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."