DESERT OR PARADISE, a « must read »


For the last couple of years we have been thinking about building a pond  below the orchard, where the ground below the fruits trees  drops down naturally and where only stones prevail along with very few grasses and juvenile ash trees.

We’re on the edge of the “Park Regional des Causses du Quercy Blanc” in South West France and we’re on limestone land, a beautiful area of outstanding beauty and interest.

The bottom line is: we’re on the rocks without much earth to talk about. Soil got imported by  previous generations to create a small vegetable garden and the orchard was planted where the only bit of  soil could where found .

The result from planting an orchard on a hot South/West sloping hill on the rocks is that it requires a lot of watering in summer.

I love watering my trees but I get that they would be much happier with more water underground. The mulching helps a lot but may be this is not enough with cherry, pear, plum and quinces trees….trees that love the depth and moisture.

When we bought our property back in 2008 I could easily imagined a natural pond there below the orchard and got some books on the logistics of creating one.

It was first of all going to be a great place for me ( me! me! me!) to swim in the most natural looking environment. Swimming, back in UK, is something I did often and enjoyed a lot.

Swimming and the me! me! me! have now gone to the back burner.

Since living here  and just observing LIFE, I have come to the realization that what is needed here is a pond for water itself and everything that would come alive from being in and near it with fauna and flora galore, along our fruit trees.

While researching about permaculture 3 years ago, I came across an amazing documentary.

The filming was poor but the information was fascinating and having lost the link with an internet problem, I could not forget about it and kept on searching until I finally found it again this year:

This man, Sepp Holzer, now in his 70’s has created something simply extraordinary with his wife, in the Austrian mountains over the last 50 years.

One of his books DESERT OR PARADISE about “Restoring Endangered Landscapes using Water Management, including Lake and Pond Construction” was mentioned and I knew straight away that this was it, that was what I needed to get stuck in to get all the information necessary for our project.

I ordered it on line with a question nagging me: How could this man work his farm AND write books AND travel around the world all at the same time?

I got the answer at the beginning of his book: having left his farm to his son he is now lecturing and helping people, consulting where ever he is called…… in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Russia…..with various projects, often on a grand scale, leading to impressive and revolutionary results.

His attitude is holistic which makes for an inspirational read.

I had not started on our project as I was uncomfortable about using concrete and liners and not knowing what alternative materials to use.

So our project got to be on hold until such times that I had some certainty about how to move forward confidently.

I got all the answers in Sepp’s book and I am so pleased to read that neither concrete nor liners are necessary when building a lake or a pond…

I recommend this read not only to anyone with a pond or lake project in mind, but also to those wanting to deepen their understanding of what WATER is, how it lives, how it dies, and how we can restore health to the planet with this wonderful living gift that WATER is.


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