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Integrating swales and rice paddies into virgin hillside.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 59
Location: Grafton NY, 25 Miles east of Albany
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I have a couple acres of gently sloping land, like a 5% northeast facing grade above my house, here are some pictures to illustrate what I am dealing with:





The red is to outline my property boundary and the maroon is a set of powerlines that I have to somewhat work around. Disregard the water in the topo map,none of it is actually there in reality. The water I drew into the pictures are pre-existing ponds, the left one is my shallow, smaller pond sometimes more of a deep swamp. The one to the right is my bigger, deeper pond, this one is like 8ish feet deep and holds quite a lot of water. My plan is to terrace/swale the whole hillside and integrate rice paddies, I already started to clear some of the trees last year in anticipation of putting a vegetable garden at the bottom of the hill near the house but the land on the entire hillside above the house is squishy and wet pretty much year round. Even during a dryer period the water table is never more than a foot or so below grade, i figured lets work with what we have and grow a water loving crop.

When you cut swales in this sort of situation are they supposed to be perfectly on countour or do you give them a very slight downhill zigzagging slope so as to feed water to something like a rice paddy or is this a recipe for a seasonal creek and erosion? If not how do I direct water flow?

The ponds are already perfectly setup and sized for what I want, I have a larger, well sealed pond to hold water on top and a small one with trouble holding water as an overflow on the bottom, but how do I control the feed from the top pond to flood the paddies and swales when I want, is there some sort of spillway/lock system that can be purchased or easily made to do this that doesnt leak?

Would land this wet be able to grow trees on some of the lower swales? I dont plan on making them super tall, I mostly want them to just shunt water for the rice and stop runoff but if the lower one or 2 berms could support fruit trees that would be great. I know quince can supposedly grow in swampy areas but I don't know of anything else that grows well in our wet zone 5 climate.

The only machinery I have to work with is a chainsaw, my truck and have access to a JD-450 bulldozer with a bucket, would something like that work reasonably well for what i'm doing? The only other option is to pay thousands of dollars for someone else to dig it or to rent an excavator. I rather do it myself if I can obviously, ill need the bulldozer for ripping all the stumps out anyways.

If anyone has any other input that would be great. I have already cleared like 10% of the forest there, its all red pine with a few buckthorns and black cherry growing up underneath. I still have to finish clearing all of that and then on to cutting swales by springtime hopefully. The idea is to bury all of the excess wood in the mounds. It was hard to visualize at first but its crazy how much woody material clearing a forest like this creates.
 
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