Permaculture Earthworks Explained – The Clay Model

Permaculture Earthworks lay Model
Dripping water slowly on to the clay model clearly shows how rain water can be moved around a landscape and held to rehydrate the soil.

As permaculture teachers, we have landed on this simple clay-model demonstration as an excellent tool for explaining earthworks. We can cover how swales, ponds, key points and key lines all fit together. The appreciative response from our students continually confirms this.

We wanted to make this video available to more than just our own students so we videotaped this session at one of our summer PDC courses and are sharing it here.

Birth of Earthworks Model

We created this model out of necessity when hosting our first winter PDC course (2010) and realized that we couldn’t take students outside to carve into our earth-mound because it was frozen solid. A quick call to a potter friend produced this 15 lb. block of clay and the Midwest Permaculture Earthworks-Clay-Model was born.

The model also lends itself to an introduction or review of micro-climates, frost zones, house and garden placement, soil building, carbon sequestration, nutrient accumulation, variations in swale design, and more.

This video and demonstration is not an exhaustive study into earthworks, just a simple but clear model. We go into greater detail about keylining and pond building later in the PDC course but the model makes even those explanations more understandable too.

After viewing, you are invited to share your thoughts at the bottom of the page. Your ideas on how to improve the model are welcomed.

Note: We give our permission to other permaculture teachers to use this video or to share this model with their own students. We are openly sharing this educational idea under a Creative Commons License.  Sharing is a permaculture pattern exemplified by the very gift of ‘permaculture’ that David Holmgren and Bill Mollison gave to the world years ago. Many other permaculture teachers continue this pattern today. Let’s be the change. Cheers.

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