Sunchoke sprout

Picture worth a thousand words:

I’m back, after a month away. There’s been no rain, but the olla seems to be working! I left it on a drip from a barrel that had about 15 gallons in it.

(BTW, the black pipe there is just for show – nonfunctional. It was superseded by garden hose, which feeds into the olla.)

See the little visitor? (It’s a pinacate beetle.) And there is scat next to the mulch, as well (off screen), and some of the mulch looks like it’s been moved. If the olla is attracting wildlife, I like that, too.

However, as it looks as though something might be eating the shoots, I might decide to put a little fence around it.

I’m here for about a week this time, planning improvements to the watering system, rebuilding the shower (which toppled while I was away), and installing the experimental water harvester I’ve mentioned before. Perhaps also I’ll build a work table, a sturdy and well anchored one that won’t fly away in 60-mph winds.

Then back to Reevis to construct my yurpee. The wood’s all cut, and I started the carpentry last week, but because I’m learning carpentry in the process, it’s slow going. Hope to have it in place up here before the summer rains begin.


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.