Spring Rains Fill Our Earthworks Multiple Times

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While the city of Chicago was shutting down due to too much rain last week just 60 miles north of us, the swales, ponds, berms and rain gardens we have put in around our home and in Stelle did their job of filling up and holding water back from the creeks.  Over several days they will slowly release that water into the water table rather than let it run down into our creeks and rivers all at once.  

In this hugelkultured swale, both the ditch and the wood in the berm are holding rain water.
In this hugelkultured swale, both the ditch and the wood in the berm are holding rain water.

The water we are holding back will eventually make it to our creeks and rivers anyway, but it will do so slowly… and over a long period of time… thus trickle-feeding our creeks and rivers all year round.  This is the way a normal hydrological cycle works.

The Hugelkultured Raised Beds  in the Garden... Holding Water in the Paths
The hugelkultured raised beds in the garden were designed to hold water in the pathways.  This gives the wood plenty of time to soak up water.  When the water recedes,  the paths have straw and wood chips that keep our gardeners out of the mud.


The Garden Beds were Designed and Installed by our 2013 Internship Team (L-R, Ernest, Megan and Hayden)
The Garden Beds were Designed and Installed by our 2013 Internship Team (L-R, Ernest Rando, Megan Krintz and Hayden Wilson). Here they are hamming it up for the camera while they construct one of the chicken tractors they will be using this year.  The foundations to a roacket stove can be seen to the right.

 Learn About our Internship Program Here

Berm by House
When the rain-gardens in our front yard overflow, the excess water is caught by the berm that holds our currants and gooseberries along our property line.  BTW…we do not have a basement.  If we did, we would not hold water this close to the house.  Click Here to see the picture summary of how we dug the rain gardens and built the berm. Those are transplanted lilac bushes in the foreground still waiting for warm weather to bloom.

 Considering that we were approaching drought conditions last summer, it feels incredibly good to be able to capture and store so much water in the soils around us.  All of the trees and perennial plants with deeper roots are now secure with ample water for another year.  We will only need to concern ourselves with watering our annual gardens throughout the year now.

Should you have not seen this yet, here is a simple video that explains water storage in the landscape.  It is by Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI).  Our CSC Permaculture Design Project is posted on the PRI Worldwide website as it has been modeled after their Master Plan program.  Thank you to Geoff and PRI for their vision and leadership.





3 thoughts on “Spring Rains Fill Our Earthworks Multiple Times”

  1. Hi, I find your rain gardens such an inspiration. Read the post on their installation. Really good to see all the pictures of the process.

    I have a question about the ground in the “ponds” and swales. It looks bare soil, but how can it be? What have you done there? I want to try something similar on my property, but I worry about being overrun with weeds.

    I looked for more recent photos of the rain garden out front, but I could not find this. I would love to see what they look like now several years later.

    Very glad I found your site and blog. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Bingo… the water typically takes 3 days to sink into the ground. The life cycle of most mosquitoes is 7-14 days. We have seen the larvae occasionally after successive rains, but the larvae usually end up drying in the sun as the water recedes.

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