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how to terrace a mountain

john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
The terraced mountains in China are amazing to me. 
Maybe we can share ideas of how these are constructed.
How do the terraces stay in place during heavy rainfall seasons?

This one is green on the flats, but looks bare on the edges


holding plenty of water
http://inlinethumb45.webshots.com/26732/2664528040104237032S600x600Q85.jpg

more water
http://0.tqn.com/d/gochina/1/0/T/3/-/-/Paddy_1.JPG

awesome terraces
http://chinadan.com/21mountains/terrace03.jpg

steep terraces
http://www.michiganfarmbureau.com/press/specials/images/20020913p-lg.jpg


how to convert a chest freezer to a fridge

Where liberty dwells, there is my country. -- Benjamin Franklin
travis laduke


Joined: Jul 20, 2010
Posts: 163
wow
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
I wonder if they're started at the top or the bottom.
Either way, they're probably start with a single step first. 

I like how the lakes are right at the tops of them.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Not long ago, someone mentioned chickens. I think pigs might also be helpful.

As rocks are exposed, build a retaining wall downhill. Manage vegetation so that animals move soil onto those walls. Watch how water moves, and build up the walls to be perfectly level. As a last resort, shovel some soil uphill.

I've read that large objects can be cleared of surrounding soil by repeatedly digging a small hole adjacent to the object, pushing a pig treat down to the bottom of that hole, and waiting for the rooting to stop.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i have been slowly converting out very sloped property into terraces( probably between 1/4 and half acre of terraces so far by hand), im not using soil walls as they have but stone stacked walls. it is FAR easier to start from the bottom and go up.

i mentioned the chickens can do terracing for you, it works really good considering the amount of labor put in, but is slower than if you did it by hand or tractor. the chickens are effective at it and build great fertile soil when its done.

still haven't figured out how they keep the walls just plain soil. i like using the rocks we have on our property, they trap and store heat in the winter( dormant trees), and store cold in the summer when there shaded in the forest garden.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
soil wrote:i mentioned the chickens can do terracing for you...

...still haven't figured out how they keep the walls just plain soil.


Thanks for the idea! Hope I'm passing it on correctly.

Edit: See the comment below on rammed earth (subsoil) retaining walls; it has prompted me to withdraw some speculation.

I've read that vegetation can work, too, particularly some of the deep-rooted, non-spreading bunch grasses.
Kirk Hutchison


Joined: Feb 05, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Now imagine underground houses dug into the sides of the terraces and you have the perfect mountain eco-village.


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Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I studied up a bit on the Chinese methods a while back before I built some terraces at my place.  I have  machines and not a lot of time, so didn't do it all the Chinese way but worked from what I learned.

What I read said that they shovel the topsoil uphill and get to the mineral soil below.  They dig a trench and use the mineral soil at the front edge of the terrace to make a rammed earth berm.  The soil they shoveled uphill and the topsoil under it is then used in the terrace for the growing area.  I assume they move up and do it again.

One variation on this is if you have water problems from above, you would want to start at the top and work down.  Another Chinese story I read told of an old man reclaiming a poor piece of mountainous ground after being released from prison (political prisoner)... He said if you control the water at the top of the hill you will not have a problem with it at the bottom.


- Glenn -
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
if you have access to Netflix, my kids are watching the "Wild China" series this week for their homeschooling and the first episode has some REALLY nice shots of mountainside terraces and people planting/working them.

The second episode has some good video on old food forests

http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/Wild-China-Shangri-La/70128937?trkid=1537777


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I don't have Netflix but found a bit of it on Youtube.  Thanks - looks like rammed earth walls here too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpThEdHkJdM
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
yea see that is just amazing, i wonder what it would be like though with fukuoka style rice farming.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
glad to see a bit on youtube.  the scene of the terraces where it pans out towards the end is some of the best footage in the episode, imo.  I wish they had included the bit just before that where they show the terracing down the 6000' foot of the mountain that is first shown in the clip.  amazing!

It would be great to get to see how the berms and check dams work to control the flow of water during the heavy rains.  I still don't feel like i have nearly a full grasp of how the system works...
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Found some good info from the Philippines using both stone and mud walls.  Looks like their system requires that the terraces remain flooded to prevent erosion.

http://nikeprogramme.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=113:rice-terrace-construction&catid=82:nike-team-researches&Itemid=99
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
The picture is really awesome! I would like to learn a bit more about Chinese farming - can anyone recommend a book? They are very good at this.

Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Glenn Kangiser wrote:
Found some good info from the Philippines using both stone and mud walls.  Looks like their system requires that the terraces remain flooded to prevent erosion.

http://nikeprogramme.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=113:rice-terrace-construction&catid=82:nike-team-researches&Itemid=99

nice link - I was surprised to see the depth of the fill/gravel base for the terraces.  Also I was glad to see the clay-loam soil worked, given that is what most of the soil is on our property... 

Can't see us doing more than small patches of rice, given the climate in southern Oregon, but I would like to put in some small (~1000sq ft) paddies to test yields.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
very nice link glenn, some of the things they do are surprisingly similar to what i have done here.

ill have to try and get some photos of my stone terraced forest garden soon.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I also have quite a few stone terraces and one stone wall near 10 feet tall x 40 feet long.  I studied stone wall building a bit from an online publication.

soil, I think the porphyry clay we have would make a good sealer for a terrace similar to the Philippine system.  After it is broken up with a machine it makes good building clay.  Mixed with straw and sand it makes great cob.  The only thing we are missing is the rain.  I may do a paddy down by my spring though.

I am currently experimenting with rice in a kids splash pool.  I got brown basmatti rice to see if it would sprout.  It was slow starting but it did.  I have it in my greenhouse but don't know if it will make it through the winter or not.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.


rice terraces, Yunnan, China
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4HKE2uVC0Q&feature=related

Inca agricultural terraces, Peru
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlWI_cIgTwU
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
Kirk Hutchison wrote:
Now imagine underground houses dug into the sides of the terraces and you have the perfect mountain eco-village.


I would find it perfect if the water was managed via Schauberger flowforms and concepts.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
rock walls
banaue rice terraces, Philippines
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNSYtaHIhR8

beautiful photos
http://worldphotocollections.blogspot.com/2010/07/world-strange-places-part-4-rare-photos.html




                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Glenn Kangiser wrote:
Found some good info from the Philippines using both stone and mud walls.  Looks like their system requires that the terraces remain flooded to prevent erosion.

http://nikeprogramme.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=113:rice-terrace-construction&catid=82:nike-team-researches&Itemid=99


Thanks for the link. There's a mother lode of very valuable information there, just unbelievable, worth reading every word
and envisioning ways to adapt and use that knowledge here in the USA. Seriously good stuff. I haven't seen anything like this in years. I logged about 5 of the major pages in my blog and through Buzz. http://ecolandtech.blogspot.com


Lawrence London
lfljvenaura@gmail.com
EcoLandTech
http://ecolandtech.blogspot.com
http://ibiblio.org/ecolandtech
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Just the stuff I enjoy - the whys and hows.

Thanks for your links too, BTW.... I have saved them in my bookmarks.

I think the reason for so much of the gravel at the lover elevations behind the walls is to allow drainage in the lower parts preventing hydraulic pressure from building up and blowing out the bottom of the walls.

Here is a rock wall terrace I built for our swimming pool area about 2 1/2 years ago - dry stack 4' high x about 40 feet long.



and a continuation of it about a year and a half ago, from the right of the 4' wall, about a 10' wall x 40' long .... backed by 3' of cob as it is going to have a shop building behind it and a bit of garden on top.  I used rocks up to about 10,000 lbs in it.



Since I was able to use my Bobcat here it was fairly easy with each wall taking about 4 days to a week of intermittent to fairly steady work.

Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 320
    
    5
One way of doing a terrace is also by planting fast growing trees which can be coppiced. Willow for example. You plant them close together along the slope and cut them every few years just putting this branches behind the stems.

Rock terraces was done here also and as i heard they also started from bottom up. Exposing rocks and shovelling top soil up. Mostly there are veins of rock as they call it here. They were mostly the base of a wall.
Lee Einer


Joined: May 08, 2011
Posts: 169
Glenn Kangiser wrote:
I studied up a bit on the Chinese methods a while back before I built some terraces at my place.  I have  machines and not a lot of time, so didn't do it all the Chinese way but worked from what I learned.

What I read said that they shovel the topsoil uphill and get to the mineral soil below.  They dig a trench and use the mineral soil at the front edge of the terrace to make a rammed earth berm.  The soil they shoveled uphill and the topsoil under it is then used in the terrace for the growing area.  I assume they move up and do it again.

One variation on this is if you have water problems from above, you would want to start at the top and work down.  Another Chinese story I read told of an old man reclaiming a poor piece of mountainous ground after being released from prison (political prisoner)... He said if you control the water at the top of the hill you will not have a problem with it at the bottom.




I think I would start at the top and work my way down anyway, since I would rather shovel dirt downhill than shovel it uphill.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6563
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
For some spectacular pictures of some of the world's terraces, click here:
http://www.touropia.com/incredible-terrace-fields/

Terraces are amazing to me when I consider that many were started and/or completed long before the iron age.  Working with stone axes, and wooden scoops at best.  Millions of humans spent their entire working lives accomplishing these magnificent, functional pieces of art.

An interesting side note, is that the man responsible for controlling the irrigation usually lived at the bottom of the structure.  Guess who suffered the most if he screwed up!
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
I think I would start at the top and work my way down anyway, since I would rather shovel dirt downhill than shovel it uphill.


by starting at the bottom and moving up terrace by terrace you are moving all the earth down and horizontal. there is no pulling or pushing soil uphill.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6563
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
135
Most civilizations lived in the bottom lands...the river valleys.  As populations expanded and occupied the flatlands, more land was needed.  Up we go.  I am certain that many of the notable terrace systems worldwide took centuries of expansion to complete.
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
LasVegasLee wrote:
I think I would start at the top and work my way down anyway, since I would rather shovel dirt downhill than shovel it uphill.



You need to start at the bottom and work upwards in order to capture any mistakes due to landslides, not to mention you want your topsoil higher up on the property to reduce soil erosion.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I've had a hard time keeping rock retaining walls from degrading over time.  It starts with a few rocks here and there and slowly the walls crumble over time.

Rock walls are super slow to build!  I think a better retaining idea might be earthbags or gabions...


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Joined: Mar 25, 2011
Posts: 107
John Polk, thank you for such an amazing link!!
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4014
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  57
      I'm going to only plant things on my level ground and leave the steep slopes to grow trees. China has some of the worlds greatest flooding issues and erosion has gobbled up millions of acres due to terracing of loess soils as prescribed by Mao in the 50s. Some of the stone structures on the great canal have clearly written instructions warning future generations that cutting trees off of the slopes will cause erosion and flooding along with silting of the canals. This is exactly what future generations did despite warnings literally carved in stone. Any terracing should include plenty of trees along with your other crops to prevent this problem.


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Cate Weaver


Joined: Jul 12, 2011
Posts: 15
Despite the triumph of making useful land spaces where there was none before, with terraces, aren't those fields/paddies pictured still predominantly monocultures?
                            


Joined: Feb 05, 2011
Posts: 56
I think it's good to note that past civilizations used many rather incredible systems to cultivate land for grain. The mayans had incredible earthworks and irrigation canals. The terracing of the east seems similar. All of these systems required immense hierarchy and organized labor (i.e. some form of slavery or caste-subordination) to construct and when they were finished they were indeed monocrops. While they look amazing I wonder, what would the forest or meadows on those slopes have looked like without such systems.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
not all terrace systems are mono crop. ive seen some that the diversity in crops being grown is beyond amazing. dozens and dozens of species.

all of the terracing i do here has trees, shrubs, herbs, veggies, etc....far from a monocrop.

also most(not all) of the flooded rice paddy's are sort of an aquaculture system, as they culture small fish, eels, and other small eatable water creatures in the flooded waters for food along with the rice.

 
 
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