...Time flys..no matter what...

Time flys when you are having fun they say..Seems as if it flys no matter what. 

We are having a very wet summer. Farmers are loving it. Thunderstorms every afternoon -rain every day. The 12 mile long Presa to the North of us is full - so full they are discharging to make room for more water. Too bad we can't send some to California - we definitely have a surplus.

And a nice surplus re our PV panels - producing between 11 & 12 KwH a day most days - and with all the rain don't need to run the pump for our bio-intensive growing area as much so we are running up a surplus in that department.

Watering from our fish pond  combined with our new compost  really has the vegetables growing- and this year have been keeping the grass down so the grasshoppers aren't the problem (so far) that they were last year. Actually looking forward to trying out a couple of ideas for catching them - the fish in the aquaponics pond love them.

Our veggie production is such that we now have a very nice surplus coming from the garden -giving us enough to buy the tropical fruit which we also love - mangoes, sweet pineapples, papayas etc.

And so we are now able to say that we are 100% sustainable..!!!

...Aquaponics wins again...

Truth be told the fish fertilizer aspect of aquaponics was not originally thought about. That a fish pond was needed was an important part of the plan - but all those fish eating and excreting was just a part of it. To find out that fish poo is one of the best fertilizer / compost materials was a major plus.

Sweet potato - giant variety. Our experiments with the fish poo from our large lined pond (90'x37')  has come out well indeed. The larger one above would be 18" if it was spread out straight. 

We had to clean out the fish waste from the pond and put lots of it on the garden area and later on dug it in and planted some sweet potato. Like wow- we had a winner! 

So we bought a new sludge pump, put it on a wheeled base- and can now move it along in the pond picking up lots of fish waste (and pond water) and have a excellent liquid fertilizer for the growing areas.

We now have a chipper so that we can process our bamboo twice a year crops. Bamboo has a high carbon content and takes twenty years to break down in compost. It's all about creating what they call bio-dynamic soil which will give us even better crops. Our compost mix is looking great- and there  can never be too much of it.

Beautiful clear blue skies today- a typical spring day up here on the plateau. So much to be thankful for..

'The Great Turning' in the Sala...

 We are delighted with how our dining room and patio have finished up.  We recently had a workshop on laSenda as a 'Study in Sustainability' with 28 people attending. Lots of good discussion on the economics and environmental aspects but  the discussion on the social aspects of community clearly showed the difficulties that lie ahead in achieving the necessary 'shift in consciousness'.

We showed the Youtube video of Joanna Macy - 'The Great Turning' which we feel is a very well done presentation of where humanity is at now and what lies ahead. It's not a 'doom and gloom' thing at all- it's really about the transition from a industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society and some of the changes that humanity will be confronted with- as she calls it a 'scientific and a spirtual revolution'.

We believe that a community such as ours will be one of the best places to ride out the coming revolution- so if you have a look at the link below and find yourself in agreement then consider looking at where we are in the overall scheme of things.

January...laSenda ...

The lower fish ponds from the SouthEast
Looking from the SouthWest

We never tire of the beauty that is provided for us by Nature. Our weather is great - mostly high 70s days/ high 40's at night, a mild winter for sure.

Having been a working artist all of my life I always seek the most beautiful light, angle etc when I take photos. So everything at laSenda does not look exactly like the photos shown here all the time.
(The late afternoon light here is near perfect..)

the Living Room & Patio
Tiles are on the living unit patios that were designed without posts or stepdowns, so that the whole area flows together. The concertina folding doors allow the whole width of 17'6" to be enjoyed.

Mild climate and high solar hours, a year-round supply of fresh water, and ample area to grow food are the most important factors for sustainable community.

The 6000' high central Mexican plateau at 21-degree latitude offers a mild year-round growing climate for organic food and very high solar hours (about 325 days per year of 8 hours or more usually).

LaSenda Ecovilla is located along the banks of the Rio Laja in Canyon de Allende, where it widens out into a pleasant valley. The popular city of San Miguel de Allende is only 20 minutes away.

With 6 acres of beautiful gently sloping land, complete with 220 yards of underground-fed ponds with  flowing water, a bamboo forest along the edge of the river, and expansive flat land perfect for growing organic vegetables and fruit trees and a Aquaponics greenhouse for year round growing, this land will soon be a fully functional ecovillage.

...Aquaponics + Fish Farming = Sustainability ...

Someone asked us the other day why our greenhouse is set up the way it is. First of all, we had a sloping hillside. And we had leftover building blocks. Our holding tanks for the fish pond water were above the highest level in the greenhouse, so it was easy to put the trays on descending levels and oxygenate the water on its way down the hill. So far it's working well - with a few adjustments along the way.

Here is our aquaponics greenhouse, which we have nicknamed the 'Hanging Gardens of El Batan.' (The area we live in is called El Batan.)

Aquaponics has been an exciting development for us. We believe that as vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians we can come close to 100% sustainability using this system.  We are solar pumping the nutrient-laden water from our lined 105'x43' fishpond, which is filled with pond water from our natural flow lower fish ponds, up to this aquaponics growing area. The water cycles through the trays, and then clean aerated water is gravity-fed back to the fish - a win/win situation. 

We now have 25 trays with water cycling through them, but we have the capacity for almost a 100 of the blue trays. With 8 butter lettuces per tray, that's 800 lettuces growing. Our intention is to grow many other greens in the trays, but local restaurants are usually eager to buy good salad greens, and we intend to consume quite a few ourselves.

The protected south-facing bank of growing trays within the greenhouse situation allows the plants to grow much faster than normal. Each tray has an adjustable water level, so plants can have nutrients with roots in water or partially exposed to oxygen. Each tray also has a small venturi on the outlet that feeds to the tray below. From the bottom tray, the water gravity feeds back to the main fishpond.

The large body of water in the fishpond also provides cooler air during the warmer months of April/May/June and is a delightful addition to the view from the patios. Lots of landscaping to do and color to add to both the surrounding area and the pond, which will have water lilies to provide shade for the fish.

With the solar pump and panel paid for, the whole system runs itself at little cost to us. People who have put this system to work on their land have found they can grow ten times the produce of a normal garden area with almost no labor except for planting - at waist height - no bending, stooping, crawling on hands and knees, weeding, etc.

And nice to know that if we need them for our diet, we will have clean fish available.


Lots happening..We decided to enter into a growing partnership with a friend here who is also a bio-intensive organic farmer who liked the look of our soil and our fishponds. We now have a fishpond water dripfeed irrigation system which is producing thousands of fast growing healthy plants- food for us and for sale at the organic market and the shop in town.
With six of these beds producing abundantly we are now in the IOO% sustainable position that we have always wanted to be - with our large surplus going to the organic markets in town.

Our solar guru came up  with a new Magnum inverter which with some batteries gives us a state of the art system between gridtie and solar fed batteries - end result being the best of both worlds currently available. With this system we can now be independent of the grid if need be or we can draw from the grid at nite and save our batteries.
Except for a few light fixtures in the living units construction is finished. We finally installed the lighttrack systems in the dining room and the result is a golden glow on the bamboo which makes for a really beautiful ceiling- and because we used LEDs the whole ceiling is lit for 28 Watts.

...Exciting times - as we go from this...

..to this...

We thought we had run out of the beautiful floor tiles we used thruout laSenda.

Went begging at the store where we bought them and buried in the piles of 'discards' a box of them was found which together with the few leftovers we had made enough for us to complete the 2 meters across koi pond. So after living with bare concrete for over a year at last we now have a very beautiful meditation area complete with colorful koi who love to show off their own beauty. 

We seem to have hatched at least a thousand or so of tilapia- the fish in the large pond below the koi pond who contribute mightily to our Aquaponics project. Since they struggle to eat the adult food we were delighted to find that they love to eat the green angels hair algae that has been constantly blooming in the koi pond. So with our pool skimmer we are able to recycle the greens and watch them devour it in a miniature 'feeding frenzy'- and seemingly double in size every other day.

We are now searching for a white water lily to sit on top of the fish house which will complete the picture for this part of laSenda. 

As we  near  the finish of the construction phase we are able to focus more of our time on both the aquaponics / permaculture aspect and the increase in interested persons. It is indeed 'exciting times'...

...Living here and loving it...

We are in!! All systems go. Loving it. Really enjoying being here. Stepped out onto the patio to check out the full moon - clouds hiding it - stepped back into the living room area and snapped this of the kitchen.

As Barbara said, "This place is more like a very nice Boutique Hotel than a ecovillage.." Internet guy installed a very fancy dish for satellite so we have good internet service out here in the canyon.

Decided to go for the classy look in the shower and toilet area. We are quite pleased with how it has come out.

This is how the large closet area between the living room and bathroom has worked out. In the daytime the bed rolls into the bottom of the closet and becomes a nice sofa. Rolled out at night, the room becomes a bedroom - saving a lot of space that is often wasted.

If sustainable community is beginning to sound good to you, we are looking for a few of the right 'fit' folks that can see our potential for 'living the good life'. In light of recent disturbing economic and environmental news, consider laSenda as a possible new direction for your future. A sustainable future. With all the mod cons.

...the Essence of Our Community...

All of laSenda's ceilings will be organic bamboo on natural round vigas (beams). The bamboo grows on our land along the river. This particular section of the roofs has high south-facing windows, which allow light and air into the kitchen. It's both organic and beautiful.

The south-facing portion of the roof is at a 22-degree slope and will hold our 10 Photovoltaic solar panels. These panels will produce electrical power that can be 'net metered,' as Mexico now has a law allowing excess electricity produced to be sent to the grid in the daytime and used by the producers at night. We will have a near-zero cost of power, provided that our usage is equal to the excess that we produce. In effect, the grid functions as our battery bank, saving us the high cost and relatively short life of batteries at this time.

When we look up to these beautiful ceilings, we feel that they, indeed, provide a physical protection to shelter us, but they also encourage us to "look up" in a spiritual sense as well. We all want to think positively about the future - and we believe that sustainable community offers us a better way of living. But as Eckhart Tolle says in his book, "The New Earth," without higher awareness of the realities, we will never be able to create that New Earth, nor will we simply inherit it.

We believe Tolle is correct when he says: "... those who have awakened to their essential true nature as consciousness and recognize that essence in all 'others', all life-forms" will be able to "live in the surrendered state and so feel their oneness with the whole and the Source. They embody the awakened consciousness that is changing all aspects of life on our planet..."

We believe that awakened higher consciousness will prove to be an important element of the essence of our community.

…LaSenda Ecovilla - the vision...

(Click to enlarge)
This scale drawing of laSenda shows three different elevations: the road that skirts the top of the land; the large flat area just below which will have organic gardens and fruit trees, the Community Center/Dining Terrace, Kitchen and the 6 Living Units: the lower portion of the land with additional food growing area, and the aquaculture ponds, which are on the same level as the river.

The Lower Fish Ponds

From the lower ponds we are solar pumping nutrient laden water to the upper pond and to the three lower tanks on the hill- from there it will gravity feed to the growing trays and then return to the upper pond cleaned and oxygenated. This is the beauty of Aquaponics- a closed loop system whereby the fish produce the nutrients and the plants use them-in the process cleaning the water- which is then returned to the fish.

...the 'Heart' of laSenda...

(Click to enlarge)
This is how the 'Heart' of laSenda is developing... The fish/lily pond is 36'x98' and because it is not a thru flow pond like the others we will be able to better control it in terms of nutrient levels and fish population leading to a better aquaponics growing situation.  From there, the water will be circulated through the greenhouse, the aquaponics trays, and shade-cloth intensive growing areas. Since the intensive growing area is south facing and will be protected, we will also be experimenting with papaya and other tropicals, which we have found do quite well in our micro-climate.

...the Structure of the Community...

An investment in laSenda equals a full share, which includes: 

- A beautiful 870 sq ft organic living area - cut stone walls, bamboo ceilings - with tiled bathroom and kitchen, large studio/2nd bedroom, 17' south-facing all glass opening onto patio looking to a 90' water lily fish pond 'a la Monet'...

- An equal share of the main kitchen, large dining/ patio/ community center area, storerooms, etc...
- Infrastructure which includes solar: hot water, PV panels for power, green houses for aquaponics and in-ground food production, food dehydrators, protected well for clean water source w/ pumps and storage tanks...

- An equal share of the over 5 acres of land, which includes 200 yards of fish ponds in a park-like area...

All of this is included in a one-time buy-in price; very low cost of living payments will be your only on-going expense - until we can figure out such things as TP & soap etc.

Once part of the community, a member's block of shares can be sold to someone else, but to protect the community, it must be offered to qualified persons.

Members may own more than one living unit, but they have only one vote per person as owners. Community decision-making entails establishing the facts, and then using consultation among all owners, with all decisions based on either a unanimous conclusion or a majority vote.

If this vision captures your imagination and you would like to be involved in sustainable living at laSenda,  contact us at ric9welland@gmail.com.

...the Face of Mexico...

This old man claimed to have been a bugle boy in the Mexican Revolution. He seemed to be very poor- but rich in spirit-and always in good humour. It's so sad that those that create the 'News' in the US insist on painting such a negative picture of Mexicans and Mexico. I've lived and painted here for over 20 years now and hate it when they trot out the stereotypes- most of which are  just not true. The loving human spirit is alive and well and we feel so fortunate to live here among these people- who have a lot to teach us about sustainable living and other important aspects of life.

We often get emails saying 'We like the looks of what you are doing at laSenda but are afraid of living in Mexico.' All we can say to them is please don't judge the people or the country based on what the powers that be tell the media to produce. The overall 'picture' they produce of Mexico  is  not true.

There is a lot of beauty here- the people, the culture, the family life, the environment -and many from the North who come here for a visit often within days are planning how they can manage to live here and enjoy what this country has to offer- such as the beauty of the girl-and the flowers- in this painting .

As an artist- and a lover of beauty- I am very happy with what Mexico- and laSenda- has to offer. And the only way anyone will ever know if that is true is to come have a look for themselves. 

...the first LaSenda...

Fifteen years ago, Rick designed and built the first LaSenda, which incorporated most of the important permaculture concepts. All water was recycled with grey water diverted to the garden areas and black water to a methane digester with constructed wetlands. Solar heaters supplied the living units with hot water. A solar-powered pump supplied water for the roof tanks, which then gravity-fed through the complex.

Although there was much creative energy over the years, the right combination of 'fit' and the ability to 'buy-in' didn't happen. When the opportunity came to sell the condos, he decided to keep 6 acres by the river for later development as an ecovillage, and spent the next year visiting intentional communities in various parts of the world.

Rick found that one of the biggest problems in most of the communities he visited was their structure. He came to realize that how to live together as a community was indeed an essential part of humanity's development toward sustainable living in the future.