Tasman's Project

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by Tasman, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Project Details:

    Location: Geeveston, Tasmania 43 degrees South. Its windy here!
    Status: Just getting started on 10 Ha of mostly grazing land. Putting in road and will start on house fairly soon.
    Objective: to make a nice environment that substantially meets our day to day needs without turning us into slaves to our land.

    [​IMG]
    I'm hoping the site turns out better than my drawing. Its not to scale. But this shows the basics of what we want to do on the hectare around our house site. We'd like to let a fair chunk of it revert to bush. Especially further up the hill where the hilltop it exposed.

    [​IMG]
    Here is a view of the larger site. The top of the picture is downhill and north. Note lack of water at top of site. Note also the slippage to the SW of the dam.

    On our mind now:
    1.) Build the house and the road.
    2.) Get some stock on the grass to prevent it turning into a fire hazard.
    3.) Put up enough fencing to repair the damage we do in point 1 and enable point 2.
    4.) Design a solar pergola for north and west side of house that will make the house comfortable and provide a yield.
    5.) The dam is pretty broken due, I suspect, to cattle on it. The northern edge is pretty close to breaking. The overflow is blocked and you can see where earth has slid down the hill and filled in a chunk of what was once an oval shaped dam. The dam is more than 1/2 drained now and I continue to syphon water out of it.
    6.) Lots of spare earth and earth moving machinery there for road making. We could use both to make a swale that redirects the water from the drain on the road. It would be cheap if we did it now.
    7.) We'll put a tank some way up the hill. I have no idea if we could make a dam up there. Might not be enough catchment. Lots of people have suggested a really big tank instead.

    More pics at:
    http://davidfromoz.smugmug.com/Category/House/i-rLmjqq3

    We're especially interested in any feedback on 4, 5 and 6 above.

    cheers,
    Tas

    PS. oh, yeah. we don't really have a clue what we're doing. but we want to mostly do it ourselves and we want to have fun doing it.
     
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  2. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Since I want to make this a live thread, later I'll copy the above to here and keep the top post filled with the latest info on the project.
     
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  3. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Which way is north?

    I'd suggest that your first priority should be water. As you say the excess soil can go into other projects. Will you simply fix the existing dam or will you build others? Can you put the road on contour to at as a swale rather than a drain? Will you only put in the one swale? Have you worked out how much rainfall there is, what the longest gap in the rain is and when, how much water you will need and therefore what capacity of water storage you need? You can use dams for more than one purpose (fish and ducks for e.g.) - rain water tanks are just rain water tanks.

    Water - access - structures is the order I was taught.

    BTW the way the board is setup the newest post will always occur at the end of the thread and that's where everyone here expects to find it. It also then goes in the What's New feed that way - and clicking on it takes you to the end of the thread. So don't spend your life cutting and pasting as it won't help. The best way to keep a thread active is to post regular updates.
     
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  4. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Sounds like alot of fun heading your way!
    One thing I didnt understand, is why you are going to put your house so far away from your water source......house/gardens need water, closer = less pipes to get it there, one side you wouldnt have to worry about if you do have a bush fire...
     
  5. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    North is towards the top of both graphics. So the land slopes towards the north. We get about 800mm of rain a year. The rain falls all year round, but weighted quite a bit to winter/spring. Last year a lot of land in the area got quite dry, but our land seemed to retain the water better.

    Clearly, I need to think more about water. I hadn't considered to try to quantify it. I reckon about 32Ml a year fall uphill of us a year. Most of that could be considered to be catchment for our land. Runoff is quite low. Contours are close to parallel. We just had a pretty wet October and the ground got fairly uniformly wet and quite boggy in the shallow gully. The ground does take up most of the water. I want to let some of the land at the south end of the property (including the top of the hill) revert to bush.

    I was thinking to fix the broken dam wall, but now I'm wondering if the money wouldn't be better spent to create a water catchment higher up the property. We could put a dam in the gully uphill from our activities, and try to gather the water from across the slope with another swale. I don't know how to tell if it will collect enough water. Pumping from the bottom dam is certainly not out of the question for the times when there is not enough water in the upper dam.

    Its not possible to build the road on contour since the access to the land is via easements that could not easily be moved. So we placed a culvert right before the road leaves the property and our idea was to redistribute the water across the swale.

    Now I wish I had posted this 6 months ago. But on the other hand, its not built yet so we can still revise on paper rather than modify after its built.

    Thats the trick mischief! Make sure its fun. The other day I was crawling around in the dam with a polypipe to syphon water out of it. It was raining. I was swearing. Then I remembered its supposed to be fun. Thats all it took and suddenly it was.

    cheers,
    tas
     
  6. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    ....Always look on the bright side of life......(damn, cant remember the rest of the song).
    Its always there, all it takes is, as you said, remembering
     
  7. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Water: With some good input from these forums and lots study and observation we have updated our water plan and implemented some of it. I have included a broad brush stroke updated plan. As always I welcome comment and criticism from all. I'd caution against following our model too much since we are clueless and everything here is untested so far.

    [​IMG]
    North is towards the top. Property is directly north facing, so bottom of the pic is top of the hill. Not everything in the diagram exists. Slightly higher res plan pic is located here: http://davidfromoz.smugmug.com/Our-Home/Property/i-bJv3xMH/A

    We bought Yeoman's "Water for Every Farm" book. Its a good read. Perhaps more directed to larger land holders/farmers. But still a big help to us in understanding water movement and how to control it. It would have been a good read before we bought our property.

    The dam that came with the property was close to failure when we arrived. The mode of failure was cattle walk in overflow drain. Drain is partially blocked causing maximum dam water level to rise. Water flows over lip of dam. Cattle stomp there too. Wall starts to break away. In addition, cattle walking uphill from dam cause quite a lot of erosion in gully. So we syphoned the water out of the dam, excluded cattle, cut back the wall to base clay with an excavator and built it back up again. We also dug out the overflow and planted dogwood in the gully above the dam. I hope the conditions there will eventually support leatherwood. We planted clover and rye grass on the dam wall, but its clay/soil (at best) and nothing is growing there in winter. Hopefully there will be an explosion of growth in spring. With winter rain the dam in now nearly back to full and I'm pretty sure its not leaking.

    [​IMG]

    We decided to put in a dam higher up the property. I think Mr. Yeomans would observe that the whole property is above the keyline. We wanted to put the dam as high up the property as possible, but with enough catchment above it so that it will fill. Since we are pretty near the top of the hill this was a compromise. We placed it the gully above our house. I think it will fill as a stand alone dam, but we put in a catchment drain.

    [​IMG]

    We put in a pipe which can syphon from the dam to various points on the property. That pipe runs all the way to the lower dam and we bought a pump so we can pump from the lower dam. We got a petrol driven portable pump that we can use if fire comes to visit. Hopefully, the pipe/pump will go live in August, but the last yard goes though building construction hell and there are many dependencies that must be satisfied before it can be completed. We decided to standardise on 1 1/2 inch poly pipe for the main pipes and 3/4 inch pipes for the smaller lines.

    We've put in two water control structures. The first was our swale. We love our swale. Things grow better on it than anywhere else. I'm surprised to see that water that it captures very quickly dissipates into the soil despite our heavy clay. We also built fore mentioned catchment drain. We plan to plant a tree belt along this.

    Thats water so far. I won't go into drinking water and supply to the house. Thats an ongoing adventure that I'll report on when I have a clue what the effects of our decisions are.
     
  8. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Great work Tasman! Lovely to have a progress report on what you have achieved to date. What have you planted your swale with?
     
  9. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Thanks Eco!

    I'm afraid the swale is a bit of a random, poorly planned mess. But for me its by far the most exciting project we have on our land. There is always something new to see when you visit the swale. We have limited experience in growing things. Since we want the swale to be a low maintenance area our final idea is to grow lots of things on it and observe. We did plant some conventional vegetable crops (in rows) on it because it seems to be our best growing place now. But ultimately, I expect the soil near our house to be better and closer. We have had lots of radishes and started to eat the spring onions that are growing on it.

    We planted clover, daikon (going great guns), carrots, comfrey, tansy, marigold, jerusalem artichoke, garlic, parsley, chives, rosemary, potatoes, kale, leek, onions, rubarb, horse radish, shallot, peas. Also there is tagasaste (poor success rate on our first round), apples, lemon, fig and feijoa. I also have an idea to plant kang kong (not sure what this stuff is called here actually, kong ching tsai in Chinese) in the wet area.

    I made a couple of rock piles and am hoping that blue tongue will take up residence in them. There are a _lot_ of slugs on our swale. Frogs like our swale. Rabbits eat the clover. Possum and wallaby interest in it so far seems to be limited. Our fencing and layout is set up so we'll be able to experiment with geese, ducks and chickens in the swale once we have them. Soon the swale will be fenced off from local wildlife.

    My prized possession is some tea clippings that I am trying to get to take root. If they successfully establish, I'm planning on trying to establish some, that I have in pots now, on the swale.

    cheers,
    tas
     
  10. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Sounds like a great start. I know kang kong - ipomea aquatica - I have some in a water pot by my back deck. Great stuff.
     
  11. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i love trying things like what you describe a more random garden with mixed plantings. to see what happens, what will reseed itself, etc. very much agree with you that it is fun. and that you can help certain plantings along and tinker as you have time, but if you don't they'll keep powering on without you too. :)
     
  12. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    Way overdue for an update:

    Most everything in the drawings above is built now. Our water plan has been workable. In fact we survived a pretty dry summer last year. But it still needs work. By far the main aim is to get the organic content of our soil up so it will hold more water. Both of our dams are still giving problems.

    [​IMG]

    The house was completed with many difficulties. And are happy to be out of the shed and back in a real house after some years of camping, woofing, living in the shed. It is mostly delivering on our desire for a simple efficient house.

    [​IMG]

    Our site is very windy. So windbreak is important. Our first round of windbreak was a not a big success. We allowed it to become choked with grass. This time round we mound ploughed and put in a couple of hundred trees in 3 rows. Its animal (stock) fenced and our plan for grass control is portable chicken fence and chicken tractor. Wish us luck. We planted a lot of bee and bird friendly trees.

    [​IMG]

    We've started growing things. You can see some of lower windbreak in the middleground (behind the road). In front of that is a section of young fruit trees. We think the trees will grow faster if we pick off the fruit in the first few years, but we decided to leave the fruit on the trees last year as a kind of reward to ourselves. In front of that is the vegetable garden (now quite a bit bigger). We have been experimenting with shrub and herbal understoreys for our orchard and have now sent the pigs in with devastating effect around the fruit trees (which were of course fenced for their own protection). We're going to plant a lot of understorey this spring. Main plans are comfrey bed for organic matter and chicken friendly vegetables/plants. As you can see grass is the enemy.

    [​IMG]

    Gosh, I wish we had done this pretty much right after we did our water plan. All those backbreaking hours of doubling digging garden beds, easily done with pigs. We were impressed in summer, but the winter pigs working on wet ground are just astounding.

    [​IMG]

    Likewise, I wish we had done chickies earlier too. They are now free range in the section of orchard in the above picture. Finally, we plan to rotate them through 4 sections.

    [​IMG]

    And finally, blackberry control; pictured with some of their handiwork. Its going to take a while, but they will win the war with blackberries. Though I do now wonder what they will eat after that. Hopefully, tagasaste will be plentiful by then. We also have cows, but since were aren't really doing anything permaculture related with them yet I won't cover them this time.

    I read a lot about permaculture before starting this project. I don't know if its just me, but even when I know the permaculture principles I still have to relearn them by experience. I knew we should delay the start of development while observing, I knew we should start small in zone 1, but we were eager for windbreak and fruit. Now we truly know and understand. That said, we're loving our project more day by day.
     
  13. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Awesome update! Congratulations on your new home and all of your hard work. If you tractor your chooks behind a rotational cow grazing program, you'll be right in line with Joel Salatin's approach.
     
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  14. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i don't know how i would ever get any gardening done had i animals to
    manage too. congrats! looks like it is coming along.

    :)

    oh, i didn't think young fruit tree saplings would even start having fruit
    on them until the fourth or fifth year or later. so you must be using
    grafted trees?
     
  15. Tasman

    Tasman Junior Member

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    I thought the same thing about animals when we were getting started. Got some cows and goats for the pasture and decided on animals for the inner zones could wait till we had the other things under control. So here we are in our 3rd year just getting pigs and chickens. But I now think having pigs and chickens would have been a net reduction in effort had we got them right at the start.

    Yes, the trees are mostly on semi dwarfting rootstock. Quicker path to fruit production is one of the reasons we chose them. We have planted random cherry pips and shoved cuttings in holes all over the place too.

    cheers,
    tasman
     
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  16. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    Thank you for sharing your journey with is!
    If you done have ducks for the ponds you should get some. Geoff made a great video talking about how you can use ducks to seal a pound. I will try to find it later.
     
  17. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    I couldn't find the you tube video. But here is a great post from Geoff and Nadia. This is in response to how to fix and seal a dam in volcanic soils. Although, it should work for any dam and soil situation.

    ("Hi Richard
    get some of the clay material out and test it in glass jar and water to see how it settles out and what percentage of clay there is. Also see if you can compact some in the neck of a glass bottle full of water and the turn it upside down and see if it will hold the water in permanently. Bentonite would be advisable if the materials are not right and used from the bottom of the keyway up to the top of the wall plus liberally tracked in to the base of the main hole. Also do not attempt to put a pie through the wall unless the material is good clay. Bentonite is usually cheap, $AUS 170 a ton in Australia and it is mainly sold a mineral suppliment for cattle feed. The rye grass trick would be used to build uo a green glee material to seal, you could also use animal manure or better still animals themselves especially cows fenced into the dam and fed over the fence. As the bottom of the dam seals the cows are gradually flooded out up the sides, growing a feed crop in the bottom of the dam first would also work well. At Tagari Farm we seal small earth ponds by heavily stocking ducks and the manure sucked in to the leaking earth ponds and sealed, we had to supply constant water and ducks but the sealed quickly. The same principle works on a larger scale with cows.
    Cheers Geoff & Nadia")
     

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