On a hillside in a dry climate, rainwater can slide so quickly that it doesn’t sink in to water plants. This contributes to erosion and the problem grows as fewer plants survive in parched, baked ground.

The damage isn’t only ecological. Look at what a “flood” did in Morelia last month. I say “flood” because there wasn’t so much rain that the rivers or lakes rose and people had standing water in their homes. No, the rain came fast and because this is a semi-arid, mountainous region there are lots of places like our little El Terreno where water rushes dangerously fast downhill.

A new neighborhood got the damage, a place where homes shouldn’t have been built until the land had been reshaped.

Swales are a simple way to shape the land for longterm health.

See our first swale in process:

The first step was finding level ground.

We’re planting:

  • daikon radishes, also known as tillage radishes they sprout quickly and root through compacted soil - at least they’re supposed to, some of our garden radishes grow like a J in this rocky clay
  • comfrey, fast cover crop
  • moringa trees, fast-growing and seriously nutritious tree

We need fast-growing plants to cover the swale and keep the dirt from blowing away! They’ll add strength and vitality to the swale and in the years to come we’ll thin them to make space for slower but hardwood trees. See what the neighboring hillsides look like? El Terreno, once “reverdecer’ed” (regreened) might look like that.

We arrived late in the dry season but the forested hillsides were doing alright!


Bob Gross August 04, 2018

Good to see you are doing some swale-building. It’s got to be a lot of work doing that by hand!

Anna Lisa Gross August 04, 2018

You know, it wasn’t as bad as we expected! Of course, Phillip’s done all the work, but in just 2-5 hours a day for less than a week. I’d say cutting the weeds has been the worst part for him since his allergies are severe. He’s been semi-catatonic at times this week. I asked him to teach me to use the weed-wacker thing, but then I got some kind of (spider?) bite and swelled up and became semi-catatonic myself. (Two night ago) So swale #2 should be more collaborative! But we’ll give the first one a little time to show its utility before we start the next one!

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