When I watch the videos I always wonder about my climate, dry summers, heavy winter rains, mineral depleted soils...... running in hills and valleys (it's not called the 100 valleys of the Umpqua for nothing).
I believe swales would be a super tool to manage one's heavy winter water, but I have yet to try it out. My state has serious restrictions on digging big ponds, damming and other large earth moving water trapping endeavors, but I think swales (or paths as Sepp likes to call them) are very doable.
Q - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and how one would use swales to slow down run off and minimizing winter's washing of the soil nutrients in my climate?
Q - And how would you go about changing the temperate conifer forests of my climate into food forest for a small holding?
I plan on buying your entire video collection, and doing my best to adapt them for my area and requirements.
Sepp made terraces not swales, Although his raised beds act like swales when he orients them 90 degrees to the slope. As for regulations... Just YOLO it, Seriously. I live in PNW and swales work well. It's all about keeping the water where its needed. They just manage water. You cant really go wrong in my eyes. Thin the forest and plant edibles and chop and drop alder or something.
if on a slope i would swell as much as possible to slow down your water movement which would also retain your minerals from washing away. chopping and dropping as much as possible. maybe even digging ditches on contor and then filling them with all of the woods and plants you don't want. you aren't digging ponds to retain any of the water you are just slowing it down from its eventual end point. the decaying woods would take up some water as it decomposes like a sponge making your dry climate more bareble for plant life.
i'm sure you all ready know what i'm saying because i'm pretty much repeating what you saw in the video. good luck
Just my opinion but on sloping land, the first problem you need to keep in mind is erosion. Anything you do to change the existing cover of that land should immediately deal with the problem of erosion. Remove a tree, remove what is keeping that soil there. Trench the soil and you could be destroying roots which are keeping the tree alive or you could be killing the plants which are keeping the soil there.
That being said, from what i saw in sepps videos (he is on very hilly land so watch them) is that he does not do his work delicately...he moves in with heavy machinery and does it all at once. His solution is to immediately terrace, plant trees and spread out a large variety of seeds around each disturbed area. I am sure thought must be given to what time of the year to do such an operation and the pnw time is not the same as the alps. You will likely lose some soil to erosion but it should be mostly picked up on the next terrace down.
Of course terracing is much work and expense in all likelihood so this would not be my solution, i cannot spend that money at this time. Perhaps you can terrace bit by bit using hand tools....first creating just one flat area this year...bigger next year. Dig the swales away from the conifer trees to preserve their roots. Perhaps the best thing to start with might just be planting berry bushes all over the place along with seeds from as many food crops and will grow in that area...all mixed up.
My solution, if i had the land this year, is to both start terracing small scale...hand tools yes but I would keep it small and plant one or two fruit trees on my newly flattened area. I would also plant fruiting bushes all over the place....they can be moved or multiplied and seeds. I think grasses are pretty fair at keeping hills in place but research locally would help in what all to plant to keep things from moving.
Did you ever see those videos on key hole design here on permies .com? They were magnificent. Some of them were in S. Oregon. Also I think some of the podcasts talked about them too. They seem like they slow down the water even more gradually than a swale, or at least distribute it out more evenly. There is a guy who does keyhole design workshops and he's on permies .com a lot. Is his name Neil Bertrando? I live in the suburbs on flat ground so it was more intellectually interesting than something I'm going to apply soon. That's what I would do if I lived on rural acreage in S OR N CAL. This fits in with what Laura just said because you kind of weave the water on a path through the trees.
When designing to optimize water management and usage, one must be very skillful in negotiating all of the various rules and regulations that are blindly applied and enforced by those who don't really know what it is we're attempting to accomplish. Learn the rules regarding your site, then figure out a way to comply with them and still accomplish your objective...
One thing that is fairly easy to do is to kill two stones with one bird, so to speak, and begin thinning the conifers on your site. Use the logs for whatever you want, then take all of the brush and lay it across the slope. Thinning the conifers will let in more light and allow for other plants to grow, and the above ground wattle will begin to capture leaves and needles, snow, animal dung and eventually it will begin to decompose in place. You've now initiated the biological sponge process.
We did this at the Central Rocky Mt Permaculture Inst way back in 1993. I wonder if Jerome has any photos of what those look like today?
One can also shovel some dirt from uphill onto the brush wattles so as to make linear hugulkulture beds. You'll find all kinds of things sprouting in the new little moist zone that you've initiated...