Sunday, January 10, 2010


We have been digging swales in the place of our original narrow trenches, at the front of our property. These trenches proved too small to deal with the heavy loads of rain we were receiving with summer storms. They would overflow quickly and send gushes of water towards the house.

So we decided to make large, wide trenches instead. Or in permiculture terms, we're incorporating swales.

Below, we began to widen the trenches which run between the compost bins and the back of Hilltop chicken coop. They still need more work, but it's a start. In the picture, you can also see the expanse of land we still have to dig the swale into. Dead ahead Captain!

This will help divert rainwater that comes down from the road and our driveway - but we're also going to be planting an orchard in this area. Fenced off, we should be able to run the chickens from Hilltop to freerange for insects and fallen fruit. To make use of the passing swales we've dug a small (shallow) pond for two recently planted pear trees.

The pond still has water in it 3 days after a significant rain event. Compost we've dug under the pear trees have sprouted yet more volunteer vines - tomatoes and borrage too. We still have to broaden the trench in the lower corner of this photo, plus extend the trench towards our white driveway in the background.

I'm hoping to get grass to grow in the swales eventually to reduce soil erosion further. The other essential part to this strategy though, is vegetation. Without adequate roots to suck-up the moisture, we're only losing nutrients and a good water source.

With all our projects around here the swale and orchard will take time to complete. Not just the hard physical yards, but the time for plants to grow as well. It's actually quite difficult to draw strength from what you're endeavouring to do - knowing it will be at least 12 months before you get to see if it's working or not.

Time seems to pass regardless, so we'll endeavour to do our best. Hopefully it will all come together as a working system.


  1. Love the swale idea Chris, you will be surprised how quickly it will all come together!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement molly. I try to dig at least 2 barrows full of dirt a day. I'll get there eventually, LOL.

  3. Hi Chris! Happy New Year to you and Dave. It's so nice to come back to the blog and have a poke around after the break - you've done some more template changes and it's looking great by the way.

    I can only imagine how daunting it is when you have 5 acres of land instead of 800sqm! We started out with a flat block, bare of anything other than most of the weeds listed on our local council weed-watch site. It was back-breaking work clearing it all then planting tubestock and nurturing everything to start growing. Now I look out the window - three years on - and can't see my neighbours across the street. Out the back, a small but welcome bit of shade is thrown from a young and growing tree. The fruit trees in the chook run are nearly old enough to fruit. It just happens, while we're busy making other plans (as they say!) :)

  4. So true Jacqui! Our fruit trees have really taken off in their second year. I'm sure by next summer growing season, they'll surprise me again.

    Thanks for dropping by again, and I hope you (and molly) have a happy new year too. :)


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