Using Gravity in Place of Electricity [You can’t do that without… Pt 2]

20130526_IMG_8184When you’re farming 12 acres without the use of electricity or running water, it’s essential your water systems are as operating efficiently. At the farm, we have limited access to water. Regulations prevent us from harvesting water from the two streams running through the property, but allow for access at a point along a half-mile long diversion stream created approximately hundred years earlier.

Historically, this diversion stream was used to drive a large water wheel that powered everything from saws and drills, to an electric bulb in the kitchen of the farmhouse. From there, the stream moves beneath the road to the lower barn, where a milk-house was constructed. The cool water from the stream flowed through concrete storage tanks, chilling the stored milk. From there, it traversed the slab to a retention pond, where the dairy herd could drink.

Today, the diversion stream represents our only source of “running” water, generating a unique set of challenges for which permaculture offers solutions.

Fortunately, the market garden resides at a lower elevation than the stream, so watering the garden is a simple, gravity fed system involving salvaged pip discovered in the barn, buckets, and the bucket brigade (children and friends). The orchard, however, presents a greater opportunity for invention. And adding more water isn’t the obvious solution.

Healthy soil equates to good moisture retention. Planting the orchard on contour, building swales and hugelkultur beds to capture run-off in the more arid areas of the orchard, and building soil/guilds around the trees is a long-term solution to limited access to water at the site. In the beginning, as this process unfolds, water will need to be hauled in buckets via wagon transport to the guilds, but this is a small sacrifice compared with the long-term benefits supplied by our efforts.

No running water? No problem. And with all that hauling, no gym membership necessary either.


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