Swales for Land and Soul Care

Gratitude—Letting a grandson, new at being 5 years old, spill his joy all over the rest of us gathered to celebrate his big day.  The kid in all of us was happy with hot dogs and fries, tortilla chicken soup with real vegetables (the health-conscious adult in me!), and candle-lit brownies.  Then we swooped outside to enjoy the balmy air and play Corn Hole and swing in the swing.

Last week a creaking Big Bulldozer rolled on to our land to cut 3 swales, a pond, and the beginnings of a walipini, a natural greenhouse set in hillsides and able to provide year-round food growing opportunities .

Up to this point we’ve carved a few walking trails out of our wilderness.  My first few moments of using a machete were life-changing for a city dweller who has not done much outdoors besides weed and water gardens.  Then a fire pit was made, complete with silvered gray tree trunks for benches.  I feel especially happy when we cook in this outdoor kitchen–I’ve escaped my kitchen at home!  I’m mesmerized by camp fires and throwing in sticks and logs to keep ‘em going—yes, my pleasures are simple.  Sometimes we just huddle there the better to conspire about future plans for building a retreat center and our homes.

Until we move to the land we are trying out our new permaculture principles right where we are.  My husband Kent dug a swale in the front yard of our home here in town, and then in the back yard, 2 of them.  The first good result we noticed after a while was that in this drought-cycling region, the swales gifted us with new amounts of moisture for established shrubs and flowerbeds that did not require as much watering after the swales were made.  This is especially a good thing as the water around here is so heavily ‘medicated’ that it slowly kills rather than nurtures the plants. So more good rain water going in the soil rather than running off into the alley is happening.  I hope more people around our city neighborhood will catch a vision for cheap and wise practices like swales for water conservation as well as the nurture of plants that have to grow in an unpredictable haze of harsh sunlight, infrequent rainfall, and drying winds.

It’s exciting to think of the oasis that will grow along the curves of the new swales out at the land.  People, even our children, will learn to tend this land, grow fruits and vegetables, make biomes welcoming again to all kinds of creatures.

For most of our lives we have lived very separate existences from our friends.  So now it’s also exciting that some of us are working together for common purposes.  Seeing my 11 year old granddaughter and a 10 year old boy, who is the son of one of the families in our forming intentional community, get out their hammers and join the adults in the tear-down of an old store was not a sight we see every day.  She had learned to wield a machete on our path carving projects.  Now she and her buddy were pulling up nails and storing boards to be moved to the land.  Skill on the internet for these youngsters is common, but pioneer, basic skills not so much.  What a nice change of pace for them!

Last fall I saw monarchs on their September migration, resting on branches of age-old oaks in our woods. Resting spaces for all God’s creatures, humans and butterflies too.  Our plan is not one of applying lots of chemicals to multiply crops.  Our plan is abundance so we will have plenty to eat and plenty to share with others while improving the land with permaculture practices and prayers all along the way.  Hopefully healing our souls too that are so in need of connection with nature and each other.

This is our desire—to carve spaces to let people have time and quiet to think and pray, to hear their own heart longings and God’s longings, to catch glimpses of God in their midst, to perhaps get a clearer sense of direction and calling.

Time enough to allow shifts in our souls to grow deeper into the soil of God’s love.

And so we carve gently, intently.  Life is good.

 

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