The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.


A cepa is a circular pit terrace around a tree.Cepas are expanding pit terraces created around trees planted on a slope.  When the seedling is first put in the ground, a bit of the hillside is hoed down to create a circular terrace with a lip at the downhill side to hold in water.  As the trees grow, farmers continue to hoe down the hillside, enlarging the cepa.

Farmers take advantage of gravity during the formation of cepas, just like they do during the formation of tablones.  The terraces around the trees trap water and debris flowing down the hillside, irrigating and feeding the trees without any work on the part of the farmer.

I love all of the terrace ideas presented in Gene Wilken's book, but he does include a word of warning --- slope management requires constant maintenance or it can cause dangerous conditions!  Everyone in my area knows about badly built settling ponds constructed in strip-mined areas, and about the disasters that ensue when the dams fail and downstream houses wash away.  Although I find terracing intriguing, I think I'll kick these ideas around for awhile before putting them into practice.

This post is part of our Central American Permaculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I saw some versions of this along the interstate while traveling home from Virginia. I am currently working on trying to help my mom get her dry, badly eroded hill to hold more moisture and soil. I am definitely going to keep this in mind as a possibility.
Comment by Sara Sun Apr 3 13:32:59 2011
I hope you'll post photos on your blog if you give cepas a try on your mother's hillside. They've clearly worked in Central America for a long time, but I'd be curious to see how well they do here.
Comment by anna Sun Apr 3 18:48:58 2011

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