Podcast 253 – Review of the earthworks workshop

Credit: Summary prepared by Micky Ewing

In this podcast Paul talks with Diego Footer & Joey D'Elia about the 3 day Earthworks workshop Paul held in San Diego on March 6-8, just prior to the 2013 Southern California Permaculture Convergence where Paul was the Keynote speaker.

Paul and Diego start by talking a bit about the recently announced PermacultureVoices conference that they conceived early this year and that Diego is organizing (in large part) for March 2014. Speakers will include Geoff Lawton, Toby Hemenway, Michael Pollan, Jack Spirko, Joel Salatin, Allan Savory and of course Paul himself. Get your tickets!

There was a short bit about Paul's "Replacing Irrigation with Permaculture" presentation last year. Since this presentation talked a lot about hugelkultur - Joey was pulling for a hugelkultur workshop for this March, but in the end Paul did the Earthworks workshop instead.

Then they began recapping the Earthworks workshop. Paul described the site for the workshop as desert-y. He described how the rains form a muddy river that ran down a road, onto the property and then into a creek, possibly bringing considerable pollution (eg. heavy metals) from the road with it. The mission for the site was to get more water onto the land but reduce the amount of runoff coming onto the property from the road, clean that water and then use it. The goals for the workshop: build a pond, a swale and a hugelkulture bed and reduce runoff from road. They also wanted to communicate the process for deciding what a site needs, where things go, where water should be directed etc. This is what the attendees most wanted: the very first steps in deciding what to do and how to do it.

Paul then talked about how Neil Bertrando dropped by before the workshop and told him the bedrock of the site was cracked. This concerns Paul greatly. He didn't know if he could seal a pond naturally (without a liner) under those circumstances. Paul came 2 days early. He found that Alden Hough, the site manager, had dug 2 test pits. Paul confirmed the cracked bedrock, but the test pits also showed clay/silt which made him feel better about the prospects for sealing the pond.

Paul then outlined the trajectory of the workshop. On day 1, they started out with some general info on earthworks, some Q & A then went to the site. They decided on some earthworks that were needed, including a pond high on the property to act as a settling pond and filter for water coming onto the property from the road. Then they got out the laser level and started planning out the work. They also did a simple soil analysis, using water and mason jars. They judged the soil to be about 15% clay - sufficient to do natural sealing

On day 2, the heavy equipment showed up, including a track hoe and a loader. People began clearing brush and digging the pond. Paul gave everyone a crack at using the track hoe. People with picks & shovels also went to work reshaping the driveway to try to limit the intake of water from the road. Paul described some of the details of the dam that held the pond, including a crown to keep it dry and solid.

That evening a heavy rain fell and filled the pond before it was as big as intended or sealed properly. This interfered with the completion of the pond. So on day 3 they built a terrace and a combined hugelkultur bed/sun scoop on the terrace.

Paul and Joey went on to talk about Joey's planting workshop, in which the participants planted the areas left bare by the earthworks workshop. Paul ended with some reflections on what might have improved the earthworks workshop, including doing some berms to deaden the wind and shifting the timing of the workshop so that the replanting would not be happening at the beginning of the dry season.

You can discuss this podcast on this thread at Permies.