New Bonus Geoff Lawton Video 5 Acre Abundance on a Budget — 30 Comments

  1. I don’t have land, but sure wish I did. It is amazing what Geoff does. Instead of fighting nature, work with it in harmony. How simple is that! Amazing, simple, yet one must have a full understanding of how nature and these systems work. I hope Geoff does eventually produce a course or system of instruction that even us poor folks can afford and take advantage of. This knowledge CAN change the world.

    • Obviously these awesome freebies are leading up to an offer of some sort. Whatever it is, if it’s even remotely affordable for me, I’m in.

      I can’t remember where I heard it first (probably from Jack) but think of all the bozos who’ve received a Nobel Peace Prize – some of them blatant frauds (Algore) and here’s a man who truly deserves one going virtually unnoticed by the PTB. Go figure.

  2. Awesome video. I searched for the PDC DVD you mentioned, it’s no longer available on Amazon. Do you have another source?

  3. 8.7 Million gallons of water storage for $17k ($maybe $26k today)..

    8.7M gallons / $26k = 334 gallons/$1

    definitely beats water tanks 🙂

    • It certainly does. You do however need a lots of tanks to collect the rainwater from your buildings so you can have clean drinking water. Water collected in dams or “ponds” is great for stock and irrigation but not for household use.

  4. Another excellent video! They sure are lighting the permaculture fire under me. Now, if I only had a brain…er, some land!

  5. This is great design. It would be good if more information is given on the yearly waterfall for this location. I have a place in California which I am designing swales but have to be very careful about not raising a red flag with the government. This much grading and adding dams is discouraged thus I am doing is slowly. I also have to worry about google earth history which shows evidence of progress. The old days of doing what you want is changing. I would love to hear comments on this.
    Thanks, Pete

    • Which leads me to the common question when anyone says “What I want to do is difficult because I live in California”, Why do you continue to live in such a state? Just kidding, well, sort of.

  6. I think I’m just going to have to figure out how to make it happen to attend one of his PDC’s. That property is fundamentally how I want to live.

  7. Just a thought here, but it would seem that at least in Texas where lots of excavation equipment is available for sale as various people go in and out of business, one could probably lower the costs even further by buying a smallish excavator outright, doing the work on your own, and then selling the equipment when done. Plus, equipment operating skills could go on your 13 Skills list!

  8. Jack,
    I listen all the time and now totally agree with the benefits of moving away expensive and restrictive areas, ie. California, more specifically Silicon Valley. You cannot imagine how expensive living in the south bay is.
    For me I am extremely dug in with family, work, home and BOL.
    On the flip side I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life and it has been a fantastic ride.
    Back to my original comment, the risks of grading and dams. In many areas people should be careful. One thing an old timer buldozer guy told us. If your going to do any kind of non-permited grading which could raise suspision right away do a dense seeding of wheat, barley, or something like that so it gets green quickly and will blend it nicely.

  9. My comments may be unfair, as this 5 acre video is the only work of Geoff’s I have watched so far (but I want to see much more). I don’t mean to denigrate him in any way, so please be aware up front that I am not criticizing, but asking questions for better understanding and direction for my own property.

    I bought a 5 acre parcel 1 1/2 years ago, and, happily, it is remarkably similar to the one Geoff developed in this video. It has the creek, the seasonal gulleys, the runoff from the road, the wooded back part, the open, grassy front part. But I’m in droughty Kansas, on a plateau that the glacier didn’t mess with as much as elsewhere, with thick, fractured rock pervasively underground. Like Geoff, my first thought was to make a dam at the bottom and create a large, lovely, useful pond there. But I had a pond expert survey the place, and he indicated that a lot of massive, highly invasive excavation would likely be necessary, and then the addition of large amounts of clay to form the base of the dam. The equipment would tear the crap out of one of the loveliest areas in the property. And he said even then, $20K or more later, it still might not hold water.

    And like Geoff, I cut a smaller pond near the upper corner of the property (removed clay from there for use in leveling a barn pad elsewhere), but the dozer hit massive, fractured rock at 4′ deep and sure enough, despite lots of rain, there is no sign of this pond filling yet (to be fair, I always assumed that it would require a liner of some sort to have any chance).

    I think the point I’m wanting to make is that Geoff’s model property seems to have ideal soil and copious amounts of rain. I respect him highly for all he did and shares with this project, but it seems to me that there is a big trap here that people like me could fall into, and that is looking at one’s property and assuming the same mental process: “I can just put a swale here, drain it over there, use the overflow for X, and cut a depression over there and it will fill into a nice pond…” and on and on. It seems that everywhere Geoff made a low spot, it filled with water. But for those of us without ideal soil composition and rainfall, it just ain’t gonna happen.

    I do want to invest in Geoff’s materials, as I’m sure there is lots for me to benefit from even with my conditions. I just wonder if anyone else has considered this trap. He’s done work in the desert, yes? So presumably he gets into these kinds of issues? I’d love to know that his sense of wonder and magic and awe can carry over for those with less ideal conditions. Perhaps I can create successful water features on my property, but the “budget” part of Geoff’s presentation doesn’t seem likely for me. Would love to be wrong.


    • Doug, earthworks are not expensive if you have a good operator. This is not a model design for people to emulate, it is just an example of something that Geoff did in the real world on a 5 acre site. From the description of your property it sounds like you will have to use different techniques that those in this video.

      Having lived and worked on Geoff’s farm I am familiar with the area and climate. The property is in South-Eastern Queensland which is coastal, sub-tropics. They receive more than 2 metres (80 inches) of rain every year so obviously they have no issues with filling dams and swales.

      Swales are great but they are not always the answer. You might want to find a permaculture designer who is familiar with your climate and region. Good luck.

    • I see your view as remarkably short sighted. Of course every property is different. Let’s see you talked to a conventional pond builder who said _______. Want to bet this guy never built a pond that first filled via a swale then used the swale to back fill an overflow?

      Now look I don’t know your property but honestly if you use the techniques Holzer does to separate the material you excavate very seldom do you end up needing to bring in clay but in some cases you might have to if you want ponds. Thing is for a small pond say .25 acres or less it really isn’t that expense to line with bentonite considering it is a one time experience to hold millions of gallons of water.

      4 feet till you hit rock? Give me two feet of drop and I can build you a pretty good pond with that, may be you don’t have it but you have more depth then I do and Geoff isn’t afraid to design my property. Just because you have swales also doesn’t mean you need to also have ponds by the way? Please watch Greening the Desert for how swales were used in the desert of Jordan.

      Did you watch the second video on the property checklist? Many of the problems you mention are headed off by buying the right piece of land.

      There are hundreds of techniques and the job of a designer is to choose the right ones for the property. It isn’t just based on the property it is also based on the goals of the land owner.

  10. Thanks, Evan. I didn’t mean to imply that I wish to emulate that model. Perhaps there was a lot more effort given to sealing all those water features than was apparent in the description and in the budget numbers. It’s just evident to me, after working my property for 16 months now, that I can carve all the swales and ponds I want and, without a whole lot more rainfall, little or no water will accumulate without some serious attention given to sealing things. I looked up the rainfall for my area, up to 40″/year, but it’s been significantly less than that for the last two years.

    Jack, I will crunch the numbers for using bentonite. I consulted with an excavator who is experienced with what it takes to make successful ponds in my area, and yes he is probably old school. Rather than give me a rosy picture to get the work, he was frank about what we would likely encounter once excavation began, and it had fia$co written all over it. I’m grateful that he talked me out of attempting the big pond at the bottom. But the small pond at the top, it is cut and needs to be sealed. The operator (a different guy, a true artist with a dozer) cut this pond to harvest the clay for leveling a barn pad, and he scraped around until he found this one spot where the clay was 4′ deep before hitting massive rock. Elsewhere on the property, the rock is 10-18″ deep.

    I want a fish pond in a bad way. But as I understand it, 4′ isn’t deep enough to allow catfish to survive the winter up here. I’ve talked to a demo guy, and have ruled out dynamite for now… has anyone ever seen something like a monster jackhammer mounted on some sort of excavator that might be able to cut me a deeper spot? Wondering if something like that would be an option.

    I’m also interested to know more about how Holzer separates excavated material. Yes, I just watched Greening the Desert, thanks. Gives me hope, for sure.

    • If that is fractured lime stone (what I have on my place) a big excavator with a hammer will cut it up and do it quite well. Cost is something I will be able to discuss better soon, again same boat.

      I don’t know if you are getting my point though? Yes Geoff put in all those damns because it was a great site to do so. If you had seen the PDC where it was first laid out though there were some things he left out about code enforcement and an asshole down grade neighbor. He alludes to it when he talks about “returning the water to the same catchment” which his first design didn’t do. Well by the time he was done the code guy wrote a letter to the neighbor that began with “Normally when dealing with a person like Mr. Lawton we would be retaining him as a consultant.” It ended with something to the effect of “please rest assured your concerns have been addressed and the property is in compliance. However, it is beyond our ability to describe Mr. Lawton’s solution in print”. Points? 1. Geoff is that good 2. Every property has “problems”

      Look may be only that one pond is all you can do, may be you could have a bigger one but the cost benefit isn’t worth it, hell I don’t know. But what about swales? You know you don’t need ponds to use swales right? You know they are very cheap to build right? Or do you? You do know that are not specifically used to fill ponds right? That that is just an additional function?

      Geoff also gave an additional way to handle limestone (if that is what you have) build a massive acidic compost pit in the cut out. Wait a year, it will literally eat the lime. Now if it is granite you got a problem.

      Another option build a 4 foot deep pond, put ducks on it, gain a different protein source. Use it for nutrient flow, etc.

      Again this is what a property checklist is for, it is why it came first in the series not last.

      Again though, I am in the EXACT same boat, hell I wish I had any place with 4 feet of cover and I still would buy this place again. There is always a solution.

      The big problem with people new to permaculture is they look at one design or one set of techniques and say “so that is permaculture” and they do so with the wrong view, they see it as an absolute. As in every permaculture designed will be in this case, multiple damns connected with swales. That just isn’t the case at all. Techniques are like paints, the land is the canvas and based on the size and type of canvas and the type of paint used the designer will paint the picture differently every time. If he has a client of course that is a huge component as well.

      Say Geoff had designed that property for me? Likely there would have been a few less damns and a bit more paddock style pasture remaining. Why? Because that is better? No simply because that is what I would have asked for.

  11. I’m excited to know about the rock hammer option – sorry to not have googled it before asking. I will check around here to see who has one. Sealing my small pond will be a much more satisfying project if it has a chance of being a viable fish pond.

    Yes, I think I have a pretty good idea of what swales are all about, Jack, thanks largely to what you’ve put out about them. I don’t own any property upslope of the small pond, though, so as far as the pond project by itself goes, they don’t have much to do with it. I have a very nice property, especially for Kansas, with a lot of potential for “painting” with permaculture tools. It was quite a find, and I am not complaining about it. I just need to learn how to develop it given the constraints, including a micro-budget. This year my top priority is the completion of a multi-use barn… but I have a hundred things I want/need to do all at once, as I’m sure you understand. Swaling the property, establishing garden beds, food forests, livestock, etc. will come in time. But the pond is already cut, so I can give a little priority now to figuring out how to deepen and seal it.

    Thanks for clarifying that “Geoff put in all those damns because it was a great site to do so.” Again, my property has striking similarities, albeit without the rainfall. And I wouldn’t create that many water features either, even if I could. I think my opening remark was trying to say that this video, taken by itself, might give the illusion that developing a property into such a paradise is relatively easy, when of course, all properties are different and this example property may have been on the extreme side of “easy.” Interesting to find out about his neighbor issues, I did wonder about that.

    So yes, swales having nothing to do with ponds are in my future. But right now my thoughts and comments are focused on my goal of having a fishpond. If I can’t have that based on my property and my budget, well, then I’ll just have to move to plan B which might involve aquaponics. I agree that “there is always a solution.”

    Oh, and since I wrote I watched Geoff’s video on building a dam. This is very much the same approach my pond guy was describing to me — cutting a keyway and packing a clay base for the dam into it. The bigger issue to my guy was getting the bedrock and the cut around the rest of the pond to hold water, and that is where it started to look like a possible money-pit fiasco.

    Thanks for your time replying to this, Jack.

    • No worries man. If I ever come off too rough give me a bit of leeway please. I understand this stuff so well and I want to much to put my understanding into the minds of others so they can use it themselves.

      It gets frustrating because I see it once and my mind opens to 1000 possibilities or more and I just can’t convey them all. People give me a problem and I keep trying to remind them, “the problem is the solution”.

      Here is another one to bend your brain around, your rainfall levels are not why you won’t end up with 5 damns, if your soil was right I could do it. Most of Kansas gets 20-30 inches of rain a year, we get about 30 here in texas and even poorly built tanks never seem to go dry. Even with the drought last two years only a few did, none are fed by swales, no excavator here knows what a swale of this type is. If you watched the DVD you know how much work went into grabbing that extra bit of roof overflow from the tanks and how that swale increased the catchment by a huge factor.

      Like I said man I get the problem with the rock, I REALLY get it and in a way that makes me sad for myself not just you.

      That said find me a place with better soil near you and not only could we design it a LOT like the property Geoff did in Australia, over time the ponds and damns would get more and more resilient.

      I might put in 2000 or more yards of swale onto 5 acres to do it but swaling is cheap, about a yard a minute. It is such a simple process and you can easily do all the marking yourself, then all the operator does is follow the stakes. Put in that much swale in such a small holding and you charge the shallow aquifers up beyond your imagination.

      Now think about this, swales do this because over time, they push so much water into the land it eventually hits hard-pan and plumes out downgrade. Hmm, so what does that mean for “unlucky” folks like you and I with rock so close to the surface? Um, that it will charge up faster, plume out faster because it will hit the hard-pan faster right? Put in enough swale (likely smaller then the stuff in Geoff’s vid) on a property like you or I have and let me tell you irrigation is going to be very minimal after that. Do so an some observer will absolutely tell us, “well you are lucky because you had that rock layer”, sigh.

      The other thing about fractured lime (again not sure if you have that too) is it holds water. Man when I dig that crap up you can tell it is moist, it is a bit porous and does hold water. Not saying it is a sponge but it does hold water. Put a chunk in the sun for a day or two and you can tell the difference when it drys out.

      If you get pricing on a big excavator (say a 60 ton) with a rock hammer let me know the cost, I may need one soon and I would expect labor rates between Kansas and Texas to be similar.

  12. Thanks for the “silver lining” about the rock layer close to the surface 🙂 You have me inspired to move swales higher in my priority list. I just watched Geoff’s Property Purchase Check List, and that is a kick in the butt too. Thanks for keeping on me about that, as I may not have watched it since I already have land. I will be looking at my property with different eyes now.

    Will let you know if I find any rock hammer services around here.

  13. Why do Aussies call a pond -dam system just “dams.” Am i missing something here? A dam is well, the dam/berm/impoundment wall – the pond is, well – where the water actually backs up and fills.

    • That is just regional speak like yaw’ll in the south and you’s in PA or you call em sunnies, I call em perch and in Florida they are brim. In Africa a brim is a damn big fish that might take a finger off if you are not careful.

      • We call them dams because you have to build a dam wall to impound the water, it is a dam. A pond in Australia is a just hole dug in the ground.

  14. I came across you post just today May 4th. The link goes to a promotional video for Lawton’s online Permie course. Though a fantastic video with an offer I can find very appealing, I think this is not the vid the link was supposed to take me to. Something about 5 acre abundance and apparently a second one after that about urban permaculture, which also links instead to the most recent vid that has been uploaded to the site. Is there a way to see the two earlier vids?

    • I am not sure if those teaser videos will be returned to the public? I am going to talk to Geoff’s team about that.

  15. I subscribed to his emails a couple of months ago to get the video links as they were made available. I didn’t get a chance to look at them right away and now all I get is the sales pitch video when I click on any of the video links that were sent to me. It’s frustrating to have subscribed and not be able to get the videos that were promised as part of the subscription! Feels like a scam to me. It’s a shame because I am looking for property right now and I really wanted to see the property checklist video. 🙁

    • More entitlement attitude? Wow, the videos came out over a period of months.