Planting an olla

I’d like all my friends to see this image. Right now I’m just a crazy lady with a shovel … but if I’m right, and if I stick with this … in ten years this is the photo I’ll be pointing to, and saying, that’s where it started.


In ten years, I hope that from the vantage point of this photo (above) to the left and right will extend a windbreak six hundred feet long. And behind where I’m standing, will be a food forest a couple of hundred feet in diameter. We’ll see. It depends on me, and of course, on having enough water.

What the photo is of, is an olla buried in the center of the rudiments of a berm n basin. An olla is a clay pot shaped like a sphere with a short cylinder on top. It’s hollow of course, and you bury it to the neck and then fill it with water, and it keeps the surrounding soil moist with minimum loss of water to evaporation. This is a traditional southwestern method of irrigation. The photo below (from earlier) shows the olla. It has a flat, round top that you just set on top to cover it.


It holds about two gallons of water, and will need to be refilled probably twice a week. It came from Summer Winds nursery in Phoenix and cost about $35. Dripping Springs Ollas in Texas makes them.

I dug a hole about six inches deeper and eight or ten inches wider than the olla, and backfilled the hole around the olla with layers of sand, clay, clumps of the blue grama grass, twigs and broken small branches, and seasoned cow poop. Then mulched with gravel on top. All native materials.

The soil all around is hard-packed clay. The experiment is to see whether it will be possible to grow anything at all around the olla, and whether it will inspire life in the surrounding soil that will begin to improve the quality of the soil. I planted just one sunchoke tuber, just to see.


This olla, having it in the ground now, has made me happier and more satisfied than about anything I’ve done here. It felt like a sacred and momentous, consequential act, very much like planting a seed. I feel like I’ve done something.

I don’t know why I post these pictures of myself. I hardly ever get to look at myself (no mirrors except the automotive ones), and no reason to look at myself, but sometimes I get a glimpse in a car window and it’s like “Wow, that’s amazing, that’s something you hardly ever see – I should take a picture of it!”


My hummingbird attractor tee, but there’s none here.



3 thoughts on “Planting an olla

  1. I find it refreshing to read what you say ~ even tho’ we haven’t met, I feel you bo be so naturally you in your expressions here. It’s an easy, enjoyable way to get to know you from faraway (physically) as I sit in my humble house out on the prairie, in No.California; I picture you there, and feel how it might be for me to be in your shoes… at a loss, comes to mind… but also I’m sure I’d be thrilled by the Olla, and the ‘planting’ of it! I feel inspired by your courage, ongoing. Thank You Patricia!

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