Sacred Garden Sanctuary News Issue #001 June 2009

Welcome to the first issue of Sacred Garden Sanctuary News. It's been an exciting year so far at the Sanctuary, with Michael Grainge joining us on April 11, and others very interested in coming for a trial visit. We have had enough funding to make significant progress, as you will see below. Thanks to all for your support, positive intentions, and prayers.


In This Issue:

1) Earthworks Completed!

2) Membership Guidelines Have Been Modified

3) Farmer's Market Vending a Success

4) Tips and Insights for Permaculture Earthworks

5) Website Improvements

6) Plans for This Quarter


1) Earthworks Completed!

A four-day earthworks project was completed on June 12. This included:

  • An upper swale 7 feet wide and approximately 700 feet long
  • Three terraces on contour 50 feet wide and approximately 350 feet long.
  • A lower swale 7 feet wide and approximately 1000 feet long, including a small dam on the primary watershed gully, about 50 feet uphill from the well. This dam is designed to allow runoff to infiltrate, and will overflow into the swale.
  • A small driveway added which provides a path from the upper camp down to the terraces.
  • A one-foot reduction of a steep hill on Bruno Rd, between the Sanctuary and the highway.

For pictures and video see http://sacredgardensanctuary.org/excavation.

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2) Participation Guidelines Have Been Modified

We have refined our membership guidelines, providing several options with different combinations of monetary and labor contributions. We will be adding guidelines for the cost of adobe dome housing soon.

For more details, CLICK HERE.

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3) Farmer's Market Vending a Success

The first-ever farmer's market in Douglas occured on May 31. Edwin was there selling Romaine lettuce two weeks in a row, and sold out both times. We took most of the money ($50) and re-invested it in a pinyon pine tree and a Mexican cherry bush. We hope these will pay off in a few years with pine nuts and cherries.

We plan to sell Phillipino "pumpkins" (winter squash) in late summer or early fall.

Next year we plan to be a major presence at the farmer's market and dominate the produce sales. There is very little competition -- only one other market garden was selling produce.

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4) Tips and Insights for Permaculture Earthworks

Here are our learnings from our earthworks experience.

  • Plan out what you want to do carefully, using permaculture methods. An A-frame level is a good tool for finding the contours.
  • Make a drawing for the contractor showing exactly what you want to do. It doesn't need to be precisely to scale if you stake out the areas clearly.
  • Grading on contour creates attractive curves and requires much less earthmoving.
  • Terracing tremendously reduces the quantity of earth to be moved. Cutting the high side more than 18 inches requires a lot more effort, especially in rocky ground. By terracing a gentle slope you can keep the cut to 18 inches or less.
  • Stake out the areas to be graded clearly. Steel fenceposts work well in hard desert soil, wooden stakes just break whenyou try to pound them in.
  • Get at least 3 estimates. Search around for local construction companies that do earthworks (excavation). If you are not satisfied with the pricing, keep looking. The hourly rate varied from $55/hour to $235/hour, almost a factor of 5!
  • Be prepared to be on-site nearly the whole time guiding the operation. If you don't tell them what to do, they will make it up as they go along, and may not give you what you want, or do things you have to pay for that you really didn't want.
  • Take charge and tell them what to do during the process, don't expect them to read your mind.
  • Swales may need some cleanup with a shovel afterward. Use an A-frame to check the berm level to ensure it's dead-level.
  • If you build dams, make sure they are properly constructed so they don't  "blow out" when the big storm comes.
  • Plan to plant cover crops to hold the soil immediately after the earthworks are complete. The best time to do the earthworks is before the rainy season.

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5) Website Improvements

We have made some improvements to the website recently:

  • Added printer-friendly, pdf version, and send-to-friend links at the bottom of most pages
  • Added notification subscriptions. Now you can subscribe to a blogger, a content type, etc.

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6) Plans for June-July 2009

  • We will be setting up Michael Grainge with his camper-trailer and two small (10') adobe domes which will be connected together (but separate from the camper-trailer). His space will be located on Terrace #3 (the lower terrace). Michael is going to set up his own garden in raised beds, because most of the soil in his area is subsoil fill which is rocky and lacking in organic matter. He is purchasing his solar system (approximately $3000) and will pay for materials for the domes, which should be substantially less than $1000.
  • We will expand our water tank system, which consists of 55-gal plastic drums, and install a manifold for auto-syphoning.
  • We will be cleaning up the berms on the newly-constructed swales, and checking the levels to ensure we are ready for the monsoons, which come around July 1 (this year they are creeping in early, but no gully-washers yet)
  • Add another shelf to the toolshed and better organize the tools.
  • Rent a Ditch Witch todig a trench for the main water line and side-branches and bury all water lines.
  • Bury 12V line going to guest camper.
  • Install shade structure between two guest campers.
  • Move and fix up the guest shower house, put a roof on it with a clearstory window on the south side for winter heat gain. Build a better solar collector with an old water heater.
  • Install a bathroom sink on the outside of the toilet house for washing hands.
  • Fix the diesel generator starter.
  • Continue road repair (gravel and small rocks to fill in potholes.

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