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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cedar plank drain for land reclamation

 
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Can anyone tell me more about this drain?



What I know is this was part of the info structure used to drain the saltwater lagoon between 140 and 100 years ago.  There are a series of open ditches and these cedar plank drains as well as several (now lost) faggot drains.  The area was a shallow lagoon with a sand spit across.  They had hoped to reclaim the land from the sea for agricultural use (epic fail as the land was too salty).  The cedar plank drains come out of the land into the open ditches like this.  I know what it is because of the historical documents from the time period.  

The thing is, I can't find anything about this kind of drainage.  Are there some special search words I can use to make google tell me about this?
 
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r ranson wrote: The cedar plank drains come out of the land into the open ditches like this.



If I'm understanding this correctly, these cedar drains are buried except for the ends like in the picture, which dump into this ditch? If that's the case, the only thing I can think it is doing is allowing excess water in a soil on arable land to be drained away so the area could be farmed. This is still done today, they're called drain tiles, and usually installed on sprawling commercial mega-farms that row crop, as a solution to rain that won't drain through a soil and ponds, often the result of damaged soil structure from repeated annual tilling/discing/plowing or any manipulation of a soil with steel and heavy machinery that results in compaction and poor drainage. These can also be installed where a hardpan is present in a soil, which restricts water infiltration to deeper subsoils, and these drain tiles give the water in a saturdated soil above the hardpan somewhere to go. Here are a few pictures of modern drain tile being installed or already installed in a modern industrial farm.




 
r ranson
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The technique is a lot like that.  It's an old technique that pre-dates the middle ages in Europe (and before that in other cultures).  The drain is placed below the depth the plough can get and at just the right angle to drain the water.  It's a lot like the old faggot (bundles of sticks) drains in England or the tile ones in some roman areas.  The faggot drains were great because they didn't just drain the land during the wet season, they also act as wicks to bring moisture back into the soil during drought.  We don't have much clay in our area nor were there any species suitable for coppicing, so I guess that's why the people used cedar.

I've just never seen examples of cedar being used for drainage online.  That's why I'm curious.  
 
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Hi R,
do you have some more info on the faggot drain?
Searching for "faggot drain" leads to some other kind of websites...
Thanks
 
r ranson
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Henry Stephen's book fo the farm has a lot about that drain technique.  I've lost my link to that, but it's available free on Guttenberg Press.

I wonder if 'stick drains' or 'bundle drains' would give more targeted results?  (although technically, I suspect they are different - the modern language hasn't adapted to the need for a specific word for construction method of a set sized bundle of specific sticks of specific species.  That's probably why the construction method died out because the name for it got distorted.)

 
r ranson
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hans muster
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Thanks!

And here the book which you mentionned.
https://archive.org/details/bookfarm00stepgoog/page/n6

Best
 
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This is ringing all kinds of bells in my head. I don't know anything about drains, but I think cedar was used as early pipes for moving water in the pacific northwest. I'm pretty sure I read about it when I was reading some stories of the founders of Seattle.

I also recall seeing pictures of people using wooden pipes in the Foxfire series.

I did some searching for cedar pipes and found this picture of an early Seattle pipe, from The Seattle Times



Here's an even more giant cedar pipe:




Apparently, according to this website (https://www.blackdiamondnow.net/black-diamond-now/2013/10/wooden-water-pipes.html), there's still some of these in use in Washington State!


This blog references a "single wooden box pipe" that was used to transport poop from the early "Crapper" toilets out to the sound. I'm thinkink maybe this was the same type of pipe as they used to drain the salty lands?


Ah! This one by the University of Washington describes the "six-inch square wooden box pipe." It doesn't have any pictures, but I'm assuming it was similar in appearance to your pipe up there.

When people came to the Pacific Northwest, they had one major resource: wood. They wanted to clear the land for trade and farming. And to fund their civilization, they logged the living daylights out of the area. And, since there was so much cedar around, it was used for most everything they could. They had to cut down the thick forests to put in their houses and towns and farms and rail roads and coal mining, etc. So, they were cutting it down in droves and hauling most of it to the shore to sell as lumber to afford food while they struggled to convert a merry fungal forest ecosystem to one that could grow potatoes and grains... In medieval times, people saw wood as a far more precious resource to be tended and cultivated for use in future projects. Settlers to the area here, by and large, had no such view. While other areas of the world have nice flat stones to build pipes out of, we have very little rock like that. But, we had a lot of cedar, and it didn't rot easily. So, it makes sense they'd make pipes out of it and use it like people used other pipes.

Though, I don't know much about these drains, so there might be other reasons why it might be surprising to see cedar used in such a way.
 
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When I lived in New Brunswick, around the Bay of Fundy, I saw a different wood-based system for draining fields. The original French settlers, in the 1600s and 1700s, developed the salt marshes as farms using a system called 'aboiteau'. I think the root of the word is 'box'. They built dykes and put a wooden box with a hinged flap that would allow drainage at low tide but would close up pretty tight and prevent inflow at high tide. There's a link to a photo on this site:
http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-457/Acadian%20Aboiteaux%20%5bDike%20and%20Suice%20Gate%20System%5d

The aboiteaux, and the fields, are still in use in a few areas in the upper Bay of Fundy 300-400 years later. In some cases, the technology has been reproduced in more modern materials, but it was surprising how many had just been repaired and maintained in wood. Or maybe not; in salt water that would seem to be a very practical material that wouldn't rust. The article I linked above talks about them being preserved in  museum settings but I know of quite a few spots around the Moncton area where they are still maintained and in use in regular farming life.

The other thing we came across in one of our off-the-main-road explorations in New Brunswck was a gigantic wooden pipe similar to the ones pictured in one of the earlier posts in this thread. The diameter was about the height of a person and it was definitely still carrying water because there were small leaks coming out under pressure in a couple of spots. I can't recall exactly where this was - Bay of Fundy south of Saint John, somewhere around Chance Harbour I think, on the inland side of the highway. We moved west in 2012 and it would have been a few years before that, so maybe 10 years ago. I tried a quick internet search to see if I could find a reference to it, no luck there, but did turn up a couple of other interesting things - there is a company in Ontario called Canbar that still makes these wooden pipes. I found that out by first of all looking at this link:
https://www.notechmagazine.com/2010/09/wooden-stave-pipes.html
and then following it to this:
https://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/wooden-pipes-have-a-place-in-the-21st-century.html
and then trying to follow that to the Canbar site, which turns out to be 'under construction' at the moment but does have a modern photo of someone building one of these on their landing page
canbar.com

I was surprised how many references to use of wooden water pipes and sewer pipes I came across in only a few minutes of looking online for the NB pipe. This seems to have been a standard technology not that long ago - and seems to have been a pretty successful low-tech solution with sustainable materials, relatively easy to repair, and easier to transport and build without heavy equipment and especially on rough terrain.


 
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They are often used in the logging industry as cheap culverts, and used by shady loggers trying to save a few bucks.

The problem with them is, they can rot, or the pressure of the soil, or equipment on the soil above, can cause them to collapse. This leaves the landowner with a plugged culvert that soon causes erosion, but long after the logger has cut the wood off and is gone. Better loggers use steel or plastic culverts that will allow the landowner access to their land long after they are gone.

For field draining, we use french drains, and that is a true permanant agriculture pracice, and the one I recommend if a person has the rock for it.

I live in Maine and do we ever have rock. We just dynamite or dig a trench with an excavator, making sure the drain runs downhill, and is below plow depth. Then we fill the trench back in with drainage size rock (poatoe sized) and then put the topsoil over the french drain.

 
Andrea Locke
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Travis, did you mean that the collapsed logging drains/culverts were based on aboiteaux technology with a flap or barrel-staved wooden culverts? Or are they just underground boxes built as culverts with cheap wood?

I agree, these wooden structures definitely have strong potential for failure if not maintained. Probably why the technology changed to metal or ceramic - less maintenance. I have certainly seen collapsed wooden aboiteaux where the dyked areas have gone back to salt marsh (not necessarily a bad thing as something like 70% of salt marshes around the Bay of Fundy were lost, mostly due to later development, and they are important habitats). But in places where the land has been continuously farmed and the dykes and aboiteaux have been maintained they are still working. Although some of the diagrams show these running for considerable distances through the dykes, the ones I've seen that are still worked tend to be pretty short runs, possibly these are the ones that were easier to maintain. And because they are square boxes, they are relatively easy to replace.

The wooden pipes that are built with barrel staves should be easy to maintain if they are run above ground, but I can't see using them underground as culverts. That sounds like a horrible idea. The one I saw in NB was all above-ground and looked very old. I don't know what kind of wood it was but it was extremely solid.  A few very small leaks were spraying out water under pressure but it seemed otherwise very sound. I'm not sure how long it was, but definitely several miles and I think was bringing water from a lake, but I can't remember for what purpose.
 
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Cedar piping has been around a long time. Implementation comes right out of the coopering industry. If memory serves, Both NY and London used planked piping during the 1800's.
 
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I find it really interesting that people were striving to convert lagoons to farmland around Victoria at that time, despite the much lower population. Presumably it speaks to the much greater relative cost of transporting food at the time.


A friend of mine in his late 70s has told me about a friend of his using cedar shakes as drain tile, in their youth. Apparently they would last decades.

Of course this was old growth cedar, back when that was available. Since we've squandered the original supply of that, and younger cedar is far less rot resistant, and we've decimated the salmon that supply nutrients to the forests, and many cedar are dying from drought... it's a little hard to say how practical this option is now!


There's a BIG redwood stave pipe at Toketee Falls in Oregon. Leaky, but still functioning, very cool.
 
r ranson
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Dillon Nichols wrote:I find it really interesting that people were striving to convert lagoons to farmland around Victoria at that time, despite the much lower population. Presumably it speaks to the much greater relative cost of transporting food at the time.



Actually, there are several factors contributing to the desperation for grain production.  The biggest one is The Crimea.  

Extremely oversimplified: Ottoman empire was hurting British Trade and an attempt to solve this problem with military might in The Crimea wasn't going so well.  So Britain made an agreement with Russia to engage the Turks in battle on the condition that Britain would provide non-military support for Russia's military actions in Asia.  This meant growing grain to ship to Russia.*

In our current climate, growing grain in Victoria without the aid of modern irrigation is pretty dismal, but back then we were at the end of the last (most recent) mini-ice-age which made the climate here perfect for growing grain!  The only problem is a lack of flat land good for growing crops that aren't covered in Douglas Fir mono-culture.  But that's okay because the navy needed timber like crazy!  Basically, if you could clear the land, meet a grain growing quota, you got the land.  

So the Hudsons Bay Company was tasked with the governance of the area and setting up grain production pronto!  In return, all prospecting licences (gold and coal being the big ones) in Western British North American territories were issued in Victoria.  Of course, they had to renew their prospecting licence every few years, which meant a flood of gold back to town, which meant we needed lots of population to service these hard-working young men.  Then the Chinese workers to build the info structure and work the coal mines.

In 1858 we had a population of about 500 Europeans.  By the end of that year, it was nearing 40,000 (not including at least that many non-Europeans living in the area.) people of European or mixed European descent (although a good chunk of that number were transient prospectors, but they gotta eat too).

Tourists often think this town was built on fish and firs, but it was really built on grain and coal with a bit of gold dust for sparkle.

(the above history is over-simplified and nowhere as interesting as the actual events)

* actually, this is oversimplified almost to the point of being inaccurate - it's actually a bit the other way 'round as well as being this way 'round.  You think politics are complicated now, you should have seen them back when it took 8 months to send a 'tweet'.
 
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This is from the fourth volume of the foxfire series. supposedly "green poplar or yellow pine" were used, and would last 50 or more years under ground. I suspect cypress might be a better choice for this application. This is what the old spins boxes were made of in my area. Sorry I can't be of any help with the plank drains. I am sure there would be some great applications for these.

By the way, is it possible that someone was trying to make a fagot drain and stumbled upon hugelkulture? Of course then there was Fukuoka, sooo...
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Faggots drains are very interesting!
I wonder if they actually drained to daylight, or were they basically a subsurface hugel sponge?
What if we did this with cardboard, unprocessed bamboo or woodchips?
I can see doing a French drain with seashells, or tumbled glass.
Around here,  trenches filled with autumn leaves might be great.
We sometime worry about deeply buried organic matter going anaerobic, but maybe we shouldn't.

I might just dig a hole,fill it with cardboard,and cover it.
I could check back on it, maybe even include a pipe so I could check water levels.

Here's the link I found about the faggit drains:

https://books.google.com/books?id=XnwaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA640&lpg=PA640&dq=faggot+drains&source=bl&ots=7Z9h9ovrDe&sig=ACfU3U1jNE88iSnF9J7E4TPJkmMmQT6qbw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwilr7fv-rDkAhVESN8KHZKMArAQ6AEwAnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=faggot%20drains&f=false
 
Michael Holtman
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William Bronson wrote:
What if we did this with cardboard...



You might want to click on the word "cardboard". If you are doing a "restoration" in an already heavily contaminated soil, It might be the lesser evil.
 
r ranson
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Where my family comes from in England, the really old faggot drains were interesting.  The ones that were only a few hundred years old, had gaps between the sticks where the water could move.

The ones that were much older, had the soil firmly compacted around the sticks, but the sticks had rotted away to leave holes for the water to move through.  
 
Andrea Locke
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With respect to conversion of lagoons or salt marshes to farmland, the advantage to the early settlers would have been that these were nutrient-rich and productive substrates that, once drained, could be immediately planted without the trouble of having to clear trees or improve stony and/or steep land. In the Maritime provinces, many of the early French settlers were from coastal areas like Brittany and they knew how to build the drainage structures so that is what they did. The British settlers who arrived in the 1800s just cut down the trees and planted potatoes between the stumps.  
 
Travis Johnson
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Andrea Locke wrote:Travis, did you mean that the collapsed logging drains/culverts were based on aboiteaux technology with a flap or barrel-staved wooden culverts? Or are they just underground boxes built as culverts with cheap wood?



They were the latter for sure. I think their quick demise was that in dumping dirt over them, then driving over them, they would rack and then collapse. They also moved water, so they also got air which meant the wood quickly rotted.


I am a huge fan of wood, only because I live in Maine, the most forested state in the nation, and have sawmills an logging equipment. Wood does not rot as quick as most people assume. There is two ways to make it last a long time:

1) Get it down deep in the soil. below two feet, because there is no oxygen in the soil at that depth, and wood will not rot. A bridge near my house was cribbed with wood put there in the 1930's when the bridge was built. Some moron road commissioner decided to dig all that corduroy out, and now less than ten years later the road is sinking into the mud. The trees were white oak, and buried in the mud, they never rotted.

2) Let the wood dry out. Not all woods are great at getting wet and then drying, but some are. Cedar is great at being wet all the time, like ground contact, but white pine siding lasts twice as long as cedar siding, because air can get to it and dry out.

There is no doubt in my mind that making plumbing out of wood would not last a long, long time if it was buried deep in the ground. People think of wood, and automatically think of rot, but wood lasts quite awhile.
 
Michael Holtman
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I really wonder if wooden pipes might last 100 or more years if it were made of pine trees that were girdled and scared (permies.com/t/120415). I have three test trees that I will be felling come winter. I will take segments of each and subject them to varying degrees for water, air, and microbial contact. If they hold up well for a year, I have many trees teepee pole size and larger that I will do this with.
 
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Back in the 70s I lived in Ketchikan, Alaska.  The town water came down in a big wooden pipe (about 6 ft tall) made of cedar.  I remember climbing up on the pipe with a girl I was dating and we walked on top of it for the mile or two up to the lake.  Every once in a while we would have to negotiate around a spraying leak, but that was fun and there wasn't any shortage of water.
 
Michael Holtman
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Would a box drain that flowed to a series of fagot drains be suitable for a septic drain field?
 
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I did not realize what I was doing and calling hugel drains had another name! I don't think I can use the term "faggot drain" in teaching contexts with teenagers in Northern California without being very careful. It did seem like such an obvious idea that it could not be new, and its good to know it has millennia of proof behind the concept. We have done thousands of feet of these at food forest sites around structures and roads, on the site at College of the Redwoods Crescent City, where 14acres of hardscape runoff can exceed 386,000gal/acre/inch of rain (equals 14" of water running on site for every inch, and we can get 10"+/day in winter storms).  This requires serious accommodation and the wood filled drain trenches seem to be working well and hold a lot of water before running it off. We also have immense amounts of woody debris available. I have also added other water retention structures with large overflow sills to manage floods while holding as much as possible in this highly impacted wetland that we are trying to restore as habitat in addition to growing food for and teaching the community about solving these common regional problems for themselves.

When installing drip line on top of a hugel this spring I had to dig across a 2yr old woody trench. Even though I was trying to be careful of the irrigation line also in the wood trench, and knew basically where it was, I took one swing too many with the pick-mattock at the hard pan silcrete around the trench. Instead of shaving an inch off with each swing, as I had been doing laboriously on the silcrete, the mattock sunk swiftly, almost 2ft. It went into the compost that had become of the wood in the trench. It broke the pvc irrigation line down almost 3ft at the bottom of the trench after it also went through a 4" drain tile. The wood was only 2yrs old, and had become potting soil textured humus. It still drains well and seems to be benefiting everything around it, including the hedgerow and hugel beds adjacent.
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wood to be covered by woodchips for path
wood to be covered by woodchips for path
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Vernal pool and wetland for runoff, with level sill to and through forest offscreen left
Vernal pool and wetland for runoff, with level sill to and through forest offscreen left
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Rock armoring, for erosion control, aerating the runoff channel with cascades and leading to sediment drop pool before stream
Rock armoring, for erosion control, aerating the runoff channel with cascades and leading to sediment drop pool before stream
 
Michael Holtman
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Great work Ben!!!
 
William Bronson
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Ben,  that looks amazing!
I'm curious,  is that mesh cloth  burlap?
Is it there to stabilize the sides of the trenches and ponds?
 
Ben Zumeta
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Yes it is burlap mesh cloth for erosion control. It’s not cheap but it worked. I might just try a cover crop and wood chips or another organic inexpensive mulch if I had to do it again. I would also forego the pipe in the wood filled trench anywhere 10ft or more from a structure that I worry about sinking.
 
William Bronson
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I just got a pile of coffee bean sacks from the roaster for free.
I aim to use this batch in a green roof,  but the next batch might go into pond or trench building.
I have seen geofabric used to stabilize banks but never burlap.
Adding plastic mesh that will eventually break apart but never breakdown seems terrible.
That the burlap will decay is a great feature.
I am considering petrified hessian or burlapcrete, as a durable non-plastic landscape fabric.
Burlap and willow stakes seems like a winning anti erosion combo, is willow on your mind as a replacement for the burlap?
 
Ben Zumeta
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Willow is planted all over the wetland area, spread from cuttings off local thickets. These rooted while soaking in the dechlorinated water I would then use for my veggie starts. Seems to be working.
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Wow, this is not meaningless drivel, this is really amazing information!  I didn't know any of this history or these properties of wood.

Crazy idea--what if you wanted to use wood for indoor plumbing for hot showers? accepting that it wouldn't last for long, and assuming you're not pressurizing the hot water...has this been done?
bamboo?
wood with ceramic interior?
semi-pipes (just a U-shaped cross-section shaped thing, that carries water like an aqueduct without actually enclosing it?

(Let's assume that someone is a die-hard and has the patience for the amount of work this would take and just really doesn't want copper or plastic of any sort...someone like, oh, Paul, in the 10,000-level part of the land...)
Staff note (Mike Haasl):

Good point Joshua, I just moved it to Earthworks.

 
Travis Johnson
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We had a wooden shower growing up. It was in our downstairs bathroom and made of V-matched cedar and white pine.

I would think the wooden pipes inside would be another matter. Not so much for the pipes themselves, but from what the pipes would do if they failed. In my house anyway, it would be a huge mess and cause more damage than the off-set of using them.

Copper is really not that bad. It is one of the few metals that can indefinitely be recycled without loss of quality. Something like 80% of the copper ever mined is still in use in the world. I would think a person could use that if they had a hatred for plastic, or steel pipe.
 
Let's get him boys! We'll make him read this tiny ad!
How to Make Your Own Emergency Home Battery Bank
https://permies.com/wiki/38548/Emergency-Home-Battery-Bank
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