Category: Swales

Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade

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 […]

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Comparing the Great Wall of China’s Contour Structure with That of a Water Harvesting System

A permaculture enthusiast may want to inquire: how do the structures of both the Great Wall of China and Water Harvesting System relate A Brief history of the Great Wall Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, the Great Wall of China has always been the most visible symbol of power and influence of the past Chinese Empires. Initially built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (c.259-210 B.C.) in […]

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How to Build a Swale on Contour Successfully

Swales are amongst my favorite permaculture projects. Though they can be laborious, especially for a shovel and pick fellow like me, they show results quickly and look amazing, texturing the landscape with both purpose and beauty. They are easy to explain: Everyone understands the concept of plants needing water. Swales are also perfect for those of us wanting to build no-dig garden beds, as digging the (swale) paths provides the […]

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Understanding Water Part 2: Working with Flow

Copyright Ingrid Pullen Photography In my previous article, we explored how the basic principle of water is that of flow, and so in order to work well with water it is important to be aware of what the flow is and where it is going. On a practical level, this involves some basic observation and a wealth of techniques which can be used to help utilise water to the advantage […]

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Swales in North Texas Take on 2.5 inches of Rain and Perform Perfectly

In this video, Jack Spirko, shows just how effective good Permaculture Earthworks are in capturing 26,000 Gallons of water from a “barn burner of a storm”. This morning we got 3 hours of pouring rain. Then this afternoon we got hit with close to an inch in less than 30 minutes, and it totally filled the swales and overflowed them all. To drive home how passive this water system is, […]

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Grey Water and Silt Pond Project – Parts 1 and 2

Part One Phil Williams of takes you through a two-part video of him installing a grey water and silt pond project he has. He explains some of the issues and he talks through resolutions to making it work. Phil was a conventional landscape contractor and designer for twelve years. He learned quite a bit about how to run equipment and how to manage a job, but the lack of sustainability […]

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Contour Beds Peru

The ancient Inca also utilised contour patterning in their agriculture. This article will describe the process we took to create kitchen garden contour beds in the Sacred Valley Peru. Contour beds are annual and/or perennial vegetable garden beds that conform to the natural pattern of the landscape. Being on contour means that the paths and beds themselves are level and follow the lay of the land. Not only does this […]

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Drought-Proofing California…not in the news

Digging our well-surveyed swales. I woke up this morning, put on my gum-boots and went out for a walk around our family farm in the rain. This in itself might not seem to be anything special to many folks, yet this was a 2”/5cm rainfall after several intense years of drought here in Southern California. I cannot express how exciting this morning has been for me as I was thinking […]

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It All Started with Geese

5 Tufted Romans, 6 American Buffs and one mixed breed when they were about a week old. It all started with the geese. That’s not to say that they were fault, just that their habits started me on a new line of thinking. The geese were a gift to myself for my birthday one year. I don’t usually do that but I wanted them and it made a good excuse. […]

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Hey! It’s High Cold Dry and Windy and Doing just Great!

Every now and then you come across climate that is not so user-friendly. It’s in the High, Dry and Cold and Windy desert environment of Nevada’s high country near Reno. A place with many challenges. Sagebrush and horse trails dot the landscape. It is cowboy country. So what on earth is a Permaculture teacher doing in such a windswept environment? Neil Bertrando lives here and in three years has used […]

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Bulldozer Digging Swales

Bulldozer Digging Swales from Midwest Permaculture. The Design We had 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 […]

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Swales (Continuous Contour Trenches) Bring Water and Life Back to Maharashtra, India

This (unfortunately low-res) video shares the clear, practical benefits of bringing sensible low-tech Permaculture water harvesting techniques such as swales to our landscapes. In Maharashtra, India, swales are restoring the hydrological cycle, bringing dried up wells and springs back to life, and stopping erosion of the precious soils that subsistence farmers depend on.

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