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The Beginnings of CMO

NOTE: I have hundreds of old film photos taken starting when I first started developing my property in 1977. After scanning the negatives to my computer, it's been exciting, but agonizing, to decide which photos to include in this blog. I'll do the best I can, but if you see a lack in a certain area, feel free to bring it to my attention so I can add more. I also should mention that none of the negatives were dated or in any order, so I did the best I could with dating, but some dates are inevitably inaccurate.

In 1980 I had just finished nearly 3 years of grueling work building my earth-sheltered home, and guesthouse, that required dynamiting into the side of a rhyolite (fine-grained granite) slope. Here is the house in progress around 1978-79. (Future oasis along arroyo in center of photo.) The land was overgrazed semi-desert at that time.

Here is the finished house about a year later.

It hasn't been grazed since 1977 (when I purchased it) and gets better all the time, although with the drought of 2011 continuing progress remains to be seen.

This is the garden I started around 1980 in the place where the oasis would eventually be. I chose to put a garden here because the soil is a deep alluvial fan deposit. It's sandy, whereas the majority of my section of land is rhyolite interspersed with clay pockets. You can barely see a little vegetation along the arroyo in the center of this photo.

Gardening was my passion, and had always been Sherwood 's passion, when I married him in 1995. We didn't have enough water for serious gardening so the following year we started digging the first tank. Here's Sherwood reveling in the sight of the first tank filling up with water diverted by way of a diversion dam we built in the arroyo. (Tank is concreted and six feet deep.) 


Since I felt compelled to plant trees on all the ground made barren by the construction, we soon needed a second tank so there would theoretically be enough water for the trees and our garden.

We originally lined the 9 foot deep second tank with Permalon plastic, but with deer and javelina puncturing it, we eventually concreted it like we had done the first smaller tank. (A deer proof fence would have been too unsightly.) Here the whole family is helping with the Permalon liner.

When we finished laying the Permalon I personally hauled and place 9,999 (or thereabouts) rocks around the periphery.

Because the arroyo only flash-floods a couple of times a year, the plan was to capture enough water with one flood to last a year. Seemed fail-proof. This view is water coming down the arroyo to the dam.

The first rain after the tank was finished didn't run enough to fill the tank. We pumped in what we could from the "settling"area between the dam and tank.

 (Another family event.)

Finally, during that first summer both tanks filled up. I learned that it takes a half-inch of rain falling quickly to run enough to fill everything up.

I let having all that wonderful water go to my head. Soon I was planting more trees.