Permaculture Earthworks : Week 6

““If the entire world sought to make itself worthy of happiness rather than make itself happy, then the entire world would be happy.”
Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

Connection, acceptance, patience, laughter, frustration, joy, overwhelming feelings of joy. These are just some of the feelings that may rush through your body during your first on-the-field permaculture earthworks experience. Week 6 of my Permaculture Design Certificate, we spent the weekend with a client looking to create an alpaca permaculture farm. We got the chance to learn about and practice with various tools to mark contour lines, practice a real client interview, and build a swale. Finally! A chance to build a real swale!

Permaculture Earthworks
-Week 6-

**This post contains an affiliate link; connecting readers with real artists. No extra charge to seller or buyer**

Did you miss the other weeks?  
1-Ethics, 2-Patterns, 3-Microclimates, 4-Trees, 4b-Soil 5a-Humid Cool-Cold 5b-Drylands

Etsy Shop : TheWheatField

Manipulation of Earth to Reduce Energy Needs

The manipulation of the Earth can harness energies and forces. We can use them to our advantage and the advantage of surrounding ecosystems.

Thermal Banks: a bank of earth used to store heat collected in the summer for use in winter to heat buildings.

Gravity Feed: A system making use of gravity to maintain the flow of material such as water for irrigation.

Micro-Hydro: hydroelectric power produced by using the natural flow of water.

You can diversify the landscapes around you by…

  • Creation of micro-climates
  • Distribution of soil
  • Moisture generation
  • Moisture accumulation
  • Inducing/avoiding frost

Planning for a Permaculture Earthworks Design

  1. Pegging and Surveying: Choose a site with maximum water retention for least amount of work. Mark a long route for the swale, and clearly mark the emergency spillway location.
  2. Testing the Soil: Check the soil in many places as soil can change quickly from spot to spot.
  3. Managing the Top Soil: Keep the topsoil in an accessible and marked area to ensure minimal loss.
  4. Replanting: Plant cover crops as quickly as possible to beat the weeds. Add seedlings and medium-sized plants to begin stabilization of berm.

Permaculture earthworks in my PDC


A popular rainwater harvesting and soil conservation strategy. Swales are used to slowing and spread out water across a landscape. Ditches are dug along contour lines, with the excess soil piled on the downhill side to create the “berm.”

Swales on contour are dug to help infiltrate and spread out water across a landscape. This can help restore groundwater stocks and stop erosion. You can find contour lines by using tools such as;

  • A-Frame
  • Water Level
  • Dumpy Level/Transit Level
  • Laser Level

Permaculture Earthworks, week 6 of the PDC


Here are a few types of dams mentioned:

  • Saddle Dam
  • Turkey Nest Dam
  • Contour Dam
  • Ridge Point Dam
  • Valley/Keypoint Dam

Building a dam can be a key element in water retention on a landscape. Water that would normally just run-off after a rainfall is a potential for energy-harvesting, irrigation, aquaculture, and more.

Here is an interesting article showing the process and steps of building a dam.

When building a dam, it is very important to do lots of research and in many cases, it is advised to take an advanced earthworks course. If you are building a very large dam you most likely need to hire a professional.


Permaculture Earthworks, week 6 of the PDC

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

Permaculture Earthworks, week 6 of the PDC


Agent: Emilie “The Bee” Bradford;
Mission: Travel the globe to discover positive and new information on how to live abundantly in harmony with the Earth
Objective: To encourage the world to support the passions of their neighbours, to give more than they take, and to live positively.

2 thoughts on “Permaculture Earthworks : Week 6

  • July 31, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Hey Emilie, I was just researching some permaculture earthworks details for a project and found this post! I dont know if i was just so busy when you told me but I dont remember hearing about this! your awesome!

    An additional not because so many people think swales are only for Increasing land soakage and infiltration. Swales can be also designed to prevent flooding and guide excess water off the site into storage ponds and dams.

    We are facing huge flooding this year in quebec and no one realises that swales and dams are about water management and not just increasing infiltration! Keep up the good work and send us some of your posts on the P3 PDC student page, and the P3 page.

    Let us know if you ever need anything


    • August 1, 2017 at 4:19 am

      Graham! Thanks so much for commenting! Any information from you is a huge bonus, so I’m happy you could add to the post. I hope to take more classes in the future and grab more of your knowledge.

      I will definitely keep in touch.
      I send my best wishes!


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