Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Upcoming Class Teaches Water Harvesting Techniques (May 2 & 3) (VIDEO)

Come learn how at our Water as a Resource in the Landscape workshop that will be held on May 2 & 3. Steve & Elizabeth Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm will share what they have learned as we develop our farm and homestead so that others can better utilize water on their sites. The class will cover the basics of mapping and design, teach you how to use a-frames and laser levels to mark out beds, paths, swales, and ponds, and engage hands-on finishing a swale and riparian buffer on the farm. An excavator will also be on site and we will talk about appropriate use of this machine for long term benefit to the land. See the video below for a mini-tour of some of our current systems in place.

More information and registration through the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute website: http://fingerlakespermaculture.org/programs/2015-program-listing/water-as-a-resource-in-the-landscape/

earthworks for water harvesting at the farm
Spring equals water flow in the northeastern US. Snow melt and increased rainfall bring a flush of life back into the landscape, and along with it gives immediate feedback as flows and catchments are tested to their limits. Pooling, flooding, and rapidly flowing waterways, along with saturated soils aka "mud season" make it seem like problems are inveitable. Farmers wait to plow their fields, builders anxiously anticipate the ground drying so new projects can start, and municipal managers worry about overflowing storm water drains and clogged culverts. 

Meanwhile, in the forest, water is being harvested. Trees are intelligently funneling rainwater to their leaves, trunks, and roots. The deep mulch laid down the previous fall reduces the impact of heavy rainfall and keeps the soil in place. Plants and animals come alive with the abundance of this life giving force. Vernal pools catch and hold water, providing breeding ground for amphibians. Water is slowly accepted into the landscape, a precious gift that is life for all of us.

As farmers and homesteaders, water is one of our first yields of the season. The first indications come as sap, sweet water that flows up from roots to the very tips of our maple trees as the woods first begin to thaw. At Wellspring Forest Farm, we eagerly drink the refreshing sap and feel rejuvenated and awakened. As temperatures continue to warm, we hang our gutters and hook up our rainwater system, which we use domestically as well as for our animals. We can learn a lot from these examples.

After a long winter, the prospect of an always full 1,000 gallon tank offers a feeling of wealth; no longer are we rationing water between our needs for cooking and showering, and for the animals. Water doesn't freeze anymore and so pipes, hoses, roofs and gutters can replace hauling buckets.

We've contoured our landscape to further catch water, which further increases our storage and also creates living habitats. Rainfall soaks into terraced planting beds, and runoff flows into our ponds. Swales take the excess and gently distribute it across dry ridges, feeding trees so we don't have to irrigate. Our ducks splash with joy and this feeling translates to smiles on our faces.

Check out this video tour of some of these systems:

Anyone with a farm or land base is able to make choices about how water moves and how it can feed productive systems. All it takes is some understanding of the patterns and process of flows, the use of simple design tools, and moderate changes to gutters, downspouts, and shapes in the landform.

As we hear stories of increased and prolonged drought out West, we feel lucky to be blessed with ample water here. And, we are reminded that water is precious, and should not be taken for granted in any part of the world. As we learn to catch and store water in natural ways, we celebrate its arrival every spring. Flooding and erosion challenges can become opportunities, if only we apply good thinking and design to our specific situations.