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These ditches for storm runoff have become mosquito paradises

 
Rob Irish
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Hi everyone,

We have a low water table, and quite a high clay content in the soil. I'd say a long time ago, some old folks who owned the property dug up ditches that surround the house for 2 reasons. 1 to get rid of excess water and 2, to fill a large pond. Today however, these ditches basically are paradises for mosquitoes, and it is like having a wall of mosquito breeding houses just surround the house. The ditches never fully run off and dry out.

I've attached a photo showing these ditches (in white) around the house, and the bigger ditch it joins to which eventually flows out to our dam, and also runs off into a natural stream.

We've been brainstorming how to design a way forward with these ditches, and wanted to throw a few of these ideas out there and hopefully get some feedback from you folks.

1. Fill the ditches with river stones
The water would still run off, the ditches would become like pathways - mosquitoes would struggle moreso to make their way through the stones to the water below. Would this work? Would the stones eventually accumulate with soil and then the ditch stop working as intended?

2. There are mosquito products you can throw into ponds which apparently kill just larvae - are these ecological? And is it really sustainable to do this all the time?

What I like about the stone idea is that would could maybe try and make it look a bit more natural like a dried up river bed and you could walk on it instead of needing to hop over ditches like we do now. A bit like this picture

Many thanks,
Rob
ditches.jpg
[Thumbnail for ditches.jpg]
 
Rob Irish
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We are thinking of getting in somebody with a small earth mover to transform these straight lines into something more natural, like what I've done in the attached. In my opinion water doesn't like to travel in straight lines, and ditches should be done in snake like patterns.
ditches-redo.jpg
[Thumbnail for ditches-redo.jpg]
 
David Livingston
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Couple of questions Rob
instead of ditches how about swales
Products to kill the flies sounds a lot like DDT
Is the problem that the ditches need redigging so the water can flow either straight to the ponds where the wildlife will eat the flys or the water can soak in
 
Dawn Hoff
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I'm wondering if planting trees or mulching the ditches heavily would help the problem? If the water is absorbed by biological material immediately, the mosquitoes don't have anything to lay their eggs in.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I've been digging in a similar way around my house. The water doesn't stick around after the rain except for a a settling pond which holds a few hundred gallons of water all year. When it over flows it feeds the swales in my food forest area. Early in the season I had tons of mosquitoes. I'm not joking when I'm saying they literally covered some of the animal houses by morning every day. It was pretty terrible for a few weeks but I had a plan. DUCKS! As soon as they were ready to go out, they were given that little pond and a nice place to sunbathe. Within the day, the pond was clear of any living thing. Only the biggest bull frogs stuck around for a day or so. And no more mosquitoes. None. So ducks have my vote. You could also look into native fish (minnows) that might like to live in your ditches. They eat mosquitoes like a champ too.

good luck.

BTW I like the idea of adding a little curvature to your ditches. It really improves the looks.

 
bob day
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Water does like to run in straight lines in this sort of situation, but the curves at the square corners would work better , and filling with stones might require some maintenance over time as clay migrated into the stones. they sell a cloth type barrier here to prevent infiltration, but that might clog over time and slow the drainage defeating the original purpose of the ditch

bt (bacillus therengensis) is the trade name for a bacteria that will kill mosquitoes and is widely used by organic people, but it does have to be added over and over, maybe two or more times a season.

the first thing i think you need to do is observe and maybe ask previous owners or neighbors if they have similar installations and try and figure out exactly what the ditches do.

It sounds as if there is an outlet for the ditches so before filling with stones, it would be good to do a better leveling job on the bottom of the ditches so there was an even gradient from the most distant point to the exit. a good leveling job could eliminate the problem altogether, although a stone path does sound more functional for daily use-at the bottom of the stones, a corrugated pipe could help drain the ditches better, but is not absolutely necessary

water will not lay if it has a clear downhill slope to follow, this will mean digging deeper in places, and slight filling in others.

when the ditches have water laying in them, start at the exit and walk to the first place where water is accumulating, and either do a small fill or dig out the blockage until that water flows out, then walk to the next puddle, etc etc. if the bottom is really uneven, you may want to check your over all level so you have a better idea what needs filling and what needs digging out. It sounds to me like they just did a hurry up job to protect the house from ground moisture .

often a rake in those situations is as useful as a shovel, but again, it depends on exact dimensions, depth, width etc as to what is easiest

If the bigger ditch that drains everything backs up, then that is a different situation altogether and you may even want to dig a pond yourself farther away from the house that can accommodate all that wonderful water, and that could open a whole set of options for very productive use of the water, but slopes and property boundaries all figure into that design so it is probably too complex for a description here

 
allen lumley
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Rob Irish : To a man with a Hammer, all problems are nails, I had a neighbor with a dump truck won thought all landscape problems could be fixed with fill!

I am going out on a limb here and say that ditches close to the house make more problems then they solve ! All potential rainwater catchment should be
planned for, For the good of the structures foundations all water should be captured or diverted to drain away from the house, and All landscaping should slope
downhill from the foundations walls to sheet surface water away from your house !

If you are truly caught with an embarrassment of riches, could you divert some of your houses runoff towards roadside ditches !

Still, if the Ditches you inherited are not doing their job, we must see if they were or could be modified into Swales or possibly mini terraces on your hillside


This sounds like a simple permaculture project that got way over built over dug by an over achiever ! Or this may simply be a case
of Mother Nature taking back her own !

Most Swales are designed to slow the sheeting of water straight down a hill, holding it up within the swale line and allowing it to slowly sink in and raising the
water table at and down hill from that spot !

There is a type of Swale that has a spillway at (usually) one location. These types of Swales are properly designed to trap water off of a terrain feature like the
slope of a hill, slowdown and collect the runoff, and when the water all along the entire Swale starts to fill-up it will overflow at a spillway delivering most of the
collection of water off of that terrain feature to one location !

You can have a whole hillside of Swales delivering all the water to a spill way located at a specific terrain feature that delivers some of its Overfull to a second
lower Swale that channels the water along its contour line to a spillway and a third lower Swale. and on and on lower and lower !

I

So, you have to determine if the ditch digger was just carried away on his job, did not understand the usage of levels to stay on contour, or just did not plan
out a system that properly deals with clay soils !

It is also possible that after a large runoff of water in the spring your previous earth mover may have discovered that the water flowing over a spillway above
your pound was delivering silty, cloudy brown water into his pond, here he needed a settling basin with super filter water plants, reeds, rushes, Cattails!

I am wondering if Someone worried that the cloudy runoff would eventually fill the pond blocked off a spillway at that location !

While luck, and a little willingness to put on a rain suit and go out and walk along the Swale lines, there is not much maintenance needed with well made
Swales properly on Contour lines ! The Spillways however will require lots of attention, and do need to be examined for problems, The fact that the best way
to spot those problems when they are small is to - put on a rain suit and go check on them when they are working !

So To much clay in your soil can interfere with any absorption of surface waters, and this is a special problem require other better trained minds then mine!

It certainly looks like the hillside has great potential for full sun for a good part of the day!

I would start for now at the location where the runoff from the ditches does/does not drain into the pond, see what you can do there to improve or create a
spillway, and then walk the line of the ditch looking for obstructions, tangled branches and leaves, I have seen incredible natural wattle and dab structures
mother nature has made in several flooding conditions and would expect anything, Where possible the up hill side should be protected from collapse with
Rip/rap, groins And gabions ! Other than that, all the spoil from the dig should be tossed to the downhill side and trees and bushes planted below that !

There are a few good books on the subject of Swales and someone can hopefully mention a few, don't forget to do a Google search here at Permies For
more information!

Take a lesson from the previous try at Swales and terraces, if some one could not do it in a straight line, doing it with heavy equipment in Curves and Arcs
will just be that much harder, and you will be left with a series of interconnected Muck Piles and Gullies, with your top soil as likely as not sitting under fresh
piles of clay and mineral soils, for a couple of years ! Much like clear-cutting only worse !

This is a little outside my field of expertise living between r the Adirondack Mountains and the St. Lawrence River plain in the wet North east, but I think
you should investigate the potential for what you already have before committing to a large Terraforming operation !

For the Good of the craft ! Big AL



 
elle sagenev
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Easy, get ducks.
 
bob day
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Hey Big Al, yes, you make a good point about that sort of ditch being not the best of possible solutions. Perhaps if we knew exact latitude and longitude we could google earth it and see contours, although really if you know how to draw in contours from google earth or whatever maps you might have available it might help us see what might be possible.

it might mean bringing in machinery to redo the landscape, but you could use that water to grow stuff rather than just trying to run it away from your foundation (and solve the mosquito problem at the same time

 
allen lumley
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Rob Irish : If you can get a topographical map of your location you may want to check out this information :

http://www.permies.com/t/40206/rainwater/Water-collection-locations-site

and here !

http://www.permies.com/t/40205/rainwater/Simulating-rainfall-water-catchment-usage

Also there is a final video that Burra Posted ! There are lots of good information here if you want to go that far in depth ! Big AL !

 
allen lumley
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Bob Day : In this instance it appears that we are being told that Rob Has soil that is waterlogged with nearly every rain! Mostly due to high Clay content!
I expect that close to his house he will have to use some type of raised beds !

In many places in the British isles there are entire neighbor hoods with turn of the LAST Century houses With complete water capture of Rainwater directly
off of the eaves, at the gutters and storage in the attic or upstairs Tanks, this water is the main water supply for the household with only a single tap off of
the municipal Mains located in the kitchen for cooking ! All other water used being soft rainwater!

While creating a special upstairs room to hold your supply of rainwater is very uncommon in the North Americas now it was more common in commercial
hotels here 100 -150 years ago ! Such a system gives you the benefit of tank height and a working pressure to deliver water to the ground floor !

My point here is Rainwater does NOT have to be caught at ground level to then be pumped for use at remote locations !

Just as important is what you do with any overflow to make sure it is diverted far enough away from the houses foundations, even allowing it to run to road
side ditches

Rob there is a good article on Using BT as a Larva-cide to kill mosquitos and black flies, at Wikipedia.

just be aware that there are some subspecies of Blood-sucking Mosquitos that do rather well by laying their eggs on dry Leaf litter to winter over and then hatch
out in the spring from that Mosquito Nursery ! There is no perfect one step way to kill all mosquitos! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Rob Irish
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Thanks so much Dawn, David, Craig, Bob, Allen & Danielle.

Craig / Danielle we are definitely going to start looking at ducks! I wonder if they'll be ok sleeping in the same building as our chickens. The 2 ponds here seem like they could enjoy some more birds. Do they go for all the small frogs though? We have a lot of frogs.

I'm not sure with these ditches whether they built them on contour - isn't highly unlikely they didn't when they are such straight lines?

Allen / David are you suggesting that perhaps we could even do away with the ditches and just basically catch the water near the house with swales, effectively feeding the water back into the earth?

Dawn I wondered the same thing about adding mulch, but I believe mosquitoes can even procreate in just moist leaves.

It turns out the little things I found to put in the water are actually BT based. Even though it isn't sustainable to buy these - we will be shipping in a bunch this year to get started. This summer was just unbearable to work outside in, and I can't imagine digging swales and planting crops when I have 30 mosquitoes on me the moment I walk out the door basically wearing winter gear in the blazing sun. Our goats just literally cried all day and didn't eat most of the time because they were just running away from biters. We had moments where we really questioned even staying on. A good metaphor to be reminded that even the smallest things can make the biggest difference

We have lots of dragonflies and swallows as well, so plenty of those predators. And minnows and other fish in the ponds. Ducks I think though could be the missing link because I don't see much (besides our chickens) digging through the mulch in the ditches to look for larvae.

We do live in a wet region, and based on the many ditches I've seen here it appears the Estonians drained a lot of bogs in order to make them arable for agriculture and forestry.

It has just been raining now so I can definitely get out there now with a rake or shovel and find these blocked up spots and help the flow a bit more. But since the ditches take so long to dry out, by the time they have, even when everything has run off, it is still enough time for larvae to hatch and mature. This is why I thought a thick layer of stones could help, to at least make it harder for mosquitoes to get down to the bottom - they aren't so great and moving through obstacles it seems.

With swales I thought previously they were only for people with hilly landscapes. Our land is very flat, our cellar is the biggest hill. But can swales even help with a super flat terrain?

The lat / long here is 58° 7'5.35"N / 24°35'0.92"E

I found a european topographic map overlay for Google Earth which I took a screen shot of in the attached. I'm not sure if it will show the contours of our land.
contours.jpg
[Thumbnail for contours.jpg]
 
David Livingston
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Rob
in short yes
Others are better to advise you than me on where they should go but if your present ditches are hoolding water you will need to work on them anyway and it might not be that much more work
DAvid
 
bob day
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Hi guys,

An interesting landscape you have, i found a house at the coordinates you gave and it appears you are almost dead center in a gulley about 50 ft elevation with the downhill side almost due east, maybe a little north.

difficult to say where your property lines might be, is that your pond to the west, perhaps 5+ ft higher than the house foundation?

First, what is your foundation like, slab, some sort of foundation piers, or do you have a below surface basement?

Your house definitely is in a difficult position, it actually might do better as a dam wall where it is located and it is pretty obvious why the ditches were installed, they are acting as a type of swale, (swales have been defined as a ditch on contour)

Stones may work, but they will slow the drainage down , so before you add the stones, work on the level at the bottom, you didn't address the issue of whether water lays in the main ditch after a rain, or does it run away pretty freely, if that does not drain, you may want to see if there is a way to lower the standing water there as well,
and you will have to determine the exact elevations, water will run even if it is only an inch in 50 ft, but the levels have to be very precise.(easy to do just by following where the water is laying--if you determine there is no good way to open the main drainage ditch, and it is holding water that backs up into your ditches around the house, it might be better to raise the overall levels of the ditches , but that should probably be compacted clay

again, giving deference to your actual on ground measurements, i would keep the south and west ditches, perhaps changing them to run on contour(although as flat as you are, it may not be worth the effort , and connect the west side ditch to the main ditch there on the north side of the house. the actual layout of those ditches is not as important as the level at the bottom of them, raise the level slightly on the west side and slope down from there the east side ditch is one i might rethink depending on your actual foundation conditions, how deep the ditches are etc, if the ditches are only a couple feet deep, they are practically swales anyway, if they are 4-5 ft deep, then you will probably need to keep the ditch on the east side, but you might be able to stretch it to a diagonal instead of more north and south as it appears from your drawing, running from south west to north east, or it could just be kept where it is

There are still lots of unknowns here, that could change things

how deep is the north side ditch, is it's level higher than the level of your ditches around the house? if so, that would also be an issue that needs to be addressed, and you might lower it or raise the ditches around the house, or even create a secondary ditch on the north side

how far exactly are the ditches from the house? 20-30 ft? more, less? it was difficult to see them on ge

In essence what has been done here is to create a small island for your house in what amounts to an intermittent river bed. you want water to run around the house without dissolving the sub soil and undermining foundations so in between rain events your goal needs to be drying these ditches out first and foremost, once they are dry mosquitoes will mostly disappear as a problem. if you still have problems with them breeding in leaves and wet grass etc, there are other bt relatives that can work under those conditions, and garlic oil is a fairly effective repellent, although seeking some other critters or plants that naturally grow there and repel or eat mosquito larvae would be a more permaculture solution, finding some things the repel the larvae and feeds you, or provides medicine or teas would begin to stack functions. most insects don't like strong essential oils, maybe some of the mints, lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon catnip, etc whatever grows easily and you can look up those as to their effectiveness at repelling the varmints.

by the way, what is that dark patch directly east and fairly close to the house?

so let's see

depth of ditches?
type of foundation?
distance of ditches from house?
property boundaries?

many of these things you will have to determine, and you probably want to keep the pond on the west, and that pond level might be a good starting point for swales that run all around on that contour above your house, this could be a productive tree growing system and a primary diverter of water from the house, with spillways somewhere to the east of the house, like a big horse shoe first line of diversion of the water, then your ditches could maybe be safely filled with stones, but do lots of observation, and really make sure the water is not laying in the soil close to the foundation for prolonged periods.

Big AL, your idea about an attic tank is a great one, if i ever get a second floor built, i've been thinking along those lines, why let the water run down to a low tank and then have to pump back up. why not keep it high, and let it run down on demand. of course in the meantime, all roof runoff needs to drain north east, or possibly piped up to the pond, if levels are right, but you probably have enough water that that is unnecessary.

anyway, that's all i've got for now, see if any of this sounds possible
 
allen lumley
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Rob Irish : A short answer is Yes! Because with nearly flat land or flat-ish land, the water sheets off slower and mini-swales can be more effective than
Big Swales on hill sides !

O.K., having said that I have a 'mea culpa ' moment here! Our neighbors kid was a 'latchkey child' who came to our house after school every day, and
we were like proud family when she was accepted to do a senior year abroad in Estonia, and stayed in a fishing village.

I quickly picked up that your climate is most similar to Canada's British Columbia, but after hundreds of video-log hours of stoney shingle Beaches,
and Stone Houses I was thinking of rolling hills and lots and lots of Stoney soil !

Anyway' geoff lawton puts out a lot of knowledge in his on-line lectures, and you can learn a lot, without spending a lot, If you are not looking for a
PDC Certificate, there is even a special on-line earthworks course, which is valid everywhere, but both more difficult and also easier to adapt for our
wetter climate and flatter topography I THINK !

Here is a starter link ! Good luck! For the Good of the Craft ! Big Al

http://youtu.be/ouZn9uDIu6M
 
Rob Irish
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Bob, that is our pond to the west (i'm not sure its 5ft higher elevation than the house - but i could be wrong - walking to that pond feels like a slight decline and then a slight incline.. i would even daresay it is level to the house - how can I be sure / measure this? there is also a pond to the east - that is probably the dark patch you mean, which probably isn't so visible but definitely is significant. I don't have anything yet long enough to measure the depth of the one on the east but it is at least 6m deep. This pond has been a local fishing hole for a long time. One of the neighbours brings round fish they've caught that are too small to eat to breed in there. Attached is a map with reliefs and showing the overall outline of the property.

You can see the property outline above as well, which used to be a part of one property. It looks like past owners needed some more cash and split the property like this - that property above was clear felled about 20 years ago, taking about 95% of the trees in the winter. What is left now is just bush full of coppice. Its horrible. Swampy and abandoned. We offered to buy the property because it is just owned by some timber company who's plan it seems is just buy some land cheap, clear fell, and not do any forest management what so ever. In Sweden, this is illegal - you can't just clear fell and not replant or manage - whether you are private or government. In Estonia, only the government has to replant if they clear fell, but private can do whatever they like, for now. I'd say that is pretty standard across the world it seems. Anyways, having that right next door is not helping the mosquito and biting fly situation.

Foundation was originally stone, that has been recovered with some kind of crete. Definitely bottom log issues in the house due to poor drainage. This is something I've been correcting so that the water only falls away from the house. I'd say that was the general idea they had previously but the house was neglected I would say fairly well 10y before we came along.

The north ditch level is lower then the level of the ditch around the house.

Distance of the ditches from the house is about 10m (30ft) in every direction. More like 60ft in the south.

I think it is quite like Canada here big Al, minus the rocky mountains What a small big world that your neighbour has been to this tiny part of the world!

So with the swales, I've been walking around the property and seeing where water is pooling. Closeby is often a contour that is higher, maybe a foot higher and about 5-6 feet away. I take it these would be idea places to look at growing some trees and doing swales? I've gradually been looking at whatever video I can on this, including Geoff Lawton's stuff and I think I'm starting to understand how I can apply it. Very interesting stuff all this.

Many thanks,
Rob

property-bounds.jpg
[Thumbnail for property-bounds.jpg]
 
bob day
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geoff remarks that our eyes are poor determiners of level, so an inepensive way would be to use an a frame level, guessing you can see a utube of that if you aren't familiar with it, and you could try using that westerly pond as the starting point, and then walk the level around, i rechecked the ge levels and it does show the pond 5 ft higher, but my personal experience with google earth levels is that they are ok for a general plan but really need to be ground verified. if you had a laser level or a telescope type surveyors level, that would tell you the difference between pond and house, but just walking a level line around the house from the pond might give you a better idea once you see true levels. does the main drainage ditch back up and hold water in your ditches? if so that could be a problem and it looks more and more like you just have a really high water table, and are surrounded on three sides by higher ground
the main ditch north of you could be connected to the pond with a contour swale that runs all the way to the road on the south, but turns up at the road to keep all runoff from that hill in the main ditch
it also looks like the road to the south probably is conducting a lot of hard surface run off right to that edge of you property, so i would say a compacted berm along that edge would keep the water on the road till it gets past the house,, but as you investigate and walk around in the rain watching the water travel, you will be able to verify (or not) where the water is coming from and going to

I doubt you will be able to do much about your high water table except maybe plant trees that will suck it up and pump it out, but that's going to take some time, so just trying to keep excess surface runoff away from the foundation, and leveling those ditches properly so they drain quickly is going to be the best mitigation i can see from here, connecting that west side ditch over to the north ditch might not be the best idea if you end up using that north ditch as your main drainage and it ends up carrying lots of water down past the house on the north side.

and i know you came to us with the narrow problem of mosquitoes, so i hesitate to start trying to get too involved in the rest of you design, but there are certainly lots of options once you get the basics under control.

So read up , maybe take a course when you can, and that clearcut is just waiting for the hand of a permaculture artist, good luck obtaining it.



 
allen lumley
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Rob : You can mount a Rifle type telescope on top of a carpenters level, 2'-3' long make sure it is level itself, and then you can sense someone out to 'Tie a rag on a bush,

With a little practice you can run long lines and easily have less than an error 0f 3'' and less than 6'' over a very long Run ! Google surveying and watch out for crap on
You tube 💩🙊


Probably the single most important tool you have is your eyeball, you can learn to read terrain it is a self taught skill used wherever " New territory'' was opened up!

I see lots of Walks in therein in your future !

Generally speaking any Cement/Concrete cladding over top of masonry foundation is bad, but then again yours does not have to be Portland type cement based Concrete

Your foundation and Mud Sill issues deserve a Forum Thread all by itself, There is a common saying heard often by local farmers as they look at their buildings, and the
buildings of their neighbors_ " To keep a good roof you have to have a good foundation'' - ''To have a good foundation you have to have a good roof !

I have noticed Real Estate Sales people use that more and more when they are trying to turn your eye away from some other problem !

You have a lot of Knowlegable People here at Permies who can offer some help ! Big AL
 
allen lumley
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Rob Irish : Look what Burra M. Found for you!


http://www.nzdl.org/gsdlmod?e=d-00000-00---off-0hdl--00-0----0-10-0---0---0direct-10---4-------0-1l--11-en-50---20-help---00-0-1-00-0-0-11-1-0utfZz-8-10&cl=CL2.11.4&d=HASH01ddf12679fcd1bd96b4344b.7.5&x=1

For the good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Rob Irish
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thanks for all that advice Bob and Allen.

I am familiar with the a-frame and fortunately one has been left behind here in the shed so I will have to get used to using this to map out contours. I am wondering if it matters about the size of the a-frame. Like with a more flat terrain, does a bigger a-frame serve better with long poles around 6-8ft long or shorter poles?

I'm wondering if with a-frames if its possible to to create a kind of metric / ruler on the horizontal bar. So say for each step I can jot down the decline or incline, then tally up the results and from the number of steps work out what the elevation is from a point. Surely people must have been able to do this before they had telescopes? I've been eying off a laser level for some of this home wood work. Its been tricky lining some things up without one.

You are right about the road, it is higher elevated then us and without putting much thought into it we had already started building a mini hugel bed 1ft high that runs parallel to the road, just a little bit down the slope The idea wasn't for catching water, but just for some separation from the road / privacy. The plan is to grow a row of trees along this. Logging trucks and hunters also seem to like driving by quite quickly which throws up a fair amount of dust when it does get dry, so hopefully in a time a tree stand would help minimise this.

South of the west pond, we put a 5ft hugel about 50 ft long back in spring in a spot where there is a lot of water accumulating at the bottom of a mini valley. The idea was that it would soak up a bunch of this water and fingers crossed make a garden bed that requires little watering. In reality, what we ended up with was root veges down bottom that rotted from too much water, and the wicking didn't work as expected with the top getting dry often. I'm not going to jump to conclusions too much yet, but I would say being the first year at this the wood and soil hasn't really combined to make a real living absorbing hugel bed. I am thinking though that there could be another hugel on that same slope to even collect some of the trees. This is really hard explaining so I will take some photos.

On the other side of the road is a largish water way which connects to the stream / river running to the west of the house.

You know just studying this relief map I attached before, I wondered why in the property just above (north to the house) it looks like there was a stream there, like perhaps there could be a spring, but on the maps the stream isn't marked. There is just the old footprint of a stream. Then I remembered somebody around here saying that a pipe which crosses the road was destroyed a long time ago on the far east side of the property. Then it occurred to me that a stream actually used to run straight through the diagonal of the property. Only now it all goes through the runoff along side the road. I wondered why through our forest on the east side there are all these curving pools of water, and thought that perhaps that the owner had dug them out to make it look like a natural water way, but now it all makes sense what actually happened. Instead of this water being cut off and stagnating, a fresh supply would have always been coming through. I'm no expert, but would you say cutting off a stream that runs through a forest would have a fairly big impact on that micro environment?

We were told the pipe destroyed was an accident, but if it wasn't an accident and done intentionally, would there a reason they did this? And say this happened 20 years ago, and we all of a sudden opened up this pipe again, is this going to cause mayhem? I'm going to go and take some photos of the stream of the other side of the road.

8 months later after offering to buy the land next door there's been no response. We offered more than market value of it if it was even full of trees ready to cut. They must have too much money to care. Will try again a bit down the track.

Allen, yeah I have learned about how it is bad to mix stones with cement. I'm not sure it is Portland - it seems more natural somehow... breaks easier. But I'm new to this and have little idea. We picked a place with a tonne of problems that is for sure - but in doing so, learned a mountain of things in a bit over a year we've lived here so far.

Many thanks,
Rob
stream-footprints.jpg
[Thumbnail for stream-footprints.jpg]
Footprints of a stream?
swirvy-pools.jpg
[Thumbnail for swirvy-pools.jpg]
Swirvy pools left behind from old stream?
stream-old-vs-new.jpg
[Thumbnail for stream-old-vs-new.jpg]
Pink shows the new stream, vs green path shows where stream used to go.
 
Rob Irish
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Thinking about this more, that far north ditch which connects to the big pond on the west, I have wondered why they dug the ditch for that which extends into the forest. I can understand why they would connect it to the point where the ditches are taking water away from the house, but why does that big ditch extend further? I thought they might have been trying to drain these swurvy pools, but now I think that they must have dug it as far so that it would actually take water from the stream that used to exist there. Possibly to divert and fill up the pond in the first place.

Asking about the history from neighbours we've had really vague answers. Apparently when they dug the big pond, they just took all that clay and covered a couple acres to the east of the house with a bulldozer.

To my knowledge streams and rivers are protected areas in Estonia. You can't clear cut close to them. So I think it is interesting that this stream was conveniently cut off from the property it seems around the same time as the forest being clear cut. I think its about 70ft close to a water way you can't fell - which over about 1/2 mile stretch of these 2 properties the stream ran through is quite a bit of wood to miss out on.
 
Rob Irish
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I can now confirm that these swurves are 100% connected to the stream that used to exist here. I'm surprised I couldn't connect the dots before. I went with a camera this morning to make a video of it. This stream is actually much bigger than I thought - at some points 3m (10ft) wide. Strange I've heard people say you should wait a year before doing anything. Just observe. Quite cool that these pretty obvious things are only just becoming apparent to me. I guess we've been so overwhelmed with it all it has been hard to see some of the most obvious.

There is no joining pipe under the road. The road just cuts it off completely and we are left with a dead stream in our forest.

I will upload a video later showing this property a bit - hopefully it helps
 
Rob Irish
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After being there this morning, this is actually more like how the stream ran:
stream-more-like-this.jpg
[Thumbnail for stream-more-like-this.jpg]
 
allen lumley
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Rob : Water rights are what ever the local history of the area says they are, the mere fact that the stream was diverted at some time in the past, MAYBE

considered 'Prima Facie' evidence that this was done with the full knowledge of the former owners of your property! This Probably means that you Don't have

the 'Right of Discovery'
of a wrong that was done to the value of your property that you are now just becoming aware of !

However, ' The peoples rights' to expect undisturbed water courses and protected (In Theory) by the local government has been violated, and in that case generally

there is no expectation of 'a statute of limitations' on the crime !

Only a Lawyer could advise you on local interpretation of 'Water Rights'


So it appears (?) that when the stream was cut-off / diverted to the west of your property line, it now follows the road to the west of your property,crosses the
east west road at a crossroads intersection and then flows easterly parallel with and south of that road !

The new stream that follows the road to the west of your property -which side of that North Side road does the stream run on now !

Walk your property boundary with both roads and mark on Your map the location of all drainage ditches and ALL Culverts and in which direction
they drain, does the original dug drainage ditch extend to the road edge on the western boundary of your property, is it higher or lower?


There certainly was a culvert where the road in front of your place crossed over the top of Your old steam bed. Even though most of the water has been diverted,

the old stream bed is still channeling all the water from that property north and west of you, which brings us back to-

Where is the culvert that allowed the old stream bed to drain across the road to the south What condition is it in, AND could the depth of that culvert be increased
to reestablish the stream beds ability to carry of its former burden of seasonal run-off?

Part of your problem may be in the areas that the spoil from your pond was dumped, could it be possibly be blocking the stream beds 'natural' drainage, If this

could be an issue it would need to be resolved before asking for 'Wrongs to the publics rights' to be addressed !

Congratulations, brush up on your Geometry, you are going to become surveyor in everything but name. Finding Your property markers is a very good way to start !

Thinking this thing this far through- has given me a headache and I am going back to Bed ! For the Good of the Cause ! Big AL



 
Rob Irish
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Thanks so much Allen. Appreciate you bending your brain to think about all this!

The water is running north, coming from the south east forest. So we have 2 rivers at each ends of the property (east and west). The east one is what gets diverted, and eventually merges with the west.

The ditch running along the road is on the other side, not our property. That is actually all government forest to the south and south east. There has also been a ditch on our side of the road, that doesn't run all the way along the road, and I've been told that there was another pipe added there that has also collapsed, but this one was created so that water would spill from our forest, into the ditch on the other side of the road. Am I making sense?

I'll draw it on a map (see attached).

I tried to find the culvert this morning to little avail that let the water pass. I would be over the moon if it does exist and just turns out it is blocked up a bit. Will try properly to find it.

Enjoy your rest - I will try and work on the other questions you asked about the levels.
the-ditches.jpg
[Thumbnail for the-ditches.jpg]
 
bob day
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sorry i have to work this morning, so this will just be about the a frame, besides it sounds like big Al has a better handle on your descriptions of streams and legal stuff etc.

anyway, yes, a frames can be calibrated to show differences in elevation, just find a level surface and put marks at different elevations of one leg over the other, this can tell you rise, and compared with distance between the feet it can tell you grade

over larger distances, the line level or sight level will be more convenient, but the a frame will work if you're careful recording and have a well calibrated a frame.

my experience re: the length of the legs has more to do with how crowded the area is with trees and other obstacles--on flat land with nothing to catch the legs and make it difficult, a larger a frame might work fine, usually you don't leave markers at every place the a frame foot comes down anyway, and on very flat ground, often you can be creative with your swale placement by managing the depth of the swale rather than relying on surface changes. geoff noted that the very gradual slope in the greening the desert project, he would do it differently and regulate the spacing by the distance between swales rather than following the strict contours.

there are many elements to consider, and it sounds like you're really starting to penetrate into deeper levels of understanding of how your propertymight rather interract with the rest of the landscape. so spend a while watching more and don't try and figure it all out all at once, just gather bits of data and enjoy wharever you're working on and understanding will become clearer and clearer over time.less work, more fun-

and depending on the wood used temps etc it can take a couple years for the wood to turn into the sponge. and remember, filling wet areas isn't always the best answer, many cultures would see those natural wet areas as another place for a pond or paddy and be planting some aquatic crop. aquaculture can be much more productive than land based agriculture,

 
allen lumley
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Rob and Bob : O. K. , I think I have got it now! The stream flowed North and North IS the top of the map ! Correct (?! !!!)

It seems that We have a timeline and can probably identify the most likely culprits!

It seems most unlikely that after the stream was diverted, the original owner of your property would then decide to dig his ditches
as the probable return on that investment would be so small !

It is more likely that the ditch along Your near North boundary pre-dated the major stream diversion.

Where the original stream bed left your northern neighbors property there must be an intact culvert across the Roadbed at that
location, all the drainage from you and your northern neighbor has to go somewhere, it is possible that your local highway crew
salvaged the original culvert to use at another location or it failed and then was replaced with a much smaller culvert that is Merely
adequate to carry away the drainage of your two properties, but is too small for Heavy rain, or possibly is not set deep enough
down into the road bed or is in bad repair !

Bec the water coming from your south drained higher elevations than your property, It is still conveyable
that when really heavy rains come your "Blue Ditch'' actually receives additional water through the culvert under the road when
the stream height to elevated during 'high water events'

Even though you are the one living with the aftermath, If this is the Case it is not your problem !

With your neighbors understanding that you only want to walk along the stream bed to check for a buildup of flotsam* and jetsam*
acting as a Stream Bed Dam, you can check that out and the condition of the culvert on the far end !

That still leaves the question of where the water drains from- and where it drains to- along the Western border of your property,

It would seem possible to extend it towards the road and let a road side ditch drain it away !

As you have determined that the new stream bed/ditch borders Government Forest lands, then they had a hand in redirecting the
stream, Nearly Always when a law is written the government includes a way to exempt itself from its own laws !

Good luck, I do think when you eliminate the high areas of your boundary ditc,h and fix the culverts, and possibly deal with snags and
blockages in the old stream bed as it carries your run-off North- Your Situation should improve markedly !

For the Craft ! Big AL
 
Rob Irish
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Bob I tend to agree about not just trying to get rid of the water. Back in Australia we are constantly thinking how to save every drop. Actually there the water tank up high above the first floor is what I grew up on. Here in this part of Estonia though water shortage has never crossed my mind.

I think aquaculture could be ideal here.

Looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and mapping out some contours and to see if I can make some sense. I can see now how I can calibrate the a-frame so that I will be able to record elevation drops / increases. Thanks a lot for that tip.

Definitely trying to just take it easy and look for the lighter fun side of it all.

For our hugel we picked only already mushroom inhabited wood, mostly birch and right down the bottom a little bit of some 10 year old fallen scotch pine. I have a feeling next year it will be more integrated.

Allen, thats right North is north on that map. This evening I went for another look for the culvert and couldn't find when. My neighbour on the east was actually right at the intersection and we had a conversation in Estonian. He said there are no culverts and he has similar water issues. He said that the major ditches along the road there were dug when the Germans were here between 1937 - 1940! Apparently they dug them by shovel! All that talk though I didn't get to really look for myself if there were culverts or no, and if they might be jammed up with flotsam or jetsam!

I attached a diagram of the map showing the water flow direction of the west pond connected to the ditches around the house. Hope that clears it up.

In light of this new information it's possible this "disconnect" with the stream may have even happened longer ago than I thought. I don't know for sure - how long do the remnants of a stream stick around for after it's been cut off?

ditch-waterflow.jpg
[Thumbnail for ditch-waterflow.jpg]
 
allen lumley
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Rob : Damn, I let that one get by me when I proof read! Thats what the stars were for, They are actually British Admiralty Terms , enshrined by
Lloyds of London, and have the Force of Maritime Law ! Look that up in your funkinwagnal and enjoy the rest of your day ! Big AL
 
Rob Irish
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I had to look up a dictionary to see what you were talking about with those Admirality Terms Allen

We just found a map from 1948 which confirms a couple things a) these ditches along the road were built by then and b) there is a stream definitely running right through the property at that time. I don't know if we can assume whether or not the stream has been cut off from the road at this stage, but I would say that if the ditches along the road were built nearly 10 years earlier, and this stream is still being marked on a map, then it probably was still connected with a culvert. I highlighted the part of the map which back then was this property, and the adjoining property to the north 1 property.

Would be great to speak to the past owner, but he's Russian and that adds a big language barrier.
1948-map.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1948-map.jpg]
 
allen lumley
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Rob and Bob : Geofflawttons latest ! Enjoy !

webpageearthworks course

Big AL
 
bob day
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Hi guys, very interesting , it seems like i was right, that your house is sort of in a gulley, but when i saw your plot of the flow in the ditches, it totally changed my view, i backed out on google earth to get more elevations in the broader country and now see why the actual flows are more north west, the localized view right close to the house seems to want to drain south east. but you have as much water coming at you from the east as you do from the north and south, and it looks like you don't have access to swale those east slopes, so that east side ditch becomes a primary catch for water coming from the higher ground on that side.

i'll be interested to see what your ground verification turns up as you walk around with the a frame. maybe you can show us the actual on the ground contours and elevations once you get them mapped out.
 
Rob Irish
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Bob, I've never really noticed just how much variation there is the terrain here. I've started to see a lot of places where water could be caught / slowed down before it reaches these low points on the property, which would definitely do a lot to reduce areas that are often puddled, even long after rains.

I'm going to do my best to create a proper map of the contours which should be very time consuming but worthwhile! My mind is going a bit loopy at the moment thinking of how to plot it all out but I have a few ideas.

As far as the culvert goes - I really had a good look this morning with a shovel poking around and couldn't find any evidence of a culvert at all. I think it would be safe to say it doesn't exist. I mean the mouth of the stream where it joins to the ditch is about 3m (10ft) wide - 1/2ft deep, so I think it would be a pretty obvious culvert if there was one right? The culvert that "got destroyed" a neighbour said, was not a culvert that was intended to keep the stream running from one side of the road to the other, but to overspill water from our roadside ditch to the other side, which was apparently about 50m (150ft) further west along the road. It was destroyed when an energy company came through and laid down electricity under ground a few years back.

So we are thinking about what we need to do next and who we need to talk to about convincing the local government to either a) ideally come and dig up a section of the road and put in a culvert or b) let us at least pay for it ourselves. I think we have a pretty good case that this old stream bed is a paradise for mosquitoes and that our natural water ways should be protected. I don't know if we'll need to get a expert to come out and do an impact study to confirm that cutting off a river might have detrimental effects to us or the forest, if there is one, or whether really anybody cares, whatever the case is.

Could you or anybody advise me on some research which might help this cause? e.g. on the importance of retaining natural water ways? or the impact of cutting off natural streams? I imagine its like the impact of dams only smaller - or do governments think this is insignificant? I know EU is pretty protective of their rivers - but maybe this isn't classified as one, or perhaps it was classified incorrectly? It seems just as big of a stream/river/creek that runs to the west of our property.
 
bob day
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Hey Rob,

something else occurred to me as i was flying around looking in general at the surrounding area and where houses and clearings were located, and there may be a pattern of building at the low spots in the terrain. lots of hills, and then go down to a valley and there's a clearing--don't know exactly why, and not sure how prevalent it actually is, but i did wonder at the placement of your house and then seeing identical placements nearby started to wonder what the reasons might be. might be an interesting conversation with some of the older people. they may know without knowing they know, so pushing a little in that direction might yield some interesting data. or maybe you might have an idea, why there instead of a little up the slope off the gulley floor out of the water?

 
Rob Irish
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Bob,

I wonder if this has been done for a reason or not, picking the low spots. What would be the benefit in that? Could it be perhaps that down lower there is less wind / more warmth?

Will definitely try and find out if there is any method to the madness from the locals.

Thanks for this.
 
Rob Irish
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So I calibrated the a-frame which was in the barn using a typical level. Found 2 points where the horizontal and tied up a weight with a string and weighted for it to 0. Then marked a bunch of points.

Just learned the hard way that I assumed the horizontal bar on the a-frame was made level - it wasn't. So my first contour around our hill / cellar eventually drops about a foot over just 20ft. Kept telling myself my eyes were decieving me.. .The A-FRAME KNOWS!

Going to make my own now

Just on this, are a-frames used for things other than contours? If they used this a-frame which is not level, could this possibly play a part in poor ditch making? Just thinking if you use the a-frame on one side (not flipping from side to side) then you'll always be going on the incline (while on other side always decline). Or, have I got it all wrong and thats how you make a ditch - by making your a-frame on a slight angle - so when it centres you know you're on a decline?
 
bob day
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First of all, i do measure and cut equal lengths and my horizontal bar is level. it's just too easy for me personally to do it that way, and then i can put a 2' level on the bar and don't have to mess with the string. the string swings and takes time, the level bubble is quicker.

But a frames using the string method don't have to be equal lengths and nothing about them has to make any sense except the joints can't wobble, and the initial marks need to be done with a little care.

if you have surface water and can use the water to mark the level point on the cross bar that would be one way, although easier is to just mark where the feet are, mark where the string crosses, reverse the feet locations, mark the bar again, then find the midpoint between the two string marks. if the string is in the same place both ways the ground there is level
 
Rob Irish
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Thanks for explaining that Bob.

I went ahead and created my aframe today with nice even measurements. My first contour has been marked on the highest point of the property (which is actually just our cellar) and the swaling begins!

Something interesting, which is clearly obvious to everybody here, is that while it has been raining here a lot lately and most of the soil is saturated, the soil on the edges of the cellar was only just wet.. kind of sandy. So all the water is just running off it, taking lots of the top with it. I can see now how this cellar can become a fertile growing area, while also playing a part in reducing the amount of water pooling in the grassy areas below. Very cool!

I'm still wrapping my head around how I go about translating the markings I make on contour to an actual map I can share online. When you do this sort of thing, is it just done fairly roughly (the map drawing) with estimations?
 
bob day
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yes, rough drawings are fine, pay attention to erroneous details that aren't maybe obvious on the maps (like the ditches aren't visible on GE), and locate things as closely as possible--Google earth has an elevation counter that moves with the cursor and a path tool that you can use to plot contours. so you might look at the west pond and see 57', then try and find other markers perhaps at 58' or so depending on the depth of your swale that will end up being level with the top of the pond and see where that contour takes you (just a for instance)

Then go out and check the ground and see if it mostly follows the map you made, and any variations or notable details mark as closely as you can, but keep it all loose while you're starting, it doesn't have to be the end design yet, if there does come a time when those precise measurements are necessary you can do the precision one time instead of many times along the way as you refine the design farther and farther

usually though precision is mostly necessary for buildings and small spaces, and they take care of themselves more on the ground with a tape measure than from the air with a camera

anyway, that's my take on it

 
Rob Irish
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That makes sense. Just having a rough idea of the landscape is enough to work out where the water is flowing and pooling. I will get to work, hopefully I get this done before all the snow comes so I can maybe do planning over winter.

From what I've gathered the google earth terrain is very grotesque and really only shows dramatic elevation shifts. It doesn't even show that we have a 12ft high cellar / hill at all and it has been there for at least 20 years.

Thanks again.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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