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Permaculture in Humid Landscapes

Permaculture in Humid Landscapes



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Published by Evan Schoepke
Permaculture in Humid Landscapes by Bill Mollison
Permaculture in Humid Landscapes by Bill Mollison

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Published by: Evan Schoepke on Feb 25, 2009
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Pamphlet II in the Permaculture Design Course SeriesPUBLISHED BYYANKEE PERMACULTUREPublisher and Distributor of Permaculture Publications
Barking Frogs Permaculture Center
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192-0052 USA
Email: YankeePerm@aol.comhttp://www.permaculture.net/~EPTA/Hemenway.htm
Edited from the Transcript of the Permaculture Design CourseThe Rural Education Center, Wilton, NH USA 1981Reproduction of this Pamphlet Is Free and Encouraged
Pamphlet II Permaculture in Humid Landscapes Page 1.
The category we are in now is hu-mid landscapes, which means a rain-fall of more than 30 inches. Our thesisis the storage of this water on thelandscape. The important part is thatAmerica is not doing it.The humid landscape is water con-trolled, and unless it is an extremelynew landscape- volcanic or newlyfaulted--it has softly rounded out-lines. When you are walking up thevalley, or walking on the ridge, ob-serve that there is a rounded 'S'shaped profile to the hills.Where the landscape turns fromconvex to concave occurs a criticalpoint that we call a keypoint.*The main valley is the main flow,with many little creeks entering. Atthe valley head where these creeksstart, we locate the major keypoint.From there on, the keyline starts tofall from one in 1,000 to one in 2,000below contour. The dams we make inthe lower valleys will be slightly low-er at each point. They will not be atthe keypoint.Rain falling on the hilltop runs off.The paths described by single rain-drops, wherever they fall, are simi-lar in that they cross contours atright angles, because that is theshortest drop between two contours.Water takes the shortest path acrossthe landscape from where it falls towhere it hits the river line. It is alongthis path that raindrops are doingtheir thing. As soon as they are in theriver valley, they are off to the sea.It is possible to locate the keypointfrom a contour map. Find where thecontours start to spread. That is thekeypoint.Having found the keypoint, we cannow treat the whole landscape as if itwere a roof and a tank. In a fairly de-scending line, falling gently awayfrom the horizontal, we put in agroove around the hill. This is thehighest point at which we can workwith mechanical tools. Above that, itis too steep. We make a little shelfaround the hill leading to the keypoint.No matter where this water was go-ing, we have now started to divert it,bringing it right around the hill to thekeypoint. In effect, we have put agutter around our roof, a very gentlyfalling gutter. We started at the key-point and extended a line that we lift-ed one foot at every 2,000 feet. Wewant to create a very, very gentlefall. Water just moves along it, andthat is all. We have directed the wa-ter to our keypoint.At the keypoint, we put a littledam; for it is the highest point in theprofile of the valley that we can eco-nomically store water. It is a ratherdeep little dam, and we need a fairamount of Earth to build it. It is notthe most economical dam that we willhave, but it gathers all the waterfrom the top of the hill to that point.We can make that keypoint dam aslarge as we can afford. It will enableus at any time of the year to run wa-ter right around this contour and let itfall on any area that we want. We leadthe water out through the wall of thedam, either by siphon or a lock-pipe,allowing it to enter a contour drain.We control the flow in the drain by asheet of canvas or plastic, fasteningit like a flag to a very light plasticpipe. A chain attaches to the other endof the flag, serving as a weight. Wemay peg that flag down within thedrain, holding back the flow until the
*Bill's treatment of keyline differs signifi-cantly from that of P. A. Yeomans, origi-nator of the keyline plan. For a more de-tailed and more accurate treatment of keyline, see
Water for Every Farm--Yeomans Keyline Plan
, an updated ver-sion of Yeomans' work available fromYankee Permaculture at the address on thecover.Having found the keypoint, we can now treat the whole landscape as if it were a roof anda tank.
All runnoff froabove the diversiodrain is collectedthe keypoint. Thican be directed froan irrigation channto any other poibelow. Slopesthese channels ranfrom 1:200 t1:200
Pamphlet II Permaculture in Humid Landscapes Page 2.
drain has filled behind the flag. Thenthe water spills over, sheeting downacross the hillside. About twice ayear, in summer, this will usually beenough to keep the countryside verygreen.If you want to put out a bush fireyou just walk backwards with theflag, and you douse the whole hillside.One person can water hundreds ofacres this way with no effort at all.It is very light work. No pumps.For very large dams, holding five orsix million gallons, you merely put asliding gate or lock-pipe in the damwall, generally about 18 inchessquare. This water will flow out aboutas fast as you can walk, walking fair-ly slowly. The drain being filled willfollow you along. The most restfulway to irrigate a large area in thisway is to have two people and twoflags. We peg here, and our friendgoes 100 feet ahead and pegs. Whenwe have soaked our part of the field,we just pull our flag, and our waterflows on to his flag.The depth of your ditch depends onthe size of your dam. If you have a5,000 gallon dam and a little garden,a small market garden, you can have asmall ditch, and you can control theflow just by putting a spade in it.Alternately, you can have some-thing as big as a lake, for which youwill need a large lock pipe with a bigwheel on it, and the ditch itself maybe half the size of this room. This willrequire a fair size flag. In this situa-tion, we may be trying to irrigate2,000 or 3,000 acres a day.On large property, taking in a wholewatershed, we may go on construct-ing further dams on a descending con-tour. Away we go, dam to dam todam, falling all the way on this one totwo thousand keyline. As long as yourmain dam is the highest, you can comedown to all the little valleys, taking inboth sides of the watershed. The key-point should fall to both sides of thewatershed. In the next valley, thedam is a little lower, and the next onea little lower. As for the river, it willflow quite continuously. The morestorage you have on the hills, thelonger that river will flow in summer.You can also find situations in whichone side of the valley is very, verysteep, and the other side very gentle.In this case, it is possible to put stor-ages on the gentler slope.Sometimes, again, the keypoint iswell up-slope on very gentle, lowsloping country.What we are up to is taking wateroff non-agricultural land, and prefer-ably forested land, collecting the wa-ter and the snow melt that has fil-tered through this forest. We don'twant to cultivate those upper slopes.They are too steep, and they shouldn'tbe cultivated. Depending on your soil,don't cultivate beyond a 19 degreeslope. You can get guidance on thisfrom your local soils people. General-ly, the sandier it gets, the less slopeyou will cultivate. With clay, youmight get away with cultivating at 20degrees probably once or twice.The keypoint decides not only themost economical place to start tocatch the water; it also defines thepoint above which you should probablyconsider forestry, while using theland below for irrigated pasture,croplands, orchards, or even irrigat-ed forest. If you are dealing with afairly wild forest of walnut and othernuts, it is very useful to be able topour water on just about the time youare going to harvest. Then all yourhusks split and the nuts drop out. Be-low the keypoint lies the potential forcultivation.All this that I have been giving youis just a model. I don't expect thecountryside to be like that, for herewe may have rocks and falls andtrees, and maybe a small pasture--but just as a model, that is the waywe would do it.The slope with which we are work-ing varies between sand and clay.Even with sand, if the drop is one footin 2,000, we hardly shift a grain ofsand in these ditches. We ran an eightmile ditch recently in northeast Tas-mania. We got five or six miles alongwith one of these ditches--it was inthe summertime and it hadn't rainedfor months--and there came a light,misty rain. We walked back a coupleof miles and the ditch was running inthe sand. It had been a guess, sort ofa bet. We were doing it with a back-hoe. It was just in sand, and itworked. We filled the first dam on thefirst day of light rain.Here you are saying, you haverocks all over the place. Yet, it isvery easy to go around outside them,or to bank up on outside of them. Ifthey are as big as this room, run theditch to the rock, let it drop down theside of the rock, pick it up at the bot-tom and go on. It is easy to go arounda rock, just go around it and backhoeit. It may only need to be a littleditch, maybe just six inches deep.
"One person can water hundreds of acres this way with no effort at all."

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