Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Defying gravity


Red marker is where I met the hornet

Today, is the first day back at school, for our youngest. Grade 3. Time certainly marches on. So we should do something meaningful with the time we have - wherever we are, and whatever condition we find ourselves in. Presently, I'm grateful to have the full use of my hand back, after a recent injury. So I can finally return to the companion post about dealing with soil erosion, on the front slope. It's a long overdue project, because it's such a tricky slope.

August 26, 2006

Tricky, because there isn't a lot of room between the various tiers on our front (north facing) slope. This section is the road we contracted the earth-mover to install for us, after they cut the house site, lower down. We liked this particular arrangement, however, it would not stay this way for long. After the initial survey flags were placed for the house slab, the inspector halted the build. Stating there wasn't enough fill between the slab and drop-off, at the back.

This created an altercation between the earth mover and builders, squabbling over whose responsibility it was to fix. The earth mover, claimed they followed the plans given to them. The builders claimed they were under contract to finish the job. Unfortunately, what this came down to, was a loss for us. Because without our permission, the earth mover, altered our road and made a steeper cut for the fill required.

October 5, 2006

My husband snapped this candid shot of me, ten days after the previous photo was taken. We arrived on site, to find sheer cuts into the earth, instead of the smooth batters, made previously. I was not impressed, because they effectively cut further into the slope. This was a big lesson for us, in verbal agreements and cash transactions. We didn't have a contract, like the builders did with the earth mover.

In hindsight, we would have done things much differently. But time doesn't go backwards to fix mistakes. We can only use them to inform the future. So here we are today, with a dilemma of how to prevent erosion in this particular area.

December 2020 - near the overflowing swale

Thankfully, nature left some clues for inspiration, in the last downpour. I observed where the water overflowed, at weak points of our swale. This walkway hugs the swale, and the material we placed on it formerly, has compressed over time. Making it a low point for the overflowing swale to breach. 

Remnants of the bark-mulch on that walkway, indicated where the water attempted to escape down hill - creating little steps where it hit barriers. I noted the short distance between the steps, on a relatively steep slope - only on a much smaller scale to our front slope. Was this the answer I was looking for?

Closer view of the steps ~
dotted lines, are obstacles

Difficult to see, due to being buried by mulch, are branches laid across the slope. These were discarded saplings, we've strategically laid to catch debris. By strategically, I mean, dumped. The flow of water moved enough mulch, to show how it captures water and particles on the slope. These horizontal obstacles, defy the force of gravity to create natural compost steps. 

What this means is, halting erosion on a steep slope. At least, in part - as plants would also have to be introduced, to stabilise the obstacles further. I've seen this before on other parts of our property - the south facing slope. Living tree roots, neutralised gravity moving sediment and water down hill.

July 2018

Combining dead, woody material, and new living plants in such a way, should be able to neutralise some of the force of the water, coming down hill. All without the engineering involved with retaining walls. Plus, the aesthetic should be much more appealing when everything grows in fully. So plant selection will be crucial, to handle the long dry periods. 

This strategy potentially brings up the issue of bushfire hazards though. So we'll probably have to scorch, some of the larger timbers. Enlisting the help of the local Rural Fire Brigade, who do practice burn-offs, for such training purposes - will be my first option. That's if we get large enough pieces. 

Time for a change

Luckily we have plenty of woody material nearby, that needs to be removed. The power pole is on our property, meaning it's our responsibility to maintain. So it's time for the trees to go, before they get any bigger! This will be a winter project, when we are able to wear long, protective clothing, to use a chainsaw.

We're favouring climbing bougainvilleas, as our plant of choice. We know it grows in our area, and will make great nesting sites for small birds. Which we like to encourage for pest control. Bougainvilleas will certainly get excellent drainage on the slope, which is something they prefer.

So that's coming, this winter. Along with a bunch of other projects, lol. Do you have big plans for the seasons ahead, in your area? Or do you have any recommendations, for a die-hard plant on our slope?


  1. Sat inside on another cold wet day, my head is full of garden plans, it's a tiny garden, so none of your sized issues, I am hoping this year will be the push to have colour in the garden all through the year. My problem is finding small enough plants and shrubs, as I would like a mixture rather than just 1 plant.

    1. The warm weather will turn up in your area, as it turns down in mine. But as plants need the sunlight, they'll stay dormant while cloudy days, persist. Hoping you have a successful garden this year, with all your plans for it.

  2. Chris, the Bougainvilleas will look nice. We have a lot of ants here so perhaps we more rain coming. Yes, I am also looking forward to winter as I achieve a lot more than I do in the heat.

    1. Yes, I noticed the ants activity around here too. Building their mud spires, as high as they can go. Not much rain to talk of though. At least it curtailed the sun a while, to cool things down. Summer temps were kicking yesterday, for sure!

  3. Chris, would New Zealand Spinach grow on your property? It's a great ground cover and the young leaves are edible. I have it here in the food forest and though my slope isn't nearly as steep as yours, it's great for spreading out water flows and minimising the water's impact on the soil. It does self-seed everywhere if I let it, but easy to pull up and compost or spread out the dead bits where you haven't got much growth. Just a thought.

    1. I'm fortunate to have the Warrigal Greens growing here naturally. I've even cooked them before and it tasted just like spinach. I occasionally pull them from footh-paths, and toss them around plants, as a moisture filled mulch. So it's a really beneficial plant. I love having it around. Unfortunately, they're only prolific in the wet, and tend to die back in the dry.

      They may well turn up naturally, on the edge of the area we plan to stabilise, when it does rain. But I need plants to live through the dry as the main soil stabiliser. I've actually got my eye on another plant, which may actually be better than bougainvillea. As the latter, tends to be deciduous in the dry. I do appreciate the suggestion though. It's a plant I'd want to get, if it wasn't here already, because it has so many uses when the rain makes it grow.

  4. Hmmm, even with a contract, plan and written agreements we have run into similar problems with tradespeople. I now know to be a right-roayl-pain-in-the-proverbial and micromanage everything - too bad what the tradie thinks.

    Having to deal with where and how water runs is probably a nice problem to have in the grand scheme of things. It sure beats dust and arid dryness.

    1. Sorry to hear of your issues too. When we lived in town, our old neighbour was the proverbial pain, with their tradies too. They told me, without stipulating exactly how they wanted it done, on the spot, they'd be given whatever the tradie decided and be hit with the bill. I understand your (and their) reasoning for it. 😉


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