-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Thursday, March 04, 2004

email minutiae: land contours

As part of the initial musings about the garden layout, we got onto the topic of land topography and Mum drew me a contour map

Another description by Mum of the land - 4th March 2004

property up there is lovely. we walked the boundary to measure it as expected of course. dogs ran and loved it. They went through the fence in a few places but generally the fences are good for a country place and would keep them in. they had to watch where they went under and once we had to help them back by holding the wire up. It was too far to walk back to where they had gone initially!

there is a dam not marked in the state forest down the back.. well back end of the side. It has water in it, a bit, and reeds and things. Angie at least went in and then came out and sunned herself ont he dam wall bit. She is the same colour as the clay! Later she stood under a tree, then sat, and looked every inch a dingo. Take the collar off and you would swear she had never seen a person! you have a few little bits of trees on your land, mostly where the edge of the crown land has sort of escaped or has not been cleared right back to the boundary. Not good forest but trees.. and the hill up behind the house gets a bit steep in one bit along the boundary - over 20 metres it dropped about up to Dad's chin. About 1.5 metres over 20 metres.. the rest was only 1m over 20 for about four measures, and most of the rest it was so little we did not bother.

My reply - 4th March 2004

That sounds good. I'm looking forward to seeing the other photos you took. Did you take any of the hidden dam? I'm curious about that, I didn't think they had dams in the forest. Is it definitely man made and not natural?

I've been reading a book about landscape gardening, it's actually part of the required reading for a correspondance course that I was thinking of taking a while back. But it's good because it gives an introduction on the things to consider and how to start in planning a garden of this scale. The first thing I need to do, which we will aim to do on the next trip back, is to get a detailed contour map of the land (e.g., like ordnance survey they have in the UK; not sure if they have the same in Australia?) and also to take soil samples from different parts of the land. It will be quite a task but I need to know the kind of soil it is, more than just what you can see by sight, so as to help in picking plants, etc. Also, I need to understand the light, and how the shadows fall from the forest, house, and where the trees are currently. etc etc etc. Also, I need to get a sense of the wind direction around there, e.g., are there parts that get a lot of wind, like a mini-wind tunnel?

There is so much basic info to collect, and then I can start working out where the basics go. e.g., I figure the positioning for the driveway is pretty much set as there won't be a lot of options probably... also the position of the house extension and orientation of the house. Also the position of the current dam, plus any other we chose to build, like a big one like in the other property I showed you. Although, I don't know if that will make sense, as there's no point in doing it unless it will look natural and fit the contours of the land. From what you saw of it, could you imagine anywhere it might fit? Also of course we have to work out the positioning of sheds and barns and things, which also will be set to some extent because the back part of the roofs (facing away from the house so not seen, ideally) will be covered in solar panels, and they will have to face a certain direction to get the most sun.

Once you've positioned all the buildings/fixed things, then you start planning the garden areas... you start with shapes, apparently. Also looking for balance of "mass" vs "void" with shrubs, trees etc being mass and void being flat parts whether it is paving or dirt or lawn... apparently ratio is 3 void to 1 mass, approx. With the shapes you cluster them in nice patterns and also taking into account effect in terms of blocking views, shade, impact on wind flows etc etc. The shapes, combined with the climate conditions and soil type will go partway to narrowing down your plant options for each position. Then next you consider texture, and finally colour, and then also the dimension of looking different across seasons. You plan it first for the mature garden, say 15 years out, and then you work backwards to current day. So you plant the long-living trees, shrubs apart enough for their full grown size, and fill in the gaps with short-living species and/or bedding plants, ground cover. There is apparently a system for designing gardens on this scale, alongside the creative art to choosing plants (akin to painting I think), so I am going to have a go at planning it myself given that planning is something I can do while over here and it'll be fun.

Mum's reply - 5th March 2004

yes there is a photo of the hidden dam. Quite small and most definitely man made. the overflow would normally run into your property - I mean, if no dam, it would be the watercourse marked on map. But they have done the overflow at site furthest from your house and channelled it along the far side of fenceline ie in the forest for about 100 yds - when it meanders back into your place. We are talking a creek of depth about 6 inches maximum, mind you and dry as dry can be. but, if you got good rains and the creek flowed naturally, the back end of your place could become a swamp. I think the overflow is always at a side of the dam so it does not wash away the whole thing when overflowing but Dave will know more about that than me.

Not much shade anwhere apart from the stand alone trees and along the forst boundaries and even then it is the scrubby shade, not the sort you get from eg oak trees. the steep down bit to 'gully' where hjidden dam is is about three quartes along that side boundary by forest. there is a patch of trees on on the "peak".. we are talking about 80 metres long maybe and about 30 metres out at the max from fence.

Wind yes, not sure where from BUT the"valley" goes a long way along.. ie back along the road, all open.. can see a long way and there are indeed some little"mountains" in the far distance. you would only see them in clear weather. I imagine the wind would come up the valley - ie from east mostly as there is nothing to stop it. but I think it was from north when we were there , not a lot to stop it from that way either.

will have to get photos in for processing tomorrow.

Mum's hand drawing of the land contours - 5th March 2004

attempt at drawing with computer.

black lines are about where creeks would run if they ran. I have tried to show contour lines, and remember the blue bit round creek at right si the lowest and it works up from there. Sorry I can't view from here. Red is highest I think. and the treey bit.

From flatest bit to highest bit would be about, er, 10 metres?? less maybe? I am thinking though the steepest bit down to corner with hidden dam dropped up to Dad's chin in 20 metres and it rose about a metre per 20 metres two or three times on the ohter side of peak, and dropped once like that before the sharp drop. slope from house down to front fence is more gradual but probably about a metre drop maybe two over 100metres or so. Top edge is east. left edge is north -- almost due north. "Mountains" area a long way along the open area to the east. Miles.

I am sure it is not to scale!


My response - 6th March 2004

Thanks for drawing this up, it helps a lot. I hadn't realised the house was up on the hill part nearer the forest. I'd thought it was down nearer the gate.

Do you think there's space between the edge of our land and the existing dam for a single-lane driveway to go between the fence and the dam? Or would it have to loop round the other side of the dam? Also whereabouts are the trees, at least the few that exist at the moment?

If the top edge is the East, and hence the nice long view off into the distance, and the bottom edge is the state forest, what is on the other two edges? Are they all just wire fenced and open pasture, or is there another house anywhere in view nearby or any trees in the neighbouring land? Even though it's not our land, it'll help me get a feel for how things are arranged and potential wind paths.

It's nice that the land rises up a little again on the right hand edge. Also, looks like there is a slight dip in the middle top right area, where it's lower ground, so if we wanted to have a bigger dam then could do it there, where the other creek would flow (the one that's dried up because of the little dam in the state forest).

There were three photos in the original web listing; two were of the house, and one was of an area where there were some small trees growing, couldn't work out if they had self-seeded or were deliberately planted. I'm guessing from your description of the forest overflowing it's boundaries that it must be at the top part?

I might get creative tomorrow with paper mache or something and build myself a 3D model, at least as an approximation. It'll be like being back at primary school!

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