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NSF is working in WA

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:17 pm
by Ian James
I am unqualified, I have only read Peters book and matched his writings with my own observations. At first I wanted to throw the book in the bin and go and do something useful, but by the time I was two thirds through the book I was a convert.
I had started to compare what Peter was saying with what I could see on my own farm. It all started to make sense.
Now I want to get started, I want to build my ponds. My farm and I are ready.
Now I need practical information. I need advice. I need knowlege. I need help. I don't want to do this wrong. Where do I start? I have machinery and I have time and I have a blank canvas upon which to work.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:19 pm
by Ian James
It's Ian here, the farmer with the blank canvas.
My farm is 150 km east of Perth just north of the great eastern highway. It is in a reliable rainfall area where we have good predictable rainfall during the winter growing season and few but generaly very heavy unpredictable summer rainfall events that often result in flooding of the waterways.
We are roughly 80km east of the hills and vallys of the Darling scarp and in that distance the land becomes flatter, the hills lower, the vallys broader and shallower and the rainfall lower. It is fair to say that all waterways in this area and moreso as one travels east are saline.
My farm is typical of those in the immediate area with large areas of sand (Lightland) exit where productivity is low interspersed with smaller areas of clay loam soils (heavy country)which is generally higher up the slopes.
The heavy areas generate a lot of fast flowing runoff during summer torrents which cause erosion and in the past these areas have been treated with large deep whittington banks cut along the contour.
There is no run off at all in the light sandplain but it is here in the vally floors where the saline creeks flow. The water table here is very shallow and it is possible to excavate and create permanent ponds of fresh water (soaks). It is interesting to note that the soaks are fresh but nearby, where the creeks flows, the water draining into the creek and running away off the property is saline.
The creek is cut into the sandplain and has a broad shallow bottem covered with sand varying between four and eight meters between the banks.
When in full flood the creek flows along the main channel, very rarely breaching the banks at a depth of 100 to 150 cm.
The creek flows from the opening rain of the season untill about the ripening of the crops and the stream meanders along the creek bed at a depth of between 10 and 20 cm depending on the period between rain events and the intensity of the fall.
Plant life along the creek is a mix of spiney clumps of introduced bullrushes and the odd surviving creekside shrub. Further downstream where the salinity has affected a larger area of the floodplain a saltbush vegitation we call samphire predominates.
These creeks are perfect candidates for ponding to be implemented and I expect to carry out initial step building within weeks.
I have no instructions or plans to follow apart from the designs I have visualised mentaly drawn from what I have seen and read about in this forum and in Peter's book. I would very much apprieciate any constructive comments anyone may have being posted here in this forum.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:27 pm
by Ian James
We about to build our first step in the creek.
We are going to start by shifting nearby rock piles into the area where we will create the step. At this point in time the flow is steady and I intend to create an inpediment to the flow and just see how it silts up. I will lay it in the > facing up stream style as you mentioned. With the flow as steady as it is I expect the pond to form within days. The next stage will be to watch the pond and to build up where it becomes apparent and to ID the next step site.
We are lucky to have an abundence of rock piles nearby in the paddocks so I'll have no trouble finding fill.
We have some reeds that grow in the soaks which I have transplanted successfully in the past into our garden pond and I plan to transplant these into any silt that becomes trapped in the step.
They grow fast and I believe they are native. They appeard in the soaks and grow thick walls which will be wonderfull for trapping further silt.
My highest expectation is for the step to grow with the water level by a combination of silt trapping and reed growth and raising pond levels. As Peter described in his book. That would be fantastic as I could then devote my time to starting more steps up and down the creek.
As soon as I get the radish under control in my hay crops I will be into it.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:31 pm
by Ian James
On the weekend we did build the first step. It took only two hours and six rock picking kids to get it in place.
The pond began to develop immediately and now, two days later the leaks in the bank have plugged and the water is about to start flowing over the spill way. The pond is about 70m in length upstream and creek wide about 3 to 4 m. It looks great and already I can see that the inground water level on the creek banks has risen by the dampness that shows on the earth. It looks really healthy.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:37 pm
by Ian James
This morning we got up in the dark and started working on the second bank about 300 m downstream from the first. This area is different from the first in that the stream is much wider here and large sandbanks have been deposited where the flood waters have flowed in the past.
Again it only took us two hours to have it completed and the pond built up just as quickly as the first, even though it is downstream and the flow could be exected to have been stoped by the first bank. This pond will be shallower but broader than the last with a longer face on the bank. I expect it to overflow in about two days.
By then we will have built another one or two banks further downstream.
I expect that we may build as many as 50 in all but that is a very preliminary estimation at this point.
We will build as many as it becomes apparent that we need to do the job.

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 3:43 pm
by Ian James
On June 30 I made an application to Nuffield Australia for a Nuffield scholarship. The topic I chose was NSF. The field of my studies I described as:
I am most interested in the consequences of global warming on my area of agriculture and the ways in which we may be able to change our farming practices to enable my industry to survive and grow under the adversity with which it is faced.

I recently was advised that I have been shortlisted for a selection interview in Perth on August 3rd.
This is really exciting, as you can imagine.
For the question,..."What do you hope to gain from this study?"
I wrote.
The ideas of Peter Andrews are revolutionary in the current ecological ideological climate in Australia and perhaps the world. Under this environment there is a risk that his ideas may be suppressed by the majority opinion. His success comes from his ideas and his ideas are from his brain. If Peter Andrews is lost so are his ideas. I wish to study and implement his ideas on my property to further broaden the perspective his ideas have to the breadth of Australian people and to share and add to and preserve the knowledge by increasing the exposure of his ideas to the majority of the agricultural population of Australia and eventually the world.
I know it is ambitious but so was Peter and he is my inspiration. You can only try.

Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:00 pm
by Ian James
Today my ponds have continued to grow. To satisfy Jodi's (my wife) curiosity I have tasted the water in the ponds and compared it to the water in the creek below the pond to see if there was any difference in salt noticable to my pallate.
To my surprise there was a huge difference in the saltiness apparent to my taste. The water laying at the old creek level was very salty to taste where the water scooped from the surface of the pond near the bank we built where the pond is deepest (450mm) the water tasted only slightly salty and could be described as sweet.
I would think it would still be to salty to water sheep with and from my experience with salty mill water on sheep stations I would expect it to be at about 1500 grains of salt.
Today we also noticed a pair of long legged birds which I have yet to identify. Black and white patches (much like a butcher bird) about 30 cm tall.
They were wading in the pond and seemed to be fishing for food.
These are birds that I have not seen before and I am unfamiliar with so I can only presume they have seen the ponds from above and have landed to investigate the habitat. From what I saw they were very happy with the result of our work.
All this only two full days since the construction of this pond.

Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 2:48 pm
by Ian James
On Thursday we had a rain event of 15ml.

The rain was medium heavy and fell for two hours.
This was the first rain even since the banks in the creek were built.

Both already had ponds of good size above them from the usual drainage into the creek.

The ponds were leaking around the sides and a little through the bank and the ponds level had stabilised.

Towards the end of the rainfall my wife and I inspected the sites to see the damage if any to the banks.

The first bank which had been begun with just rocks of around football size (Size 2) and was about 70cm above the creekbed and around 150 cm thick and had been lined on the upstream side with about a meter of fist size rocks ( Size 1), gravel and earth mix, was overflowing in the middle where we had built it slightly lower than on the sides in the '>' facing upstream style. The earth and gravel that had been layed over it had erroded over or had washed into the bank plugging all the leaks.

The pond was full to the brim and washing into the bullrushes on either side of the creek banks and covered nearly two hundred meters upstream with continued flows into the creek from the rain building up.

Now, Friday the flow has subsided and on inspection of this bank we found that it had completely plugged with the gravel and earth we had layed in front of it and that the pond, still full to the brim was flowing over the spill way in the middle as designed and a little to the sides through the bullrushes.

Overall the was a highly successfull result!

The second bank which was built using just the gravel and earth and had developed a lovely wide pond had blown out on one side. Where we had layed a large rock in the blowout zone the bank had held but had blown out either side of the single rock which was the size of a large showground balloon (size 4) that kids carry around.

The blow out was a a breach in the bank about 15% of the total spread of the bank.

From what we observed from the rock holding the earth behind it we have decided to rebuild the bank and then reinforce it behind with the size 2 rocks and in front with size 3 (party baloon) and size 4 rocks.

I now intend to make the banks higher using this successfull method and wider and also broader to give them more strength and de-energising power. In short the banks I build will now be nearly 4 times in size and less frequent and the ponds larger and streaching further upstream.

Thus I intend to make less banks which will require less maintenance and so allow me to spend my time building new banks rather than repairing damaged ones.

They will have more extensive spillways allowing water to pass over a wider area always directing the flow to the middle of the original water course and so avoiding any erosion of the original banks.

Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 4:00 pm
by duane

this is really dynamic stuff you are posting.

Thank you for making the effort. I have had hundreds of people like yourself wanting to have a go but were reluctant to. In NSW we can only work in grade1 and 2 streams all others need a licence from the regulators. Gully work is also ok.

Some before and after photos would be great...a picture tells a 1000 words.

Now that you have some water try and get some plants established in the +ve zones. You may want to use local existing native vegetation, or grass runners such as kikuyu or even try a grass called vetiver (google it up).

You need plants and OM in the system to create the 'glue' and the roots from the vegeation to bind/hold the leaky weirs and stream banks all together.

Let's hear from others what they have tried...and the results....good or bad.

Posted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:32 am
by Ian James
I must apologise for not having my photos posted.

I am not sure how to get the photos off my camera and onto the computer.

My time is taken fully keeping feed up to my sheep who are emaciated from this dreadfull drought and losing their lambs for want of decent forage.

Not to mention my efforts to control the weeds in my crops which seem to thrive in the dry conditions while the crop itself wilts.

Thankfully we have now had a little rain and hope for at least an average season now tempts me, however unlikely this will be.

I will try some Kikuyu grass as we have some growing in the soak edges.
I am not hopefull as the salt content of the water is still rather high and I expect they will struggle.

Most likely I will have more success with a salt tolerant cultivar.
I have heard of vetiver and I will undertake to get hold of some cuttings or seeds.

With regards to regulations, I did as you asked Duane and I have spoken to the local government.

I am told that as long as I am not going to divert the course of the water flow, cause erosion on a large scale, or affect the landholders down stream in a negative way then I am free to undertake pond building and embankment reinforcement as I see fit.

As my works do not fit that criterion then I have decided to continue the work as long as it meets my expectations in these matters.

Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2007 11:09 am
by duane
Ian the downstream neigbours wont be impacted on in a negative way ONLY positively. Once you have re-established the connectivity of your stream to the existing floodplain you will have a huge sponge of water in the system that will continue to move down to your neigbours. The present stormwater drain that are most creks and streams provide little use to farmers and the environment.

(Biodiverse) vegetation will secure the stream banks and prevent erosion...when it's established.

What you are attempting to do is to mimic the way the ozzie landscape worked for aeons but it has been disconnected by our european heritage of drainage farming.

All your are doing is jump starting the natural pattern and processes. Nature will do the rest. For me the most amazing thing to witness with NSF is the fact that all of the natural infrastructure is still there lying dormant in the landscape awaiting the right signal to start up again. The old car in the garage's been sitting there for 60 yrs, put in a new battery and make a few twicks, turn the key and its all going again.

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 1:38 pm
by wongankatta
G'day Ian,

Great to hear of stuff being done in WA - thanks for sharing your work. I have some vetiver grass if you would like some ('monto' a non -seeding variety). I live in Perth (Armadale) at the moment but I Have a block near Wongan Hills - I could drop off some vetiver for you next time I go out to the farm. I'm very interested in Peter Andrews' ideas but my block is higher up in the landscape with no running streams.

Regards - Andrew Shanks

Posted: Thu Jul 26, 2007 8:11 pm
by duane
Can you tell us your experiences with Vetiver Andrew?
Peter Andrews NSF can definitely be applied and used in the high fact the results can be quicker and more startling once the processes are understood.

Ian is hoping to start a local chapter of NSA in the might like to discuss your interest in Natural Sequence Farming with Ian and start the snowball rolling.

Vetiver yes please

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 7:31 am
by Ian James
Andrew, hello.

Thanks for replying to the topic, I am glad you find it interesting.

I would very much like to get some vetiver seed from you.

You would be very welcome to visit my farm and see my project as would anyone reading this that is able to.

I am only an hour and a half from Midland and the farm is only 13 km north of the great eastern HWY.

Not hard to find.

I extend an open invite to all if you would like to be shown what I have done.

I do want to set up a local chapter and presently I have made no progress because I have not yet found the required number of people to populate the committee.

If you think you would be interested in being a part of this exciting initiative please contact me through this site and we can begin to grow our local network.

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 7:45 am
by Ian James
I too have high country and I drive through this each day analysing the landscape while identifying sites where I might implement a project to restart the natural sequence.

This seems more challenging because the sites are not so obvious but by working higher in the catchment it would enhance the success I have had below.

On these sites I am concerned about erosion caused by summer torrential rain events.

All of these sites have saline areas immediately below their catchment.

I have been studying the contours looking for clues and I believe I have come up with a possible plan.

My plan revolves around taking the runoff away from the hard clay and rock areas by using contour banks which would de-energise the flow by moving the water along the contour through the natural recharge soils which surround the zone.

The recharge area is deep white sand which do not promote runoff where the excess rainfall could be absorbed into the subsoil on the hillside and then, once below ground level continue the decent through the catchment at a much slower rate and at the same time provide the paddocks below with a good source of moisture for crop growth.