Saturday, December 27, 2008

Natural Irrigation

Since I currently live in California and without irrigation our "civilization" would perish, I am looking for fossil-fuel and supply-line free methods to be self-sufficient and sustainable.

I have been curious about other forms of piping that do not need metal or plastic, the obvious solution would be bamboo.

Bamboo grows wild here on the central coast and from what I understand there are many varieties that grow well in almost all conditions around the world! Yesterday I experimented with bamboo and was able to get some water flowing through a short 3 foot pipe I made! I had some troubles finding the right sizes and lengths that would work, but was a fun trial and error experience!

I found this site today and it has a similar technique to what I was using, but looks like it would work better. I was using smaller pieces of bamboo instead of a metal rod, but some of the bamboo was breaking and it would ruin the whole section. I found that younger, greener bamboo worked best as the "small" inside piece to break through the nodes. However, it was challenging to break through the nodes and I wished I had something stronger and sharper. Plus, the "hole" was not very big, maybe 1/2 inch, and if I had proper tools I could make this much bigger, such as this site allows you to do.

Only downside is that the pipes last for only 5 years - versus 15-20+ for plastic. And they have to be raised off the ground and that is secured with wood and some kind of twine/rope. Oh and the fact that you have to manufacture them! But, if we want to be off-grid and need to make our own piping, this is an option.

The other step is how to get the water into the pipes. From a pond, river or stream The best option I have found so far is the time tested the roman invention - the Archimedes screw. Which can be built with wood, sealed with resin (from wood), and powered by man power or a wooden windmill!

Those methods take water and lift it up, but ideally the water would be gravity fed into pipes. The permaculture preferred method is keyline design, which combines dams and swales on contour, but the unique method is how they design the pipes at the base of the dams, so just turning on the spigot will release water with pressure to go into your pipes or furrows (ditches) for flood irrigation.

Still the other option which I am exploring, is to choose drought-tolerant or less water intensive crops to grow. And/or choosing a new lifestyle, which could include hand watering earthen pots submerged in the ground which would slowly release the water to the surrounding plants. The main foods that need this are vegetables. Many Grains and Fruits can be grown with the rainfall that is stored in the soil. This may require that we have a large harvest and then preserve the food through the months that we cannot grow. Such as how people store food through the winter. This all depends on our diet of course. I will be working on this for the next few months, even years and will try to keep the blog updated!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rainwater Fed Hillside Orchard

This is what it's all about! Growing perennial food with no irrigation and coming back to eat when it is ready! Good tip on the gopher baskets. I'd add on growing a cover crop between trees to improve soil and add nitrogen before adding in herbs/insectaries etc. Also add in mulch creators (chop n drop) to grow mulch on site rather than carting it in!

"Chop 'n Drop" is common in food forest design - planting something - anything.. commonly a bush/tree.. its purpose is to grow and create organic material for mulch and also its roots dig up and mine minerals from the sub soil which then are deposited onto and helps build the topsoil as it's leaves and stems decompose!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Greening Eritrea

More greening of the desert, this method is using seawater, saltwater plants and aquaculture! Look at the power of what we can do when we work with nature... there ARE solutions! There IS another way!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


(click image for full view)

The bio-latrine uses anaerobic bacteria to transform human waste into fertilizer and gas suitable for uses like cooking, heating and lighting. This is a solution I'm looking into for rural living as a replacement for natural gas and sewer/septic system. Five people using the system daily can provide up to one hour of cooking fuel.

Read more here

Video here.

Mr. Phiri - The Man Who Farmed Water

One of the best designs for sustainability. This man from Zimbabwe designed his own system to sustain himself and his family, while his neighbors were (and still are) dependent on international aid for their survival.

Read and be inspired! This is from Brad Lancaster's book "Rainwater Harvesting Volume 1"

Read the story for free online here


1. Granite dome
2. Unmortared stone walls
3. Reservoir
4. Fence with unmortared stone wall
5. Swale/terrace
6. Outdoor wash basin
7. Chickens and turkeys run freely in courtyard
8. Traditional round houses with thatched roofs
9. Main house with vine-covered cistern and ramada
10. Open ferro-cement cistern
11. Kraal--cattle and goats
12. Courtyard garden
13. Swale
14. Dirt road
15. Thatch grass and thick vegetation
16. Fruition pit in large swale
17. Crops
18. Dense grasses
19. Well with hand pump
20. Donkey pump
21. Open unmortared wells
22. Reeds and sugar cane
23. Dense banana grove

(Illustration by Silvia Rayces from a drawing by Brad Lancaster)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sepp Holzer: Farming with Nature

If it can can be done in the most remote regions of the alps in Austria, it can be done anywhere! Plant seeds, everywhere! Amazing! These are clips from fuller videos.

Sepp has 70 ponds on a complex food forested (30,000 fruit trees)100A landscape at 4000ft in the Alps of Austria with a 1000 ft elevation change from top to bottom of his site. He manages it mostly with pigs and a few highland cattle.

You can read Sepp's story from his book Rebel Farmer.

You're able to buy the film direct at Here's the current offer:
contains 3 films:
"Farming with Nature"
"Terraces and Raised Beds"
PAL, 90min altogether
Price: EUR 35,00

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ocean currents can power the world

Or so the scientists say.. :) Using biomimicry, they emulated how fish swim to harness electricity in waters with slow currents and on the bottom of oceans and rivers so its out of the way of boats and fish. This is a good solution for our electricity needs, but we still have a liquid fuel problem - especially for growing and transporting our food! Buy local! Grow your own!