Keylining with Yeoman’s Plow
At Boulder Mountain Guest ranch
In spring of 2017, Boulder Mountain Guest ranch will begin their Keyline project over the 170 acres. Our mission is to restore desert grasslands, help water flow where it needs to go and healthy soil to grow.
What is Keylining?
A founding concept in permaculture design, P.A. Yeoman’s Keyline is a technique for maximizing beneficial use of water resources of a piece of land. The Keyline refers to a specific topographic feature linked to water flow. Beyond that however, Keyline can be seen as a collection of design principles, techniques and systems for development and reconstruction of rural and urban landscapes. Keyline designs includes irrigation dams equipped with through-the-wall lock pipe systems to gravity feed irrigation, stock water, and yard water. Graded earth channels may be interlinked to broaden the catchment areas of high dams, conserve the height of water, and transfer rainfall runoff into the most efficient high dam sites. Roads follow both ridge lines and water channels to provide easier movement across the land. Keyline also includes concepts for rapid soil fertility enhancement, including compost tea injection.
Why Keylining with Yeoman’s plow is so good?
This low impact plow design along with mindful, holistic Keyline technique, customizes a land-sculpting treatment for each individual geo-topographical environmental system. It uses the form and shape of the land to determine the layout and position of farm dams, irrigation areas, roads, fences, farm buildings and tree lines. Today, Keyline topographical concepts are often taught in university town planning courses.
Keyline is an agricultural system in which great emphasis is placed on processes designed to increase substantially the fertility of soils. Emphasis is placed on the creation of a soil environment that rapidly accelerates soil biological activity, thus vastly increasing the total organic matter content within the soil.
Keyline Scale of Permanence
P.A. Yeoman developed this scale in the 1930s along with Keyline design to ensure appropriate development and installation of projects, originally calling it “The Keyline scale of the relative permanence of things agricultural”. Since then, it has gained traction among ecological land management specialists as a tool for navigating the complex decision making processes inherent in designing farms and landscapes that work with ecosystem dynamics instead of against them. The Keyline Scale of Permanence’s hierarchy organizes landscape features according to their relative permanence. It also illustrates how fundamental each feature is to creating the conditions necessary for life (from greatest to least, though all are necessary) and, to a certain extent, how the features interact. For instance, water supply is determined by climate and land shape whereas fences can only be sited after the locations of permanent buildings and trees has been determined. The scale is as follows:
By designing a system progressively with this hierarchy, the longest-lasting elements are placed first and the more ephemeral ones, which are easier to move around, come later. This mirrors the permaculture principle of working from patterns to details. By rooting our decision making in the Keyline Scale of Permanence, we ensure our designs use resources efficiently and work with the natural patterns in resource flows as much as possible. Rather than trying to alter permanent aspects of a piece of property, it steers us to the more accessible leverage points. Essentially, it helps us mimic stable ecosystems that have developed by supporting positive associations between the living things within them. Striking this balance underpins permanence and stability in the natural world and in our designs.
-From Permaculture Artisans Co.