Feb 13, 2013

Swale Part 1 - It begins

This morning I finally started work on my first Contour Swale. A very Permaculture thing to be doing.

What I am doing different to how many western swales are created these days is digging it by hand, an endeavour some might consider a bit crazy. Its going to be a little over 100 of  my paces long, my paces being a little over a meter I think. Its about a quarter of the way down the property, the highest point at which I could get a clear path all the way across. 

For more on what swales are and how they work I suggest a look at this two minute youtube video, Geoff Lawton can explain far better than I can :) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFeylOa_S4c 

The proposed path for the swale.
In terms of how I have my mind around this gargantuan task its another one of those cases where I see strong similarities between my new life and my old city job of animating. Animated productions are ridiculously huge undertakings, requiring amounts of work that when viewed in their entirety seem overwhelming. However, if you break the job up into small components and set yourself small goals along the way it is amazing what you can achieve. At Oska Software I might have produced over an hour of animation in a year, which would be over 36000 frames of animation, but by focussing on what I needed to get done each day, then each morning or afternoon, and then even what I want to get done in the next hour or even ten minutes it can become achievable.  


And so it is with the Swale, 100 paces sounds like a lot, but I won't be focusing on that. Here I dug out 4 or 5 paces in a couple of hours, which is what I intend to focus on doing regularly, it still leaves me time for other duties on the farm and makes sure I can give my back a rest. But 4 or 5 paces every couple of days will add up to say about 20 paces a week, in just a 4 or 5 weeks I'll be half way across etc etc.


This is how things are done when you choose to live a cash poor, time rich lifestyle. I could watch someone do it with a bobcat in half a day if I did more work off farm, but I think there is a big difference in how I would feel about the swale. This will be my swale, I will know every inch of it, instead of knowing every bit of some other job I had done for someone else to profit from just to get my hands on a slither of the money it might make, so I can then have an "easier" swale that I felt less connected to. I know its not for everyone, but this actually makes me happy, I can't wait to look back on my work when its done.


So far I expect I've been spoiled, the ground is quite soft after all the rain we had late in January, it will be interesting to see how we go. I'll keep you posted.

4 comments:

Bart Beswick said...

And you will get fitter and stronger for the effort as well!

Ian said...

Sure will Bart, I'm already fitter and healthier than I've ever been in my life, muscles in places I had no idea existed and a flat six pack tummy. I have contemplated doing a post about it along the lines of how a good dose of country life would solve half the worlds health problems. But I can't bring myself to post about myself in that way. Instead I'll just mention it down here in the comments where no pictures are required :P

Frank said...

I think there are some spade and shovel digging ergonomics tips on gardening shows. Back breaking work should not be done literally.

Ian said...

Yes a point I am very mindful of Frank. I have been blessed with a pretty good back, never suffered from any serious problems with it. I need to keep it that way. Knees bent, not too much weight on the end of the shovel at a time, and position myself so I don't need to twist when lifting the soil up onto the bank of the swale.

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