Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Drylands Awakening

Harvesting Barrel Cactus Fruit on Bean Tree Farm

I've just gotten back from studying drylands permaculture for 3 weeks on the amazing Bean Tree Farm.  I'm deeply indebted to Barbara Rose, permaculture designer and director of Bean Tree, for letting me INTENSELY pick her brain for those 3 weeks. Bean Tree specializes in native plants food production and I've returned as an absolute believer in the importance of this for our community here in the Morongo Valley. These desert native foods are packed with nutrition and medicinal qualities. I'm determined to plant a few carefully chosen fruit trees and a small veggie garden only where they can be taken care of by greywater and rain harvesting tanks. With an aquifer that is being depleted at a foot a year, has no natural recharge, is about to receive piped in water from the Delta through earthquake territory, it's an absolute necessity that we do everything we can to reduce aquifer water use. Irrigated orchards and farms are the last thing we should be doing here. Besides draining the aquifer, the evaporated salts will eventually make the soil unusable. Just take a look at the heartbreak of the abandoned irrigation fields around Tucson to understand where traditional agricultural practices using aquifers will lead us if we start that here in our area. Increasing desert native food production is the answer. Plant prickly pear cactus, mesquite, palo verde, wolfberry, barrel cactus, cholla, yucca. Don't clear your land! Understand the incredible bounty that it offers. All these plants provide food, tools, animal forage, and medicine. For more information on desert harvesting go to