May 4, 2022

Swale Project: More Experiments

Digging swales is our big infrastructure project for 2022.

Proposed plan for approximate swale placement.

The first swale was for the kitchen and canning garden. We dug this one by hand. It was a lot of work, but not too bad with the two of us working on it.

Blog posts with more pictures here and here.

It still needs a bit of leveling, but it works well and captures a lot of rainwater.

Next, Dan hand dug a second small swale for the little production patch next to the driveway. No roots and soft soil, so it went pretty quickly.

After we get a good rain to see how
level it is, we'll fill with wood chips.

This spot is where we plant a plot of something, like corn or wheat, rather than a bed. But because it's located on a high point of our property, it dries out quickly once we hit our summer dry spell. Whatever  rainwater we can catch here will hydrate the soil more deeply than just rain. 

The more challenging swales are the ones for our pastures, because they are too big to dig by hand. But we've finally made a start! We started with the pasture closest to the garden, where we can use a spillway to direct garden swale overflow into the pasture swale.

After we moved that big mound of dirt, the next step was to find and flag a level line for the swale.

We used an inexpensive transit to find a level line for a swale.

Being level is key to a swale's effectiveness, because it ensures the water will be distributed evenly across the length of the swale.

Flags mark a level path for a future swale.

The how-to has been the big question. People often use large equipment such as a backhoe to make swales. But a lot of folk have been creative with what they have and have used turn plows or scraper blades. 

Dan decided to see what the scraper could do and made a start.

Then he ripped it and scraped it again.

Then the tractor called it quits and stopped running. At least we've made a start.


daisy g said...

I love how you are working on getting the most out of your land. Very ambitious!

Ed said...

I’m so intrigued by this experiment and can’t wait to see your results.

Leigh said...

Daisy, I hope so; at least that's the goal. I just wish we'd known about this ten years ago. We'd probably be a lot further along now!

Ed, me too! It's hard to be patient, but a little here and a little there eventually gets the job done.

Rosalea said...

The goats look to be wondering what the heck is going on! Hope the tractor issue is not a bad one? Great progress.

Renee Nefe said...

oh no about your tractor! I hope it is on the mend soon so you can get this project finished.

Goatldi said...

Well look at me actually able to comment on your blog!

The issue seems to be an issue only with my iPhone imagine.

Nice to see the progress being made. The amount of water that can be held is wonderful. It will be interesting to see where this brings you in a years time. Sorry to hear about your tractor. Trust Dan will be able to make it right.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, oddly, the goats like to lay in the dirt!

Dan thinks he has the tractor fixed. We'll see for how long this time!

Renee, that's just the nature of machines, isn't it? It's a good thing Dan can fix it himself!

Goatldi, yay! Interesting that it's only an issue with your iPhone. Google changed the entire blogger dashboard interface to accommodate cell phones!

Tractor seems to be okay at the moment. Considering it's about 60 years old, it's amazing it still runs as well as it does.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Along with Ed, I am intrigued as well!

I like the idea of digging the swale and experimenting with it before backfilling with wood chips.

Leigh said...

TB, that's how Geoff Lawton final checks level; by filling with water. Or at least one of the ways. Dan's pretty good at that sort of thing, but it still helps to check. Now, we just need a significant rainfall! (Something that has starting eluding us now that summer seems to have hit.) said...

Good job so far! You 2 get the hardworking award for 2022! If I was only younger I would start my own homestead again!