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jesse markowitz
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Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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Another starter list. Looking for some input!

White Belt-
build hugelkulture beds, at least 4 feet tall
Grow x amount of food on a hugelbed while only watering 3 times in a growing season
seal a small pond using pigs and/or gleying
establish microclimates to grow food in a hugelkulture that is at least one agricultural zone higher than the area you live in (ex you live in zone 5- grow plants from zone 6 or higher)

Green Belt-
build hugelkulture beds at least 8 feet tall
Grow x amount of food on a hugelbed while only watering 2 times in a growing season
seal a medium sized pond using pigs and/or gleying
use earthworks to create wetter and dryer microclimates within x feet of each other
crown a dirt road and make water ditches so that the road does not erode
grow food in a hugelkulture bed that is at least two agricultural zones higher than the area you live in (ex you live in zone 5- grow plants from zone 7 or higher)
grow perennials in a hugelkulture bed that is at least one agricultural zone higher than the area you live in (ex you live in zone 5- grow plants from zone 6 or higher)
use earthworks to slow water runoff in an area with significant slope
design an earthwork that creates a microclimate with a 10 degree difference in temperature in various spots

Brown Belt-
build hugelkulture beds, at least 12 feet tall
Grow x amount of food on a hugelbed without watering at any point during the year
grow perennials in a hugelkulture bed that is at least two agricultural zones higher than the area you live in (ex you live in zone 5- grow plants from zone 6 or higher)
make a medium sized pond that will fill up with water within a year solely through precipitation and runoff

Black Belt-
Design a multi-tiered hugelkulture bed at least 14 feet tall
Make a large pond that will fill up with water within two years solely through preicpitation and runoff

I intentionally made lots of these tasks vague. How long should any of these hugel beds be? How big is a large pond, or a medium pond? I'm looking for some hard numbers from you guys as to what would make each one of these tasks worthy of the belt they're assigned to.

Thanks!
 
jesse markowitz
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Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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Also, I forgot to mention- I'm leaving out swales for now because this is supposed to be a list of what is most applicable in Montana. I'm sure that we can fit swales onto this list as well, but I think that hugelkulture beds will be the dominant technique on the list.

Other earthwork designs that could possibly be added- chinampas, keyline designs.
 
jesse markowitz
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Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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I ALSO forgot to incorporate using earthworks as windbreaks. I think that can be added somehow as well.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Jesse -

Personal preference here, but I usually think of earthworks as permanent land features - walk away for 100 years and they will still be recognizable and serving their purpose. Earth bank swales, ponds and dams, earthbanks for microclimate control, windbreaks etc...

Hugelculture to me doesn't really fit here... while hugelculture beds are valuable for cultivation purposes they are more ephemeral than true earthworks. The core of wood rots away and the mound settles, albeit still hopefully with better soil properties than it had previously.

This was the vibe I picked up while reading the Permaculture Designers Manual, and is nicely exemplified in the recent geoff lawton video showing the trans-formative effect of swales in a dry-land environment despite 60 years of human neglect. Another example I really liked was Sepp Holzers spring terrace... a permanent land feature that will provide reliable drinking water essentially "forever".

----------

Anyway my list for earthworks would probably go back a stage... you can't really do any earthworks without some rudimentary surveying and measuring skills, especially for any work requiring accurate leveling. Likewise building any kind of water catchment feature requires a really good understanding of the water flows, climate, soil types etc... of a specific site.

Large scale earthworks basically require earth moving machinery if they are to be employed either cheaply or in reasonable timescales. Using earthmoving machinery is quite different from wielding a shovel so I'd want a minimum level of competency early on in an earthworks program. You need to know how to remove and store topsoil, time and fuel efficient strategies for moving large quantities of material, safe handling machines (especially when working on slopes).

If talking about dams, you need to know how to safely compact soils and the properties of soils that make them either good or not good for dam walls.

I'd want to see the design and implementation of a gravity fed irrigation system, supplied by rainwater storage ponds. I know Paul has a preference for zero irrigation, but in locations where water is fairly abundant a well thought out gravity system can work wonders. I'm thinking letting water sluice via an overflow pipe through swales, with the flow directed by removable baffles (saw a video of something like that a while back and it looked really elegant).

 
jesse markowitz
Posts: 151
Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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Thanks for the quick reply Michael!

For the first part, its important to remember that we're trying to design the list for HERE at the lab, in this exact location. We're in a fairly cold and dry climate here, which means that a hugelbed is going to last decades, and even once the wood decays inside, if the hugel has been planted well, that the outside of the hugel will have established a lush environment that will have drastically changed the area.

So I think for here in Montana, hugelbeds are relatively permanent. I'd agree that I wouldn't include hugelkulture as much in a earthworks program for a spot in Florida.

But you might be right anyway, and hugelkulture might get its own badge in the future.

I also like the idea of the white belt being more small scale projects that are done by hand, and that the big, potentially dangerous stuff is done only once the person has gone through a couple of layers of experience, like a white and green belt. Currently the green belt COULD be done all or mostly by handtools, although some heavy machinery would be much better.

If talking about dams, you need to know how to safely compact soils and the properties of soils that make them either good or not good for dam walls.


So how about "design a dam that holds back x amount of water?"

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1681
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I get what you are saying... but perhaps hugel design and management should be spun off to it's own PEP?

I was mulling what my earthwork program might look like while doing a 6 hour round trip by car today... I think there needs to be an appropriate balance between theory skills and hands on experience, and tying it too tightly to Paul's land is likely to be counter productive... after all, how many appropriate pond sites are likely to be developed there?

White Belt
Understanding landforms and contours:
  • mark out three parallel of contours 100m long using appropriate tools
  • identify keypoints in the landscape for water design - possible pond locations, spillways, catchments etc...
  • on paper design an appropriate water landscape for the site


  • Practical
    Design and implement an earthwork project using permaculture principals to be completed in 2 days (eg machine dig 100m of swale, construct an earth bank for microclimate adaptation, hand dig 10m of swale...)
     
    jesse markowitz
    Posts: 151
    Location: Hudson Valley, NY
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    Nice! I'll add these shortly...
     
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