Eliot Mason wrote:It is good to dream! Great to make progress on it!
A few comments that might help you achieve an awesome hugel:
1) I'm a little concerned about the leaf pile. Certainly add leaves, but sprinkle them... otherwise they can mat up and stay that way for a long time. There are concerns about nitrogen uptake , and the leaves aren't going to help that. Consider adding a nitrogen source (such as your horse manure) to the inside of the hugel ... I add coffee grounds (because I can).
2) You're thinking big! I'd encourage you to think wide before long. A wide & tall hugel (as much as 15' at the base) has a greater capacity to store moisture and the height creates more interesting "edge" opportunities. Judging from those trees you're in a place that is dry (not humid) in the summers and the soils are quickly stripped of moisture. A big hugel can hold enough moisture to get those plants through the summer, a small one will just provide an extended season.
3) You don't mention contours ... if you don't know, be very careful about placing your hugel across a water flow. Hugels ain't dams or swales.
4) pack that dirt! You've got a loose assembly of woody bits. Get dirt in there - you don't want air gaps in the hugel (great rodent habitat, increases later compaction - hard on root systems, increases resistance to water movement)
In terms of "where do I get the dirt???" I'm with you there. Its relatively easy to find the logs and wood material, dirt takes more work (this has been the big hold-back for me. I finally have some ideas/acceptance of where to remove dirt so I've finally got a path forward). Paul Wheaton advocates using an excavator to dig a trench on either side of the hugel and to pile that dirt on top of the logs. You might feel like you've got a fort and need some gators for that moat, but it a) is the most efficient way of putting dirt on the hugel and b) also provides a way to handle water and c) increases the surface area/edge space of the hugel.
Eliot Mason wrote:Thanks for sharing more of your plans - its great to know that you are thinking about this in ways that should lead to success!
Dirt ... yeah. Whatever happened to "dirt cheap?" In my instance digging ponds is going to be a major source of dirt and soil - and if the friendly neighborhood excavator can at least break up the soil and make piles for you then you'll be way ahead of banging away with a shovel. I'm past the age and energy where I could consider loading a wheel barrow and moving it - but you'll be in great shape and have tremendous pride. I find that even my small loader quickly runs out of room to drive around on top of the hugel, so I may be looking at some barrow work myself in the future.
I think there's probably a post to be had on the best barrow design for this task...