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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:36 pm

What is hand dug???? Its alot of work, thats what that is. You pick up a spade in your hand, you place it squarely on the ground, you put your foot on the spade and push. Once it is into the soil as far as you can push it, you pry up the soil by hand and place it where you want the dirt. You continue to repeat this process until you have dug the swale, or hole, or whatever you are digging by hand. That is pretty much how I would discribe Hand Dug.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby CJ in VT » Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:18 pm

Not sure if you meant my pick but yes, with a pic ax. After it was successful I decided it be worth it to try to expand it:
Image
Wider swale by CJ in VT, on Flickr
It was a little easier. Maybe the water softened up that hard pack.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:08 pm

George, CJ, great photos. I'm really impressed by the obvious difference. I finished a bed in the garden, hugel/swale style. I'm going to have to keep slowly picking at the one on the upper pasture. Here's the garden bed.

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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby Lollykoko » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:08 am

Great video, Matt. I look forward to seeing a follow up in about two months.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sat Aug 18, 2012 2:51 pm

I have been reading a little bit about swales and the Keyline system. I did not know what a keyline approach was until now. I have been thinking about digging some swales by hand down in the woods to help stop some errosion problems that are caused by bad land use many years ago. I am now wondering if the Keyline approch would work better. Has anyone used the keyline system and /or can anyone explain in more detail how it differs from a normal swale approach? From what little I have read it seems that the swales work better in heavy rain events and hold back more water, and tend to put more water into the sub-soil to build up the water table. Swales are built on the contour line. The keyline system builds the swale from the natural valleys where water tends to flow naturally and slopes the swale down hill toward the places that naturally get less run off and then levels out to disperce the water on steaper sides of the hill that are naturally dryer. The keyline system seems to work better at getting water more evenly distributed and works very well in places with less rain fall. Here in Pa we normally get pretty good rain fall. Not many farmer irrigate their crops here, it is not needed in most cases. One or two people I know irrigate sweet corn to push it along, but that is about it. So I am thinking the swale system should work well for what I want to accomplish. The reason I am considering the keyline system is that I have several springs coming out from the base of my land at the botton of the hill. One natural spring comes from under a rock out crop and has 3 different flows combining into one spring. Some of these flows get weak or dry up about this time of year normally. If I could divert water in the direction of the springs I think I would like the increased flow. I am open to suggestions as well as your thoughts on the issue. By the way, I cut some timber 3 years ago and I have seen a major shift in water flows. Places that have always been dry now have puddles. A new roadway way was cut into the hill side and that has also changed the natural water flows. I wanted the road put in because it opened up sections of the woods that I could not easily get to befor. Because I will most likely be digging these by hand I do not expect them to be Large in scale, long maybe, but not deep or wide.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby Lollykoko » Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:20 pm

The only "keyline" system I am aware of is the plow that was developed by the fellow from down under. Somehow I don't think you plan to use that plow in your woods.

Is there another concept that might make my life easier, Guy? I've been piling deadfall in rows that are somewhat on contour and raking debris that direction. I'm trying to mimic the action of water to cause a build-up that will absorb / divert the flow away from places I want to keep dry, like the bottom of the hill where we plan to put the equipment shed. I don't really want to be digging trenches with the backhoe among all the trees, and I'm getting too old :o to want to do them by hand.

The hillside I just marked (for removing pine trees) is one that has a distinctive runoff pattern. When the water eventually hits the field on the west of the woods there can be a flooding problem after a heavy rain. It perks well, so standing water isn't an issue for long, but I'd rather slow the water down and use some of it in location for orchard.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sat Aug 18, 2012 7:16 pm

That keyline system is from the fellow down under, and yes he does use a plow, but the idea of what he is doing is to catch the water in a natural valley or revean and catch it there. He then diverts it down hill, but going back towards the up hill slopes and then follows a conture along that up hill slop to allow more water to be soaked into the hillside where it would have normally run down to the valley. If that makes any sense. His idea is to have more water soak into the hill where no water , or little water, normally get to. Instead of following the conture of the land with a level swale he diverts it from the natural valley, with a down hill sloping ditch toward the steaper parts of the hill, and them follows a conture. Here is one site that I read and found interesting.

http://permaculture.org.au/2009/11/30/k ... ty-hybrid/

I know there are many more, but this seemed to include ideads from both the swale and the keyline system.
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby Lollykoko » Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:22 am

Thanks for the link. The site looks familiar. What I'm doing is not nearly as complicated and requires no digging or plowing. Of course it won't get the same results, either!
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:20 pm

The Old Farmer I worked for as a Kid used to say " The Water is the Water, you can't create it, you can't distroy it. Its the same water that the Dinosaures drank, It will do what ever it wants to do, and it will head to the Sea no matter what you want it to do. Oh you can divert it, you can impound it, for awhile, you can pollute it, you can change its course a bit, but the water is the water, and it will do what it wants to do. " Our efforts to use it for our benefit while it is here, befor it heads to the Sea , is all we can talk about. Water does run down hill, and we can divert it a bit on its way. That slight change of course can really help our plants and improve our gardens, orchards, cane fruits etc. The more I study water flows the more I feel that it is not Rocket Science. It runs down hill. As little as 1 inch fall in 10 feet is enough to make water flow. Making it soak into our propertys by holding it level in swales can make a great long term inprovement to our lands. I love playing in the water, playing in the creek, I have since I was a kid. :lol:
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Re: The Ranch, and swales on a north facing slope

Postby matt walker » Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:19 pm

Yeah Guy, there is something so satisfying about it, isn't there? Lolly, I've read a bit about keyline designs, but got the idea that it was dry land technique so haven't looked too far into it. I would like to learn more about it as well.
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