Mowing a Swale and Berm System with a Ditch-Bank Flail Mower
Greetings… A common question we get is how to maintain the ‘weeds’ or growth on a swale and berm system. I thought this pictoral summary would be helpful to many of you. Let us know what you think and about what you have been doing as well. Cheers… Bill Wilson
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 are making early progress on our 320-acre Missouri permaculture-farm project (Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm). Last fall, a local dozer operator was brought in to dig the first swales. It was a small dozer but it did a respectable job and did the work in a relatively short period of time compared to an excavator. See the blog post with video here.
Before we brought the dozer back in this spring, Kevin, a long-time farmer in the area who is also Jordan’s lead farmer on this project, suggested that we simply try the 135hp farm tractor with it’s 9-foot tilting scraper blade (it’s just over 6′ wide when fully angled at 45 degrees) to see what kind of swales it would cut. It certainly seemed worth trying though I’d never seen it done before.
Adam and I headed out early one morning with the laser level and marked off about a mile of swales with white-wire flags. When Kevin arrived later in the morning with the tractor all he had to do was adjust the angle of the blade, drop it down, and start running. He ran three passes on every swale we had marked and did it all in about 60 minutes!Continue reading “Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade”
We have been invited by a family in Southern Missouri to assist with the design of a 320-acre farm. They want to transition the land into a permaculture landscape capable of producing a wide range of perennial foods (nuts, vegetables, herbs, fruit, etc.) as well as livestock (beef and goats).
Over generations, rain has slowly degraded this sloping landscape with a loss of nutrients and topsoil. It is not uncommon for a million gallons of water to wash off this landscape with a 1-inch rain. Continue reading “Bulldozer Digging Swales”
While the city of Chicago was shutting down due to too much rain last week just 60 miles north of us, the swales, ponds, berms and rain gardens we have put in around our home and in Stelle did their job of filling up and holding water back from the creeks. Over several days they will slowly release that water into the water table rather than let it run down into our creeks and rivers all at once.
In this hugelkultured swale, both the ditch and the wood in the berm are holding rain water.
In this design we will be planting linear-food forests all along the downhill side of each of three hugelkultured swales.
What is a hugelkultured swale?
While the tress and shrubs are in the early stages of growing (small) we will use the open space to grow some of our annual vegetables. We will also plant some nitrogen fixing ground covers and dynamic accumulators to help build the soil.
Thank you to our hosts Dr. Kelly Cain and Cynthia Wells-O’Mally of the University of Wisconsin, for hosting us for a second year. The bulk of the training was held on campus. Although we had some university students, most of the people taking this training came from the general public and from 5 different states. We had a fantastic time.
PDC Course Graduates – University of Wisconsin, River Falls – June 2012
Panoramic View of Dr. Cain’s Permaculture Oriented Residence
You won’t! Most all of the hands-on activities we undertake at our regular PDC courses we can also do at our winter courses. These include:
Learning to use the A-frame and sight level.
Building a dry-brick rocket stove and firing it up.
Making a clay model of a landscape to learn about swales, keylining, and ponds.
Touring Midwest Permaculture’s yard and the CSC land
Doing fruit tree grafting
Making cob from clay, sand and straw
and touring the Malchow’s (our neighbors) permaculture home to fire-up their thermal mass rocket stove couch/bench.
The one thing we cannot do because of the frozen ground is continue to work on the hugel-swale we are constructing for CSC, but this basically consists of digging a section of a ditch, putting logs in, and then covering them up. We’ll show some pictures of the details related to this so you’ll get the information without the tactile experience.
Raising Profitable Heritage Breed Hogs at Spence Farm in a very Humane Way
The one thing we do extra for this course is focus a bit more on the growing of food and what it takes to create a successful farming/growing/permaculture operation.
Many people want to make part or even all of their annual income from growing food. This is certainly possible but it requires quite a bit of knowledge and then real practical experience. Our objective through this training is to save you years of time and money by giving you some critical information and fresh insights.
To help anchor this learning experience we’ll be taking an extra field-trip over to Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL, to meet Kris and Marty Travis who are doing pioneering work in these areas.
If the timing works for you to attend this winter course, we are confident that you will not leave feeling like you missed any hands-on activities. It’s an amazing and very-full 8 days like all of our other PDC Courses.
Here are Pictures from one of our Winter PDC Course (from 2012) Narration by Hayden Wilson (Standing, far right, son of Bill and Becky)
Our Group Photo with Rocket Stove in Foreground and Midwest Permaculture Home-site (our house). Mom (Becky Wilson) is standing on far left. Dad (Bill Wilson) took most of these pictures.
6-day “Hands-on” Training – August 2011 Held at Midwest Permaculture in our Sustainably Oriented Community of Stelle, IL We expect to be offering a ‘family friendly’ training every summer. See Here for Details