That looks different.


Let’s go check it out.



J brought his infrared thermal imager to the scene and, as you would expect, there is a “warm” spot in the area that is not frozen. There is a relative difference of about 9 degrees F. in that area compared to its surrounding.

Here’s a theory. A little over two years ago, I started the groundwork for our orchard. We dug about 570 linear feet of on-contour berms and swales upslope of this little pond. Already, it looks so different with shrubs, trees, and perennial grasses, plants, and weeds growing there. It is, also, functioning differently, in that; water captured in the swales percolates into the soil much more quickly.

I’ve been observing this pond, almost daily, for four winters. I’ve never seen this “hole” in the ice before this year. I’m seeing the phenomenon every time the pond freezes this winter. We were informed that there were no springs on this property. This man-made pond captures runoff from the upper slopes. We fully expected that there was a seep here as the pond never dried up. It got low but never dry in the time that I’ve been here. Downslope from this pond is Rattlesnake Run.

I’m suspecting that this feature in the ice represents the emergence of an active spring where there had only been a low flow seep feeding the pond. That would be a nice surprise after such a dry fall season. If this is indeed a spring, if it is really “new;” Could it be related to the swales that I dug two years ago?

Swales capture water from the rainfall as well as run off from the slope above them. I have understood that when you build swales there is potential for new springs to emerge lower on the slope. The following well-written explanation comes from www.permaculturefoodforest.wordpress.com.

 The purpose of a swale is to harvest water passively. Over time, this will establish a permanent growing system, storing moisture in the soil for long-term food and water security. They also help deal with storm water run-off, and reduce erosion by slowing down the flow of water. As water flows downward, the berm interrupts and collects it in the level bottom.  Water fills up the swale, the mound passively soaks it up, and forms an underground water lens of moist soil. This hydrates the soil and sub-soils below and boosts the effectiveness of horticulture and agroforestry. As the water percolates downward, it eventually hits the bedrock and moves horizontally, accumulating at the bottom of the lower slopes. Over time, this creates new springs, recharging aquifers and creating a natural water resource. 


The website goes into more detail about building a swale. The site, also, describes many other practical applications of permaculture design. It is definitely worth a visit. I’ll, certainly, be going back.


Standing on pond ice, south of “spring” looking upslope toward orchard (top and upper left corner of pic) on 1/9/2017

As for the hole in the ice, we’ll keep watching. ..maybe some of us more closely than others!


I’m interested in alternative theories! Send me a note!

Categories: Orchard, permaculture, Soil, Strategies, Water | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Orchard Update

We’ve had around 2′ of snow and, then, warmer weather. As the thaw continued, we had about 1.25″ of rain. Water is flowing. The swales in the orchard seem to capture and absorb the water effectively. None of the berms are overflowing or come near it. There are a few drainage sites that I dug last year that continue to function in part. I will consider clearing them should I find the swales are getting too full. This photo shows the 1/2 acre orchard which has four swales and berms running on contour, generally, west to east. The slope faces south. The pond is downslope from and south east of the orchard. It is interesting to see the pattern of the snow/thaw on the slope.


The next four photos show each swale and berm from top of the slope, north to lower on the slope, south. The trees you see planted in the swale are alnus glutinosa or common alder. They love the moisture and excel at fixing nitrogen in the soil.





This is the very full pond.


And a full rainy day view from east to west, bamboo, pond and woodlot, and orchard.


At this point, I’m happy with the swales and berms in this orchard. It is clearly a moist place especially on the south end and we’ll see how the trees tolerate the conditions. The only plants we’ve lost so far have been a few seaberries on the first berm at the top of the slope. I, also, lost some alders. They were not rooted well enough when the swales were flooding the first year. I’ve ordered some more currants, gooseberries, replacement seaberries, and raspberries to tuck in where there seems to be some extra space.




Categories: Climate, Orchard, Strategies, Water | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Power down

A thick layer of heavy snow combined with a layer of ice brought branches and trees down last week. The electric power went down on Wednesday morning. I happened to be reading Ben Falk’s “The Resilient Farm and Homestead” at the time. I considered the contents of the book as I went through my un-electrified days (4 1/4 days without power to be exact.) It provided a very useful perspective. The book, in part, is a practical guide for creating a homestead that is prepared to function well in such situations.

When the power goes out, there is no pump to bring water from our 300′ deep well. And, of course, with no water; the toilet does not flush. The propane heating system cannot run without electricity. There are no lights. The refrigerator/freezer stops working (though wintertime is a great assist regarding that detail.) There is no internet and nothing with which to charge my cell phone. With one little flashlight, a dead phone, 4 gallons of water, a deteriorating woodstove, and about 1/4 cord of wood (much of it under snow and not well seasoned;) I, quickly realized that I was not well prepared for this type of (inevitable) situation. A propane powered stove that worked was a plus. A good truck with four wheel drive was awesome. Neighbors that made a point of looking out for each other…Brilliant! Phones were lent, water and showers were offered, driveways were magically plowed in the night, meals were shared, information was relayed, etc. etc. and so many more etc.’s!  It wasn’t too long before I relaxed into a routine of sawing the too long logs to fit into the stove, moving firewood, stacking firewood around the woodstove to dry, tending the fire, and collecting and melting snow for washing and for flushing. There was even time to marvel at the beauty of the season. Overall, the experience was inconvenient, not catastrophic, and a very good learning experience. I, highly, recommend reading Ben’s book….and…tighten up that woodstove, develop water containment systems, consider the resiliency of your communication systems, charge your batteries, tend to the woodpile, get some lanterns and candles; and, most importantly, love your neighbors!

Click on any of the following pictures to access the slideshow. Hit “escape” to return to the post.

Categories: Infrastructure, Strategies, Water | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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