A New Altar for Water

Mon, 03/07/2016

by Ria Nochera, Program Logistics Coordinator

The next time you are walking in the central garden of our Land Sanctuary, you may notice a new addition near the Council House: a river-like feature that carries water from the well, down the hill, ending in a wetland just north of the Community yurt. The Ojai Foundation Land Team has redesigned some of our irrigation in order to utilize the water from our well. If you are in disbelief that this project has finally manifested, you’re not alone. When this idea was first introduced 10 years ago, our most recent teacher-in-residence, Leslie Roberts, also had her doubts but this did not stop her from making a long term goal to source all of The Ojai Foundation irrigation from our well rather than Casitas municipal water. This month we are on our way to doing just that.

Both Leslie Roberts and volunteer-in-residence Siri Gunnarson have devoted a large portion of their volunteer work here to water regeneration and retention. Just last month Leslie sculpted hypertufa basins in order to distribute well-water and rain-runoff into several small wetland zones, teaching Siri and others the art. This week, Leslie concluded her residency by installing a “water altar,” a pool adorned with natural decorations in the Beauty Way to honor this sacred and precious element. The water altar then overflows into a larger wetland area to further infiltrate the surrounding garden beds and models using water multiple times in the process of returning it to the earth body. As Siri Gunnarson explains, “The best way to store the water is in the soil.” We hope you come up the hill soon to help us welcome our newest addition to the land.

The wetland was created using a pond liner and the hugelkultur method of soil building. The first step involved drilling holes to ensure drainage into the surrounding landscape, followed by a layering of organic material and nutrients in the interior and exterior terraced beds. Over time the deep soil will become incredibly rich and spongy so that we can use this wetland to propagate, irrigate, and maybe even grow some edible crops. “It’s all an experiment,” says Chris Marion, groundskeeper at The Ojai Foundation.

To learn some of these skills and get hands-on experience, join us in our next Day of Service with Chris Marion and Siri Gunnarson on March 20 to celebrate the Equinox. For more information, visit the event page on our website or Facebook