Episode-606- Permaculture Design Considerations — 5 Comments

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  2. A better/easier way to measure grades on your property for setting up permaculture features:

    The methods that Jack described on how to survey the contours of your property, while they will certainly work, would also be very time consuming and laborious. I’m a civil engineer by trade and surveying was a part of my required coursework, so my focus is on ways to measure grade that require the least amount of breaking down and setting up again. What follows is a description of how to conduct a survey with a minimal amount of equipment. Some of this may be a little more intuitive for me than most because of my background, so if there is something that isn’t clear please ask and I’ll try to explain it more clearly.

    The only equipment you would need for this would be:
    1. A long (min. 3 ft.) stake to pound into the ground
    2. A line level (you can get at any hardware store)
    3. A good length of nylon string, preferably wrapped around a stick to make it easier to unwind and rewind
    4. A Sharpie (or other permanent, non-wide point) marker
    5. A tape measure or folding rule, and some marking stakes or flags for the points you want to measure.
    6. To make things go faster, a second person to record information as you shout it out — although this last one is optional.

    Start out with establishing a “datum point” to measure everything else off of, and it should be a point that sits higher than the surrounding ground. A corner of your house or outbuilding with a clear view of the area you want to measure would be a good spot, so long as it is a higher elevation.

    At your datum point, pound that long stake into the ground at least 18″ so it is well-anchored. Measure up 1 foot from the ground and draw a line on the stake with your Sharpie to mark this point. Take one end of the string, and secure it to the stake so that it is at the same elevation as your mark.

    Then, lay out the locations that you’re going to check. Using regular intervals between points will make it much easier to record your results — and make a quality sketch of your property to base your design off of. There are two layouts that would suit you well on this. First would be to lay out the points on a normal “X-Y” or “row-and-column” grid, with points as close or far apart as you want. Second would be to lay out your points on circle arcs, with the point measured by distance from the datum (radius) and straight-line “chord” distance from the previous point. The first is a system that is probably easier for most to understand — but the second will take less time because it involves essentially measuring several points along the circle formed by a steady distance from the datum point, then making the string longer or shorter to measure the next arc. Be sure to record and identify these points on a sheet of paper along with the datum point — it will make it easier to record the elevations later. If you put them right on your sketch it will be easier to follow. If you record them in a table (like a surveyor or engineer would), be sure to give some kind of reference in relation to the datum point.

    Start at your first point after establishing the datum. Put the line level on the string, pull the string taut. Then, put your tape measure or folding rule (your “surveyor’s rod”) at the point on the ground, move the string up and down until the bubble shows it as level, and note the distance to where it intersects the string. If you want to get really technical, you could hold your folding rule up against a carpenter’s level to ensure that your “rod” is plumb as well. Subtract 1 foot from the measurement to account for the difference between the datum point ground elevation and your stake mark, and the result is how much lower that point is than your datum point. Write this down next to that point on your sheet of paper — it will probably help to record lower elevations as negative numbers, because this will remind you that the elevations are lower, not higher, than your datum point. Move on to the next point and repeat. Keep going until you have hit all of the points and recorded the elevations.

    If you put all of these points on your property sketch, they can help you form your contour lines. This stage is not an exact science, but it’s still pretty accurate. What you do is draw lines/curves to “best fit” based on the elevations of your points. Example: if you have 2 adjacent points that are -1.50 feet and -2.50 feet, then the -2 line should pass right between them. If the points are -1.50 and -2.25, then the -2 line should be about 2/3 from the -1.50 point and 1/3 from the -2.25 point (using basic proportional math). When you are done, you will have a pretty darned good sketch of your property, to include contour lines, to begin laying out your swales and berms for permaculture.

    While this is not exact, by reducing the space between your points you can increase the accuracy of your map/sketch.

  3. You may also be able to use Google Maps to check the sun pattern on your property. I used the satelite view to see the shadows and building locations to find a place that gets good southern exposure and is not shadowed much by the trees. My property view is from last summer, I wish they could tel you what month the view was from. Just a tip.

  4. Hey, you didn’t put the link to the Dead Sea green the desert. I came looking for it. Can you add it if you get a chance?