Saturday, February 4, 2012

Come Swale Away

It is interesting how just one word or two can change your entire perspective on something.  In reality, we all have prejudices that taint how we see things and react to different problems and circumstances.  Some call this being stuck in a box or a rut.  There are many boxes in all of us.

We have been doing a little reading and research in the area of permaculture.  The word permaculture seems to carry varied definitions, but the gist of it is farming in a way that is in harmony with nature.  I prefer to say that it is a method of farming in tune with God's creation.  But permaculture isn't the word I want to talk about here.

The word I want to talk about is harvest, but first, I have to explain why.  In Austrailia, farmers use what are called swales to capture run-off.  In essence, a swale is a trench dug in a srtategic place on the property.  Now, we live in the Ozarks and it is difficult to find a completely flat place anywhere.  So we have run-off, which, in times of heavy rain or snow melt, can take a bunch of land with it.  This has become a concern for me and I have often tried to think of ways that I could stop the errosion.  But here is the cool thing.  I heard a gentleman explain that digging swales is for "harvesting" water, not stopping run-off.

Can you see how the word "harvest" can change the way you think about rain?  The idea is to trap the water in a place that will hold it for a whaile and slowly distribute it down slope to "feed" the soil in an area that would normally not get fed due to the rain water just running away and collecting in a low spot.

The concept of harvesting water has gotten me thinking differently about rain water.  Now I am looking carefully at the land.  Now I try to see the slope and low spots and determine where the water is going to try to catch it before it gets there.  I have even dug three small swales and am looking forward to digging more.  The potential to grow grass for the cattle in areas that are light on vegetation is tremendous.  This has got me excited.  Go to Youtube and look up "swale", there are a bunch of videos on the subject to learn more from.  Here is a teaser:


Gorges Smythe said...

Years ago, the County Extension Agent talked my dad into plowing a single furrow on the contour every twenty feet or so in our hilltop pasture. It made it more difficult to clip pasture, but it DID slow the water down during light rains and I'm sure made a difference in times of not quite enough rain.

Gorges Smythe said...

Incidentally, permaculture, to me, means using more native trees and plants to produce food.

Your choice of music stirs my two drops of Scottish blood to go out and slay an Englishman, by the way, despite me being more English than Scottish!