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preparing for swales

 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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Greetings, When last I had the tractor at the lower ranch I dug catchments in the channels the water took as it headed off to see the wizard. I've hand dug a swale since then.

The water on its way causes erosion, this is my attempt to control it. You should be able to see the spots of water across land. The water is three to four feet deep. When next I have the tractor down there, I plan a series of swales starting at the highest point of the spread.

Richard
swale.JPG
[Thumbnail for swale.JPG]
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3774
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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There ya go richard, looks like you will be able to catch all sorts of water!
Post more pictures when you get it all done.
 
Jon La Foy
Posts: 89
Location: Hopkinsville, KY (Western KY) Zone 7
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That is pretty awesome. I just recently watched geoff lawton's "Permaculture for Profit" and the owner of the farm featured did pretty much the same thing. At the nighest point of elevation on his land, he dug what I think was nine depressions. He called them ponds but they never maintained the water. When it would rain they would harvest the water and from there it would, in a controlled manner, roll down the hill and irrigate the whole farm. Very neat concept. Even though he wasn't greening the desert, I am sure it would still work in dry lands. You'll just need to provide some kind of shade to prevent evaporation, if you plan on keeping them, that is.
 
Helen Gilson
Posts: 38
Location: Zone 6 Ohio but interested in Zone 6 Southwest
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Thanks for posting this. I get the use of a bunyip to gauge elevations but I don't understand where the swale should go once I know the contour. I keep reading Swales can go really wrong if not planned correctly. I guess I'm too much of a visual learner!
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 113
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 107
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,400' Zone 8a
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greening the desert
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Fred Patrick wrote:Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.

Grant Schultz uses GPS to do keyline - http://www.permaculturevoices.com/podcast/permaculture-voices-podcast-034-permaculture-2-0-designing-a-profitable-broadacre-perennial-farm-with-grant-schultz/
 
Will Meginley
Posts: 112
Location: Concord, New Hampshire
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Fred Patrick wrote:Has anyone been using the Handheld GPS (with altimeter) for walking the land, flagging the topographical lines of elevation for an idea of where to put swales? It seems like that would be a great way to do it.


The altimeter on handheld GPS units is not accurate enough for this purpose. (As an experiment: turn your GPS unit on and just stand in one place for a bit. You'll probably notice your "elevation" shifting up and down a 5-20ft range of values.) A survey-grade GPS might have an accurate enough altimeter (I've never used one so I don't know), but if you don't already have one an A-frame level would be a couple thousand dollars cheaper... And about as fast if you factor in reading the manual and figuring out how to make the unit work.

Posted here and in reply to the same question in coaxing Paul Wheaton out of the barn.
 
Dean Howard
Posts: 113
Location: NE ARIZONA, Zone 5B, 7K feet, 24" rain
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This is Fred Patrick... May I change my name, so I won't look like an idiot?
This was an AHAH moment... you have a point! : )
 
Tom Connolly
Posts: 178
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I think it would be more fun to hook a gps onto a remote controlled toy jeep and drive it all over the property All you need to do is find some way for the gps to collect the data.
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Helen Gilson wrote:Thanks for posting this. I get the use of a bunyip to gauge elevations but I don't understand where the swale should go once I know the contour. I keep reading Swales can go really wrong if not planned correctly. I guess I'm too much of a visual learner!


Helen,

Visualize (or better yet, spray paint) a line connecting all the points one marks with the level. This paints a visual marker for the swale. This line should then be the downhill lip of the swale that is dug. Of course the dirt that comes out of the ground will be mounded up on top of this line. Since water seeks it's own level the contour edge needs to be to the down hill side of the swale. That keeps the water level in the trench; and not flowing left or right in the swale. Does that make it any clearer?

 
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