Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Permaculture Design Final Project: Part 1

All thanks and praise is for Allah, the Creator and Sustainer, the One from Whom all good originates! We have finally finished our Permaculture Design Certificate course and our certificates are in hand! The culmination of the course was a final project, which we centered around the 28 acre piece of land we are setting up as our homestead, farm, and pick-your-own area. The other 23 acre piece of land, which is designated to be an educational retreat with a campground, large natural playgound surrounding the lake bed, and a masjid inshaa Allah.

We will share the design for the 28 acre plot with you, posting the drawings and explanations inshaa Allah. It is rather long, so it will be split up for ease, inshaa Allah.


Healing Earth

Goal of Healing Earth’s Project

  • To design a sustainable, off-the-grid, living environment providing environmentally harmless housing, the majority of food, medicinal, and material living needs, and income for a family of six.
  • To be a Permaculture design model and teaching center and a natural building workshop and training site

Technical Data

  •  Geographical Location: Roy, New Mexico - 35*53’25.46”N 104*07’52.53”W, 5 miles to nearest village (population 210), 78 miles to nearest city (population 14,408)
  • Site Size: 28 acres
  • Existing development: on the corner of a paved state road and a gravel county road, property is fully fenced with 4’ high goat and sheep page wire fencing
  • Elevation: 5,768 feet
  • Rainfall: 8 – 16” per year
  • Rainy Season:  June, July, August
  • Hardiness Zone: 6
  • Coolness Zone: 6
  • Heat Zone: 6

Site Characteristics and Assessment

Used as grassland for cattle grazing for the past 30+ years, this site is covered in grass, albeit dry  at times due to drought conditions over the past 4 years.  With rain, the grass grows lushly - a blend of Western wheat and Blue grama at present. The ground is slightly compacted from dry conditions, however prickly pear cacti, some type of gourd, other cacti, curly gum weed, thistle, sunflowers, and various other plants are naturally growing and thriving there in the dry conditions. The land slopes downhill gently from the road, with visible natural swales for water flow.  These can be utilized by planting along the swale and at its end point. Side runnels/swales will be ideal for planting sunflowers as a privacy border/a windbreak/nursing plants for saplings/and a food source for both humans and wildlife.  Sunlight is plentiful, making for excellent solar energy harnessing.  There is a wind that blows strongly by late afternoon each day, and the area tends to have very strong winds in general, which can be used to harness energy through wind generators. The wind will facilitate the use of simple homemade sound-based animal deterrent devices in the orchards and other growing areas.

Site Challenges and Solutions

The site does not have a well and annual rainfall is estimated to be 8 to 16 inches per year. Drought has been an issue in the area for the past 4 years, but in reality for longer than that. Ways to harness water, conserve, have complete grey water system, and build structures that will make moist microclimates must be utilized. Barrels and tanks will be positioned to get maximum run-off collection from rainfall. Fortunately, water from the sky is safer than water from the ground. This is particularly true in this rural farming area where pollution is minimal and air quality is excellent. 

After researching, the catchment from the roofs of the houses alone would provide more water than is required for the whole year. Naturally, we will have more catchment than that, with large and small scale water storage strategically placed over the land to provide water for the animals, irrigation, and general purpose use. All water used for washing, cleaning, laundry, dishes, etc. will be safe for reuse on plants by using soap nuts and environmentally safe and natural castile or homemade soaps.

As with most natural environments, there is a danger of livestock being preyed on and vegetation being eaten by indigenous animals. Aside from a perimeter fence suitable for sheep and goats, there will be a 5,180 sq. ft. animal complex surrounded by chain link fence to keep them safe overnight and at times when nobody is there to let them out to graze. Trees and bushes as food sources will be plentiful and scattered over the property, providing food for wildlife without causing loss of main crops. Natural deterrents such as clattering can mobiles and companion planting will be employed to address the issue as well. In addition, there will be an Anatolian Shepherd named Maximus, to guard the livestock.
Planting techniques suitable for dry, arid, and drought stricken areas will be employed, such as the Zai, wallapini, ground cover, and condensation catchment with rocks.

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