[permaculture] Introduction and a question about Swales
jhi at post.com
Mon Dec 29 08:03:30 EST 2008
Thank you Dick for the kind words of encouragement. I live in south
central Idaho and 5200 foot elevation. CRMPI sounds pretty close and
along the lines of where I should be looking. You gave me a lot to mull
over. The idea of a snow melt field is very interesting. I currently
live on a small town lot, a home that my wife and I are buying, along
with all the kids. There are things that I can do and things I can not.
If I look at my life from a permaculture perspective then everything is
on the table, to get to sustainability, to help my community work toward
sustainability. I need to find my pc niche. -Jeff
Dick Pierce wrote:
> Welcome, Jeff.
> I can't tell what Mountain Desert you live in but the best in the dry
> mountain stuff that I know is Jerome Ochtenkowski (close, but sp?) and CRMPI
> - CO Rocky Mountain Permaculture Inst in Basalt, CO. Their climate is very
> similar to what you describe. So, check him and his web site, and classes
> out - he is knowledgeable and inspirational. Then there are lots of
> desert/drylands PC folks - Scott Pitman, et.al. in Santa Fe, and Clayton
> Brascoupe of TNAFA - Traditional Native American Farmers Assoc. (lots of dry
> land) - also in Santa Fe. They'll all have lots more for you to read but I
> remember "Food from Dryland Gardens" by David Cleveland/Daniela Soleri and
> "Growing Food in the High Desert Country" by Julie Weinberg.
> When I lived in Boulder, I was surprised to find that we got only 15" of
> rainfall (never knew if that included snowfall but think it did) - lots of
> Yucca and Cactus around - and that the farmers on the prairie depended a
> whole lot on mountain water and snow melt, held back in ponds and metered
> out via ditches for irrigation.
> The challenge for snowmelt is of course to use it before it runs off and/or
> to store it so you can use it over the growing season. You can store it in
> the soil, in the water table (if that is close to the surface, which it's
> probably not for you), or in pond/dam combos. All of these are PC techniques
> - and you'll find a good deal of expertise in the SW/CO/CA-PC Folks - it's
> their world and was their Indigenous cousins before settlers showed up. I
> helped run a summer camp with a garden in Bailey, CO at about 7,200 ft and
> we had a 2" plastic pipe that ran from a snow-melt field with a 5'x5'x5'
> concrete collector box that was about 800 ft above the camp. It supplied
> high pressure drip irrigation on a timer to the garden to well into August -
> 1st frost was around Labor Day.
> Permaculture was made for challenges such as yours. I'm sure you'll get a
> lot of input from the Western and SW Permaculture folks. Please also figure
> out how to get thee to one of their great design courses as soon as you can
> - reading and writing is great but attending a class, somehow, is much, much
> On your question about slope and flat - there is no such thing as flat. When
> it rains enough, the water flows somewhere - in a direction - that is
> downhill. One inch of slope in a hundred feet will move water downhill just
> fine. That's what's happening in the Mid-East with Geoff Lawton's project.
> In PC, you don't want water moving fast - that promotes run-off and erosion,
> so haqving it on the flat and insoaking is best, moving it almost on the
> flat (on a contour, to a pond/dam) is next best.
> Swales are great for stopping runoff, getting it to insoak into the water
> table, but a swale should go dry within 2-4 days of a rain/snowmelt event -
> otherwise it is a pond and you should have habitat (continuous water) for
> critters that eat mosquito larvae, or they'll eat you. Both swales and ponds
> are great elements in PC Designs.
> Hope this is helpful. Your situation sounds like a lot of PC-fun, as it has
> a lot of challenge. Good luck
> Dick Pierce
> On Sun, Dec 28, 2008 at 4:14 PM, Jeff Hine <jhi at post.com> wrote:
>> Hi, I am fairly new to the idea of permaculture. I have not taken the
>> course or read the principal books on the subject. (money problems)
>> Nevertheless, I have been pouring over everything I can find on the net
>> and watching various youtube videos. And of course I am blown away by
>> the work that you all are doing. I feel like I have been standing on the
>> wrong side of the fence for 25 years of my working career and didn't
>> even know it for 24. I want over asap!
>> I live in an area that is considered mountain desert. We receive on the
>> average 16 inches of precipitation per year with nearly all of it locked
>> up in snow during December, January, and February. I keep trying to
>> figure out what permaculture would look like here. I try to imagine how
>> to use swales to hold onto as much moisture as possible. I know that
>> even when temperatures are cold a lot of snow is lost to evaporation,
>> you can see it happen. And then there is wind blowing that moves it
>> around. Would swales help in a climate like this? And to be specific
>> about my question, Geoff Lawton describes the swales that they put in
>> Jordan. He says in the video that the land is dead flat and later says
>> the swales were put in on contour. What does it mean to put swales on
>> contour on a flat piece of land? Can you treat a building as a hill and
>> use that as the contour point? Also, if you know of any resources online
>> dealing with geography such as where I live could you point me in that
>> I feel like I live in a very challenging landscape, yet I know that all
>> areas are suitable for permaculture design. I am learning and grateful
>> for all the folks on this list.
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