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Emergency swale in saturated ground

 
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
42
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Just thought I would share my first attempt at a swale with you guys. What I have is a drain that collects water off the driveway and a french drain behind our shop. We had about two feet or so of snow and then a nice warm up accompanied by a nice rain. The end result was a giant swamp on the uphill side of my hugel bed, standing water in my terraced/sunken hoop house (with overwintering chickens), and a nice little creek where the water ran around the hugel. The real heartbreaker was the little creek, I couldn't stand to see all of that water just running off. After seeing this I decided that sooner would be much better than latter to get my first swale in. With so much moisture in the soil all I could manage to do with my tractor was bury the first chisel of my two bottom mold board plow about six inches to make a quick, stop gap swale to spread some of that water across the field. So far it seems to be working pretty good, no more creek and the standing water in the hoop has gone away. This is my first experiment with an on contour swale and I'm pretty happy so far ( I swear the contour line I shot with my builder's/survey level ran up hill, but it's working perfectly so....trust your equipment it doesn't lie like your eye will from time to time). Future plans are to make the swale significantly bigger(wider and deeper) and add another downhill to move water where it will be of more use. I also plan to integrate more hugel mounds and some tree cultivation with these swales. If anyone sees any fatal flaws or pit falls to look out for I am always thankful for some good feedback. Thanks.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
42
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Picture taken about ten minutes after swale was cut with tractor. Filling in nicely.
IMG_20140313_154346_330.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20140313_154346_330.jpg]
 
steward
Posts: 4618
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
441
hugelkultur forest garden fungi books bee greening the desert
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Wow nice looking soil!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
42
hugelkultur fungi trees books food preservation
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It's pretty nice soil for about a foot then I hit a layer of clay subsoil. I planted a bare root cherry tree about 10 yards down slope from this swale, and as I was digging through down into the subsoil I hit a little vein of water (pencil size?) so I think maybe the surface water might be sheeting down along that layer of clay. I'm going to have to dig some test holes when I get time and see if maybe I could develop a spring where there was none previously through this water retention project (ala Sepp but with swales instead of terraces). It should be interesting, and kinda' exciting to see what happens here.

The swale is working out nicely, by the way. Standing water and mushy ground are slowly subsiding on the down slope, and we've had some pretty good little spring storms (snow then rain again). So it's working as intended...can't wait to get going on some more. This is a lot of fun!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
42
hugelkultur fungi trees books food preservation
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Just an update...things have dried out a little and I was able to get on the land with the tractor and do a little more work on a second swale.

So I have question for all of you out there. Has anyone used a two bottom mold board plow to make swales. I need some tips on how to set it up and run the thing. I got the second swale in, but it took a long time and is pretty rough. Any suggestions for optimizing the process would be greatly appreciated. I'm looking for ideas on angles, depth, pitch, etc. I have no experience using a plow at all. Thanks in advance.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4618
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
441
hugelkultur forest garden fungi books bee greening the desert
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 529
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
42
hugelkultur fungi trees books food preservation
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I did look at that thread. It's one of the places I got some inspiration from. It didn't seem like there was much in the way of nut and bolts in the plow setup though. I guess I could just PM Dan or post on that thread. I was just hoping to get something here. Thanks Miles.
 
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