Level 3 – Off-Grid Solar & Water Design & Implementation
Level 3 – Market Garden Irrigation Design
Level 1 – Site Assessment
Location: Santa Margarita, CA
Project Scope: 7th Generation Design was invited by the Gomez family to complete a Level 1 Site Assessment for their 160 acre family ranchita in the hills outside Santa Margarita. The family’s goals included gaining a better understanding of what is possible for the landscape in terms of habitat restoration and productive homestead and micro-enterprise scale growing systems.
The Land: The 160 acre parcel is a large rectangle, oriented on the east-west axis. The property has a nearly 3 acre pond that is fed by over 1,000 acres of catchment, and is home to a diverse array of wildlife. An over 1 mile long dirt driveway, of which nearly .8 miles is off property, winds through the low hills and eventually follows the valley bottom at the entrance to the property. The chaparral vegetation is dominated by Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), Manzanita (Arcostaphylos spp.), and Sage Brush (Artemisia spp.) amongst others. Trees are largely located in the valley bottoms, with Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis), Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Pine and various forms of Scrub Oak forming the backbone of the community. Valley bottoms host an array of riparian vegetation, including multiple varieties of Willow (Salix spp.), Sedges, and Cat Tail (Typha domingensis). For a close up look at the natural beauty of this place, we highly recommend perusing Karilyn’s visually stunning Instagram feed @karilyn2.
Standard Level 1 Full Site Work Up and detailed analysis of existing conditions for Water, Access and Structures, including the large catchment areas feeding into the property and contributing to the extensive erosion damage.
Special attention was paid to multiple ongoing erosion areas threatening road stability and function. Recommendations for critical erosion repair and mitigation were provided.
The dam wall for the pond also showed evidence of boiling at its base (subterranean piping of water through the dam wall) and a detailed list of recommendations to ensure continued function and safe operation of the dam was included, including vegetation removal and sealing with bentonite on the inside of the dam wall.
Basemap Of Existing Conditions
Level 3 – Road Drainage Assessment & Remodel
Severe erosion was evident along the entire length of the driveway on-property, due primarily to the fact that the road was installed along an already narrow valley bottom, and what little flood plain was left was insufficient to pacify the newly concentrated water flows running off the road surface. Gullies ranged from 1 – 14 feet deep, and in some places had cut all the way down to bedrock. A total of nine headcuts were observed adjacent to the road, and in two locations the road bank was undercut by 18-30″, threatening to collapse the road surface in one heavy storm. A detailed list of recommendations were developed for ensuring the integrity of the driveway while also beginning to heal the broken hydrology in this valley (more on that below).
Phase 1: Stopping The Headcuts
A total of nine headcuts were located along the 1/4 mile stretch of driveway leading to the clients property. Three of the headcuts had already reached bedrock.
A total of seven zuni bowls and one 4-level stepped pool grade transition were installed to halt the action of the headcuts and begin the healing process by creating a place for water to pool, dissipate its energy and deposit sediment. Several one-rock dams were also installed to aid in aggradation (raising the bottom of the gully) by initiating sediment deposition and ultimately the establishment of perennial vegetation.
The installation took place over the course of 6 days, and was followed by a gentle but significant rainfall a week later during which the gully did flow and the installations performed as designed.
Phase 2: Getting Water Off The Roadway
Phase 2 of implementation work focused on getting water off the roadway at more frequent intervals in a non-erosive, low-energy fashion. A total of 5 rolling dips were installed, along with their associated armored run downs to transition water that had been trapped on the road way (leading to puddling and wheel rut formation) into the incised drainage way. In several cases the zuni bowls installed in Phase 1 also served as deposition pools for water exiting the rolling dips. Armored rundowns were installed, along with requisite flow spreaders or concentrators (media luna stone formations), to transition the water over surfaces that would otherwise erode down to more gentle grades.
Bank armoring for a deeply undercut and fragile section 100′ section of the roadway was also completed to preserve road functionality and begin the gully repair process.
Follow up work will include installation of additional grade control structures in the form of one rock dams to facilitate sediment accumulation, moisture persistence into the dry season, establishment of perennial vegetation and ultimately aggradation (raising) of the gully bottom. This will help reunite the trapped run-off waters with their former flood plain, enhance capillary action to surrounding soils, and create the opportunity for more biomass to grow.
Level 2 – Whole Site Design
Project Scope: 7th Gen was invited back to create a Level 2 Whole Site Design the following year after addressing the immediate erosion issues along the primary access route to the property. The vision for what was possible had clarified amongst the decision makers and with family moving back onto the land and new enterprises beginning, existing patterns of use needed to be shifted and many new elements needed to be sited, oriented and arranged to maximize efficiency and resilience.
Level 3 – Road Drainage Assessment and Remodel
Complete survey and design of essential road drainage and stability retrofits.
Installation of erosion repair and mitigation structures (see detailed write up and photographs of all structures installed in Road Drainage Assessment & Remodel section below).
Extensive site survey including vegetation survey, hiking trail discovery and mapping, contour identification, earthworks planning and more.
Aerial mapping of 80+ acres of the main design areas.
Element analysis, relationship mapping and siting for homestead and enterprise related infrastructure including…
Future residence siting and orientation, construction methods comparison.
Enterprise and homestead-scale production systems – terrestrial and aquatic, nutrient cycling, dryland agroforestry guilds and assemblages, mushroom cultivation, biomass production, charcoal production, aquaculture and more.
Off-grid energy systems for electricity, heating, cooking and transportation.
Livestock specifications and system integration for worms, bees, goats, chickens and ducks.
Dynamic implementation road map creation utilizing Trello and BigPicture applications.
Design Map Call Outs
Both Wes and Casey have an incredible ability to be thorough and have the knowledge to help make the plan a reality. Having 7th Generation Design on hand to bring the actual working details in to focus has been paramount to realizing our vision at GC Family Farm.
Aaron Gomez, GC Family Farm
Level 3 – Energy Systems For Off-Grid Homesites
Project Scope: 7th Generation Design was invited by the Gomez family to develop the design for and oversee the implementation of high-efficiency off-grid energy systems to serve the various needs for two single-family residences, a shared laundry shed, and a shared bathhouse.
Identification and assessment of existing energy sectors passing through the site (solar, wind, water) – performed during our L1 Assessment.
Facilitated a needs analysis process with the residents to determine their minimum needs for energy at the homesites while still maintaining their desired quality of life.
Specified end-use components (including lighting, cooking, refrigeration, heating, device-charging, and laundry) that would provide for the residents’ needs in the most efficient and low-cost way.
Designed a system for moving electricity and moving things (water, refrigerator and laundry motors) that included a 1.44 kW solar PV array, 24 kWh battery bank, and voltage/current processing and distribution systems serving the electricity-using components, with proper safety considerations and component protection devices throughout (including fuses, breakers, low-voltage disconnects, and grounding).
Designed a water distribution system to the laundry shed, yurts, and several outdoor spigots that is currently served by the site’s central water pump, but can easily be retrofit to accept water from a gravity-fed system with supplemental pressure provided by an inline DC pump powered by the off-grid electricity system.
Materials acquisition and preparation as an authorized dealer/installer for Backwoods Solar.
Solar PV panel array mounting on shed roof.
Installation of battery bank, solar charge controller, DC-to-AC inverter, AC-to-DC backup generator charger, and necessary fuses and breakers in laundry shed power center.
Over 650′ of trenching for water lines from the site’s central water pumping system and conduit containing wires for 48VDC electricity distribution from the laundry shed to the yurt power centers.
Construction and installation of custom waterproof yurt power centers to accept the 48V direct current (DC) supplied by the laundry shed battery bank and convert it to the lower-voltage DC and invert it to the higher-voltage alternating current (AC) required by various end-uses in each yurt).
Water stub-outs at yurts, outdoor spigots, and at laundry shed for future pump installation if a gravity-fed water distribution system is used.
As a result of our thorough site assessment, facilitation of detailed needs-analysis process, and subsequent design of a system to meet those identified needs with the available resources in the most efficient way, we were able to save the Gomez Family a minimum estimated $10,000 in energy system materials alone over the life of the system as compared to what a “kit-style” over the counter off-grid solar vendor quoted them – with a significantly smaller environmental footprint to match (we were able to reduce the solar PV panels and battery bank sizing by half as a result of the highly-efficient nature of the system, along with a size reduction in the other system components).
System Overview Video
Market Garden Irrigation System Design
7th Gen designed the irrigation system including the off-grid timer and valves mainframe for the GC Family Farm market garden that was installed behind the Old Barn. The system accommodates two types of emission – drip and overhead spray – and can switch back and forth between the two easily depending on the season and the crops being grown.