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Terribad erosion problem (swales needed?)

 
Posts: 9
Location: Oklahoma
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Hello all, I've been reading up on Permaculture for about a year now since I've bought my own place on 5 acres. I Just finished a 1250sqft garden to start my property transformation.
However the previous owners had a tiny pond built on the other side of a deep creek that splits the property in two. Doing so they bulldozed the edge of the creek on both sides to allow for the machines to cross.
One side is sloped but not eroding so bad. It does need work as well but the side closest to my home is the worst and more immediate to be worked with. The land is red dirt and clay after about 2 foot of decent earth, and just as you reach the edge of the creek it drops off at about a 35-40 slope.
The rainwater we have gotten in the ways of drought-flood-drought-flood have dug out deep trenches in the slope, some as deep as 2 feet. *see link/photo* The pictures do it no justice. In all its maybe 50 feet of slope but its very steep. My mower wont make it up the slope at all and even my dirtbike needs man-handling to get up it. I was curious to know what others think my plan of attack should be for this area, I would like to be able to drive my pickup to the other side as I'm planning on converting the rear 2 acres into a small orchard. but worst case I would like to be able to walk/bike without worry of breaking a leg.
I know of swales, but they dont really help me traverse the area. Some people have told me to just dump gravel down the part I want to dive/walk but that's a huge expense I cant be bothered with right now and I doubt that will help at all with future erosion. I have a lot of 'can do' but not a lot of 'start here'. Any ideas?







The red lines are my property boundaries.

 
master pollinator
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You should fix this damage in consultation with whichever authority is empowered to protect that creek. They'll know what works in your situation and you'll avoid later trouble. If you act independently, you may be blamed for the whole mess. There are usually free resources available to landowners who work to improve or rehabilitate a waterway.
 
Joshua Morgan
Posts: 9
Location: Oklahoma
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Dale Hodgins wrote:You should fix this damage in consultation with whichever authority is empowered to protect that creek. They'll know what works in your situation and you'll avoid later trouble. If you act independently, you may be blamed for the whole mess. There are usually free resources available to landowners who work to improve or rehabilitate a waterway.



I live in "nobody gives a hoot" Oklahoma USA.
I'm Unable to find even a name of this creek much less a group overseeing/protecting it or others.
Lakes sure but creeks and ponds are DIY anything as far as I can tell.
I'm fairly sure that kinda thing does not exist in my neck of the woods. Would be nice though.
 
steward
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Welcome to permies Joshua!

Do you have access to any heavy equipment, such as a backhoe? Or will you be doing any work done, by hand?

How much wood can you get your hands on? Anything from Logs to chips.

 
Joshua Morgan
Posts: 9
Location: Oklahoma
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Welcome to permies Joshua!

Do you have access to any heavy equipment, such as a backhoe? Or will you be doing any work done, by hand?

How much wood can you get your hands on? Anything from Logs to chips.



Well that's what I'm hoping to find out really, I usually do everything by hand but if what is needed is major earth moving I might could find a fairly cheap local with equipment.

I do have tons and tons of tree logs/branches to work with. I have fell some dead trees also a few that were just in terrible places. (I planted 2 fruit trees for every live tree I cut down.)

As you can see in the pictures there's ONE tree on the edge of the ravine that's teetering over and will eventually fall as well.
 
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Here's an option, "straw book swales" it includes digging small swales on contour and filling them with "straw books" that are nothing more than sections of a square bale of hay. They act as sediment catchers (slows the water, slows erosion and will decompose adding organic matter to the slope) Add cover to the slope, wood chips, leaf mulch, and groundcover plants. Native grasses and sedges with deep roots and planted on countour come to mind also. Good luck!

http://permadesign.com/video#strawbookswales

Whoa! I got an apple!!!
 
Joshua Morgan
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Location: Oklahoma
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Jd Gonzalez wrote:Here's an option, "straw book swales" it includes digging small swales on contour and filling them with "straw books" that are nothing more than sections of a square bale of hay. They act as sediment catchers (slows the water, slows erosion and will decompose adding organic matter to the slope) Add cover to the slope, wood chips, leaf mulch, and groundcover plants. Native grasses and sedges with deep roots and planted on countour come to mind also. Good luck!

http://permadesign.com/video#strawbookswales



That's a neat design, first I've seen of that. I have a few other places where that kind of thing would work for sure.
This area I guess no mater what I'm probably looking at moving lots of dirt to at least fill in the giant earth cracks.
 
pollinator
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Also, you may need to physically break down some of those more incised gullys or the water will still be funneled down the same routes. Perhaps a swale at the very top of the bank before the sheet water start funnelling would be a start. Easier than working on the slope too.

Depending on your climate you could look into planting vetiver grass in on contour hedges.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Those straw books are cool!

Now combine that with logs and swales, on contour. Slow the water, get as much wood, straw ,grass in there as you can to hold soil and soak up water. Plant with deep rooted plants.

There is also a technique I have seen posted around here someplace, where they lay logs down in swamps to form a wooden road.

Lots to think about. I guess it all depends on how much dirt you want to move, and what you want it to look like when you are done.
 
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Location: Douglas County OR
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I have a couple places like that on my land. The soil and water guy suggested Christmas trees with the top pointed upstream will catch silt, slow water. I got mine in place two weeks ago, too recently to know if they are working yet.
With that large an erosion and stream flow, whole bales might be better than books
For other ideas, here is the Wikipedia page on revetment. Okay, not too many ideas, but the wooden one makes me think pallets!
 
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Jd Gonzalez wrote:Here's an option, "straw book swales" it includes digging small swales on contour and filling them with "straw books" that are nothing more than sections of a square bale of hay. They act as sediment catchers (slows the water, slows erosion and will decompose adding organic matter to the slope) Add cover to the slope, wood chips, leaf mulch, and groundcover plants. Native grasses and sedges with deep roots and planted on countour come to mind also. Good luck!

http://permadesign.com/video#strawbookswales

Whoa! I got an apple!!!



JD - I happen to be staying with a water harvesting expert in Tucson and he confirmed that your solution is what he would do as well and is indeed what is done on steep back cuts for freeways, etc. Woo hoo!

As for access down the slope...

--is there enough room for a switchback path?
--not for bikes per se, but how about some steps going down the hill? (mini-terraces fronted with logs or similar)
 
Michael Cox
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The strawbook swales do indeed look good. I can find surprisingly little about them online, other than that one video.

How to they hold up in the longer term? I imagine that the straw breaks down and the swale loses some of it's effectiveness. I the point that, by that stage, than bank should have been stabilised by vegitation?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Michael Cox wrote:The strawbook swales do indeed look good. I can find surprisingly little about them online, other than that one video.

How to they hold up in the longer term? I imagine that the straw breaks down and the swale loses some of it's effectiveness. I the point that, by that stage, than bank should have been stabilised by vegitation?



Try looking up "straw wattles" or "rice wattles" - I'm using a friends computer/internet so I have limited time online this week. You may see this same technique used along where new freeways have been cut.

And yes - by the time the straw breaks down the vegetation should take over.

My friend indicated that the straw should be used in fairly close increments (every 10 ft say) on contour.

The eroded areas should be filled in first. Then put the straw lines in. Then spread seed on the slope with a loose covering of straw.
 
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