Swale Savvy Expert Assistance

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by Michael Bocskovits, Feb 13, 2016.

  1. Michael Bocskovits

    Michael Bocskovits New Member

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    Hello experts,

    I am just beginning to learn about permaculture design, which was motivated by reading about and watching a few Geoff Lawton's videos. I recently purchased a neglected old 17 acre farmstead in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA which was a lifetime dream of mine. My goal for the property is a permaculture design, but I am struggling with the ground works aspects of design. The property has some grade to it, but overall I love the layout of the property. To the north (northern hemisphere), I am protected by forest and the approach to a mountain, and to the south, I have good southern exposure to the house and pasture (6 acre), and a good east to west sun tract.

    Not sure where to start on swale layout? I have some natural valley's that could become ponds with some clearing and earthworks. Also, the pasture looks like a good place to have some swales. Any advice, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Michael

    I have added a topo map and google picture of property to get an idea of property layout.
     

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  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Michael and welcome!
    Good job on posting your topo map. Did you make the drawing from a USGS map?
    As to swales, I'll assume that you're able to view the videos on geofflawton.com and have seen Geoff's water videos describing the in-ground plume of water flowing downhill at right angles to contour.
    So my question would be to what purpose will your swales be used? Have you seen this swale page? https://permaculture-and-sanity.com/pcarticles/permaculture-earthworks-and-swales.php
    If you're looking to have an orchard, swales would be the perfect place to start. The area below (to the south) of your house might be a good place for production tree swales and could help slow/draw water from the natural drainage depression between there and your pasture.
     
  3. Michael Bocskovits

    Michael Bocskovits New Member

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    Hi Bill, appreciate the advice. No, the topo map was pieced together off my counties property (tax) website. Creating topo took a little work piecing screen grabs together in Photoshop, but it appears to be pretty accurate from walking the property, and it should help when I get out there with laser. Yes, I have seen the videos on the plume. It's been awhile, so probably good to refresh, so thanks for the link.

    The area south of the house is moderately forested, as well as the natural depression area. I was already thinking of clearing some of it to build a pond, and also build a higher pond north west of house in a very deep depression. Not sure the upper pond is feasible until I sight it, but from what I read you want to hold the water as high as you can on property. We seem to have a lot of red clay soil, but it may require a sizeable dam and significant earthworks to hold water that high on property. I never thought of production swales to the west of depression, but that is a great idea, thanks. This will require a lot more clearing, but probable a good trade off being closer to house zone 1.

    We just bought the place in October, so still trying to observe before making any big decisions. Harder to say, than do.;-) I seem to be mostly struggling with what to do with pasture area. I was originally thinking food forest or fruit/nut orchard/vineyard guilds in pasture, with some game birds (turkey, pheasants) pastured on the eastern forest edge overlooking entrance road?

    Thanks Michael.
     
  4. Topher

    Topher Junior Member

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    The first thing that springs to my mind is the ridge on the North side of the property. A swale along the 1120 contour would gather all the water from the ridge down. In fact, following that contour line around the back of the ridge would get that water as well (if that is allowed in your locale). West end of that swale line might be a place for a ridge point dam. After that swales could be placed across the property on contour at whatever interval makes sense for your plan.

    Then I would concern myself with where and how the water crosses the road to get to the stream below.

    Thank you kindly.
     
  5. Michael Bocskovits

    Michael Bocskovits New Member

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    Thanks Topher. I have been looking at the 1120 contour just behind the house, but extending it around the ridge is a great idea. Not sure if we have any rules on that, but I can check. Not sure I can get any equipment up there. There is an old horse trail that starts at the 1100 contour half way between house and large turnaround, which leads up to the top of ridge. You can actually see it on topo. At first I thought it was a natural feature, but the neighbors have told me the trail stretches for several miles along the ridge. There is also a natural depression to the west of house at the 1120 contour that I was thinking about creating a high pond holding dam. May be a lot of work to clear, but it appears I have plenty of clay to make a good keyway dam. The road needs some work as well, i.e., regrading, gravel, but maybe this spring I can get out and see how it drains.

    Thanks Michael
     

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