Beginner’s Luck At some point, around the middle of watching my third Geoff Lawton flick I realized none of this was remotely going to sink in unless I was willing to pick up a shovel. Following three sequential early season wash-outs and practically no sun in our garden by mid-summer, I believed in order to grow any food here I needed to move. To work the front yard it would take terracing. Either I would build t up, or be digging swales in solid rock. Looking for an easy out, this enlightening bit of Lawton wisdom flashed into my head: “If you happen to find yourself moving things great distances, and in some cases even a matter of as little as a few feet, -you’re probably approaching this all the wrong way.” Fortunately, I’ve got a running brook filled with good sized rocks just 40 feet away, and I was soon amazed to discover how bloody simple this one landforming technique could be. Using a garden hose to check the slope of things as I went, I began to think maybe it is the minutia that matters most! I chose to attack this spot by the garage first, because after a storm it was maddeningly apparent that the water usually ran straight down our driveway. Over the years all of the top soil did to. Much of the prior run-off supplied plenty of water for a prolific fig tree. In one simple move, I found I could easily divert 50% of this sheet run-off into my garden with ease. I’m not so sure I’m being kind to our precious and previously prolific fig tree. Using just a simple ‘claw’ tool, I cut a dozen 6” deep x 5’ long micro-channels into this rocky clay soil to direct the water in paths which traverse about 1/2 the width of this small hill. Along the edge I piled up a double-high row of river rocks to form a retaining wall, and filled each new cavity in with fresh black organic compost, much of which soon floated away, yet it enabled me to calculate the contours and gradient changes to be made from there. The second time I amended it with horse manure, chicken pellets and sharp sand over everything. This is the way it looks today, having done nothing else to it for about a year and three months. Clearly it’s been going in the right direction, with roughly a 45% increase in random species growth. It used to look like the rocky section, all the way across. It’s too shady a spot for clearer photos, but these do show bona fide improvements. Until now, micro-swales had never occurred to me as remotely practical thing to bother with, due to our conventional mindset about rural ‘farmland’ use. Here, in Little Rock, (and throughout much of Arkansas,) people are taught to value our big strong trees. They mitigate wind damage, preventing many tornados, plus, they put out lots of wonderful summer shade and oxygen. In three easy moves, I had discovered a superior way to attend to their care & feeding, through deep, continual gentle watering. Doubtless, a chicken tractor would come in handy. The asparagus and the lavender have taken to this spot well. Now, if only I could figure out what to plant (or which limbs to cut,) to bring it up to the next level.