Finding contour for a swale

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Finding contour for a swale

Postby matt walker » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:11 am

Well, I did it for my first time yesterday. I built an A-frame level like this one...

Image

..and staked out a contour line. While doing this, I had an epiphany!

My property is mostly a north facing slope, and while laying out my contour, I realized that if I build the swale with a large enough mound on the downhill side, the area above the "water trough" of the swale will be SOUTH FACING!! So, I'll get naturally irrigated, south facing beds that should be much warmer than the rest of the north facing slope. This is good news, as it's perpetually too cold in my location to grow much without protection. I'll try to get some photos of the process as I proceed.

I used the basic method described here:
http://tilz.tearfund.org/Publications/F ... +Lines.htm
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:13 pm

That is a Great low tech way to find a level. Its cheap, you can build it yourself, and it works. My property is also mostly North facing and most of the arcrage is pretty steep. There is a deep erosion cut that was made many years ago by the water company. They had a reservior at the top of my hill that they filled at night with pumps from a spring. There was no shut off so the over flow just washed out a large ditch down through the middle of my land. I have been thinking about making swales across the ditch to hold back rain water. It would not only help stop erosion but it might also increase the flow of some springs that I have at the bottom of the hill. Your area looks pretty dry, what kind of ann rain fall do you get? Will you be digging the swales by hand or using machinery to help? Do you have any plans of trying to incorporate some sort of Hugalculture bed in the bottom of the swale to help hold the mosture for your plants? Good luck with your project, it looks like you have a great start.
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby matt walker » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:03 pm

Actually FG, my site sounds fairly similar to yours. A steep, north facing slope with a "cut" from a surface spring, from which I get my house water. Annual rainfall here is in the neighborhood of 25" annually. Oh, I see, that picture I snagged online, it's not my site. Anyway, I have a lot of slash from previous logging ops here and am certainly going get my hugle on with the swale construction. I will probably start by hand, but I do have access to a mid sized excavator, although not on my schedule. If and when it shows up, I'll use it. I had it last year for almost two months, but I wasn't swale savvy then, unfortunately. I'm sort of half injured right now, so have some extra online time, but once I heal up completely I'll be out there digging. I'm going to work on getting some photos up of my site later today, so stay tuned.
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby matt walker » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:17 am

Here's a shot of the area in question. You can see the watercourse just above the fence there. My proposed swale is on the upper section visible there above the spring. You can see how dry that area is, and it faces north. I'd love to berm up a big hugel bed along contour there and try to create a warmer, south facing, micro climate. I'm going to get out there this week, so I'll try to get some better photos and show the process as it develops.

Image
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:32 am

Nice Pic Matt, I love the fence. what do you use that land for now? Is it pasture, or do you it in other ways?
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby matt walker » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:40 am

Thanks, I had just built that fence when that pic was taken last spring.

And yep, currently it's pasture for my Jacob sheep and Dexter cows. I'm thinking I'll fence off the swale area and try to get some food growing there, but even if it just greens up better and for longer, that's very useful to my livestock operation.
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Re: Finding contour for a swale

Postby matt walker » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:06 am

Thought I'd update this with a link to the other thread where I've now started creating the south facing bed above the swale.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=20&p=640#p640
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