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small ponds and permaculture
Howdy, I live at 6500 feet just outside Basin, Mt. We are off grid, have minimum water (but enough) and are settled on a south facing slope. (great sun) We have 6 acres but focusing on 2-3 right now. We have Two young children, some goats and chickens, Bees, a young forest garden and working on zone 1. What is the best resource (book,movies,web sites,etc) for growing in this climate? Can You share some of your experiences in this climate and/or area? I have read the first edition of Gaias Garden(it was superb and I would love to own one), Mollisons books, Fukuokas' forest gardening, Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. What are your thoughts small ponds in this area, we only get 12-15 inches of precipitation a year but I dream of having one and am trying to figure out if I can pull it off. Our soil is poor (decomposed granite) and we do not have much catchment area. Lastly I am interested in any continuing education that you may be doing in Montana, is there anything you have in the works. My better half and I have our Permaculture Design Certificates and we cannot stop as we are addicts of this lifestyle. We NEED more. Thanks for your work, Dave
Dave--I haven't grown much at high altitudes; my time in Montana in the summers is spent writing and hiking, though I got some annual beds sown last year. So I can't make recommendations based on experience, and I try to stick to stuff I know firsthand. A pond in a dry climate needs a good water source, or it will just dry up. You need to ask what you want a pond for, and whether it is the highest use of land, water, and materials, and whether it is likely to be successful and be the best way of doing what you want it to do.

sepp holzer's book is one of the best on high-altitude permaculture. Jerome Osentowski at http://crmpi.org has been doing mountain permaculture longer than anyone else I know in the US; he's near Aspen and is a genius--his greenhouse development is brilliant (greenhouses are near-essential, I think, in that climate--lots of bang for your buck). Sandy Cruz in Colorado is one of many others who really know a lot on the subject.

Since I go to Montana for reasons other than teaching, I'm not doing courses there currently. But there are great Pc scenes in Bozeman and Missoula, and probably elsewhere.
Decomposed granite is going to be tough with out a liner. Liners are not quite permaculture but hey you do what you have to do. You might check out how to dig and compact a pond using heavy equipment (ie Holtzer).
Thanks for the replies. Toby-- We took a long week end trip to visit Jerome and attend a workshop on greenhouses and food forest 7 months ago. We learned a great deal and were putting it into action. We will be attending the last 5 days of the Holzer experience in northern Montana this May (Looking forward to meeting Paul and Jack Spirko). I would like a pond for the nutrient value, possible soaking, and a wet micro climate. I would also like some ducks and fish. I would like to do it natural pool style. I had an idea of setting a 500 to 1000 gallon topless concrete tank 7 feet in the ground( frost level is 6 feet here). This would leave the rim around 2 feet under the surface level. I could then have a small pondish/wetland full of water cleaning plants around the tank. I thought that I could plumb the bottom of the tank to a spigot to add nutrients wherever I like below the pond. So in theory this pond could be another holding tank as I need extra storage because I have a solar powered well (2 GPM). It would be a nutrient collector and extra water to fight a fire with. What are your thoughts? Doug--I may try the Holzer method of using pigs to glee it up. Thanks again everyone.
as Sepp Holtzer has said about ponds is that you really need to get some depth to them to keep them from dryinig up in the heat of summer, I started out with a more shallow pond 8 years ago and it always dried up in July, over the years ..a few days of a backhoe now and again, year after year, we have deepened several areas of our pond, and the deeper ..the more water remains.

We have one small area about 8 to 10 feet deep (hard to do with a backhoe) but it never dries up, some of the places 4 to 6 foot deep get shallowish but don't go completely dry, more shallow areas may completely dry up or only have a few muddy spots if we have a drought..but still, even if it does all dry up, you'll at least have water for some time..I'd start out small and deep, but make sure there is a shallow sloping approach for animals, and if something falls in it can get back out.
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