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Earthworks around a seasonal creek, 35 acres.

 
Posts: 19
Location: Grass Valley, California (zone 9b)
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Freshly into permaculture and i wish to draw some wisdom from the permies pros. I am located on 35 acres of quite diverse land in the sierra foothills (northern california [zone 9b]) at 1300 ft with a seasonal creek, which i am confident to make year around; which leads into my question: The best way to go about doing this, while at the same time, catalyzing intense succession across the whole property with food forrests, and bamboo forests riding on the back of earthworks features, mainly being terraces, getting biomass on the ground, one large swale, and several smaller hand dug swales with bamboo pipe lines redirecting water to ridges and further retarding it through the landscape, feeding the creek later in the season.

About the land: Creek runs about 1/4 mile through property surrounded by lush vegetation everywhere, 75% closed canopy accross property which is mostly sloped. throughout the creek bottom it is 60% direct bedrock and fairly rocky immediately around the creek up slope. It has 20% "flat" land, medium clay soils (dont get me wrong it sure is clay, but not heavy clay). really virgin land, no livestock, or past grazing. Foot and vehicle traffic limited to .1% of the land.

Current Plan: start by making the creek deeper then wider (remove bottom dwelling debris, and re-purpose for island gardens or terrace materials near creek.) then all throughout the property(mainly near creek) plant native and non-native pioneer species, to increase infiltration (root pathways for water and organic matter) while helping to shade waterway. And my question lies within my next step which would be creating either partial or full dams along creek, but i am unsure about the stability and effectiveness they will have firstly, because earthworks wont be established immediately and secondly the materials i have to make them would just be boulders, sifted clay, wood duff/sand etc. There will eventually be spillways and piping redirecting water back through the land so these primitive dams wont be able to get mowed over, but i am wondering there long-term potentials.

Any and all criticism and guidance would be appreciated.
Austin
 
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Austin , have you looked at the threads that explain keyline principles? I am wondering why you would use bambo to move water to ridges when keyline swales might be able to do the same thing?
Could you post some pictures?
 
austin wilkins
Posts: 19
Location: Grass Valley, California (zone 9b)
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I dont have much access at all to machinery, but will have access to a giant bamboo Forrest. With machinery basically out of the question, i figured bamboo piping is the path of least resistance.
 
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I would be cautious about removing debris from the bottom of your creek or deliberately making it deeper/wider. Debris slows water, catches organic material, and may help prevent/correct incision of your creek if that is an issue. A relatively "shallow" profile for a creek is actually quite desirable in my experience--if you can slow the water and spread it, get organic matter & sediment deposition, etc. this is usually a good thing.

Also, it sounds like you are maybe focusing on diverting water and "saving" it for later in the dry season, which may work (and slowing and lengthening its transport through the property is definitely a good idea), but I think the main benefit you will see from swales, ponds, etc. is a rehydration of the landscape itself. In some areas this will lead to a higher water table, seeps and springs developing, etc. which can be a major factor in getting year-round flow; I'm not sure about your area/climate--do you know if the creek ever ran year round, how big its catchment is, how long it runs before it enters your property? Not all creeks are meant to be year-round no matter what you do, but if it used to run all year and has become seasonal, it's a safe bet it can be restored. One factor, though, is that often the most effective rehydration work can be done upstream/upslope--if you find your efforts stalling out, you may need to look at what's happening upstream of your property and try to address it if that's possible at all--if not, you may be a bit stuck, but I would do what you can with what you have to work with. Rehydrating your landscape will be a huge bonus whether or not you get a year-round creek out of the deal.

I would also be somewhat cautious about introducing a lot of non-native pioneers etc. right around the creek--it's up to you, but (this is purely anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt) I have observed what I believe to be negative alterations in water flow/retention in riparian areas due to a prevalence of introduced species, that seemed to improve with the predominance and nurturing of native species and thinning of introduced species. Like I said, this may not be accurate, it is only my supposition based on observation, but especially if you know that the creek used to run year-round, I would personally stick with (re)planting the stuff that was there when it flowed all year, since you know that can work. Shade and vegetation should 100% be a priority, though.

I also would really recommend to you a book called "Let the Water Do the Work" for more information re: dams and other alterations to your creek, lots of good info and a minimal-intervention approach that I think is well-suited to permaculture and would make good use of the materials you have available.

Good luck!
 
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