Videos of Installed Swales – No Show Today and Some Announcements

So we had planned to do recorded Q&A last night but it didn’t happen.  It will happen, and it will be released to the audience, it just won’t be a show today.  Yesterday the students at my homestead worked really hard.  We installed over 500 feet of swale in a very rocky environment.

We didn’t just install it though, we installed it, dressed it, seeded it and mulched it.  We did in one day what we had planned to do in about 3 days.  Why?  Rain was coming, big rain and if we didn’t get it done, we simply would not have been able to continue.   Oh I forgot to mention at about 3PM the excavator blew a hose, our operator and Josiah put it on a trailer, took it back to the rental company, swapped it out, came back and we still finished the job.

So for the next two days we will be doing some classroom work, as long as we can find a dry spot we will be letting students learn to use the excavator a bit and just having some fun which is a lot of what are events are all about.  Of course tonight we will do a recorded QandA as promised.

Below is some rough video of the swales.  Shaky iPhone stuff but I wanted to get this for you while they are full.  I think we got almost 1.5 inches of rain in about 1 hour last night.  Before the project all of it would have simply eroded the land, took away top soil and went into the bar ditch on the road.

A few quick additional announcements.  The MSB Lifetime sale as sold out as expected.  If you completed payment all is well, I am working though the conversions as I have the time.  With all the little things you have to do they take me about 20 minutes each to process.  So I am doing 3-4  a day, I should have all of them done by Monday.  If you signed up and don’t get an email from me by Monday, check your spam filter then email me and I will get you squared away.

Please understand that if you filled out the form but didn’t complete payment that your spot likely went to someone else.  I am not sure how many but it is clear more people filled out the form then paid for a Lifetime Membership.  If you had a problem paying due to PayPal, email me and I will try to work something out with you.

Lastly next week will be short. 

  • Monday – Listener Feedback
  • Tuesday – Keith Snow on making Thanksgiving awesome!
  • Wednesday – The Thanksgiving Special Edition of TSP

The following week, we will return to our regular schedule.  Now enjoy the shaky video of our swales.  Again better video will follow.

42 Responses to Videos of Installed Swales – No Show Today and Some Announcements

  1. Is your spam filter, filtering out emails from gmail accounts?

  2. Jack
    It would be great if you will do regular progression videos of how things are growing so those of us trying to explain to friends what happens can give reference.
    I am referring to the greening of the swales. I know you are doing your weekly updates and I appreciate the effort there is always something to be gleaned from it.

    • Agreed. Possibly a walk around tracing the steps of your original video when you first introduced listeners to your homestead. The place looks great. I am constantly excited to see the videos you put out. Cool stuff.

  3. First of all, that looks great. I have a couple questions. 1. How deep did you dig the swales and how close is the bedrock? 2. Is there a rhyme or reason as to where the sills are included, or do you just put them in at alternate spots in the swales?

    Maybe it doesn’t show in the video, but I’m trying to picture this all in my head. Where are your contour woody beds in relation to this?

    • I was going to ask the same question. How do you determine where to locate the sills? This is cool. Thanks for including it.

    • Stephen-

      I was at Jack’s urban garden workshop and his woody contour bed workshop as well. I can help answer your questions and they should be pretty close to official answer. I know Jack gets crazy busy at these events and I hope he doesn’t mind.

      In most instances a swale is twice as wide as it is deep. In the video Jack says they are 6 ft. wide, so it looks like they might be up to 3 ft. deep. The really big swales are in the east pasture (east of his house/garage). That pasture has lots of oaks and doesn’t look like it suffers from as much of the bedrock issue as the area that is directly behind his garage and house. The 3 mini swales are right behind his garage. I am curious how deep those mini-swales are since that area had really shallow topsoil.

      Spillway sill placement is strategic. So he has them “aimed” in safe directions towards other water catchment. In the video one is aimed at the next swale and the last swale has it’s sill aimed back at the road. This keeps the swale from breaking where you don’t want it to. Like the neighbor’s yard.

      The woody contour beds are about 150ft. to the west of the east pasture and the main swales. I hope this helps.

      That is some amazing work everyone did. It gives me encouragement that the excavator I was looking at renting will do the job just fine for me.

      • Modern Survival

        Good answer but as always it depends. On depth I would say we are at about 1 foot, because that is what the land allowed us to do and keep the bottoms level. While we could have easily gone 18-20 inches (which would have been my ideal depth) in some areas we began each swale in the area we knew was the worst for rock, and that determined the depth of the entire swale.

        Nailed in on the sill locations.

        • awesome. Thanks for the answers. It looks great. I’m excited to see how this progresses over the next couple years.

  4. Do you seed the Swales? If so, with what?

  5. Jack, that is very impressive, I think you nailed the design. Do you know how much rainfall totals they were reporting for you with this storm? I am just wondering how quickly those filled-up, was the rain light and lasting all night or was it coming down in buckets for an hour or so?

  6. Friggin awesome. Seeing it finished after you walked it before, is pretty nice, and actually make sit pretty clear how “undrastic” looking this is. I know especially once there are trees planted in it, it’ll just look like you have some “hills” on your property and will look great.

    Good to know that a 6k mini excavator definitely can get the job done like this. Who was the operator?

    • Most of the equipment rental places (at least here in the hill country of Texas) will give you some instruction at their facility on basic operation. A small excavator is actually fairly easy to run as long as you take it slow, pay attention to the safety details and think your way thru. I am curious as well as to who was the operator. 🙂

  7. @ Stephen- If I recall the layout correctly from Jack’s first workshop the woody beds are west of the swale system and very slightly down-slope.

  8. Awesome! Really helps show what a level sill is and does. How deep and wide are the swales? What’s the PVC for again?

    • I think he said that the PVC was for future irrigation. I’m assuming that means one could hook up from the rainwater catchments and let er rip. That must mean this is perforated PVC?

      • Modern Survival

        No not perforated. We have stand ups that can be used in anyway we choose. We will be trenching in pipes later that will let us do three things.

        1. Irrigate with gravity from the catch tanks
        2. Irrigate with pumps if we choose from the catch tanks
        3. Irrigate with the well if we choose

        Beyond irrigation since we can’t do ponds it makes putting out stock tanks for our animals very easy, no need to hall water out there.

  9. Question for KC (or Jack when he has time) – Should swales be wider and more shallow in sandy soil compared to clay soil which can be deeper and more narrow?

    • KevinVW-

      I am not at this workshop. I just wanted to make that clear.

      One of the things we learned at the urban workshop is there are no hard rules.

      Lets say you have really subtle slope so you might want to have a shallow swale with a nice sloping back cut(rear upslope portion). Your middle portion is of course level and the berm could also be opposite of the back cut long and sloping. So your material that you excavate will be on the down hill side. The dimensions of your swale will be determined by how much space you have on your land, the slope and sometimes your climate.

      If you are in an arid climate or your soil is really sandy you might find that a lot of ground cover or mulch will help if you are worried about erosion. Keeping the soil moist will aid in additional absorption of water. Planting trees in the level portion of the swale is a common practice in arid climates.

  10. Jack, the swales turned out awesome! Congratulations. I ,and I’m sure you, can’t wait to see them planted up.

  11. Ok, this makes it crystal clear to me how the swales work. Thanks for posting.

  12. question about the area between the swales. would you plant that area? if you did, would it be things that largely keep care of themselves or could you put in garden veggies like tomatoes, melons etc?

  13. I am interested in seeing how these look in the summer time. I don’t understand how they can be kept looking fairly nice and not so weed bound considering they are a non mow zone

  14. Ok, Tracy, maybe third time is a charm… IE didn’t like my comments…

    first – Hey KC, how’s it going?

    Tracy, you’re right, it will get weedy IF you don’t plant something else on purpose… Jack indicated he will plant about 240 trees into the swales but also add tons of other herbs, cover crops and complimentary plants that will create a guild.

    He has great weed control also with his geese and chickens which he can range through with paddock shifting… hope this helps!

    • Jake-

      I miss you bro! Things are going good. I am looking at renting an excavator next weekend and putting in some woody contour beds and swales on my property. I wish I could have made it to this workshop, but I have taken a lot of time off of work this year and I will have to wait till next year for more TSP fun!

  15. Jack,

    what county/area are you in? I can’t remember when you had mentioned it exactly. I am looking to eyeball some land in Bells while I drive through on the way to survey some land I might buy in NW Arkansas. I am trying to find out if your geological constraints are the same up there.

    • Ok I think I found it Lakeside right?

    • Modern Survival

      I am near Azle. Actually though I am officially, nowhere, LOL. I am in an unincorporated part of the county. So we have a Ft. Worth address but we sure ain’t in Ft. Worth.

  16. I apologize for asking if you said it during the video. How long had it been since it rained when you shot the clip?

    Looks awesome!

  17. Michael Jordan,beewhispererwyosurvival

    Jack, I for got my knife that u where fixing up. Sorry man.

    I had the best time brother. Thank You

  18. Jack

    Is there anything in swell systems to handle edges of property? I was gonna berm up all edges with a 3 foot wide hugle bed with a sill before the bed aimed down from the hugle bed. Your concern for the neighbor i think is very well placed, theres no quicker way to piss a neighbor off then to flood their land.


  19. Even though the project was basically rained out on night #1, we had a chance to witness how these swales worked which was “Glorious”! With so many people pitching in on the project, it went FAST! Guys, I had a fantastic time and met a group of people I’d share anything with at any time. No Doubt – I’m looking forward to attending more events in the future.

    Shreveport Bossier City LA

  20. there is something so awesome/magical about captured water..

    and how cool that everyone got a ‘demo’ of the swales working right after completion!

    your ducks must be ecstatic =)

    • crazy idea of the day..

      guerrilla swaleing 😉

    • Modern Survival

      Yea the day after I let the geese out, they were swimming down them like a mini canal. I was very happy for them, they have never had water like that before. They don’t like strangers so I couldn’t jsut have them out the entire time but I got them out specifically to show them the swales.

  21. Scott Nicholson

    My heartfelt Thanks to Jack, Dorthy, Josiah, and crew for the OUTSTANDING job they all did .