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Southern Colorado permaculture: please help  RSS feed

 
Bob Becker
Posts: 11
Location: Beulah, CO
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Hey permies!

I've been a long time reader and lurker, but this is my first post.

In July 2014 we moved to a 45 acre property in Beulah, CO with the intention of starting a permaculture farm. For context, I've bought and read Mollinson's Permaculture bible, sepp holzer's books, Yeoman's book, Art Ludwig's water storage book and quite a few others in pursuit of educating myself. As for most permaculture properties, the ground has some serious challenges and many opportunities.

We are in the rain shadow of the wet mountains, but our property is technically an arid steppe type of land. Our average rainfall (whatever that means) is somewhere in the range of 15-17 inches per year. We have a monsoon season in Jul-Aug where large rain events usually occur. The ground is mostly rolling with a water catchment of several hundred acres that flow across the property through drainages and a large arroyo near the back of the property. The ground is currently dominated by a healthy pasture of gramma grass, juniper, pinon, a few ponderosa; and near the arroyos: gamble oak, elm, cottonwood, willow and a few others. My end-state goal for this property is to create a food forest and habitat for wildlife and domestic animals (we have chickens now).

I first started by planning some keyline plowing. I have a JD 4020 with a single row subsoil plow. Upon getting out there to draw my contour lines, I first started by attempting to use a bunyip water level to establish my contour lines. That experience resulted in a lot of loud profane language, the bunyip being tossed to the ground water everywhere and a general feeling of frustration. Note: don't use a bunyip by yourself unless you desire similar results.

Next, I purchased and attempted the same task with a Johnson laser level and sensor. The Johnson laser level is a pretty wiz-bang device and was very fast to get started. I had a series of 300 meter contour lines done in an afternoon. However my results are very puzzling because I ended up with some contour lines that look to be very much not level, downhill in fact. I relocated and rotated the laser level and tripod many times, started over several times; measured, leveled over and over, always with the same result. So either I'm in a mystical place where the laws of physics are out the window, the laser level is giving me consistently bad data despite my changing it's orientation and location, or it simply looks wrong. Boy, this is harder that it seemed at first blush.

Then I started getting advice from some of the neighbors around here. They were cautioning me about the fragile ecosystem of the gramma grass, and that keyline (ripping) of the soil may not be helpful. My tractor's rocker arm for the 3 point is not working properly with the controls either - something else to fix but that's a different story. So after all this thinking, discussion, thinking some more, I came to the conclusion I'd try to do some hugle boomerang swales. boomerang swales seem to be more forgiving than swales on-contour. I've started laying out the shape of my hugle piles with trimmed juniper from my fire protection projects. Now I need a backhoe to dig the swales.

So, permies, would anyone here like to come take a look at this ground and provide some recommendations, or help of any kind? Anyone with a backhoe nearby that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg? I'd love to have some extra eyes, especially with some prior experience check my work, or give me some ideas I hadn't considered. I've also got several other projects to get completed, and I have limited funds:

rocket mass heater for the house
several ferrocement water cistern tanks (5,000 or so for barn and house rainwater catchement that will pump to a ~20,000 gal cistern on high ground)
a couple small erosion control ponds (Holzer style)
more gabions
learn to be a tractor mechanic
places to plant the couple hundred trees, strawberries, and other berry bushes on order (will arrive in the spring - nothing like a deadline to force the motivation right?)

I've also got some resources for wood chips, but my dinky little trailer is wholly insufficient. Anyone with a dump trailer in the area?

Here's some pictures:

First the higher ground and gramma pasture:



Here's the beginnings of some hugle-boomerang-swales:



As the ground falls toward the arroyo, tree diversity and density increases:




The arroyo in the back of the property has some massive flow events sometimes. Look at the water line on that tree!!:



More arroyo pics:


Here's my first attempt at a gabion to slow the water and limit erosion:





I'd love all of your thoughts, and help if you can.

Thanks!!!

Bob


 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4028
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Howdy Bob, welcome to permies!
Looks like a great place that you have there.

Sometimes neighbors do not understand permaculture techniques. All of the stuff I have seen and heard about the key line plowing seems to be something your area would benefit from. Maybe do a couple of strips and then see what happens. If you get good results it would show the neighbors something new and maybe catch on.

Are you sure that the contour lines are not right? How are you determining that? Sometimes I look at contours and my eyes play tricks on me. I could swear they are not correct but when they fill with water you can see that they are. Again, maybe do a small one and see how it works out.

Any kind of hugel is great, do you have a local source of wood chips or logs/ branches that you could get a hold of?
 
Bob Becker
Posts: 11
Location: Beulah, CO
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Miles,

Thanks for the reply! Thanks! I agree, I talked with the distributor up in NY about purchasing a keyline plow tine from Yeomans that I could mount to my own or custom built frame (really nice guy BTW). The neighbors did get me to start questioning myself. Everyone is extremely paranoid of disturbing the delicate ecosystem. It's a healthy sentiment in some ways. There are plenty of properties that have been over-grazed and look absolutely terrible, bare, dead dirt terrible. So it's a healthy fear, but somewhat misplaced. One of my neigbors who grazed his cattle on the property that I currently live on had not grazed it for 5 years due to the severe drought so the land was not damaged. He is very responsible, but what we're doing requires a completely different paradigm. There is certainly a cultural memory of the dustbowl in these parts. There are still remnants of the 1930s work program swales on many of the ranches. They're not exactly on contour, but they did make a valiant effort.

I've seen the post here or elsewhere where a family had done keyline plowing in the Chihuahua desert (Texas). That was pretty impressive. My first impression was: "If it works there, it will work here." Then I got set to start the keyline process, bought a cheapy subsoiler, then only to be stopped by my 3 point control problem on my ancient tractor (circa 1964). I think the control cable is rusted and seized.

I decided to start using the other end of the tractor - the front end loader to construct a very small erosion control pond. This ground is almost solid clay, but in powder form, so it's almost impossible to dig anything without a tooth-bar (that's on my Christmas list now). So after trying to accomplish these list of prioritized tasks, and experiencing various mechanical and logistics failures, I decided to get something done, so I built a gabion.

We got 2 loads of wood shavings and manure from the fair this year, which is a very unimpressive 5' pile X 15' from my 12'x8' trailer at this point since letting the chickens turn and flatten it (then I re-stacked it by hand). Though it's a good start at compost.

I do have a source for wood chips, a whole .5 acre full of piles, I am planning on taking it small trailer by small trailer if I have to, though a dump trailer would accomplish the entire job in a day with the help of a skid-steer to load it. Filling the trailer of wood chips or manure isn't too bad, even with a snow shovel. Unloading it, also by hand, is the more painful part.

As far as the contour lines:

They really look like they're sloped down-hill. It could be an optical illusion. Though it really, really looks like its' sloping pretty fairly dramatically downhill. Looking at the topos witch are all pretty low res, it could possibly be correct, but standing on the ground, it looks completely wrong. Even my handheld GPS shows a decline in elevation, but the accuracy on that is debatable. I will definitely try to run a keyline on the property. I want as many different irons in the fire as I can manage, then expand on what works.

Thanks!!!
 
Ryan Sanders
Posts: 14
Location: Southern Colorado
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Bob we should talk. I am also working a permaculture homestead project in Beulah and am all for collaboration. We live in the Springs but I have been down there most weekends and into Mon-Tue working on the old farm house.

I can't really speak to the keyline plowing for the gramma grass, but am interested in it for areas of our land.

Carl and Gene Potestio did my backhoe and skid loader work, not sure if they are the cheapest, but Carl is very proficient with the equipment.

Ryan
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 4028
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
172
bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Welcome to permies Ryan !
 
Bob Becker
Posts: 11
Location: Beulah, CO
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Ryan,

I sent you a PM. Let's get together.

Thanks!
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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It looks like a big project, but you have a good start. Trust yourself and your tools, go back to the keyline. The most important thing you can do right now is to allow the clay to absorb winter rains and snow melt. This will change the entire dynamic of your land. Grama is a good grass, but a healthy grassland in this area has at least 20 more species, many of them 4-5' tall. The seeds for these grasses are in your soil already, change the hydrologic balance and they will emerge.
I love hugelbeets, but not for this. You need your trees and it is too labor/energy intensive to bring in material from outside. I would bring in sheep to graze the grama in the spring.
It took a long time to degrade the land and it will take a long time to heal. You will be told you are doing it wrong, but look at their land and you know who is and has been doing it wrong.
Good Luck!
 
Bob Becker
Posts: 11
Location: Beulah, CO
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Bill,

Thanks for your insight. I think I may order a proper yeoman's tine and mount it to a 3 point. I was planning on doing that before, but then started second guessing myself. I got some resources free to start some serious work. Thanks all for your insight so far.
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
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I know it can be hard to trust yourself, but look at your neighbors' land. If it looks like crap, don't pay them any attention. They don't know!
I ahve had serious arguments with my dad's friends, who sound just like your neighbors. One of them chained all the sage, rabbit brush and junipers and burned them in one giant pile. Instant desert!
Instead of domination, cooperation. Move slowly and observe. Keep a journal, since nobody can remember all that info.
Keep up the good fight!
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 715
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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hi Bob,
i am just across the arkansas from you. i can see those same mountains in your first pictures when i look north
we have a small irrigated property and are trying to give it a go.

if you are serious about buying yeoman tines, you could certainly earn your money back by putting them to use at our place
i would like to plow on contour in our pasture to help restore the moisture and decompact the clay.

are property is much less slopey than yours, but we have a few swales installed to help water our fruit trees. i can tell you the swale didnt look very even when i first dug it, but once it was full of water, i was a believer.
i plan on adding a new swale midway through our pasture to help retain water, as well as to help irrigate the property fully. may add a few berms and plant trees midfield also - still a bit undecided.
i would like to add another berm down near the property edge as well as a small "erosion control pit" (NOT a pond) at the bottom of the property. i was planning on renting a small excavator in the spring time.

i would love to get together and discuss earthworks or other permaculture things in general. there seems to be more people interested in learning about permaculture in the area rather than applying the principles in the area so anyone who is actively working on land, im interested to talk with. im no pro, but i would be glad to give my feedback, as well as hear yours.

 
Tate Smith
Posts: 53
Location: Cheyenne, WY
8
forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur trees
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Hey Bob!

Grew up there in CO. City. My folks have a place out near there and there are few neighbors east of the interstate that do all sorts of stuff like this. With your swaling. I can tell you that if you go out into the Blue Grama grass where there is not trees, you will never get grass to grow on that swale for a very long time. So be careful! We did it! We tried digging swale for a little ways and waiting to see what happened with it out in our native pasture ground where the soil is deeper and is solid grass. Still hasn't grown anything on the disturbed soil now for about 6 years. The better option it looks like is ripping instead of swaling from our experiences.

Good thought on the gabions. I am excited to see how they work. In the arroyo's in that country, anything that has a strong profile against current is going to be washed away. We buried a series of telephone poles 5 feet into the embankment on either side in a gradually increasing height going downstream (thought it was going to be awesome). And then we got a 2 inch moisture event and the poles are now toothpicks an 1/8 of a mile downstream. So what we have found (and have caught A LOT of soil) is building small rock dams using flat shale stone with the final layer of rock being somewhere between 45 and 20 degrees of angle. That gives the water somewhere to go but slows it down at the same time dropping out sediment.

We have all sorts of other cool projects that work really well in that country. Send me a PM and we can chat. I'd like to come see your place! Is it out on 3R road?

-Tate
 
charlie ryan
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Being new to permaculture, I was under the impression that building swales on my property was a given.

After reading this thread I now wonder if the keyline plowing method is one I should adopt for rebuilding the soil on my southern Colorado plot, in-lieu of swales?

Would sure love any feedback on this thought.

Thank you
 
Tate Smith
Posts: 53
Location: Cheyenne, WY
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forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur trees
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I think the main advantage of a deep keyline rip would be that the moisture will go into the soil and not stay on top. You will have less evaporation of that precious liquid if it is down in the soil. Whereas with a swale you will have longer retention, but risk higher evaporation loss. Added to this, is the delay in growth on bare soil in the area. If you have established blue grama community it is better to influence grass growth with a cow than it is a plow because why tear up grass that is already there when it wont come back for a long time. If the soil is bare already, like under a pinyon juniper stand, I would totally suggest a swale system be considered. We have done that in a bare old wheat field that never rehabilitated after they stopped growing wheat a number of years ago (this is east of the interstate out towards Cedarwood). Along with the swales, we have also ripped on contour to further the infiltration. That is the key in this country, get the water off of the surface! And so by ripping and catching in swales, very little water runs off of the site now. It has been a drastic shift from what it was and will prove to be very beneficial in the long run.

Also, another lesson we have learned is that when putting in infrastructure. You must start at the top of the watershed. So if any country drains into your land, and you do not have control over that land that is draining into yours, you absolutely must, absolutely (have I made my point on how important this is ) over engineer the initial infrastructure at the top of your property. It has to take on a very very heavy pressure load from run off. So really consider your investment of effort and energy so you don't make the same mistakes we have. Start at the top and engineer everything for the maximum amount of rainfall it could be opposed by, because in this country that will happen every summer.

Hopefully that brings a new perspective to your thoughts.

-Tate
 
Bob Becker
Posts: 11
Location: Beulah, CO
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Kelly, Tate, Charlie,

Thanks all for your feedback. I'll definitely be getting a tine from Yeomans in the near future. It seems from everyone's feedback that's the less dangerous way to start. I think my gabions are definitely going to be washed away. I was starting to research induced meandering and zuni pools. Though this arroyo definitely meanders on it's own.

Kelly, PM me and I'll get you my contact info, or you could join Tate's list he's setting up.

Bob
 
charlie ryan
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I am wondering if anyone knows or has tried to do some keyline plowing by hand or with hand tools?
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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charlie ryan wrote:I am wondering if anyone knows or has tried to do some keyline plowing by hand or with hand tools?


the closest thing i can think of is using a broadfork to decompact - along the keyline. sounds VERY labor intensive, but its possible. i think it is generally something done with a machine because of the force needed.


@ Bob - sent you a pm, and im also on Tate's list


also - from what i have seen, water doesnt seem to "plume" like is demonstrated in some of the pictures:


i suspect it has to do with the THICK HEAVY clay i am working with.
i will say, if you can get the water into the soil, it will hold, but ive also seen the wind suck moisture out of the soil so it was dry for the first 3in, then wet again.

would be interested in what others have seen also.
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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also - from what i have seen, water doesnt seem to "plume" like is demonstrated in some of the pictures

Heavy clay could be a factor here, but another thing to consider is your rainfall statistics.

The pluming seems to work well in areas with abundant rainfall.
Here in the arid west many of us have very low rainfall. It would take a long time for the plume to happen.
Also, many of us have an evaporation rate that is higher than our rainfall.


I believe that if our evaporation is greater than our rainfall, deep keylining would be more beneficial than swales.

In an area I am looking at, I studied the weather forecasts for several weeks.
The area gets 14-18 inches of percipitation per year (and a good percentage of that is snowfall).
During the time I was watching the forecasts daily, it showed "a chance of rain" every day for those weeks.
However, it also predicted "less than 1/10th of an inch" for each rainfall event.

If most of your rainfall is happening at 1/10th of an inch, even mulch would be hurting you.
That rain would never meet the soil.
A large, unmulched swale would still contribute very little moisture to your soil, except the soil within the swale.
There wouldn't be enough of it to wick into the surrounding surfaces.

In such a case, keylining would more evenly spread that moisture into the land.

 
charlie ryan
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Thank you Kelly and John

With the info you guys shared with me I am wondering if I should consider a hugelswale, to grow annuals directly on, as my first earth work project, since it will be some time before I can get a handle on getting moisture into the soil?

If I experience rain events as described by John, will my hugelswale retain the moisture?
 
Ryan Sanders
Posts: 14
Location: Southern Colorado
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My experience with the hugelswales this year in Beulah has been very positive. We do get quite a few very small rain fall events, but occasionally thunderstorms park over us and we get 1/2" of rain or more. The hugelswales were able to stay moist for me between these events. I will say that in our swales, all the wood is below the original grade, with the actual swale being comprised of >=~18" of really high quality topsoil. Can't remember if I did that intentionally or just ran out of wood, regardless I think it help resist drying.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1826
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Bob, and the Beulah Colorado permie community. I'm currently searching for another post but found this and read most of it. I don't know if you have already bought your Yeoman thing. I read or heard somewhere (possibly Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm, Wisconsin) that you can get a commonly available substitute for a lot less money. I think it's called a chisel plow. It might be worth looking into.

Best of luck.

I'm in Grand Junction with 2 acres of sandy soon to be loam, and irrigation shares.

Thekla
 
Kelly Smith
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John Polk wrote:

also - from what i have seen, water doesnt seem to "plume" like is demonstrated in some of the pictures

Heavy clay could be a factor here, but another thing to consider is your rainfall statistics.

The pluming seems to work well in areas with abundant rainfall.
Here in the arid west many of us have very low rainfall. It would take a long time for the plume to happen.
Also, many of us have an evaporation rate that is higher than our rainfall.


I believe that if our evaporation is greater than our rainfall, deep keylining would be more beneficial than swales.


i agree with you on everything you said.... but i am irrigated. i put at least 10 acre feet of water on my property last year and still didnt see any plumes below the swales.

last year we had the swales fill 5 times via irrigation and 2 via rainfall and still nothing below them.
 
Brian McCune
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Location: Kent County, MI
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Hello, thanks for all the beautiful questions, answers and information. I'm looking into a nice parcel of land in the Wet Mountain Valley (SE. of Westcliffe), I plan to move there in the spring of 2015. From what I've been studying and the info I've gathered, this is the plan for earth works I've been thinking of.

A Wire Basket Gabion on contour for the top catchment followed by a series of long narrow 2ft wide, 2ft deep hugelswales. The hugelswales will have chips buried and also mulched across the surface, both inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi. After reading your posts I'm considering ripping on contour between the Gabion & hugelswales. The idea being to create pockets of ice, or minor 'glacial' events (to expand the earth upward) to reform the landscape onto contour (a trick from www.geofflawton.com).
I think it's important to buffer from wind and sun erosion by planting a diverse forest system immediately after the earthworks are done.

I also have designs for a large year round green house, half in-ground, heated by a rocket thermal mass stove/boiler system. I plan to use mostly straw bale insulation and structural cob with lime plaster.
I plan to buy a 3-ton mini-excavator to do all of the Geo-surgery. I figured it will be cheaper than renting, in the long run, since I plan on doing geo-work for others.

I would love to connect with a community of people that are already Terra-forming near the area I'm moving to.
 
Kelly Smith
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Brian McCune wrote:
I plan to buy a 3-ton mini-excavator to do all of the Geo-surgery. I figured it will be cheaper than renting, in the long run, since I plan on doing geo-work for others.


i would think we could use those services here on the pikes peak side of the valley as well.

i plan to rent one and add a swale and pond this year to see how things work with irrigation - after that there are a few other properties around that we would like to repeat this pattern on. please let me know once you have the machine. we would prefer to give a permie the money over the rental place

 
Nancy Hedberg
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Hi all, I'm also new to this forum. I have lived for last 15 years on35 acres in Wet Mountain Valley, Westcliffe area, on similar ground, although it appears we have more of the Ponderosa. I've became interested in fire mitigation and land restoration several years ago, especially after all the fires of recent years, watching our well and spring slow down to a trickle, and seeing the damage that we've done to our own piece of land after a short time. Have been doing much of the land restoration and fire mitigation myself by hand with limited large equipment. I'm a 50 year old female, what can I do? I am experimenting with burying the slash on a contour with forest litter, pine needles etc. as a form of water harvesting. After 3 years of my experiment, I think it's beginning to work. These pine needle swales act a little like beaver dams and they are quite resilient. PLUS, I don't have to haul the slash out, burn it, chip it and all the other methods. But you do have to bury it with the pine needles. They fall apart if you don't. After removing tree litter under some of the largest trees I am seeing grass returning and water is slowing. It's pretty exciting. I have buried some of these on contour swales / berms with composted manure, and have planted some grass seed just this spring, but only in areas where I can drive a truck. This was an area where we had driven on and caused a HUGE erosion problem. Now that " road is beginning to heal. We also have culverts in several places that dump unusual amounts of water on to our property. Another HUGE erosion problem. We created a catch basin for the sediment, which we've had to empty out the sand every year with a tractor, and still had overflow. This spring I have completed a contour berm with slash and manure to carry out the excess water across the pasture. I'm using the simplest of equipment, just the a frame thing to find the contour, and I eyeballed it a little to have it drop a little to carry the water downhill. Waiting for the first storm to fill it to see if it works! The other project that is part of all this, is creating small catch dams, starting at the top of the property, in all of the smaller ravines. I use rocks and my special pine needle "dams". I had to modify the catch dams, after reading, as they would in some ways create more erosion, if not properly made. The water would fall from the area above, and I needed to soften the blow with more rocks, and have the water gently descend with more rocks. It's been a joy to do this work, and as I have modified my technique, I am gaining more momentum, and am able to work faster and more efficiently. I am particularly satisfied with the idea that a 50 year old grandmother can accomplish much of the work herself, using the problem of what to do with slash as the solution!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Greetings Nancy, and welcome to permies forum. It's a great community. Your work sounds exciting, and I'm so glad it's going well. I've been working alone for several years too, 64 y o not grandmother in Grand Junction area. And I too am beginning to results compounding. I'd love to see your work. Can you post photos? I'd love to see your place too, but it is a fair drive from Westcliffe to Grand Junction.

Thekla
 
Nancy Hedberg
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Thanks Thekla for your reply, and you are certainly welcome to visit if you are in this part of the state! I Would look forward to talking to those who sort of understand what my "hobby" is without giving me that, you're crazy look! I will certainly post pictures, took some last fall, but would like to take some more.
 
brandon gross
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Without sounding like a complete dick I must preface with the fact that o googled Colorado pemies and found this thread, I'm looking for some permies that may live along I 25 to crash for the night. July 5 and check out what people have going on. Just finished the PDC at Paul's place and headin home.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
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wrong side of the mountains for my place Brandon.

thekla
 
Jake Parkhurst
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Hello Bob,

I see that in 2014 you were planning on building several ferrocement tanks in the future. I was wondering if you had finished those project, and if not, whether you were looking for volunteers anytime in the future.

Take care,
Jake
 
J K Johnson
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First rule of watershed management - Do no harm.
My concern with the gabion, same as was expressed earlier, is that it will fail and cause more damage. Often when they fail they narrow the flow = more velocity = more erosion.
If the gabion doesn't fail, then you'll have a strong drop on the downside during large events, which may cause more erosion. Often it's not the impact that takes out a gabion, but the undermining that takes place just below it. This tends to be the weak spot on any rock dam.
Patience - The land didn't get that way overnight. Often we want everything fixed overnight. If you haven't yet, study your wash closely for a long time. Get out there during an event and walk it, studying how the water flows. Do you have a flood plain? Is it cutting in a healthy manner (meandering and pooling) or just slicing through your property? How can you induce meandering, working with the natural flow?
A system of one-rock dams and other small features can start you on the right path, without a ton of work (it's labor intensive, but not like building gabions). Once the dams fill with sediment, go back and build another series on the back side of those, where needed. You can keep doing this, building up the bed of your arroyo over time. I've seen what happens to an arroyo when the gabion fails and causes harm. And what's left behind is far more work than putting it in ever was. When a one rock dam fails, you just build a new one. When a gabion fails, it can be a mess.
From what I can see, it never flows except from events? Is that correct? If so, then you don't really have much of a thalweg to work with. It would be nice to know if that's a recent development, from degrading the land, or if it's always been that way. A little research might reveal that this wash ran all year from a spring at one time. If that's the case, what can you do to promote that happening again? Might not be able to do much, if your neighbor up the watershed doesn't care. But it's good to know. Check your neighbor downstream too, to see what he's doing with his portion. Sometimes your worst erosion comes from below, in the form of headcuts.
I like your idea of Zuni bowls and a step system to minimize erosion and control the flow. You might look to see if you can totally overbuild one at the top of your watershed, providing a means to spread it liberally before it can cut through your land. At the very least, if done well, it should reduce the energy of big events as they plunge into your property.
Without being there, it's tough to know what can be done. I'm just throwing out this stuff because it came to mind as I read through the thread. If you don't have it yet, Bill Zeedyk and Van Clothier wrote the book you need to manage your arroyo - Let the Water do the Work. Read it three times.

General question for those that understand keyline well - In this case, with a pasture that's clearly growing well, is it really necessary? Could not controlled grazing accomplish as much in perhaps just a little more time? It's not like the land isn't healthy, from what can be seen in the pictures. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for keyline. With a budget, I'm just wondering if it's the best approach. Any insight is appreciated.
 
Nancy Hedberg
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Long Long time in replying to this thread, but I had promised to post pictures of my project of using fire mitigation slash to build hugelkultue berms and swales.  We have had so little rain, and no large flash flood type rainfall to really test my project.  We had one good rain that filled up our sediment pond that is fed by a culvert of water running off the subdivision road.  You can see how much sediment is accumulated in a short amount of time.  This water would run down the hill causing severe erosion.  I built a 300 foot berm swale with a slight drop so that when the pond was full, it would drain that water around the hill.  Took 2 years to wait for this event and it worked well, except I haven't fininished the berm, and it did drain down the hill at the end.  At least I know it works now and will be finishing that project.  This berm was created by burying slash from my mitigation project.
 
Nancy Hedberg
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Here are the photos of the sediment pond.
berm122-2.jpg
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Nancy Hedberg
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I also wanted to provide some photos of some of my smaller slash dams I have created to show how they are capturing water and sediment. 
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Nancy Hedberg
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I have recently starting creating large crescent shaped berms made of slash and duff.  My husband is standing in one I created below our house.  This area gets a lot of runoff from our house and our driveway.  You can see how high the water was and how deep the sediment captured is.
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Nancy Hedberg
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We also have a pretty deep ravine possibly similar to Bob Becker 's, where he is attempting gabions.  I will not attempt to put anything like my slash berms or gab ions as I have seen how powerful the water can get going through there.  What I have experimented with is a small section of one rock dams and I think it looks promising as they didn't get washed away. 
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Nancy Hedberg
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More pictures of some more of my on contour slash berm things.  Some are buried some are not.  They all seem to be filtering sediment.
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Nancy Hedberg
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Photos of my rock check dams in a small ravine.  The more on contour berms, rock check dams I create, the less sediment I see downhill and the more grass I see growing where it didn't grow before.
berm133.jpg
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Nancy Hedberg
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You might have too many contour swales when you can see them from space.  To the left of the house, you can see some of the contour lines created by slash and duff.
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Nancy Hedberg
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Another Google earth view of our pasture area with the sediment pond close to the road in upper left hand side.  Two buried slash berms radiate out.  We had started driving down the center of the is pasture when we first moved here and the two track caused horrible erosion.  Now we are trying to rectify that by filling in the tracks, diverting the water etc.  Lower picture is of how I built the hugelkulture berms.  Starting with longer branches, then with pine needles gathered from around large trees.  As we have livestock, covered that with composted manure.  The lower berm was in a soft soil area, so hand dug a swale as well.
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Tyler Ludens
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Great to see the low rock dams.  Pretty soon that arroyo will be grown in with grass, is my prediction, from my own experience with these little dams.  https://permies.com/t/53556/Creek-repair-rock-dams
 
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