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Many small ponds/gullies/swales or whatever

 
Posts: 416
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Nominally most of the land is a north facing slope, one corner near the top is east facing.  The lower half probably averages about 7% slope.  Various little valleys where water can collect and flow, if it rains.Not quite at the top limit of the land, is a substantial dugout (2 million ltre?) which has been there a long time.  There are 2 (3?) valleys which are intended to collect water and divert it to the dugout.

There is a tendency for the land near the top to be wetter, and I gather many years ago there was a spring higher up and west of the top of our land.  I think that spring got "adjusted" with someone running around with a bulldozer many years ago.

Those "valleys" collecting water for the dugout.  They gather all the water that would be coming through this "damper" region (downhill).  Two of these valleys look like someone doing an angled cut with a bulldozer to make a small valley with a downhill swale.  Originally, these were probably just cuts in the soil.  Now many years later, there is grass/hay growing in those cuts.

There is no place (other than hay in the collection valleys) for sediment to settle before getting to the dugout.  Hence, getting some sediment out of the dugout is also on the TODO list.

From the downhill side of the dugout to the bottom of the property is maybe 3/8 mile.  I anticipate finding lots of places to think about putting ponds (or gullies or ...) either at the beginning of a valley, so somewhere along its course.  How does a person size these things?  

I am still building data from which to build a DEM, so I haven't as yet generated topographic maps or done a watershed analysis on the land (I am familiar with GRASS).  I recently ran across a nice article which covered egg like curves, which included some which are based on triangles, which probably would fit in with small ponds/gullies here.  I could build templates to layup thin plywood forms to cover with glass/epoxy for the walls.

This being the bottom of a glacial lake a few millenia ago, there is lots of clay here.  Not very clean clay, but lots of it.

The expected monthly rainfall (peak July) is 3.1 inches.  Which works out to about 200 gallons per 100 square feet.  If I read the table properly, the expected value on a daily basis works out to a bit over 5 gallons per 100 square feet.  We can get snow at any time of the year, even many inches of snow.
 
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Gordon Haverland wrote: I could build templates to layup thin plywood forms to cover with glass/epoxy for the walls.



Could you explain more about the purpose of these constructions?
 
Gordon Haverland
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It was my thinking, that these constructions would hold water up, so that more water could be absorbed by the land.  Or at least for the "keyline' things.  Other ones would probably be to help remove sediment before it gets to the dugout.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think natural materials would work better and be much less expensive (and toxic) than plastics.  A good book about rain harvesting earthworks is "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond" Volume 2, by Brad Lancaster. He also gives information on calculating how large to make the constructions.  https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
Gordon Haverland
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Epoxy once cured, is inert.  Glass fibres are as inert as bulk glass in this form.  I could make the epoxy resin from vegetable oils, or free fatty acids derived from vegetable oils.  Because the material is inert, it does not react with the environment, or interact with the environment.  That is why fibreglass tanks can last so long in buried construction.

There are some young guys from Port au Port, Newfoundland who make snowboards from flax fabric in an epoxy matrix where the epoxy is derived from pine trees.  So, being able to move away from glass fibres may come in a while, right now it is probably too expensive.

But for that matter, wood is a composite of cellulose fibres in a polymer matrix of lignin and hemicellulose.

I will look up Mr. Lancaster.  Thank you.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Gordon Haverland wrote:  I could make the epoxy resin from vegetable oils, or free fatty acids derived from vegetable oils.



That sounds extraordinarily difficult.

If you have access to rocks, here's a document about making rock water harvesting/erosion control structures:  http://quiviracoalition.org/images/pdfs/1902-An_Introduction_to_Erosion_Control.pdf
 
Gordon Haverland
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It was an enjoyable paper to read.  It isn't often you see research listing "1 gallon of Walmart soy oil" as a reagent.  Nothing special about soy oil, canola, flax, or many other vegetable oils would work.  The resulting epoxy tends to have a lower glass temperature than the petroleum based resins, but a person can probably design around that.  It might be an advantage in cold climates, such as where I live.

I picked rocks in this field back in 1976, so I know there are some rocks around.  I was in high school then.

The one corner that slopes off to the east has a lot of rock.
 
Gordon Haverland
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To go to the store and buy epoxy, what you are usually getting is a resin based on bisphenol-A (sometimes called DGEBA, digylcdal ether of bisphenol A) and a hardener of some kind.  And there have been reports about bisphenol A in the news.  The resin is a polymer of bisphenol-A.  When it reacts with the hardener, it forms a 3D network of links between active sites (on the resin or on the hardener, or sometimes there are reactive diluents).  At the end of the reaction, the entire structure is in a sense 1 molecule.  An epoxy that takes 1 day to harden, is probably still chemically active for about 1 week.  If you wanted to paint the structure, this would be a good time to do so, as you will get a chemical bond to the epoxy.  You usually want to mix epoxy with hardener at a specific ratio.  At this ratio, there is a small possibility of running into "pockets" of unreacted, or partially reacted resin and/or hardener.  Some homopolymerization is possible, so a slight excess of resin with respect to hardener is a little more easily handled.  If a person does this, it is a good idea to give the part a post-cure heat treatment.  But, if you are building a boat with epoxy, it is a little difficult to stick the whole boat in an oven at 80C for a couple of hours.   I could rig up something with bricks and insulation that was dark in colour, and post-cure heat treat parts for a pond on a hot summer day.  This is a common recommendation for anything remotely potable water related.  Buying epoxies meant for food service is assumed in those circumstances.  There are some epoxies which harden (sort of) because of exposure to UV, x-rays or other kinds of radiation.  You don't find those at the neighbourhood store, and I've never read about how to make them.  That is still on my TODO list.  For me, much of the hazard of epoxies is based on the hardeners.  I do like to use vinegar for cleanup, not organic solvents which can carry resin and hardener into the skin and on to the bloodstream.  Someone had a recipe which was something like vegetable oil, hand soap and vinegar.  Hand soap is often derived from vegetable oils.

Good suppliers of epoxy, such as West Systems, have information on much of this.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I used to have to work with epoxy, and I think it is nasty!  Glad there are less nasty (?) versions possible.
 
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Given the fact that it's a north facing slope (the cool side of the hill in your Great White North environment), I'd be curious how much water you really need on the site.

What are you growing?  How wet is wet enough?  Is this to enhance the growth of grass for livestock or for putting up hay/fodder for the winter?

Would swales unconnected to any other water feature (like a pond) be enough to slow, spread and sink enough water to keep the entire property hydrated?  If you want to build ponds, I'm assuming you have a vision for using that pond for something—growing fish, keeping ducks, sailing little boats . . . something.  But if the desire is just to hold more of that water on the land before it washes off, and to build soil and bio-mass on site, then multiplying the number of swales could be less expensive and more effective.

But if you are intent on ponds, I'd agree with the folks above: using natural materials on site seems more of the permaculture way.  I don't think you need to import anything other than a couple of pigs and some food for them to eat.  If you haven't seen this thread on using pigs to gley a pond (in horribly rocky soil without any clay to speak of), it's fascinating.  Take some time and read through it.  I'm always amazed with the creativity of some people on this site.  

https://permies.com/t/38201/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs

Stealing a line from the hippocratic oath, first of all, do no harm.  You don't want to do anything to your land that you will then have to undo and try to repair or remove in 10 years when the full extent of the harm is revealed.  Measure twice, cut once --- take your time and really think it thought (which you seem to be doing) before you start moving dirt.

Best of luck with your project.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I wouldn't want to say that epoxy is wonderful to work with.  People can become sensitized to epoxies, and I believe this is by and large the fault of the hardeners.  And if you become sensitized, it appears to be forever.  Some people become sensitized very easily, some might even be able to take a bath in it (joking).  I think a fair amount of the problem for sensitization, is doing things like cleanup with acetone.  And the solvent carries the hardener into the skin and bloodstream, and e have problems.  But, in terms of fabrication, the biggest alternatives are the esters (polyester and vinyl ester).  Both come in styrene.  I really have no interest in working with styrene.  And the peroxide hardener for those esters can blind you.

I hope there are more kinds of epoxy in our future, and especially more kinds of hardeners.  I think these homopolymerized systems using radiation have some good use cases, but doing so in the garage probably isn't happening any time soon.

But this is getting too much off the topic I raised, which is how to size these ponds or gullies.

I am seeing papers on rainwater harvesting in arid regions.  None of them seem to have ever heard of Alan Savory (sp?) and brittle land.  But, very few of the papers seem to actually talk about the things for harvesting water.  They show fancy satellite imagery and GIS stuff, they talk introduction, but not much detail on the work.
 
Gordon Haverland
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In grade 11 (1976/77 1.5 years after moving here), I was involved in disking the sod down, picking rocks and reseeding it to some kind of pasture.  I will guess fescue, alfalfa and at least one kind of clover.  After high school I went to engineering school.  And other than the yard around the house getting a zillion kinds of trees, nothing has been done to the land since 1976.  No pesticides, no herbicides, no fertilizer, no grazing, no haying.  It has just sat here.  I've got aspens (mostly) and willows (somewhat) and wild roses volunteering all over the hay field and pasture.  I harvested almost 1 acre of hay last year, baling it with a plywood and 2x4 baler I built based on a North Carolina pine straw design.  I've got to buy a scythe to do that this year, as it is too hard on my lawnmower to make hay that way.

I have 50 pounds of tillage radish and another of crimson clover to try and work into strips.  No equipment to reseed the farm on the current budget.

Being so close to the Rocky Mountains, we get little rain.  I think our long term average was something like 16-19 inches per year.  A big chunk of that is snow.  The land is brittle.  I have trees and dead grass lying on the ground for 10 years or more, and there is little or no rotting.  My fence posts have been in the ground for more than 40 years, and I've never seen one replaced.  The land is really heavy in clay, because we were a lake bottom in the last ice age type thing.  Higher up the hill, there are gravels and stuff.

The only trees I have are trembling aspen and willow.  WIllow maybe 25 foot tall at the most, the aspens might get to 60 if there are a bunch of them.  But all my neighbours are cutting down there aspen, and a stand of 20 feet of aspen doesn't stand up to the winds we have here (I live 5 miles downwind of a 100+ MW Wind Farm).

I want to set up wind shelter to protect the land, as the aspen won't work.  My dugout has no protection from the wind.  I want to start putting in nut trees and more fruit trees and berries.  I want to have some pasture for some animals (not horses) and some hay for winter.  And then I have ideas about robotics and cereal farming.  I want to raise flax (which was grown in this region long ago) for the fibres.  By robots.  But, I did automation at a nuclear reactor in the past, and I know a lot about computers (including GIS).

But I can't just wave a wand and get more rain.
 
Gordon Haverland
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I will guess that I was mistaken, that there were solutions related to Yeoman's work that were specific to what I wanted.   I would think that if someone wanted to construct a keypoint dam on a landscape that was not flat, engineering would need to be done.  It is entirely possible a keypoint dam would be useful for my circumstance, but I have no budget to pursue such a solution.

For points with elevations above the keypoint, a person can make ponds or gullies as needed.  I see little guidance in the literature as to where, how big or how deep these features should go.

Or rather, I don't see anything better than generic recommendations one can find in Mother Earth News.

I think brittleness (Alan Savory) is an important insight, it is disappointing to see it not mentioned in many projects worldwide (usually arid or semi-arid).

I am going to make some ponds (because my soil has so much clay), which I may later try to make into gullies.  How deep, is to be determined.

Lower down, I am going to make leaky contour dams.  Where the body of the dam is hugelkultur.  If they leak in summer or fall isn't important, I want them to be dams in the season of mud.  Mud is the season that occurs between winter and spring.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Gordon Haverland wrote:
Lower down, I am going to make leaky contour dams.  Where the body of the dam is hugelkultur.



This technique is not recommended because the hugulkultur can blow out in a heavy rain event.  http://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/

I think brush dams are a better option.  https://permies.com/t/51421/Creek-repair-brush-dams
 
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