This Saturday, I had the pleasure of going to what a local permaculture organization calls a permablitz. During a permablitz, members of the local permaculture community converge on the home or property of one of their fellow members with shovels, picks rakes, and other tools to spend one or both days of a weekend installing all kinds of water harvesting, soil improving and food growing improvements. The improvements that are installed come from a property design created by the owner or by other members of the group using permaculture and other natural systems-based design principles.
Today, we installed a berm and a swale in the back yard of a house next to a lovely chicken coop. We also moved a lot of mineral and soil-amended compost into the yard to shape and fertilize what will become beds for vegetable and fruit production as soon as this spring. In the process, I got to make some new friends and hear lots of good stories about people taking interest in their food and their land and learning to work with both to build healthy families and, if this group is any indication, healthy communities.
As a passive water catchment system, the berm and swale are designed to collect and then slow down rainwater to allow it more time to soak into the subsoil instead of running off. Once in the subsoil, the water is available to the plants that have been planted on top of the berm as well as in the surrounding area. This storage of water in the soil instead of letting it run off of the property is a powerful way to improve the quality of the growing environment and therefore increase the yields of the property its installed in. The beauty is that no extra water is required, this minor topographical alteration improves the ability of your soil to use the same amount of water that is available in your climate.
After a great day sharing coffee, ideas, hard but meaningful work, a meal, and then even more work to close out the day, the owner of the property invited the whole crew over to the fire pit where he lit a fire and offered us all some beers. With the chill that made working in the sun today so pleasant starting to creep in behind the setting sun, we all laughed and told stories inching closer to the flames to stay warm.
Today was a good day.