Keeping Ecology in Mind
The site for establishing Carmey Avdat Farm was chosen after searching the area and learning about the famous Nabbatean and Byzantine irrigation systems. The present vineyard was planted on the remains of one that existed in Nabbatean times - while preserving the original irrigation system and ancient terraces. These systems irrigate the modern vineyard utilizing the floodwaters of the farm.
Utilizing floodwaters for irrigation has many advantages: it saves irrigation water, and the floodwaters help to wash the salt from the desert soil that would harm the vines. Irrigating with floodwaters also eliminates the need to use additional irrigation water that would be required to wash the soil to prevent salination.
Carmey Avdat contacted the Water Faculty at the Institute for Desert Research at Ben Gurion College , who initiated research in cooperation with the Water Governship and Ministry of Health.
The farm was equipped with a graywater purification system that collects graywater from the showers and kitchens in the guest houses and from our home, transfers it through a biological purification system, and utilizes it for irrigating the orchards.
Building the Guest Cabins
The guest cabins were built with many ecological aspects taken in mind.
The guest cabins were built on the hillside rather than on the ridge – allowing guests to enjoy the desert view while ensuring that the cabins blend into the panorama.
The cabin walls were plastered by hand with rough plaster and are and painted in soft, natural desert colors.
The cabins were built in a north-westerly to south-easterly direction to take advantage of the direction of the desert breezes. The windows are situated in such a way that the cabins are cooled by the desert breezes, and air conditioning is not needed.
The cabins were also built with double layers of insulation – which saves energy required for heating and cooling.
The eaves of the cabin roofs extend an additional half meter on the southern side, allowing the low winter sun to warm the southern walls and warm the cabins. The elongated leaves cast shade on the wall in the summer when the sun is high in the sky and prevents the cabin from becoming overheated.
The floors in the cabins are made of cobblestones – a natural local material – as opposed to ceramic tile or other modern materials. The cobblestones also constitute a connection between the outdoor desert panorama and the cabin interior – a special, essential connection that contributes to our guests’ desert experience.
On the winery roof, we installed a solar-electricity system with the capacity of 24kW. The system produces 40.000 kWh of energy per annum which constitutes 65% of our electricity consumption. The system that covers 200 square meters were installed by the Sunday Company which we contacted immediately after the Israeli government passed a regulation stimulating solar energy production.
On 27.04.09 the system was integrated into State’s Electricity Network.
We are continuously monitoring the system's activity and are able to obtain tables or charts reflecting the amount of energy produced at any given moment.
Construction work on the farm was done in a manner that had as little impact upon the environment as possible, and the present infrastructure is geared to not interfere with the environment. Most of the work of moving equipment was done using a small tractor or by hand. When each stage of work was completed the area was restored to its natural state to eliminate any signs of construction work.
Water lines, telephone lines, electric lines, sewage pipes, and other parts of the infrastructure were buried underground using manual labor
Lighting is kept low to avoid disrupting the environment. The view of the starlit Negev night sky on the farm is an experience in itself!
When planting the gardens and orchards we attempted to depict a sense of the Land of Israel. We selected fruit trees that are native to Israel such as carob, olive, figs, and pomegranates. Other fruit trees such as apples, apricots, and peaches were also planted.
The fruit trees were planted in the riverbeds where they utilize the flood waters and blend into the panorama without standing out on the ridge.
The Bathing Pools and Water Holes
The bathing pools on the farm were built with the inspiration of the pools in the gardens in the high mountains of Sinai that fill with water after the floods.
The pools adjoining the guest cabins are for bathing and recreation. When the pools are emptied the water is used to irrigate the trees on the upper terraces. These were planted in the same fashion that trees were planted in ancient times.
Each guest cabin has three waste disposal containers: one for organic waste that is used to feed the chickens and horses, one for bottles that are sent for recycling, and another for trash. Newspaper and paper is also recycled.