C5 On Terracing Junk Land- Survival Advice From Pre Inca South America- Part 13- Permaculture=Permanent Culture

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With your Host, Category5…and the visiting Dead Souls of the Pre Incas


(It will be a few weeks till the next post as we are headed towards the Amazon rainforest. I never thought I would live to say those words. So, I figured I would give you a quality post to hold you over till our return. I’ll do my best not to get abducted by, still active, Shining Path guerrillas, now turned drug smugglers).

I think we could all use a break from the “Things with wheels” series, as interesting as it is. There is only two more of those left.

Yes, we did visit Macchu Pichu a few months back. We don’t usually do the tourist thing but we were too close to say no. Sure, the ruins were impressive but pricey to see. No New Agey enlightenment. No ancient aliens to give us anal probes. No need to go back. But it was the Inca terracing along the way that was mind blowing, nobody terraced like the Incas. That they are still in use today should be enough about its Resilience.

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But it is the pre-Inca land works that is probably more useful to permaculture… and more importantly to readers of this blog, how to take the absolute cheapest, shit piece of land and turn it into something that can keep you or your descendants from starving to death as our future turns to cataclysmic ca-ca.

If peak oil and economic collapse aren’t enough, let’s throw in the rapid swings of flash droughts and rain bomb water deluges. Let’s not miss forests burning along with clear cutting to destabilize slopes leading to lethal mudslides and insta rivers and topsoil loss due to run off.

This is the side of a very steep mountain.

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Let’s cut to the chase and say, rock wall terracing, A-hold slopes in place. B-slows down water and stores the moisture in the soil. C-keeps nutrients and top soil in place and D-flat is much easier to do things on than non-flat. E-Also includes keeping you from living on a flood plain. We want to get you above flood water mark.

Let’s toss in F- as well. You can’t afford anything better because you are broke or worse. For most people, it’s already too late for you to purchase an idealistic survival retreat, permaculture farm. Chances are, you are already locked into a lifetime of debt, working for rapidly decreasing wages… or wages chiseled away through inflation, compound interest, taxes, medical costs, an under water mortgage, etc… Even suicide may not get you out of your debt load, leaving debts to your family members.


I think this is the primary reason for the “Rambo Survivalist” fantasy or “Fake Indian” nomadic hunter gatherer fantasy. This deserves its own post later but we already covered a good portion of it in the Fallacy of Bugging Out Series.

For many, their only HOPE is a cataclysmic fast crash, so deep that no semblance of government survives. That is why the “Rambo” Crash Fantasy is so appealing. One chance at freedom or maybe even free land.

It’s never going to happen!

The sooner you make a better plan, not based on a FANTASY, the better. That plan may include Declaring Bankruptcy, divorcing a spouse that is not on the same page, living in a van or a relative’s basement, to save up for some crap piece of junk land that no culturally “reasonable” person would ever want.

Yeah. It’s not the appealing “Survivalist Fantasy” you were sold by the delusional prepper crowd but it may be your only workable option left.

It seems all I do is pop the fantasy bubbles. It’s why I will never be a popular survivalist writer. I will lose viewers as fast as new ones come in. I accept that. It’s my unpaid volunteer job.

Before we get onto practical “Adaptation”, let’s pop one of those bubbles. The Free Land and Debt erasure, collapse fantasy bubble.

If the banks collapse, part of their bankruptcy procedure will be to sell your debt, sell YOU, to someone else. A less restrained debt collector. Another bank or corporation. Even another country may buy your debt. This is what is happening in OTHER collapsed countries. From Greece to Venezuela and the worst example I know is Haiti who still have to pay France yearly for their “Independence”.

If things go as cataclysmic as I assume, your debts will be sold to thinly veiled organized crime groups. Debt collectors turning to private mercenary armies as collector thugs. Chances are it may be bought by China. And the government, in whatever form it lands as, is still going to tax you. Probably A LOT more than they are taxing you now.

If you are addicted to the Rambo Survivalist Fantasy, first you have to hit rock bottom before you can look up… and Adapt.

For Adaption strategies we can learn a lot from the pre-Incas. They lived in some brutally challenging shit land. What are you supposed to do when you only really have mountains but what you really need is fertile farmland. You take what the gods have given you, ROCKS, and you sculpt the landscape. Then you build topsoil.

Lots of cultures built terraces, from China to Pakistan. I even saw plenty of simpler examples in France and Germany. In poor areas of Lima, I have even seen it done with earth packed tires with houses built on them. Look real close.

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Yeah. It’s a lousy photo from a moving car but you get the idea. That is A LOT of tires. I wouldn’t use this idea for planting areas because of potential soil contamination and it does have a time limit before the tires breakdown. It could be used in conjunction with planting trees and shrubs to hold the ground together.

I want to start by showing how NOT to do it. This farm seems pretty idealistic. It is only terracing without the rock walls. It is in a bowl. This is bad AND good

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Flash flooding will focus water into the bowl, potentially causing a landslide. The good news is, water into the bowl is probably why this location was chosen in the first place. The forest above it slows down and retains water, releasing it slowly to the terraces below. This can be salvaged by adding shrub lines on the  steeper slope banks to stabilize the banks.

I think the pre-Incas got the idea by mimicking nature. I noticed on the mountains, terracing where no terracing should be. I realized these were created by llamas. Over time the llamas cut a walking path on the steep slopes that grew wider with each use. This created a ridge. They fertilized it with poop. Poop with seeds. This added shrubs that stabilized the bank. Water and more topsoil washed down the mountain and added to the growth of the mound. Shrubs and a flat spot attracted more llamas for both food and a wind break, adding more poop for building topsoil.

This is sort of like Permaculture use of hillside swales to slow down, catch and store water in the soil. If you don’t have a lot of rock, I can picture using the swale concept… but stretched out into terraces and bush stabilized on the edges with say, high bush blueberry or Saskatoon berries… or small shade trees to further slow evaporation. These also create a living fence if you eventually have animals grazing on it, so they don’t walk down the slope, cutting a path where soil erosion will follow.


If you disturb the slope by creating swales, you must IMMEDIATELY plant grasses to IMMEDIATELY begin holding the slopes in place or the rains may begin to ruin all your work. I would recommend carefully cutting out and saving any grass rectangles (like purchasable insta lawns) to immediately put back in place to stabilize the slopes with the hope it will regrow. (remember, you must rebuild topsoil since you just removed it) Even in rock walls, secondary growth holds it all together. Like below.

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Now building rock walls and moving soil like the Incas seems like a daunting task, especially at my age. It’s a young person’s game or multi-generational. The Incas could mobilize large populations by way of the Mit’a system. A sort of tax of time. This worked because they also had a redistribution system, where if one area faced temporary famine it was supplied by the others. It was a much more communal lifestyle and it worked. This was exploited and ruined by the Spanish conquistadores that kept the Mit’a system of free labour but for personal gain without the redistribution system. They increased time requirements and created debt serfs that could never pay back what was owed. This lead to perpetual uprisings and civil wars.

So, how can we speed up this terracing process. For this we give Ben Falk some free advertising.


We were turned onto Ben Falk because he grows cold weather rice in Vermont using terraced rice paddies. Something we would like to experiment with. Ben explained his justification for using fossil fuels to run the mini-excavator to create these rice paddies and terraces. Very simply, it’s the best use of the remaining fossil fuels there is. It produces something permanent. The rest is just throwing it away. I would add, such as on our own land, by simply not clear cutting our forests and letting certain areas regenerate, we are a heavy duty carbon sink. We are, I figure, carbon negative. The local farmers would just cut it, burn it and plow it. All carbon intensive. They use fossil fuels, pesticides and fertilizers… every single year, until their fields are dead of life, the pollinators are gone and fuel or financing disappears for good and their crops cook, flood or get killed off by unseasonal frosts as cold air is forced out of the Arctic by Pacific warm air forced north. So don’t feel guilty to use carbon producing fossil fuels to create “permanent culture” carbon sinks.

So what does this permanent culture look like. Here is the Mel Tappan approved town of 2000 surrounded by “permanent culture” farming, far away from cities. I don’t think the “Yuppy Scum Survivalist” Mel Tappan would fully appreciate this as much as I do. Enough people for defence, diversity of skills, etc…

tappan town p cThese are grain fieldsgrain 3 cgrain2 ccows live cpermies cWho says a womans place is in the home. That is a great way to starve to death, keeping a suburban princess breeder bitch in a guilded cage. This is not feminism. This is not anti-feminism. This is Survival. This woman is heading off  to work, climbing the steep slopes with a baby on her back. Even the animals are smart enough to follow on their own because they know where the food is.

So back to cheap, shit, junk land as an adaptation survival strategy. Remember this guy from a previous article?

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It was shit land with a multi-million dollar view, an hour walk out of that town. So this is his farm. Do you see it? Look carefully.

tough farm c.jpgDid You miss it?tough farm 2 ctough farm 3 ctough farm3 cNice pig fencing. A cliff. That will work.

I want you to notice that this is 2 homes. One for the grandparents. One for the family with two children.challenging farm 4 c I am showing you the very simple inside of the building so you can adjust your expectations. Four people. Two beds. No privacy.challenging farm 6 c

Remember the C5 Rule of Survival – If all else fails, lower your standards and expectations.


Then the man of the house did something unexpected. He took us to a small, dug out cave under a rock. In it were the bones of his ancestors, mixed together and crushed under falling rock. He explained, many of the dead died fighting to keep this small piece of dirt from others trying to drive them out. Yet they are still here. Multiple generations died to hold this tiny plot of land.

This brings up one of the concepts I came to understand on our own property.

C5 Rule of Survival – Everyone farms and everyone fights. No exceptions.

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Small towns and villages can’t afford to keep a class of professional soldiers. Survival then dictates embracing “Warrior Farmers”.

When I brought up this position of mine to one of the other volunteers, she replied, “Oh. Like the Ronderos”.

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The Ronderos were a response to a bloody Maoist revolution that had been killing farmers and farm villages. Governments couldn’t protect them so it was up to the farmers to self-govern. Let’s not romanticise them. They were also responsible for atrocities in the civil war.too much c

These photos of photos were from the Yuyanapaq museum. A, sort of, Truth and Reconciliation center. The unshown photos are gruesome from both sides of the conflict.


I am just pointing out the uncomfortable truth that your land and community is only really yours if you are capable of fighting, to keep it from those that would use the future chaos of government bankruptsy and pull back, to take it away from you. Most war is not fighting. It is moving armies around, convincing the other side that any battle would be too costly to fight or sustain fighting. Ronderos are still active today in regions not well held by the government. They collect tolls from vehicles passing through. A small tax of about 40 cents for their services.


The farm owners gave us a bottle of sweet wine. It seemed a costly gift when it should have been us that brought something for seeing their land. We didn’t understand the cultural gesture at first but we figured it out awkwardly. We were expected to open it and share it with the extended family. It was a type of ritual performed when a guest was invited into their home, all of us sitting in the one room and passing the bottle. I noticed each person would pour out a small offering onto the ground before drinking. I guess this was an offering to the dead souls of their ancestors or the land.

With that in mind, DJ-C5 offers this small offering, as thanks to the dead souls of the pre-Incas and beyond that continue to teach us their survival skills today.

I offer one of my favorite pieces of music, that seems very applicable. Nine Inch Nails covering Joy Division. Dead Souls.



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