Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another report from the ground


Time for another update here. On Monday Jay managed to fix the machine and I worked with him to finish up. Before I arrived he filled in and rammed earth over the pipe through the goose pond wall. I had him ram it more, especially on the inside edge, when I arrived. Hopefully it won't leak. The 50mm poly pipe had two wetrings or baffles to prevent water seeping along the pipe over time and ultimately undermining the pond wall. We then put a spillway trench incorporating a short stretch of swale coming off the goose pond. We then went and built a little dam at the eastern end of the top swale. Dug down to what was very heavy blue and yellow-tan clay - maybe 100% clay even. Then dug a keyhole, then added and rammed in hard enough layers to bring the wall up to the height we needed to get water into the top swale. It looks great and is already full. I later put in the pipe and gate valve that lets us channel water directly into the top swale. Another bit of the vision is realised!

Jay then put in a smaller pond further down where we can get water into the second swale, and then we went and scratched two lines in the orchard which we'll finish by hand into small swales for small fruit tree plantings. Yesterday Alan and Jay came to take the excavator away. I thanked Jay for his fine work and he said he'd enjoyed the job and was interested in coming back to see the system in future. I also gave him some dates and a contact number for a few of the short permaculture courses we have coming up around the place. Told him I could get him a good price.

It was a great feeling to see the excavator go. It's done wonderful things for us but it is a big heavy hunk of metal and it does tear open the earth every time it moves. We're keen to get onto re-greening all the disturbed earth (there's rather a lot of it!) and fast-forwarding past this momentary blip in the evolution of this system. It's nice to realise. however, that even now, at the moment of most disruption, the whole place looks just gorgeous. And the cover crops are all germinating beautifully on the swale mounds. I should start taking daily photos and in a week or two the will be all green.

We were thinking of getting a grader for the terrace and access tracks, but I'm now thinking we might get a tracked bobcat in to tidy things up and level the terrace. We can perhaps leave the access track till next spring, as it is already getting a bit wet and slippery. The last week we've had a fair bit of rain. Nice to see puddles forming in the swales. Interesting too to see what they mean about the red soil being free draining and the grey holding water. It's very true!

Today I finished planting out tagasastes in the swale coming off the dam and raked and planted (broad beans and tags) in the short length of swale coming off the goose pond. It was a little demoralising to see green roselas and galas moving along the swales picking off all the oats, but they seem to be leaving the other stuff (about nine kinds of legumes) alone so I guess that's fair enough. But in retrospect would have been good to spread some rice husks or similar on top of the seed to confuse the birds. You can buy a huge bale for $37 at Leongatha rural.

Here's the key little dam at the top of our swale system.

Here you can see the gate valve that releases the spring-fed mini-dam into the top swale.

Here's a close up of the mound mix sprouting. In a week or two you won't be able to see no dirt no more.

Here's the top swale with the tagasastes spaced every four metres.

Here's a shot from the South Eastern corner looking down over the various water storages we've created and also the main dam which was already here but now has a few hundred metres of swale feeding it. Come the first big rain and we predict it will fill up and overflow, eventually indefinitely.

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