Water for the Food Forest

Water for the Food Forest

2015 was an exceptionally hot and dry year here.  The 2014/15 winter was dry and the only rain we had until November was on our Beltane Retreat.  At one point in the summer we thought our deep well had run dry and we became very conscious of the water we were using. We are even more conscious of our water usage now, as we are going off-grid this summer and we aren’t on municipal water – we need to pump our own water.

I used to take water for granted when we lived in London, but water awareness was one of Gaia-Sophia’s first lessons here.  First, the well ran dry in the house we rented, even though the roof leaked into our bed when it rained!  Then when we moved here we had no water in the cabin for a month and that summer, 2013, the gravity well ran dry.  We had another month of driving 10 miles to fill up at the public font that brings water down from the mountains.  Many people in Spain still use mountain water for drinking that comes from the public fonts that are all over Spain.

The gravity well is our reserve well as it doesn’t need electricity to run.  It’s up the hill from the house and the cabin and we laid a pipe so it flows down the hill when we need it.  It’s all we had until we put in a deep well and it only ran dry because we lost a lot of water when we put in the pipe.  It just doesn’t have enough pressure to support all our needs when we have guests, or to water the garden.  So, last summer we opened up the other well that is in the barn.  This is about 15M deep, so we could put in a less powerful pump and the plan was to use that to water the food forest.  That well ran dry too!  The new plan is not to water the food forest.

Most farmers around here don’t irrigate their fields.  They grow potatoes, cabbages, pumpkins and corn and every year they plough in cow manure to get rid of weeds and keep in moisture.  We are not ploughing and we’re not using cow manure.  Cow manure is full of weed seeds and creates more work than benefits.  Our strategy involves swales, ditches, woodchips and trees.

The Lie of the Land

Our food forest is on a gentle south facing slope.  Two years ago we cleared the straggly pines that were there there and began the process of laying out beds and terracing the slopes.  We had the use of a digger for the initial clearing and to lay out the old chestnut beams that were in the house to make the terraces.  The terraces are not formal and not dug out; we are just using the beams to support the downhill side of the beds as we slowly build them up over time with mulch and wood chips.  The aim is to retain rain water and minimize soil erosion from water running down the slope. We’ve done most of the rest of the work by hand, mostly just Dean and I, with a few hours here and there from various visitors.

We get around 100cm of rain in a year, which should be plenty to keep the garden growing throughout the year – if we can keep it in the ground!  The wettest months are November and March, but we can get showers throughout the year and cloudbursts in late summer.  This province, Lugo, is named after Lugo the Celtic god who wielded a spear of lightning.  Lughnasa, the first week of August (thereabouts) is when he brings lightening and thunderstorms to recharge the earth.  Lugh is a Bearer of the Grail.

Our soil is mineral rich, because no one has farmed here for generations.  Before the pines were planted about 20 years ago it would have been cleared pasture for cows and before that it would have been native oak and chestnut woods, that still exist in these parts.  If you turn your back for five minutes in a field around here, an oak tree will shoot up!  However, the soil is solid clay and without the pines providing shade and a constant supply of mulch, it turns to concrete in the summer when the sun beats down.  It’s a beautiful and sheltered location, but it’s very hard on seedlings.

Trees

We have planted about 50 fruit and nut trees so far.  We lost all the hazelnut trees last summer, as the hosepipe wouldn’t reach them, but all the other trees survived.  Mature trees are expert water managers.  A mature fruit tree can drink nearly 200L of water a day and our aim is to keep as much water in the soil as we can, so that we can minimize watering in the dry months.  It might take us a few years to get to that point, as the trees are still young and not rooted deeply enough, but that’s our aim.

Trees are intelligent beings.  You might not be able to hold a conversation with them, but that is just as true for many human creatures.  If you plant a tree in the right place and support it when young, with the minimum intervention, it will adjust its needs to whatever the Planetary Animal Mother provides.  So last year many of the trees dropped their leaves to conserve water because of the drought, but their roots were safe and they are already budding this year, after a mild wet winter.  Trees collect rain and transmit it into the soil.  It has been shown that broadleaved trees intercept blowing rain and conduct it down the branches and trunk to the soil.  The roots then provide a path which carries the rainwater into the deeper soil layers very quickly.  Our indigenous species like ash, alder, chestnut, willow, birch, oak, elm and many hedgerow shrubs are known to be particularly effective even in heavy clay soils, like ours.  Coniferous trees are less effective at catching rainwater.  Trees reduce flooding and prevent soil erosion, as well as providing shade and evening out the temperature extremes.

Ditches and Swales

Everyone knows what a ditch is and a swale looks like a ditch, except it runs across the contour of the land, rather than down it.  A ditch moves water away from where it’s not wanted and a swale retains water where it’s needed.

Swale diagram

 We are using a combination of ditches and swales, to move rain water away from a very waterlogged area and into the swales.  The swales hold more water than would stay on the surface and allow it to gradually percolate downhill below the topsoil, reducing evaporation and encouraging strong plant roots as they reach down for the water.

A full swale
A full swale

We have dug three rows of swales across the slope, fed by the ditch, so that the parts of the food forest that were dry now have water leeching below the surface.  Initially, we put old wood in the swales, as I’d read that the wood preserves the moisture and prevents more evaporation.  I thought it might mean less mosquitoes in summer too.  But the swales are so full that with the wood that they overflow all over the beds, so we are making adjustments.  It also encourages brambles to fill the swales, as they love old wood.  We will probably shore up the downhill side with planks over time, as this will prevent wood chips and mulch from filling the swales.

Mulching and wood chips

If you walk in the woods anywhere around here, the earth is protected by a thick mantle of rich, dark leaf mulch.  This is what the food forest was like before we cleared the trees, which stripped off and compacted the mulch layer.  Mama does not like to be seen naked, so the weeds then grow prolifically to cover the bare soil.  We laid thick layers of hay from the fields when they were cut, to keep the earth covered and some of the weeds away, but it doesn’t work as well for growing as wood chips and mulch, so we strip it away when we make the beds.  Hay works well to cover empty beds over winter, to keep them weed free and warm ready for planting in spring.  It tends to get fungus easily, so I prefer wood chips.

Mulching reduces evaporation so that the soil stays moist in summer.  You can mulch with almost any natural material that you can lay down in layers, like cardboard, old wool carpet or straw.  However, some materials take longer to break down than others, so if you want to plant shortly after mulching, wood chips are hard to beat.  We haven’t got all the beds covered yet.  There’s no tree-cutting service anywhere near us and Dean has to drive to the wood yard 10km away and load up the truck, then we have to wheelbarrow it into place.  It’s laborious, but the earth and the plants will thank us for it.

Our aim is to minimize our work in the garden and maximize our enjoyment and yield.  It’s a two hour job to water the garden with a hosepipe and when we go off-grid that means two hours of running the pump!  Working with nature to manage our water makes so much more sense.

 

 

 

 

 

Planetary Vision Quest Retreats 2016

Planetary Vision Quest Retreats 2016

 “There is a dream dreaming us.”

The Planetary Vision Quest Retreat is the unique rite of passage ritual for the “new aboriginals” of the 21st century. That is the poets, novelists, dancers, musicians, herbalists, body-workers, stone-workers, animal-keepers, artisans and gardeners who live beyond the mainstream and yearn for connection with the origins of life, pre-civilization and pre-religion. There is only one source of life for the creatures of this world and that is the planetary environment in which we live, the earth. Our lives, our trials and triumphs and the stories we tell ourselves and each other about them, cultural achievements and civilizations, as well as the lost stories of our ancestors hidden in myth and folk-lore; none of these things would exist without the dreaming power of the earth and they will all be lost and forgotten too, unless they are grounded in the earth’s own story.

The living earth is the physical body of the Wisdom Goddess, the Aeon Sophia. Many of you reading this will already know Her Story, the Fallen Goddess Scenario and for some of you this will be a new discovery. The call to the wilderness comes through the ‘Dreamtone’ of the Goddess who is dreaming you into being at every moment of your life. If you answer the call and devote yourself to this particular practice of discovery, you will find yourself on an adventure in magical realism that consecrates your entire existence into the divine source of sentient and animal life. The identification of the living planet as the physical incarnation of the Goddess Sophia, is the unique realization of the Gnostic seers who founded the Pagan Mysteries to teach humanity “who we are, what we have become, whence we have come, where we have been thrown, where we are going, how we are redeemed, what is birth, what is rebirth.”

The Planetary Vision Quest Retreat is grounded in the Sophianic Narrative and follows the teachings of the Terma of Gaia Awakening, through the practice of Planetary Tantra. Gnostic scholar, teacher and nagual, John Lamb Lash brought these treasures to the world and the retreat is faithful to his work and the guidelines he has set in all respects. His web site, metahistory.org, offers free access to all his research and the materials that show the provenance of the Planetary Vision Quest. You can also buy his book, Not in His Image from Amazon. It is not necessary for participants to be familiar with his work, but all applicants are required to read the three basic texts listed below BEFORE applying. Planetary Tantra is open to all, but it is not suited to all and you must inform yourself in order to make that decision for yourself. If you read these texts and find yourself hungry for more, that’s a good indication of suitability, but you must also hold within yourself a pre-existing and deep love for the earth and a fervent desire to get to know Her intimately.

The Planetary Vision Quest Retreat 2016 is a week-long adventure in Galicia, northwest Spain, ‘the land of milk and light’. It is a back-to-nature retreat, in a beautiful and wild location, with no towns or villages within walking distance and most activities take place outside. (To find out more about the facilities click here.) The Planetary Vision Quest includes all the elements of the traditional rites of passage, exponentially amplified by the superiority of the guiding myth, the Sophianic Narrative, and the practices that have emerged through living that Narrative – Planetary Tantra is the only spiritual practice in the world dedicated exclusively to the final 200 years of the Kali Yuga. Each participant in the Planetary Vision Quest will return to the world at large with a greater understanding of how to weave the thread of his/her life into the fabric of the universe and how to live on the tantric path of seeking liberation through desire, not from it – a vastly expanded vision and mission. Participation in the Planetary Vision Quest carries the commitment to be an emissary of Planetary Tantra and to propagate the sacred narrative and you will not get the full benefit of the retreat unless you are able to come with this intention.

The crowning feature of the Planetary Vision Quest Retreat is the telestic session, in which initiates will be guided into a state of cognitive ecstasy using shamanic plants, with the intention of witnessing the Organic Light, the naked body of the Wisdom goddess. Instruction by the Light is the trance-learning technique practised by the ancient Gnostics. This is a very specific process that does not include individual journeying or encounters with imaginary beings. There will be extensive preparation and briefings for the telestic session and de-briefing after.

The retreat covers all aspects of Five Element Planetary Tantra:

  1. Performance of the Gaian Tantra Vow
  2. Studies and applications of the Shakti Cluster
  3. Dakini Shifts, the Tantric Zodiac and real sky observation
  4. Cordings
  5. The retelling of the Fallen Goddess Scenario and perhaps The Legend of the Grail

The Planetary Vision Quest Retreat is precisely calibrated for these troubled times. It is built on John Lash’s work of the past forty years, which itself draws on a lineage that is several thousand years old and also, intriguingly, from the future. This is a robust event for those already practising Planetary Tantra, or with a serious interest in discovering it. It might be considered as an introduction to the path of the warrior shaman, although there is no obligation to follow through in that way.

Qualifications and application process: no formal qualifications or experience are required for the Planetary Vision Quest Retreat, except for the fervent desire to connect with the Wisdom Goddess. However, acceptance is by application only, due to the desirability for gender balance and with regard to the dynamics of the group.

Potential applicants are required, at minimum, to read these essays before registering interest:

The Fall of the Wisdom Goddess:  http://www.metahistory.org/GAIA%20SOPHIA/Synopsis9SM.php

The Terma Of Gaia Awakening Synopsis:  http://www.metahistory.org/terma/opepagesynopsis.php

Introducing Planetary Tantra: http://www.metahistory.org/tantra/PTintro.php

After registering interest you will receive a short questionnaire to be submitted as your application. There is a waiting list, so please apply promptly to avoid disappointment.

The retreat dates are:

Summer Solstice Retreat:  17-23 June 2016

Applications to be received by: 31 March at latest

 Sovereign Moment Retreat:  2-9 August 2016

Applications to be received by: 30 April at latest

 

Price: €500 pp full board. See Booking for more information and Terms and Conditions.

  • Dawn over the finca

 

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