I've read quite a few permaculturebooks but haven't come across a real in depth one that gets into the geology, physics etc. of earthworks. it seems like key line concepts are at the core of swale, pond and water capturing but i still get confused and sometimes skeptical that many postings appear a bit under-informed-- which i can relate to as i have tried so many experiments that have not worked out or have required lots of adjusting! Anyone have a favorite book they refer back to frequently?
I'm following this as well!
I took a PRI permie course and have observed observed observed here on our micro farm for the last year. While I understand the the concept behind swales, and other earthwork techniques. I feel like I still need more information or guidance to be confident in grabbing a shovel and doing it. (Not to mention the confidence to get the hubby on the same page)
"Dragon my Aster all over the farm"- Jane A @
Dragon Aster MicroFarm, Minnesota
I've been wanting to get Brad Lancasters second rainwater harvesting book that's called rainwater-harvesting earthworks. i think it's more what your looking for but the reviews don't say specifically if that's the case. Neither does the description so it may not be
I'm checking out reviews on brad Lancasters latest book,he is definitely one of the best on water use. Jane your comment about trying to get your husband on the same page made me laugh, My wife is not so enamored with my fanatical permacultureplans and I keep thinking we should start a thread for partners of agnostics or something but that would probably get too complicated!
The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook, by Douglas Barnes, by New Society Publishers is a good choice.
I gobbled up The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook last year in a few sittings, and decided to pick it up again. I’ve waited to write a book review until I finished reading it twice.
I’m glad I purchased this book. That said, I purchased it discounted by perhaps half of its MSRP cost of $32.99. I feel that discount was warranted from a quality perspective. I really hope this book gets an updated second edition, as I think it could really shine with a few tweaks.
This feedback is essentially a “wish list” for a second edition. It has great room for improvement, and I give it 6.5 out of 10 acorns.
First, some of the positive: Mr. Barnes speaks from experience, the book is well referenced, and it covers a very complex and technical topic which is quite new to most of us. Lets face it, earthworks is a specialized area which, if practiced lightly without strong site and goal analysis, could result in huge catastrophe. So the fact that there is a book that the permie community can go to with respect to this topic is fantastic. This is not the kind of topic which can be found in a grade-school science class (like tree biology, climate, soil structure, etc.). The tone of the book is what I’ll call “left-brained” which I actually appreciate for the most part. Reading it helped me to temper that silly mindset of: “I NEED to build a swale because….PERMACULTURE!” Earthworks requires goals and analysis, first! That concept alone made the book worth the cost.
I could go on and talk about what I liked and learned from this book, but I feel some constructive criticism might be more helpful to the community. Of note, I do not claim to be a permaculture designer in the professional sense! But I do think a goal of permaculture at large is to develop the designer-owner-builder-maintainer within each of us.
1) Handbook? ( - 1/2 acorn) I mostly envision a “handbook” as something that a designer would definitely want to carry around with them, on hand as a field reference. Something smaller in breadth and depth compared with a full on manual, figuratively and literally. Sadly, the dimensions of this book are not conducive to fitting in a cargo pocket. Additionally, I think of a handbook as a ready reference that does basic teaching, but also easily and quickly triggers one’s own memory or conveys a concept, pattern, or procedure to a client or crew. For instance:
1) “What is the name of that term?”
2) “What order should I accomplish these tasks? Ahh yes...”
3) “Let me find a quick picture of what I envision…”
2) Glossary? (- 1/2 acorn) I think there is quite a bit of the “curse of knowledge” with this topic. Yes, some terms are part of the broader permaculture lexicon that the average permie audience will not have trouble with: swale, gabion, keypoint, spillway. But there are many recurring or special terms that are perhaps new for the non-hydrologist or novice like myself: vadose zone, sand filter diaphragm, groin, weir, bund, riser, spurs, VPAT, limonia, spate, nigarim. Yes, there is an index, but a glossary would help.
3) More (and better) pictures, diagrams, and illustrations? (- 1 acorn). As the 43rd president of the US once said:
“One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.”
I think this book needs at least double, but preferably quadruple as many. The front of the book is the only “inspirational” and colorful photo. There are only a few token pictures, and the illustration and diagram styling varies a bit. An illustrator would be nice to achieve some stylistic unity.
Additionally, some of the concepts have either no associated picture or illustration, or a confusing illustration. Three quick examples, there is no “trapezoidal bund” diagram around page 97, the “Chisel plow” picture on page 102 of a tractor has a very distracting disc harrow too, and the “spur-type diversion” of figure 7.12 is low contrast and too conceptually vague to clearly show what is happening in the landscape.
While the publisher’s low-VOC environmental and energy efficient printing is commendable, more colorful and pretty “Tada! See what is possible!” before-and-after pictures here and there wouldn’t hurt. I think books should supply knowledge, but also inspiration. Quality pictures achieve both.
4) More procedural and sequential formatting? (- 1 acorn) In conjunction with the above, I would have absolutely loved to see some more checklist-esque information and formatting. (It must be my pilot background speaking, where checklists and procedures are everything.) Sequential diagrams would be fantastic of course, but also simple text delineating procedures. A table here and there with step 1, step 2, step 3...Even better, a quick reference guide appendix. Checklists for overall design workflow, site analysis, “how to construct a swale”. I got it, earthworks are complex, but some of the essentials could be distilled and presented in a nice dummy-friendly format. The appendix as it stands only marginally achieves this. You really have to dig -- pun not intended.
5) Typos. (-1/2 acorn) I am not usually distracted by typos, but this book got me. There were a handful. I’m not perfect, but typos in the second opening sentence of a chapter? Ouch. Using a completely different Greek symbol for pi?
I know, it's critical, but overall, I found Barnes' "The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook" essential knowledge on a unique and complex topic, with fantastic potential should it ever get an updated edition.
George has really explained why there are no 'simple earthworks' books.
As Civil Engineer, I can say there is a lot to learn about moving earth and making it safe and not wasting money.
Slopes, cross falls, drainage, angle of repose, erosion prevention etc are all topics one needs to be mind full of.
Compaction rates, use of rock and maintenance are additional issues that have to be incorporated into the design.
And finally preservation of the completed works.
whilst it looks like I am steering you away, thats not true, my copy of Small dam design has 500 pages.
But I will look for something that may help.
Core principles of Soil Mechanics