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Pros & Cons of West Facing Slope?

 
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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Hi all,
We're considering purchasing a property in Aus.  We haven't been able to find a good north facing property & have been looking for a year.  This one's west facing, and the predominant winds come from the west & south here, and I guess they can be quite strong at times, rainfall between 800 mm - 1700 mm, temperate, snow only on the extremely odd occasion, summer temps average low-mid 20's (Celsius), winter say around 11 degrees.  The top of the slope is just next door on grazed land, and there is a dam at the bottom of 'our' part of the slope in the small bushland section there.   A 16 x 8 m shed at the top of the property line with 2 large concrete tanks.  Basalt soils.  
We would consider building a tiny house & positioning it on the west side of that shed, along with a greenhouse/conservatory type building.  There is a house at the bottom of the property but we'd prefer to rent that out to earn some money.  We want diverse food forest/orchard rows on contour running animals in between.

Does anyone have any thoughts about the possibilities of this land?  Are there any measures we could take to limit the effect of the wind, or is having a slope facing the prevailing wind just a really bad idea? Will it really limit what plants we'll be able to grow?  

Anyone's ideas of any kind would be greatly appreciated!

(nb. the lines that indicate an easement are just a historical railway line no longer there.)
Potential-property.jpg
[Thumbnail for Potential-property.jpg]
 
Posts: 339
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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The web address and open tabs in the screenshot; temperatures, soil type and rainfall seem to indicate it's located in NW Tassie?

The block ticks a lot of boxes as being good. Notably, the soil type and infrastructure already in place.

Assuming those contour lines are at one metre intervals, the block has about a four metre consistent drop? But over what distance? E.g. What's the grade?

Suggest you search the Bureau Of Meteorology (BOM) website - wind rose - for your area. They usually have the prevailing morning and afternoon wind velocity and direction for each month or season. You may need to extrapolate to the nearest location - there's one at Burnie.

Planting a windbreak along the south fence line would reduce the effects a bit. Difficult to reduce the westerly winds because they'd be coming up the slope, and wouldn't want to plant a windbreak to deflect it on the east side because you'd lose too much sunlight, particularly in winter. A bit of creative fence or hedge building, even shed positioning, should create microclimates.

Two important things though:

1. What's the fire risk? A fire would travel fast up that slope driven by even a slight breeze.
2. That easement may still be active, you'd need to have it removed from the property.

Obviously contour (swale) planting would be appropriate, you'd just need to determine the correct spacing between rows to ensure maximum solar exposure, and to compensate for the rainfall. For example, they could taper at each end to drain via a channel into the dam to prevent the lower section becoming a bog.

A good pioneer crop to plant along the contour lines, to break up the ground and perhaps make some money, would be potatoes - well suited to Tassie ... if my assumptions are correct!
 
pollinator
Posts: 144
Location: Tasmania
102
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I'd be a bit nervous about the bush on the slope below the property, but if the land is right for other reasons, then you could always design it with plenty of fire-retardant plants and ponds on that side. Bill Mollison's books have good suggestions for this.

West-facing blocks here can get pretty dry in summer. The afternoon sun can be very intense on the soil and the plants, and some things won't grow very well on it, but plenty of others will, especially if you have irrigation water and mulch.
 
Jonie Hill
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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Hi Kate - yeah, ideally of course no adjoining bush would be good, or at least not to the West or North, but we have found so few properties that fit our criteria....it's a relatively small bush area...and at least isn't a plantation that's being sprayed as well!
Yeah I do wonder about the drying afternoon sun.  Do you think an East facing slope is better?  
We do hope to do some swales for water retention, & there are 2 dams for water, other than tanks.
 
Kate Downham
pollinator
Posts: 144
Location: Tasmania
102
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That is a good point about not being sprayed!

We are on an east-facing slope and like it here. In winter it gets a bit gloomy in the afternoons when the sun sinks behind the hills at 2-3pm, but in summer it stays green for longer without any watering, and there is less bushfire risk.
 
gardener
Posts: 2347
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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I don't know much about Tazmania.  It's always been a place I've been curious about.  

Up where I am, I would be leary of a West Facing slope.  The early sunrise light/heat is important in a cool temperate climate, so an East facing slope is a lot better if you can't get a sunward (In your case, North, in my case South).  The angle of the sun will come around to give direct light and heat to your plants at a much later time in the day, and this full intensity of late morning to middle day sun can be quite harsh on plants, particularly in early spring when young plants are struggling to get going.

That all said, it sounds like a nice piece of land that is worth considering.  The West face is not undoable, it's just not ideal.  Plenty of people are doing great farming in my area on the shady side of the valley.

The fire risk with prevailing winds coming at your slope should not be ignored.  Take heed to build ponds and plant herbaceous fire-resistant plants downslope of your house.  A pond system (maybe greywater system) directly downslope of the house might be a nice feature and would provide fire protection.  

 
Jonie Hill
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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I missed the earlier post... yes, your assumption is correct, it is NW Tas.  We're looking here because of the rainfall & soil....but we haven't found much anywhere near our budget in almost a year of looking!  We've discounted anything surrounded by forest or with anything right next door that would use sprays or where the groundwater would likely be contaminated by something upslope...it's left us with very few options.  We'd really like something > 15 acres as we'd like cattle rotated between the orchard rows.  

No, unfortunately those contours are 10m apart, so it ranges from a 9 degree to a 12.9 degree slope, so yes a fire would run up there pretty fast.  We have definitely had firerisk at the forefront of our minds whenever looking at properties because as I say, there hasn't been many that are not near bushland or forestry and being from the mainland we definitely don't forget about it.  But I think realistically we're not going to find something that has no risk, as Roberto says, we'll just have to plan for it.   I feel at least the water situation here is pretty good (& can get better with management) so hopefully we would be in a reasonable position to fight it.  

It's hard for me to pick between East & West as I love morning sun but then I love afternoon sun too, and sunsets!  It does have a fairly nice view, and I'm a sucker for a sunset view.  

Our other option at the moment is a lovely 60 acres (similar climate, soil, 1 smallish spring fed dam & intermittent watercourse) with a NE facing slope but 1/2 of it is classed as moderate landslide hazard...so many compromises would have to be made with that one.  Any buildings would need to be located up towards the top of the property which is closer to the bush that is to the west (just 1 fairly small property away), and it's a larger reserve than this one.  No buildings other than a barn.  We're so disheartened with our search a the moment that we're still really thinking about this one, but I think it would be a mistake, as getting permissions for things would probably be a nightmare.
 
Jonie Hill
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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Oh, and yeah that 'easement' isn't technically an easement anymore, just for some reason on the maps the boundary lines are still marked.  It's not a worry.
 
Jonie Hill
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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oh, thanks for the wind rose tip - I'd never seen that one before.  But I'm not quite sure how to read it - does it mean 30% of the time the wind speed is >/= 40km/h?
Burnie-wind-rose.jpg
[Thumbnail for Burnie-wind-rose.jpg]
 
Jonie Hill
Posts: 15
Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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oh, ok, I kind of get it now, I've found someone to explain it to me!  So around 2% of the time the wind speed is=/> 40km/hr...
 
Posts: 730
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I live in the middle of a forest.
I do not care or worry about bushfire.
I suggest to anybody who is, to not live in the bush, because you will never be comfortable about it, you may try and cut every tree
in the area down, ruin the place for yourself and others when you should have stayed in the suburbs,
Somebody has to call you on that point.
As for the block itself  an easterly facing block IMO is more comfortable if its a small block.
 
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