My biggest question is, do I need to create earthworks swales and dams on my property. I'm located in zone 5b in Brookfield MA approx 47 inches of rain a year. The lot is currently forested with about 20 year old growth, I won't be able to fit in big excavators, but I'm thinking of purchasing a small tractor with a backhoe(I know some people just say rent, but I'm the type of person that likes to pick away at things and not plan and having a tractor at my disposal will be more convenient.).
Hey Robert, I love water so I would say that ponds and swales are awesome, but you may not have room or need to pool water so it can soak into the ground. Ponds would be good for swimming, ducks and geese,different plant species than you may already have, and fishin!
I think Geoff comes from a drier climate so every drop creates paradise. I like what he creates myself.
If there is one thing I'm learning it is that there is no "one true way." I do not know if swales and ponds are appropriate for your property. I do know that my father bought a tractor with a backhoe back in the 80s and it still serves him well for many tasks. I am pretty sure he could sell it with little comparative depreciation in value thirty years on.
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Robert, I would not say you need swales and dams. If you do not have watering issues, count yourself lucky.
If you do want swales, maybe just to try out the technique, you could do hugelkultur on contour to much the same effect. And no need for any machinery.
To throw out one more water feature idea along the lines of a dam. Have you thought about vernal pools? I used to live in Connecticut and the vernal pools in the woods would be booming with frogs and salamanders and all sorts of bugs. The fact that the water disappears after spring, and while there is water it is filled with tadpoles and other carnivores, makes for less mosquitoes than a year round pool. AND they are a natural forest feature in New England, nothing unconventional.
If you do end up putting in something you could get a surprise spring eventually.. Not having an specific example handy, I have seen online that springs will pop out downhill of swale/dam earthworks.
I have heard people say that stands of trees 20 years or older, should generally be left standing -- b/c of the benefits they are providing locally and globally I assume.
Perhaps, you might consider hugelkulture?
You don't have to put in swales, or dams, it is not a requirement for a permaculture design.
Small water detention basins might work for your site and will provide habitat for amphibians and other life.
It really all depends, but you may have some years with droughty conditions and water storage in the soil might help smooth that out.
Even in places up your way, ridge type areas can be quit dry despite fairly good rain, so water soakage is good then.
My 2 cents would be to survey the trees you have, identify high value ones, keep most or all of those.
Cut the trees that are less value for your goal, and/or good firewood, and build hugels with what isn't good firewood.
You will receive many benefits from hugels that are similar to swales. And some benefits that swales won't provide.
Swales and ponds can, however, really help to mitigate the effects of large rain events/hurricanes and I am not sure that hugels will provide this benefit as well as swales can.
However, if you are on the upper parts of a tall ridge, I suggest to cut almost no or 0 trees.
If the property was straight rows of pine, I would likely do much thinning.
Maybe ask yourself --"What is the least amount of work I can do, for the greatest benefit?" and "Am i working with nature?"
A lot of things come out of nowhere, so look everywhere.
Hi! I find Lawton's videos really helpful. I live in Vermont, where, like you, we get plenty of rain, but I DO plan to add some earthworks to our sloped, forested property. The point for me is to try to plan for an unstable future where we may see wildly different weather. As the climate heats up we may discover that our summers become much hotter and drier, and we may need to use conserved water to grow food. Better to do the work now than to wait until the crisis is upon us!
but I'm thinking of purchasing a small tractor with a backhoe(I know some people just say rent, but I'm the type of person that likes to pick away at things and not plan and having a tractor at my disposal will be more convenient.).
By all means, buy a tractor. Get one with a bucket too, if you can. They are handy for all sorts of things all the time, especially when you're first starting. As for whether or not you need earthworks, you're the one who is there. Water is always good, I wouldn't cut your trees down to make a pond or whatever, though.
I would cut trees to place ponds as high on the property as I could. I also would be selectively harvesting trees from the rest of the property to thin the stand for the best growth and adding food and support species.
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posted 7 years ago
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Thank you everyone of your opinions, I will take them all into consideration. I finally went ahead and purchased a tractor (85 JD, 4wd, 1000 hrs, front end loader)!
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