The main facilities of our host, Suryalila, sit on a ridge which slopes downward to the northwest, on a relatively flat crest at the top of the hill. This is where the main building is located, overlooking the east and west slopes. Guests and staff spend most of their time in this area, as the accommodation facilities and the impressive Om Dome Yoga Hall stand here.
The views from the ridge are beautiful and expansive but are also a reminder of the industrial agriculture that still dominates the world. The ridge itself is quite windswept and the climate here can be quite extreme. In summer it can be very hot, up to 46 degrees, and in the winter there can often be high winds and lows of 10 degrees. There are only a handful of mature trees here. There has been some planting and a beautification attempt over the years but there is still much more to do here, at the top of the watershed, within the boundary lines.
Our progress so far…
Some of the actions we have taken to be respectful of the land and to maximize our resources are:
- Creation of eco-toilets to produce humanure which fertilizes the soil in different areas of the property.
- Installation of outdoor eco-showers which water three food-producing pit gardens.
- Planting of edible landscaping with integration of native species and drought hardy varieties.
- Rainwater harvesting through a diversity of earthworks
Although these are big steps in the right direction and we would like to do more, we are dealing with scarcity of water and very punishing weather for most of the year. The soils here are quite poor, long washed into the valleys below.
If we can overcome these challenges, the ridge is an area with great potential for transformation and landscaping. It can become a thriving food forest through edible landscaping beating the odds of drought, high winds, and extreme heat.
Our dream for this area is…
- To provide an experience of abundant life for guests, staff and volunteers
- Improve the aesthetics around the living areas and yoga halls
- To provide guests with natural forested areas for rest, study, and socializing
- Reduce irrigation needs
- Creation of wind and sun protection through extensive tree planting
- Food production in this central zone through tree crops and herbs
- Rain water harvesting from hardscapes to fuel reforestation
Overall we want the ridge to be an oasis filled with life and biodiversity where guests and staff can spend time together enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of Suryalila.
We want to do this while we reverse desertification and regenerate the soil in this area of the project.
Our main goals during 2017
- Plant 150 trees of 20 different species across the whole west area of the ridge
- Plant 70 Vines and trees of 10 different species on the east wing earthworks
- Increase water conservation through earthworks
- Plan fall earthworks and execute
The plan for The Ridge
There is a base of pine trees which have been planted on the ridge over the last few years. We plan to bring a greater level of diversity to the area this winter. At the moment we are adding in a lot of succulents which will be the first guild plants, and will also keep some vibrant green color around during the summer months.
Since the runoff has been observed, we will be doing water harvesting earthworks during the rainy season. Alongside the earthworks, we will be planting various trees, associated with this earth moving for water receptivity. We will continue to spread different types of composts there, as well as continuing to infuse the earth with the organic material it needs to become more resilient over time.
Whenever you move earth you have to repair through microbe seeding and producing biomass for cycling into carbon. We will be doing that after the earthworks and continuing through the season.
The trees to be planted will be in several zones with different motifs. In and around the tents and yurts, we will interplant the pines and succulents with more Mediterranean hardy trees, for aesthetic purposes. They will be further interspersed with drought tolerant fruit trees, as well as lots of herbs, to support the system. We want to create shade and beauty through these edible landscaping plantings, as well as supporting the hydrological cycle of the site, which starts here on top of the ridge.
Another zone that will be developed, at the back end of the ridge, will be an earthworks food forest with social space integration. We want to give people more enchanting nooks to be able to hang out in, and we will therefore install a main frame of plants, and create flat space in the coming year, to begin the process. Swales and terraces will help to capture water. We will further create the beginnings of a small orchard and trellis, in preparation for the social spaces to be created.
These plantings will need water, so we will be doing some spot watering as the season of planting ends and the summer heat comes. The greywater oasis zones that we planted in summer of 2017 will continue to expand. They will help to create a buffer zone for all the other plantings, due to their constant moisture and fertility. Additionally the orchard at the back of the property will have drip irrigation installed to help support it beyond the spot watering. Its an outer zone in the current layout, but in the future it will become much more central, which justifies the investment in this irrigation resource as well as the labour.
Overall, the constant throughout the season ahead will be the creative human interaction to accomplish all of the above. The feedback loops will need to be observed anytime you move earth and plant for biodiversity. We will continue to plan for further earthworks for the fall of 2017, since we can’t do it all in just one year, to achieve our reforestation goals.
A place to experience first hand
Since we encourage our guests and visitors to support our efforts, it is important that they can experience and enjoy first hand the benefits of soil regeneration, water conservation and recycling, and all-year-round biodiversity. By integrating edibles within the landscape, we hope people will be inspired to take this knowledge back to their communities. We also would like to demonstrate and to change their perspective on how water flows on their site and how food could be produced on their own land.
We hope that the greening of the ridge will also help to educate the local community, as this is an important facet for all land, as it is the start of the onsite hydrological cycle. We will demonstrate how to combine a variety of local and drought hardy exotic species into aesthetically pleasing and food producing landscape, in the hope that a trend will catch on in the area. We want people to feel empowered to steward their own land with a few simple strategies and some initial hard work.
If we can create an oasis at the top of a hill where no water is stored, we can instill hope for the rest of the land!