Bird LifeBreedsDamsDemonstration SitesFishLandSwalesWater Harvesting

Each Step is the Way – Part II

[Editor’s Note: If you are involved in a project, anywhere, that is rooted in sustainability (i.e. that is aimed at sustainably meeting the needs of people, place and planet), then we always welcome written pieces, with photos, so you can tell the world about it – and inspire people to follow your lead. David’s post below is an example of the same. To contribute or to bounce a post idea off me, you can contact me on editor (at)]

Recent developments at Kailash-Akhara, Adi Yoga Retreat Center, Phu Rua, Loei, Thailand.

By David Perkins (Dharmadeva) – Farm Manager and resident permaculture designer and educator at Kailash-Akhara.


Our duck population has exploded from 4 to 22. We have been keeping Muscovy ducks (1 male and 3 females) since December, and their reputation for prolific breeding has proven to be true! After we noticed some ducklings were dying shortly after hatching, we found that well-timed human intervention was necessary to reduce suffocation or trampling in the nest. This resulted in 18 survivors, who have been a delight to watch this month. The adults keep laying, so we now need to eat more fresh eggs to keep the size of the flock manageable, while looking forward to some home-grown meat in due course.


What is a swale? Imagine a ditch running across the land on contour, so that it collects the runoff of rainfall flowing downhill. A long mound, or berm, below the ditch acts as a barrier, causing the water to build up during a heavy rain. Then it slowly infiltrates the soil. Plants and trees are specifically planted on and below the berm to stabilize it and take advantage of the increased moisture content of the soil. A swale is an earthwork feature commonly used in permaculture design, with which we achieve a great deal of benefit, by preventing erosion, hydrating the soil, and contributing to a more fertile and productive landscape.

The process of creating our swales began with careful observation of the land, and extensive surveying to find the contours and the most appropriate locations. The design for this property now includes 5 swales (3 x 300 meters long, and 2 x 150 meters). With the help of a skilled local man at the controls of the excavator, and a crew of laborers, we hope to have our swales dug and planted in time for the beginning of the rainy season. A swale takes a lot of work to create initially, but once established as a water infiltration and tree growing system, the resulting food forest keeps on giving for a long time… permanently, you might say – a clue to the origin of the word permaculture.


The upper pond is located in the core area between the training hall and the dormitory building, and its primary use will be recreational. The pond has 3 levels, and a depth of 2.5 meters at the deepest point. The main water source for this pond will be catchment from the training hall roof. It was dug one year ago, but did not hold water due to low clay content in the soil. Now it has been sealed using reinforced concrete, which was chosen for its great sealing properties, easy availability, relatively quick installation, and its durability and longevity. Additional landscaping around this pond will make it complete, and ideal for relaxing or taking a dip to cool off.


More beds are now in cultivation in the main garden. At this time of year, 2 ravenous pests emerged: flea beetles and grasshoppers. They can present a significant challenge to the organic gardener, and here we confronted them with natural sprays of neem oil and garlic juice – nevertheless, they chewed up more than their fair share of the young vegetable plants. Beans and squash are growing vigorously, and some beds have been sown with cover crops for building organic matter in the soil. In another bed, two of our favorite Ayurvedic medicinal plants, tulsi and ashwagandha, were transplanted, having been raised from seed in our nursery since January.



  1. Thanks for your interest, Jamie – i’ll email you with all the details. Hope to see you in Thailand!

  2. thanks Hamish, yes the pond is entirely concrete with steel mesh reinforcement throughout. not the most natural solution i know, but highly effective for this situation. it shows no sign of cracking – so far so good! we have a sandy-loam soil, and the clay content is simply too low to hold water. 2 other ponds on the site are lined with clay which i suspect was brought from off-site but they were created around 20 years ago, and perform well. the surface area of concrete is about 480 sq.meters. we had a crew of 5 men working for 5 days to complete the project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button