Water and me. And you.

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garlic chives and pear tree

Water woz ere. A clearly hydrated landscape thanks to good hydrological design at Strathcona Community Garden, Vancouver Canada

We’re all becoming acutely aware of the value of water. And so we should, as water’s role in our lives and in the planets’ cycles cannot really be understated. When designing and planning a Permaculture system, it’s top of the list – the order goes: Water, Access, Structure. Design and sort out your water catchments and systems before you design anything else. Give them priority. Water is not an optional extra. Without water, you’re stuffed.

Our first dam

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The studio dam, the one halfway up the ridge and in the middle of our system, was the first one we all sunk our teeth into. And boy oh boy…earthworks are something else… it’s like having your skin torn off in large slabs, while someone tells you it’s not skin, it’s just butter. No problem…

Surveying the site from scratch

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Having grand plans is all very fine, but there comes a time when one must make the first, single, decisive gesture towards action.

For us, this meant placing a small wooden peg, painted white, at the southern boundary of Milkwood. And then surveying a contour which continued aaaallllll the way around the hillside at the same height as that first peg, right around to the other boundary of Milkwood on the western side of the ridge.

Milkwood – the water design

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aerial shot of kirwin

Aerial photo of Kirwin, with Milkwood top left-ish. Taken in about 2002, we think.

Standing on a bare hilltop, with the creek below and a small creekflat to the left, it all seemed so easy when we first got here… all we had to do was figure out where to put some structures, avoid the big trees, and build a bridge over the creek to get in. Grow something on the creekflat, put in a vegie garden, and get water from the sky… and the rest of it all, all those complex ideas and fiddly bits, could just wait till we were nicely set up.

Milkwood Timelapses: and so it begins…

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studio site looking south

Site of Strawbale studio and middle dam, looking southish – the courtyard will be on this side, along with a few prize deciduous trees.

One of the things that always gets me is seeing old photos of how a place used to be. I have a photo of what the headland at Kiama looked like when it was still a windswept farm – before my parents (and everyone else) put up their brick-veneer houses in the 60’s and turned it into prime-real estate, densely packed suburb it is today….

So in light of this, and because we like to document things (incase you hadn’t noticed) , Nick and I have committed to a very long-term project: Milkwood Timelapses. Every morning before sunrise, we will walk the boundary of Milkwood, taking photos from 7 different points. We will do this each morning, every morning that we are here, until such a time as we can walk no more… and by then we will have trained monkeys to do it for us. Or some future solar-powered zero-footprint adsl whizz-bang gadget which requires no maintainence and also makes cheese as a byproduct.

Earthworks, water and other fantastic fun

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lily pags in Geoff's dam

Water is precious. And hard to find, around here. The process of designing hydrology into a site so that whatever water is available is used intelligently and for multiple purposes before it is allowed to seep out of the soil and into the creek is a tricky task. We have spend nigh on a year now, just watching the rainfall and the landscape and thinking and planning how we would best design Milkwood to make the most of our limited rainwater catchment.