In June of 2017 we began our first major project: the construction of a series of berms and swales. 

While most of our projects are done with human power, this was a job that required serious earth moving equipment. Kristy calculated how much water could fall on the property during our biggest rainstorm (4 inches in a day is the local record) to determine the length and location of the swales. We hired a local machine operator who came out and used his backhoe to create the berms and swales. The slides below show before, during, and after the construction.

Want to learn more about our methods?
Berms and swales are a simple water harvesting technique designed to intercept rainwater running down the slope, infiltrate the water into the soil, and grow plants where the water collects. Storing water in the soil is a efficient way to store a lot of water, especially in arid locations where holding ponds would lose too much water to evaporation.

In the years since the initial construction, Les and Cindy have put in a lot of sweat equity into this project. They have filled in the swales with branches, woodchips, and compost to create a system known as hugelkultur. We then planted nitrogen fixing shrubs (false indigo and Siberian pea shrub) and native wildflowers & grasses on the berms to help keep them vegetated. Eventually we are hoping to plant fruit and nut trees/shrubs on those berms. (Planting ideas include aronia berry, sea buckthorn, goji berry, and hazelnuts). Click on the videos below to see the transformation of this area since 2017.

As you may have noticed in the videos, we actually have had standing water in the swales! In particular, the summer of 2019 was an abnormally wet season and we were still able to collect almost all of of the rain that fell on the property. The system worked!