Archive for Permaculture

Annual Permaculture & Rainwater Harvesting Gathering – Saturday, October 4, 2014

Editor’s note: As Autumn approaches and we delight in an unusual bounty of rainfall, let us not forget that it is unusual, and there are strategies that can bring us great benefit during normal times.  This is an excellent event and we encourage everyone to attend, learn, socialize, and enjoy one of the tastiest and most interesting potlucks of the year!

by Christian Meuli

Saturday, October 4, 2014

 12:00 PM         Site Tour                         Visiting culverts, raintanks, and woodchip berms this year

2:00 PM             Potluck                            Great food every year!

3:00 PM             Climate Scenarios       Dr. Dave DuBois, New Mexico State Climatologist

4:00 PM             One Minute Announcements

4:05 PM             The Peregrine Falcon  Tom Smiley

Dr. Dave DuBois is the New Mexico State Climatologist. His interests include applying tree ring dating to large climate cycles. Rather than “forecasting” what the climate will do in our future, he is trying to anticipate various climate scenarios and how they might play out in real time.

Tom Smylie shares with us for the third time his lifelong learning of raptors. He is the retired Assistant Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He played an integral role in the peregrine falcon’s recovery from near extinction in North America and continues to be actively involved with the Peregrine Fund.

This free gathering will include a site tour and discussion of culverts, raintanks, and woodchip berms. Please bring friends and children, your favorite dish to share and your finest sunhat. Please car pool and leave pets at home.

Take I-40 to exit #187 (25 miles east of Albuquerque and 8 miles west of Moriarty). At the end of the off-ramp, go south two blocks to the stoplight at the intersection with H #333 (Smith’s Grocery will be on your left). Go straight up the hill on Edgewood Road #7 and turn right in ½ mile onto Moriarty Road (now paved). Go ¼ mile to #24 and turn right into my driveway or go straight ahead down the hill and park on your left.

I look forward to seeing everyone and meeting new friends! If you need a map or a timely update, please e-mail me or call me at (505) 331-0245.

Christian Meuli

Sponge and A-Frame Workshop, Saturday, March 22, 2014

by Christian Meuli

The sponge is a useful rainwater harvesting technique that needs little maintenance. A sponge is a hole dug into the ground and filled with moisture-holding household waste. I find sponges to be invaluable in establishing tree saplings on windy, dry sites with poor soil and in reinvigorating old trees.

Sponges made of carbon materials passively hold winter snows and summer rains for months afterward, storing moisture efficiently in the soil and recycling carbon back into our depleted desert soil. Sponges retain moisture safely out of the harsh sun and drying wind right next to growing roots. Sponges are a simple and convenient way to very-locally recycle newspapers, cardboard, magazines, phone books, junk mail, confidential papers, yard cuttings, clothes, etc.

First we will visit a variety of mature sponges and their effects on nearby plants. Next we will dig and install several sponges with the carbon material that each attendee will bring with them. We’ll use an A-frame to identify the contour and to design how to harvest the rainwater most efficiently, dig and fill the sponge, and mulch it to look as natural as possible.

Then we’ll form groups of three to make state of the art A-frames that are durable, light-weight and foldable. I aspire for these groups to share an A-frame together, using them in varied conditions over the seasons and sharing outcomes with each other. I’ll give everyone marking flags so you can immediately begin implementing sponges on your own site!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

 9AM – 1PM  at La Resolana, Edgewood

 9 AM                       Site tour of successful sponges and a sponge ladder

10 AM                    Make several sponges: identify contour, dig hole and berm the

downhill side, fill with carbon waste, step down the materials,

mulch, armor the downhill berm, water(?), extend arms of berms,

and take pictures


11 AM- 1 PM              Make A-frames (the rainbarn has a woodstove)(I have tools and materials


$25 with scholarships available.  Limited to 18 people. Please e-mail me your contact information including a current e-mail and phone number. Participants will bring a large bag of sponge material, gloves, and a shovel.

I cancelled the sponge workshop last fall due to a 14” snow. I hope each of you that had signed up previously will be able to attend this next workshop. I plan on having a woodchip berm and A-frame workshop before the summer rains begin.

I look forward to sharing this simple rainwater harvesting technique that is extremely beneficial,


Christian Meuli

Annual Permaculture Gathering At La Resolana In Edgewood – Saturday, October 5

Editor’s Note: The Annual Permaculture Gathering is a personal favorite of ours, and we strongly recommend it.  There will be plenty to learn, and the potluck always provides a delightful assortment of creative dishes.

by Christian Meuli

12:00 PM         Site Tour
2:00 PM          Potluck
3:00 PM          “Trees are Killing our Forests” — George Duda
4:00 PM          One Minute Announcements
4:05 PM          “I Started with Nothing but a Dream” — Roger Alink

George retired from the New Mexico State Forestry where he served as our Urban Forester. He continues to actively volunteer throughout New Mexico and will join us on the site tour at noon to identify the differences between drought stress and disease in pinon and juniper trees. He will present his video “Trees Are Killing Our Forests!” before entertaining questions.

Roger is Founder and Director of Wildlife West Nature Park, an un-releasable native animal zoo in Edgewood. He taught for ten years at my alma mater, Valley HS, before beginning WLW in 1992 “because I didn’t know any better.” He is a passionate teacher of young adults and a long-practicing rainwater harvester. WLW also holds a number of musical and other community events.

This free permaculture gathering will include a site tour of evolving passive rainwater harvesting practices (including culverts) and George will show us how he reads the effects of drought on trees while identifying pests and diseases.

Please bring friends and children, your favorite dish to share and your finest sunhat. Please car pool and leave pets at home.

Take I-40 to Exit #187 (25 miles east of Albuquerque and 8 miles west of Moriarty). At the end of the off-ramp, go south two blocks to the stoplight at the intersection with H #333 (Smith’s Grocery will be on your left and Walgreens’s on your right). Go straight through the intersection, up the hill on Edgewood

H #7 and turn right in ½ mile onto Moriarty Road (now paved!). Go ¼ mile to #24 and turn right into my driveway or go straight ahead down the hill and park on your left.

I look forward to seeing everyone and meeting new people! If you need a map or a timely update, please call me at (505) 281-4871.

Christian Meuli

Public Service Announcement: Public Presentation with Brad Lancaster: Rainwater Harvesting

Provided by Christian Meuli

Event: Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance
Date: Friday, June 7
Time: 6 – 8 pm
Place:  George Pearl Hall, UNM School of Architecture and Planning, Central Ave. NE and UNM Cornell Mall, Albuquerque
Sponsors:ErdaGardens and LearningCenter, Kalyx Studio, Querencia Green, and UNM Sustainability Studies Program

Brad Lancaster will present his work on Rainwater Harvesting on Friday, June 7, in George Pearl Hall on the UNM campus at 6 pm, at no cost to the public. The presentation, Turning Water Scarcity Into Water Abundance, will be followed by a book-signing party for Lancaster’s Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.Event sponsors include ErdaGardens and LearningCenter, Kalyx Studio, Querencia Green, and UNM Sustainability Studies Program. Refreshments will be provided by La Montanita Coop during the book-signing session.

Brad Lancaster is a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant, the author of the award-winning booksRainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” Volumes 1 and 2, and co-founder of Desert Harvesters. Brad harvests an average of 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year from his property near downtown Tucson, Arizona, where rainfall is twelve inches on average annually. Brad and his brother Rodd have created an oasis in the desert by incorporating rainwater into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape that includes habitat for wildlife.

Brad has inspired thousands of citizens and numerous businesses in Tucson and across the nation to harvest water and sustainably grow local resources. Joanne McEntire of Querencia Green, a community organization, observes that “Rainwater harvesting from rooftops is encouraged in Tucson, along with stormwater capture from paved areas. In Albuquerque our annual average precipitation is less than ten inches. As we acknowledge long-term drought and fluctuating rainstorm patterns, we’ve begun to practice water harvesting. As more neighbors capture rainwater to support gardens, trees and wildlife, more benefits would result.”

On Sunday, June 9, Brad Lancaster will lead a hands-on workshop at KalyxStudioLearningCenter in BernalilloCounty’s SouthValley. Participants will learn and practice earthwork techniques used in water harvesting systems. The workshop will focus specifically on earthworks that can be implemented to improve the efficiency of acequia irrigation for the home garden. Workshop organizer Leslie Buerk comments: “Although we will be constructing a system that combines traditional desert gardening practices with water harvesting techniques as applied to acequia irrigation, all of the techniques relate directly to working with rainwater and greywater systems.” Additional information is available by e-mail directed to

Grow Your Own – Son Of The Return Of Bed 5

by John Weckerle

Return of the Son of Bed 5.

Return of the Son of Bed 5.

Growing season is upon us once again!  Those who have been following New Mexico Central’s experimental gardening exploits have watched as we moved from four foot-square raised beds to the 12 x 24 foot extravaganza that is Bed 5, including its rise, fall, rise, and so on.  Initially intended to provide a good rooting depth (24 to 30 inches through most of it) and protection from the elements and the herbivores (except, of course, us), the bed has served us well but needed improvement.   Recent developments include replacement of the rabbit fencing and bird netting with poultry fencing, which is more durable than the bird netting.  The latter simply did not stand up well to our local wind.  The “hill and trough” configuration watered with soaker hose has been replaced with raised beds watered by drip irrigation, which should greatly reduce the water needed to produce the produce, as it were.  We appear to have substantially more growing area, as well.   Currently in the ground are tomatoes (Roma, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, and Black Cherry), Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, chard, bell peppers (green, gold, and orange), chiles (Chimayo and New Mexico 6), zucchini, and yellow squash.  Still to be planted are cauliflower, eggplant, tomatillos, dill, and basil.

A word about drip irrigation and the installation thereof.  At some point in the distant past, your editor became somehow convinced that this was a very difficult and complicated thing.  It is not; installing drip irrigation is about as uncomplicated as it gets.  Bed 5 was the first foray into this arena, and we have since installed a total of 500 feet of supply line and a multitude of emitters.  This ends the tedious hand-watering of trees and shrubs that were looking much worse for the wear, but are now looking much better.  Of course, the wildlife have noticed this, and some of our trees and shrubs are now looking a little chewed up by deer that have jumped the fence.

Agenda 21 Is Coming To Kill Your Local Tea Party

by John Weckerle

Okay, maybe not.  However, having seen just about enough of the associated silliness and paranoia on the Sandia Tea Party web site, and having had just about enough of special interests and political ideologues misrepresenting sustainability for their own ends, we decided to do a little looking around and gather some information that perhaps represents something just a little closer to reality than what has been presented there and in other far-right venues.  We found a few FAQ sites and others associated with organizations officially associated with Agenda 21.  Predictably, what we found was substantially different from the interpretations provided by the Sandia Tea Party, and we’ll get to that presently.

We also decided to see what the other local Tea Party chapter, the East Mountain Tea Party, had to say about the issue, and were surprised to find evidence that the organization may be defunct.  The domain now resolves to the Albuquerque Tea Party site, and there have been no posts to the EMTP’s Facebook page since October.  With no other explanation, we must assume that the proponents of Agenda 21 are responsible for the demise.  Less clear is the reason that the Chavez County Tea Party Patriots web site, as linked from the Albuquerque Tea Party site, is now presented in either Chinese or Japanese (we’re not sure which); perhaps they’ve outsourced themselves to Asia.

Now, on to Agenda 21.  We will not provide an exhaustive description here but will highlight a few points and provide links for the perusal of our readers, who we believe to be just a little more fact-conscious than some.  We’ll begin by providing a link to the text of Agenda 21, provided by the Institute for Global Communications (alternatively, you can download it in PDF format from the UN website).  It’s a big document – 351 pages – but what we’ve read of it does not seem to support an impression of a socialist/environmental extremist conspiracy.  A bit of “myth debunking” can be found in the article “Agenda 21: Just the Facts” presented by the Better World Campaign.  Of critical importance: Agenda 21 is not a treaty, is not binding in any way, and does not afford the United Nations any particular authority for implementation.  The article “What Is Agenda 21?” by the UN Dispatch explores the “controversies” surrounding the initiative, including the conspiracy theories being presented by various special interest and political groups opposed to what they describe as “sustainability” – which is, of course, not sustainability at all.  The Wikipedia article on Agenda 21 similarly points out the initiatives voluntary and non-binding status.

A non-UN organization composed of local governments – ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability (formerly the International Council for Local Initiatives) describes itself here, stating in part: ” ICLEI is a powerful movement of 12 mega-cities, 100 super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities as well as 450 small and medium-sized cities and towns in 84 countries.  ICLEI promotes local action for global sustainability and supports cities to become sustainable, resilient, resource-efficient, biodiverse, low-carbon; to build a smart infrastructure; and to develop an inclusive, green urban economy. The ultimate aim is to achieve healthy and happy communities. We have developed stable, long-term programs to support local-level sustainability and continue to develop innovative new programs to respond to issues of international concern.”  In its article “FAQ: ICLEI, the United Nations, and Agenda 21: Setting the Record Straight About ICLEI,” ICLEI-Local Governments USA states (among other things): “ICLEI is a champion of local governments. Working with elected officials, ICLEI’s World Secretariat helps voice local government needs and priorities during international negotiations and agreements that will effect local governments, such as the U.N. climate negotiations and the upcoming Rio+20 summit.”

Sustainability is not an international socialist-environmental extremist conspiracy.  It is not out to take anyone’s land away, prevent anyone from having children, or force anyone into indentured service as the only means to get drinking water.  We encourage our readers to follow the links provided in this article and learn more about Agenda 21 and sustainability initiatives in general.

Announcement: Annual Permaculture Gathering At La Resolana In Edgewood, Saturday, October 1, 2011

Editor’s note: This is a great event, with plenty of practical information on strategies for living in our New Mexico environment.  We attended last year’s gathering, and learned a great deal (article here), and the food at the potluck was outstanding.  We encourage all to attend.

by Christian Meuli

12:00 PM        Site Tour
2:00 PM        Potluck
3:00 PM        Tom Smylie — Human Effects on Wildlife and Wildlife Dynamics
4:00 PM        Jan Daniels — Using Cover Crops as Green Manure in Your Garden

This free permaculture gathering will emphasize using what is available in this difficult drought in New Mexico. We will observe the effects of drought during the site tour and share  ideas about designing and implementing sustainable and nourishing landscapes. I invite everyone to discuss the variety of possible approaches to dealing with drought and with the increasing effects of global climate warming in this high plains desert.

I think that there is a high probability of longer periods between moisture events (summer rains and winter snows) interspersed with rare and drastic moisture events. The site tour will include path-making, rock terraces, sponge ladders, and possibly rainwater cisterns (allowing time for good food!).

Tom Smylie has been instrumental in the revival of the peregrine falcon in North America and has an amazing breadth and depth of knowledge about our changing environment. Jan Daniels is in the Design Review Department of Santa Fe County for landscaping, rainwater harvesting, and open space and trails and is an avid gardener.

Invite any interested friends and children, and bring your finest sun hat! Please bring a tasty dish that you would be proud to share with others; providing an ingredient list will invite more folks to enjoy your dish. Please car pool and leave pets at home.

Take I-40 to Exit #187 in Edgewood (25 miles east of Albuquerque and 8 miles west of Moriarty). At the end of the off-ramp, go south two blocks to the stoplight at the intersection with Highway #333 (Smith’s Grocery will be on your left and Walgreens to your right). Go straight up the hill on Edgewood Road #7 and in ½ mile turn right onto Moriarty Road (gravel). Go ¼ mile to #24 and turn right into my driveway or go straight ahead and down the hill and park on your left.

I look forward to seeing everyone and meeting new friends! If you need a map or a timely voice message update, please call me at 281-4871.

Looking forward to seeing everyone !

Christian Meuli

Woodchip Berms

by Dr. Christian Meuli, La Resolana

Berms of wood chips slow rainwater, allowing it to infiltrate.

Wood chip berm at La Resolana

Woodchip berms are the easiest and most useful rainwater harvesting practice I use. The evolution of this method began in 2002 when the risk of wildfire in New Mexico became extreme and the pine-bark beetle became epidemic in our pinon-juniper forests.

At La Resolana in Edgewood, thirty miles east of Albuquerque, the forest had grown so thick that little snow and only some rain could reach the ground due to the extremely dense tree cover. These trees also shielded the ground from the sun so that few grasses and shrubs could grow beneath them.

»» Woodchip Berms

The Right Wing Nuts

Editor’s note/update: One of our readers, Dick Pledger of Edgewood, e-mailed us to let us know that we missed a detail here with respect to the size drill we used to make the holes for the bolts.  It was a 5/16-inch bit, just a bit bigger than the 1/4-inch bolt; this makes it easy to get the bolt through but doesn’t allow any play that might throw off the level.  We’ve added the detail to the body of the article.  Thanks, Dick!

by John Weckerle

That does it; we think it’s high time to expose these wing nuts for what they really are…

»» The Right Wing Nuts


by Senior Permaculture Correspondent Wilson

Photo - Sponge Pit for Tree

Senior Permaculture Correspondent Wilson, dressed for work, showcases his sponge pit, organic material to be deposited therein, and proper tool stacking.

Well, the Pack Leader went off last Saturday and came back with some pretty unusual ideas.  He, the Boss Lady, and Grandma took off the next morning, and came back with a new turning fork and mattock (yes, I know what that is – it’s a pick with a blade on one side.  I may be a dog, but look who I live with).  The Pack Leader pointed out that the handle on the mattock was plastic, and said that somebody named Dr. Meuli suggested that would be better because there might be less bounce-back and potentially less risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Not having thumbs, I don’t worry much about that last bit, but the Surprise Ball In The Face Incident of 2010 sure makes me appreciate the former.

»» Spongeitude

Edgewood Permaculture Gathering Teaches Harmonious Living And Land Management

by John Weckerle

Christian Meuli explains his rainwater catchment and cistern systems.

Dr. Christian Meuli explains his rainwater catchment and cistern systems.

Saturday brought a unique event to Edgewood: the 15th annual Permaculture Gathering at La Resolana.  Variously translated as “sun’s glare,” “sunspot,” “sun catcher,” and “sunny place,” La Resolana is a 15-acre parcel that is home to Edgewood’s Dr. Christian Meuli, physician and long-time permaculture expert.  In addition to lecturing both locally and elsewhere for years, he has been putting permaculture to the test at La Resolana for more than three decades.  With luck, we can hope he will still be doing so three decades hence.

Permaculture is a means of land management that incorporates and utilizes the natural characteristics of a given location, taking into account site hydrology, topography, soils, climate, regional ecology, and a myriad other factors that contribute to the “identity” of the place in question.  From water harvesting to the understanding and development of living systems, the tenets and techniques that are essential to permaculture practice can be used for beautification, harmonious living, and even agricultural productivity.

The Permaculture Gathering was set to begin at noon, and by 12:03 many of us were already parking on the road on which Dr. Meuli’s residence is located.  A short stroll down the driveway led to a large, metal barn, at the door of which visitors were offered a »» Edgewood Permaculture Gathering Teaches Harmonious Living And Land Management