The ‘Other’ Great Wall of China
How long does it take to build a great wall? Well, just a few days – supported by a couple of watermelons – it seems. Not sure what took the ancient Chinese so long to finish theirs!
Approximately 8 weeks ago GrowingSmart.HK were introduced to a small plot of land on Cheung Chau island. Based on an organic farm, a wonderful local family agreed to let us use it as it had remained overgrown and unused for some time. Immediately, we were in love! We could see potential fruit trees, vibrant edible gardens, herb spirals and pretty flowers dancing in front of our eyes…
Within a couple of days we had cleared the vegetation so that we could openly see what we were working with.
The cleared vegetation was, of course, recycled straight into compost piles so that we could expect some high quality organic matter by the time we were ready to use it.
There were obviously some terraces that were slowly, but surely, slipping down the slope. So our first task was preventing the terraces from slipping further, taking into consideration the heavy rain that we often get in Hong Kong.
We decided to do this by building stone terrace walls. Looking around our farm, we could see large white rocks that were laying around unused – just waiting for us to arrive, it seemed!
We decided to build a dry-stack wall so that we wouldn’t have to use mortar. This meant we would need less materials and less fuss to get started. It also meant natural drainage built into the structure of the wall (the gaps between the rocks) which helps prevent pressure build up from water run off.
A dry-stack wall pretty much holds itself in place up to 3 feet high, when following simple guidelines.
As the rocks were very heavy and the slope fairly gentle we didn’t need to worry too much about the wall collapsing. We planned to simply lean it back around 8 degrees into each terrace and allow gravity to hold it in place. Gravel can also be placed under and behind dry stack walls to help with dispersing water pressure build up.
After a couple of days we had made good progress and the wall was not only taking shape – but also looking quite beautiful! We were sure it would only take us a few more days to complete the wall. However, all the shifting, digging and placing of the rocks was providing such a good workout – that we felt we couldn’t keep that to ourselves! So we invited in some volunteers from Green Sustainable Living HK to share in the free workout sessions 🙂
After just one session with a few more hands, we were more than half-way up the hill!
Following our second session this weekend, our wall is almost complete and looking amazing. September is the beginning of the planting season in HK – with July and August just being too hot and humid for most plants – so we’re perfectly in time to match that schedule.
Thank you so much to our friends, family and volunteers for all of the heavy lifting, deep digging and sincere effort. We couldn’t have done it without you! You, err… rock!