Hi again Shari,
I noticed, when some of those heavy heavy rains happened here, how the entire land became a swamp (the soil is clay as I said before) or how the water would just gush down the terraced land is other areas. Of course after one or two days of sun, everything was dry again.
Traditional technique for the provence landscape was to terrace the hills with the Dry Stone
technique. Unfortunately as the land has not be tend to, they are (almost) all falling down from erosion and lack of water in the lower grounds. Also, most of the terraces were not build on contour, so I wander if it was done on purpose (in order to have the water flow in a S shape down the slope) or just by “mistake“.
My approach with the swales was to concentrate the water from the heavy rains in certain areas (small ponds throughout the land) and to soak it in the ground as it badly needs it (most of the springs in the region are dried out now). My hope is that by soaking up as much water as I can in the ground and especially the lower grounds (there is a hard clay layer not so far below (about 2-3m I'm guessing) the ponds will maintain water all year long even during dry season, but that would only be possible if the whole land was soaked with water and was not “drinking“ off the water accumulated in the pond. This thread on Sepp Holzer's technique helped me figure this out : Sepp's Terraces
Here is a quote from someone on the forum, I'm sorry I can't find his name again to give him credit...
1) He has lots of ponds. Some are deep. Some are shallow. In the shallow ponds, he puts lots of rocks. The rocks heat the water and the water evaporates. The air surrounding his farm becomes humid. He gets more morning dew than average.
2) Sepp plants no monocultures. Everything is a mix of lots and lots of things. And there is a strong focus on deep rooted plants. Deep rooted plants reach deep water sources and can transpire the water out of their leaves adding to the general humidity. Plus, there can be symbiosis between the deep rooted plant roots and fungi. And between the fungi and shallow rooted plants.
3) Terraces and hugelbeds do move and hold water when it rains - and then share it properly when it is dry.
4) Rocks, rocks and more rocks .... Rocks seem to be a major component in everything Sepp does. Rocks have a powerful thermal intertia ... If you stack a pile of rocks, air can move through the pile. And the rocks in the middle will be quite cool. If humid air moves through the pile, water will condense on the cooler rocks, thus creating a poor man's drip irrigation system.
So that's what I did basically. And as we have had a weird May and June month with lots of series of heavy rain, although it has been super dry for a few weeks now, some ponds have kept water longer and longer, (one of them is still half full) :)
Another food for thought and design, here wild boars play the same “game“ as I do : they tend to take the same route through the land, almost on contour and by doing so they kinda dig swales, also, they like to build wallows which is kinda like ponds. So I followed their lead and enhanced their work, also following the natural “wetter“ areas of the land that were made obvious during heavy rains.
Here are a couple of photos ;)