*See entry below this one for an introduction to chinampas
A young chinampa with a visible foundation of branches and twigs. Like a floating cold compost pile.
Interns and a guest moving a pile of brush across the marsh from a chinampa island. Brush piles like these become the foundation of chinampas here. As Dave was explaining to me the other day, many of us toil in the soil to increase organic matter. It is fairly common practice to then burn that organic matter (like branches and leaves) or more recently to send it to industrial composting operations instituted by the city. Building chinampas is a way to not only utilize this valuable resource (aka waste) but to also increase biologically productive land. Its also a fun activity that stimulates our mind's sense of wonder.
These are pictures from the chinampa peninsula that extends from Doug and Maria's garden. An example of how the early stage of a chinampa looks like. A coarse fabric of brush with willow plantings and volunteers (aka "weeds") along the edge. This one still feels like a trampoline and the entire chinampa seems to bounce up and down if you get into it.
A mature chinampa peninsula with willow established on the edge for land stabilization.
This is the chinampa that we all entered the marsh from to work on one of the chinampa islands during the PDC. A solid chinampa peninsula with a fire pit and canoe landing at the tip. This peninsula, unless you were told, would be hard to tell that it was permy-made. The edges of this well-established chinampa are lined with an oak, paw paw, hazelnut, edible fruiting hawthorn, basketry willow, polygonum (giant knotweed), aronia, timber henon bamboo (left side of the picture), pear grafted on quince rootstock, highbush cranberry and a few others.
Here is a side-view of the fire-pit chinampa. You can see the Henon bamboo to the right. On the left side of the chinampa you might be able to spot the highbush cranberry and pear on quince.
This chinampa has a wikiup built out of cattails, a replication of what the native peoples' built for a quick dwelling in this region. 100% compostable.A bunch of permies crammed into the wikiup during a tour. I remember last year a course participant decided to setup camp inside. An important consideration about thatch roofs and structures such as these, is that they are slowly composting above you. They are also great habitat for insects, mice, rats, etc. Frequent fires inside for heating or cooking will help preserve the natural material and keep creatures away.
Doug mentioned to me that this chinampa is 28 years old.....I think its the oldest one that the Bullocks initiated here. It has a cool structure that hovers above the marsh. The picture above is after we cleared most of the willow along the peninsula recently, and below is a more beautiful presentation of this picturesque setup taken in the summer.
Another thing Dave mentioned to me about Chinampas is that when resources become more seriously limited, for instance if we cannot find a replacement for the solar pump that is essential, and the pumps are no longer functioning, chinampas will become a more essential element for food production here as they are subirrigated. He painted a picture of a series of peninsulas and islands with canals inbetween, much like how the Aztecs did it.
Its also quite beautiful to have a system that is not dependent on plastic pipes, complex materials, and electricity. If you have a site appropriate for chinampa, try it out! Call your friends and have a chinampero party! Orale!