I visited our permaculture orchard early this afternoon. We’re having a thaw after a couple of weeks of hard freeze conditions. Last night and this morning, the rain has been plentiful. In the little video posted below, you will see:
- hybrid plums and black currants and asian persimmon planted on the raised berm,
- a swale catching melted snow and water running down the slope of the land,
- black alder (Alnus glutinosa) which I planted in the swales because they tolerate wet conditions and help manage water, fix nitrogen and build soil fertility, provide early pollen to the bees (see those catkins?), provide habitat and food for many creatures, and can easily be coppiced,
- wild perennial weeds (especially aster and goldenrod last fall) and grasses growing in the swale which stabilize the soil, help water to percolate into the soil, and provide food and habitat for many creatures, and
- a 3-d deer fence in the background which allows most every animal to sneak into the orchard but is excellent for preventing deer from coming into the orchard and damaging/eating our plantings.
I, also, found this hardy character growing cheerfully in the rain! We planted plenty of rhubarb last spring once we found that we liked rhubarb mead so much. They are doing well!
Categories: Climate, Flora, food, Grasses, Herbaceous Plants, Orchard, Soil, Strategies, Trees, Water
Tags: berms, permaculture, permaculture orchard, rhubarb, swales
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 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!
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.