Monday, October 18, 2010


Well the diggers have moved out after a week’s tearing, grinding, chipping, and placing of rocks, and I am left with a whole new canvas on which to work magic… or totally screw up.

As my long-suffering readers know, I am on this new kick of rainwater harvesting. Cyprus is not short of water – if it’s collected and used prudently. But there is no infrastructure outside the big dams for rainwater harvesting, and when the rain does fall here (sometimes torrentially between November and April), much of it just slides off the saturated land, tearing off topsoil and staining the sea for hundreds of metres. If that water were captured and either stored in the land in the form of passive earthworks or stored in tanks like it is in Australia, problems of erosion and increasing desertification would be slowed down, there could be a lessening of summer water rationing, and costly oil-driven desalination plants might not need to be rushed into production.

But all that’s wishful thinking on a national scale. All I can do is work on my own little patch.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been constructing berms and basins -- a la Brad Lancaster’s suggestions in his excellent book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond – around the trees in the field. I have been trying to do two trees a day, but a week’s cold held me up so I am 14 trees behind schedule and still have around another forty to do. Each tree needs to have the soil and organic matter – leaf drop, old compost, straw – cleared from trunk to drip-line, then a berm about a foot high constructed on contour at drip-line to catch the run off from irrigation and rain and hold the moisture to let it slowly infiltrate the soil. After I have cleared the soil around the tree, I put a layer of cardboard to help keep down the tenacious, pernicious, and down-right ornery, hard to eradicate rhizome grasses that grow wherever there is moisture, then I add a layer of compost and straw to hold the moisture when it arrives. Look at the calendar: we’re nearly at November and rain has threatened a few times. I am trying to get as much done as possible before I have to deal with mud and run off and all such work grinds to a halt.

(Left)I did this apple tree this morning: in the background weed-infested apples await tomorrow's attentions.
(Below) Necatrine trees. The upslope side is open to catch run-off, and mulched only with a layer of straw. The downslope side is bermed and heavily mulched with cardboard to deter weeds, then covered with a layer of straw.

But the diggers weren’t working in the field. Oh no! They were following a long-laid plan nearer the house to terrace the slope below the olive grove/kitchen garden, where previously a haphazard line of boulders had delineated the beginning of the long drop to the gorge. Then they carved out another terrace on the edge of the property where a road/fire-break – its outside edge to be planted with prickly-pear cactus as another precaution against fire – will circle the house below the retaining wall, giving us almost 360 degree vehicle access to the house.

(Left). Before

(Left) After.

Then Best Beloved decided on a line of Cypress trees above the road – Tuscany comes to Paphos – under-planted with rosemary, lavender, and dryland ground cover (all also bermed and basined and mulched to catch rainwater and divert run-off from the driveway). I finished that this morning, having enjoyed Leo’s invaluable assistance all weekend.

The trouble is that while the diggers did the big earth cutting and rock moving, they left me with the smaller ones. Alex and I have started building dry-stone terraces, again following Mr Lancaster’s instructions. Thank goodness for strapping teenage sons! Alex has willingly schlepped rocks and cut balks to my instruction. If these terraces succeed, thanks will be largely due to him. If they fail, the responsibility is mine – but I will have climbed many steps up the learning curve.

1 comment:

  1. You've all been working hard I see. Looking forward to visit next year. Irreplaceable strong sons. You bet.