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property to small,steep and rocky for Yomans plow

 
Posts: 56
Location: Off grid in the central Rockies of Montana (at 6300') zone 3-4ish
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Hello Darren, I look forward to reading your replies. I have a few acres that I have been trying to re hydrate with concepts from "Water for every farm" and I've been using hand tools and I know that my trenches are not getting the lift like you get with the Yomans plow. In your opinion do think that hand dug narrow trenches can re hydrate the soil and help with compaction as the Yomans plow does ? Do you have any tips for keylining with hand tools only. My soil is very compact(decomposed granite). Thanks and be well.
 
Instructor
Posts: 44
Location: Eppalock, Victoria, Australia
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G'day,

Thanks for the note. A great tool we use on smaller sites is a Broadfork or Gundaroo Tiller as many call it here in Australia (see http://milkwood.net/2012/08/30/cultivating-soil-food-and-life-with-a-gundaroo-tiller-broadfork/). Its really like a Keyline plow for small areas. Like a keyline plow timing is important and its use should not invert the soil and should be at the onset of the growing season before the sub soil is moist and glazing is a distinct risk. In winter snow areas the best time is late autumn when the soils are drying and snow is still yet to fall. The soils in these areas in spring are usually too wet and so its not ideal. If its dry and you have some water then put a drip system on the area a few days before to soften the soil allowing you to get the fork into the ground. Go about 2" below the existing root zone and lever it back to about 45 degrees: that's about it and of course you can do this all on the keyline pattern of running parallel upwards from ridge contours and below valley contours (another topic altogether!!).

My advice is to always deal with the whole and that doesn't mean that trenches are not a tool to disregard but I would say you will get greater infiltration overall by making sure that the soil surface is covered with either mulch or growth and that the soils are all accepting of rainfall, not just a trench here and there.

Good luck and I hope that this helps you along the way...

Darren
 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Hi Darren.
I'm in a similar situation as Dave. That broadfork/tiller would not work for me as I have a very thin layer of soil over ledge. I attempted a trench like Dave suggested but had to use a pickaxe:


On the low side of the trench I put old hay bales. I had some good growth but that water was flowing down past the pig area so that may have added to the growth. Eventually I rotated the pigs into that area and they tore the hay bales apart, putting lots of debris in my small trench.

So my question is:
Is is worth it to put in many small hand dug (with pickaxe) trenches along contour (like the one I did)
or
Pay to have someone come in with a backhoe and put one trench in at the keypoint?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1877
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I also have the same kind of problem, and I should say VERY steep and rocky...

Insteed of digging, I have thought about bags with earth and vetiver inside...

I am not sure to understand what lines should be followed in the case of slowing water:
- Following horizontal lines?
- Making a line going up from the valley to the ridge? (so that the water does not focus on the lower parts)
 
Dave Hartman
Posts: 56
Location: Off grid in the central Rockies of Montana (at 6300') zone 3-4ish
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Just to follow up, I have been hauling loads and loads of mulch and adding to the trenches and swales(to help slow and sink the water)as well as around all guilds. I have sheet mulched many weedy areas and rotate goats thru out the site in hopes of increasing microbial activity and building soil. We have observed great results thus far with our harsh climate. I will be using the broadfork as you have suggested. Thanks for you advise.
(Xisca) I have been experimenting with laying dead wood on or just off contour and covering it with various materials( goat,chicken and pig manure,wood chips and what ever I come across for free and on my way to and from work) and I believe it to be an excellent addition but time will tell.
 
Heenan Doherty
Instructor
Posts: 44
Location: Eppalock, Victoria, Australia
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Thanks Dave, I think your responses hit the nail on the head and that overland structures are highly effective. Looking at those soil conditions in the photo I wonder how effective that 'trap' would be at mosquito production apart from aiding the saturation of soils in the vacinity of the trench whilst draining the landscape above it...These are the effects of some earthworks of this kind. I can also see that the soil surface is not covered that well with litter. Let the grass grow to flowering and then densely graze it to trample 1/3 of the sward with the rest going into the animal and standing. This will immediately cover the soil surface and increase the soils water holding capacity. Allowing plants to get to flower before they are cut or grazed ensures that their rhizophere is as big as it can be and this will increase soil carbon levels very quickly. If you can't break a pan then build up and in these humid landscapes there is plenty of biomass to help you do so such that you build the soil depth that you need for the variety of cultivated species you want to grow require. All the best, Darren
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Heenan Doherty wrote:Looking at those soil conditions in the photo I wonder how effective that 'trap' would be at mosquito production apart from aiding the saturation of soils in the vacinity of the trench whilst draining the landscape above it...These are the effects of some earthworks of this kind.



I'm not sure I understand about draining the landscape above the trap. The land you can see has a gentle slope but 30' above it the slope increases dramatically. As a matter of fact, it seems like it's close to a keypoint! It turns out the man who owned the property before me knew what he was doing because he built a very large pond (football field size) about 100' away.

So water is running down the hillside and the trap is to slow it down. Is it wrong? Mosquitoes have never been a problem because the pond has been here over 30 yrs and the wildlife has acclimated so nothings out of balance.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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I should also add the the reason why the soil is not in great condition is because when we had some logging done 7 years ago we told the logger that we wanted to open up some land for pasture. He "gave us a hand" and used a bulldozer to flatten it out and in doing so he pushed all the topsoil off. It's been slowly improving but it's also why I'm reluctant to bring heavy equipment on to the land.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Ho, so if you want to slow down water, this is not a keyline work isn't it?
Your trench (on the right side of the pic) looks as being down slope, so it traps water.
And then it will drain all the water that is on the land on the left side of your pic...

That is my guess, and I write it so that I get to know the reaction if I am wrong...

My idea of keylines is that it is not meant just to stop water that goes down,
It is not about slowing down but directing...
= make it go where you want
= where you need
= from the wettest to the dryest places. (or sometimes go to a pond/reservoir if possible and needed?)

Your system looks as if the wettest place was going to get even wetter, and depleate from humidity the places that are a little higher.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
My idea of keylines is that it is not meant just to stop water that goes down,
It is not about slowing down but directing...
....
Your system looks as if the wettest place was going to get even wetter, and depleate from humidity the places that are a little higher.



Oh.

OK so that's what differentiates keyline from a swale.

So the spot where the swale, isn't wettest because the water would continue to flow down hill. The wettest spot is a creek perpendicular to the swale about 10' below and behind me from where I took the pic.

Vermont has plenty of water so I wonder if keyline applies or not? I do need to stop the water so it has time to soak in though.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1877
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I think it was created to maximize the use of water where the rainfall is irregular.

And wait for any confirmation, i do not pretend to be true, I tell what I SUPPOSE so that I can be corrected...

I think it is also for giving time to soak in, but at the sme time keylines help so that this soaking does not happen all at the same place.
This wettest place would be the keypoint, and the keylines would be the lines that carry some water to the less gifted places.

Hope I am right!
 
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