, as land stewards.

There is so much work to do here, and God willing, we will finish it. The work is pretty simple though - dig, prune, dump and see what the monsoon season leaves behind.