An educational experiment

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by youngwarrior, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    Some years ago my father purchased a vineyard and converted it from flood to drip irrigation. The entire farm (approx. 40 acres) had (and still has) a sub-surface drainage system, which ‘compensated’ for the previous owners over-watering practices (while destroying soil on a portion of the land where this multiply wasted water was pumped to). My father tells me that this drainage system is appox. 3-4 feet under the ground, spaced approx. 15 metres apart.
    Long story short my father eventually took an exit grant from the government a number of years ago, which still prohibits the block from being irrigated for at least another two years.
    Nothing is being produced on the farm now apart from weeds. I have my kids this weekend so we went out and tried to familiarise ourselves with the weeds on a particular ‘block’ (which is similar to the rest). We found spiney burgrass, bindy eyes/cat heads and half a dozen other weeds.
    I’m attempting to explore permaculture options for this particular block, which is located close to the house. This farm has been mentioned in previous threads/conversations on this forum and dispite my situation, I feel that I will at the least learn something about permaculture if I explore some options.
    So I’m asking for any advice or processes to aid this learning curve. A whole farm plan was conducted some years ago so I have a lot of information, most meaningless to me at this time but could be of benefit to anyone giving assistance.
    The section I have been given access to is 0.67Ha and was previously planted to black muscat grapes.
    There is a sub main running along the east (channel) side, with a value in NE corner of this section. I have tried to find information about channel easements from Goulbourn Murray Water but have been unsuccessful on initial search.
    The land is relatively flat, although has been surveyed to reveal some variation. The driveway is elevated, as is the land leading to the house.
    Here's a pic (hopefully), I can also upload or give any information that you may require.
    View attachment 1380
     
  2. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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  4. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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  5. jeremy

    jeremy Junior Member

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    do you want to turn the site into a complete permaculture system or just use permaculture methods to grow a crop? if you want to learn about permaculture you could read 'Permaculture; a designers manual', which will give you heaps of info and detail on permaculture, or a more practical book is the 'earth users guide to permaculture'.
     
  6. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    Hi, I'm not sure of the best style of permaculture to tackle, there's 40 acres so my thinking tells me that at some point it has to be financially profitable, whether by selling surplus commodity or creating a saving from not having to purchase that commodity. It's all well and good to start with the 0.67Ha and do what everyone else does with small parcels of land but if I only 'permacultured' that small bit, I'm wasting the rest. So in the short term, my thoughts are to (and not nessasarily intensive) grow 'resourses' while co-currently (as best as possible) restoring land through crop rotation and some livestock.
    I figure you could put some wheat and barley in (can't irrigate anyway), which would give me some seed/ingredient. When harvesting the goal would be to take as little of the stalk as possible, to then make hay with the rest and then livestock the remainder.
    I have made a number of observations of the area surrounding the farm and have found that (to an extent), the commodities in this area can fit into guilds (with additional species).
    So my immediate goal is to purchase a nectarine tree(s), maybe a couple of different varieties, and experiment with guilds on a small scale. I am thinking that when the nectarine(s) fruit, the stones from 'good' fruit get propogated and eventually planted out continuing the row from 'it's' mother. This will create variation in the nectarine, if any are 'no good' in time they can be cut back and grafted to that plants mother or any other variety. So by the stage everything is up to fruiting, I will also have proven guilds in place to complement.

    I have NEVER been a reader, but am attempting the designers manual as i believe this is the 'book' for a PDC which I am yet to complete so I figure I'll get an overview if nothing else. I'm finding though that it's wordy(which isn't a problem) but it....makes you think more than 'knowing' what to do after reading it(if that makes sence). I also have borrowed the earth users guide from the library which is a lot better for practical 'excercises'.
     
  7. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    Will this sub-surface drainage system...effect the benefits of a future swale, even if I isolated the drainage system to that particular block?
     
  8. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    Keep in mind nectarines are not long lived trees 12ish years.
     
  9. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    um, not neccessarily, our one is definitely well over 16 years old.
    Thats how long I have been here and it was a mature tree when we arrived.
    However, I have over the years culled out whole branches as low to the ground as I could-sort of coppiced I guess.
    The current trunk is only 8 years old.
    In our climate the fruit normally starts to get brown rot just as they are ripening but this year it wasnt so hot and humid so we had a lovely fruit from the very top of the branches.
    The ones lower down that maybe didnt get enough airflow went bad tho.
    We even got peaches this year.
     
  10. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    I grow nectarines apples and peaches in the subtropics and no brown rot yet.(it is windy here)
    Picked my first ever apple today :)
    We always had nectarines, apples and plums all my life in Melbourne.
    Ive seen plums die after about 40 years,Ive seen nectarines get to 14 or 16 .
    The fruit just get smaller and smaller and the tree start falling apart
    Best to start again a couple of years before that starts.
     
  11. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I can't think of any way that subsurface irrigation will interfere with your swales - they are both designed to infiltrate water into the soil. The only issue would be accidentally cutting into your pipes when you lay out the swales. If you place your swales below the irrigation you might get water welling up into the swales - but so long as it is fairly clean water that won't be a problem. If you did end up with a semipermanent spring you could turn it into a reed bed or something.
     
  12. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    Point(s) noted. Even if it was 12 years, that's cool. Its only small scale and more of a trial than anything else.
    But knowing that If I was to do something on a large scale (which would only come after successful trials), I'd make sure I had contingencies ready for around the 10 year mark.
    So have you got any guild success stories with the nects/peaches grasshopper? I ended up with a big list on paper and got a little lost in the stacking side of it all, in terms of harvesting. ...But also trying to maximise marketable produce withing the guild.

    ..And what varieties of nects/peaches are we talking about? Is it worth making attempts to start from seed?
     
  13. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Try Bill's introduction to permaculture, not so weighty and plenty of the bones to absorb. Also, I recommend a bus ride down to Adelaide to see what the Galwer Food Forest is up to.
     
  14. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    cheers matto.
    Sorry eco, didn't see you there!
    -that sub-system is playing with my head a bit. I assumed..that any water would drain away from the block to where ever the pipe goes. So if this water (was of usable quality) was intercepted I too thought it could fill swales...this is where I get confused.. that water is then going to seep back into that ground(from swale), through the sub-surface system and then back into the swale????is that right? and as this water is cycled through the system is it possible to get the quality better each time? and is this a perpetual thing or will the water eventually 'dry up'??..surely?
     
  15. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    As water evaporates you'll get it lost to the system so yes you'll need to add more. If you are on mains supply or filling tanks with rain and using that water to feed your subsurface system you'll achieve that. The 'book' says that the best place to store water is your soil.
     
  16. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    I think the swale would get filled by mains initially(or tanks before a big rain). With the swale also receiving the diverted water from sub-surface drainage system.
    so if the drainage system is 3-4 feet down, does that mean that any soil below that will be deprived of water? -with the understanding that the water drains away as it reaches the drainage system.
    I can't work out if that is a bad thing or not. It sounds good one way -essentially the swale needs filling less frequently.
    But if the swale needs filling less frequently that means more of the water is being taken from where I want it(the soil), to just put it back there again!!!

    so it's not logical to have both(swale and sub-surface drainage). the end result is a system that comprimises a swale, but makes up for it by contributing to that same swale. which in effect is comprimising the swale further, as it can only supply 3-4 feet of soil with water.
     
  17. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm not sure on what you mean by filling the swale with mains supply. Swales are to capture run off from rain events - or excess from a rain tank or grey water. You may as well water the garden with a hose rather than fill a swale up with one.

    Like any storage system there will be times when there is less water 'banked' in the soil and times when there is plenty. That's Ok because plants have evolved with that since the dawn of time.
     
  18. youngwarrior

    youngwarrior Junior Member

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    My stupid comment about filling it with mains was partly due to misinterpreting your comment, but also because I was thinking more so about the sub-surface system than the swale.
    I realise swales are to catch run off but I'm in a low rainfall area so run off is pretty scarce.
    Here’s another stupid question, do you ‘irrigate’(in some way) even when you have swales or do you rely only on the swale?
    Sorry about my knowledge base eco, but I am here to learn and do appreciate your comments. My brain is trying to think in permaculture mode but I've also got a father (former broad acre farmer) in one ear preaching about how Permaculture/swales don't work if you don't live in high rainfall areas.
     
  19. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Like any question in permaculture the answer is - it depends. Ideally you aim towards growing plants that are suited to your local circumstances that don't need irrigation - other than perhaps the first few weeks to get them established. It's not the best use of resources to plant water hungry plants in a desert and then run a pump 24 / 7! But sometimes you need to be pragmatic - there may be things that you need to grow that do need irrigation.

    I have rain water tanks so I can water the garden in a dry spell - but it is the vege beds I'm watering not the fruit trees. That's what I mean by being pragmatic. If I want to eat corn and lettuce I need to accept that I will need to water.

    Swales are actually most useful in arid areas. If you are in a wet climate rain falls from the skin often enough to water everything without needing additional help. In most arid areas rain falls in massive but isolated events - so you need to be able to capture every last drop of it before it runs off your property. Swales are about being prepared in advance for those maximal rain events - not for average rain fall. So they need to be large enough to capture the biggest rain event that you get each year. That's the approach Geoff used in Jordan to establish the greening the desert site. There are a number of good presentations on dry land permaculture from last years Jordan Permaculture Convergence - if you look out on the main page of the website and search for Jordan - you should be able to find them. Make dad some pop corn and sit him in front of a few...
     

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