ARID: Campesino

by Lee Bentley
(Arroyo Seco, NM, USA)

Magpie Farms

Magpie Farms

We live in an arid region, more specifically termed a high desert. The availability of water has historically determined where people could live. Our little one acre farm is quite wet with several springs and two small streams. As a result people have lived and gardened here probably for thousands of years. I have found many pottery shards as evidence of their lives here. One large shard I was able to date to around the year 1140. We are talking long term permaculture.

In the past the people grew gardens (not farms), gathered abundant wild fruits, nuts, greens and healing herbs. Corn, beans and squash were the main staples of the garden. Chilli and other crops were traded from the south. Remarkably many of these practices are still part of contemporary living.
The Pueblo Indians and the rural Hispanics as well as many of the old Hippies left from the 70's who have been acculturated into the native ways practice permaculture.

Since we are at 7800' elevation, the climate is roughly equivalent to the latitude of Hudson Bay, in a good year we can grow tomatoes outside, night time temperatures in August are between high 40's to low 50's. Our land is about half pasture, grass grows well here, before we got our llamas, the pasture had to be mowed (exhausting)or let out for neighbors horses. I had tried sheep but they turned out to be coyote or dog food. The horses were tough on the stream banks and were very picky about what they ate. In the Fall the pasture became a big fire hazard...what to do? Last year we bought two non breeding female llamas for much less than a lawnmower.This year the pasture is like a golf course and the trees are neatly trimmed too. The payback is in their droppings which they neatly deposit in one of two places. The "Llama Beans" are a wonderful fertilizer and organic gardeners pay up to $15 a gallon bag. We have converted the liability of an underused pasture into a source of fertilizer for our gardens.

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