One of the challenges with the landscape here is the fact that we are farming on a hillside which, over the years, has laid victim to over grazing and erosion. It only takes a moment to stand back and look at the current state and where things are headed to know something needs to be done. Retaining walls will not maintain the natural contour of the land. Terracing sounds nice but not quite in the budget.
So taking our first steps toward improving the soil integrity and preventing erosion on our property, we have begun the process of digging swales or long trenches that follow the keylines on the contours of the land. (To get a better understanding of how this works, you can watch the youtube below from Harvesting Rainwater the Permaculture Way by Geoff Lawton.) Swales catch the rain water and allow it to soak into the soil instead of running off down the hillside (causing more dreaded erosion). Being beginning permaculture students, this may all be a big experiment, but after much thought and planning about how to irrigate our garden crops and keep our hillside intact, this seems like the best idea. So on we go digging...next will be a few ponds to feed the swales...it seems there may be a grand scheme in the works.