Custom Swale Plow

May 1, 2013

So I always loved to invent and fix and build things on the farm growing up and in the last few years have learned a lot about how water moves across the landscape and how important that is on our farms.  A swale is a form of earthwork that directs water.  It is basically a shallow ditch made slightly off contour that "harvests" the concentrated water from the valleys and redelivers it to the ridges. These are a tool that makes it possible to keep the vast majority or all of the water that falls on your farm, stay on your farm.

 

People have used these in Australia for years and they are catching on in the US more and more as water becomes more variable here.  The rain event frequency and volume in MN has changed considerably since I was a child and this allows us to smooth the pulses of water delivery from the skies.  They are hard to make by hand obviously, most people making these have used excavators or bulldozers which are costly and slow.  I thought I would make a tool that could dig a swale profile far easier and cheaper.  I thought it was poetic to use the tool that has arguably caused the largest environmental harm in the history of humans, the mouldboard plow.  It was the overuse of the mouldboard plow that directly caused the dustbowl days and some will argue that turning soil over has oxidised more carbon from our soils than we have burned in fossil fuels. 

 

I reconfigured or reversed the 75 year old plow to turn soil to the downhill side of direction of travel and used a hilling disc to make the smooth transition into the swale.  This was just a proof of concept design and I would like the Mk 2 version to have a ground driven broadcast seeder incorporated on it so I can form and reseed the swale in one pass.  Next up is a keyline plow!

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"To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go."
 
-Mary Oliver
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