This principle applies to Water, Materials and  Energy

Rain gutters_Rain Barrels_Compost bin _Solar Hot Water Heater installation_

Rain gutters channeling rainwater into Rain Barrels, Compost Bin and Solar Hot Water Heater installation

Water – 

berms_berm_berm and swale_swale_swales

This berm and swale is designed to collect rainwater runoff from the hillside behind it. The water that is collected irrigates nearby apple trees.

For me, and for many gardeners, water is a key resource. We want to identify where it’s coming from and figure out how to divert it to where it’s needed. If possible we also want to collect and hold water for later use. We don’t want to watch precious water run down our driveways and off our properties!

Water comes in cycles. Sometimes there’s too much, and often, in southern California, there’s too little. I’m always looking for ways to conserve water.

In later posts I’ll go into many different ways to harvest water, from rain gutters channeling water into rain barrels, to the use of grey water (using water from your kitchen sink or clothes washer to water your trees), to building “berms and swales”. More on “berms and swales” later but you can check out the photo of the berm and swale we dug to catch rainfall that pours down the hill behind our house. The water I collect in the swale is held in by the berm on the downhill side. The water seeps into the ground and waters the two heirloom apple trees I have growing nearby.

Conserving water can be done on a very manageable scale by collecting rainwater in small rain barrels to water patio plants, or it can be done on a large scale, such as creating a pond, to water a vegetable garden during the summer!

Identifying and Collecting Materials –

Examples of identifying and collecting materials are the practice of composting both kitchen scraps and shredded paper in compost piles and/or worm bins and cutting down dead trees, storing the wood in summer and using it in the winter in the form of energy to heat your home if you have a fireplace or wood burning stove.

Energy –

For me, one of the most obvious examples for identifying and collecting energy is installing solar panels to generate electricity for our homes. The catch is the cost of a system, one that actually stores energy on site – a system that does not feed excess generated electricity back into the grid – is still cost prohibitive for most people. Solar energy fits the need to identify and collect energy from the sun but we are not yet able to store it economically, even so, installing solar panels certainly feels like a step in the right direction.

After we moved to our property the hot water heater broke and needed replacing so we decided to go with a solar hot water heater. I won’t even mention how long we were without hot water while we did the research to find the best solar hot water heater for our climate and one that was efficient and reliable, but I was up for a gold medal in the “heating water on the stove department” for dishes and baths – really!

Three years later, solar hot water heating has been a success, in collecting and storing energy to heat water. Also, it feels good both environmentally and economically to be off propane, which was the energy source for the old hot water heater. Of course, I almost had heart failure watching my husband and his son install the panel up on our second story roof, but everyone survived and they had a happy male bonding experience (I think).

No matter the size of your home or garden I encourage you to look around and see if there are things you can collect, store, and use later to lessen the need to use outside energy and resources.

One last word of caution based on my own experience – it’s important to find balance with this principle. I’m speaking to those (myself included) who tend to go over-board in the “collecting” department. Be realistic in regards to the space you have to store things in and the time frame in which the collected materials will be used!


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