Earthworks Guide

Biodesic Strategies

A Vision Proposal for Earthwork Projects at JV Learning Center



Earthworks are a game changer. The initial investment that goes into these large ground carvings seems like a lot of work in the beginning but when done right will have enduring results. Terraforming earthworks in your landscape in a permaculture system helps utilize the most out of whatever natural resources you may have on your land. Harnessing water, restoring biomass, collecting nutrients, creating micro-climates, these techniques have shown their effectiveness for hundreds of years.

*Before beginning the earthworks, have a pioneering seed mix ready to sow immediately after digging is done.




A swale is a water harvesting ditch built on contour to capture and spread water across the landscape. They store, sink and spread water and are great for recharging groundwater and building soil.

Using an excavator to dig a swale:

  • About your slope: It’s suggested to build on no more than 15% gradient; or a hill that climbs no more than 1 meter for every 7
  • Swales are often built around 10 to 20 foot apart uphill or downhill
  • The design must include designated spillway for water to overflow, probably down into the next swale. These spots are lower than the top of the berm and level across Use rocks in this area to help against erosion
  • Mulch inside swales to help stop evaporation and promote a humus ditch
  • Make sure the bottom of swale – is level – across hill contour
  • The swale is generally built 3 times as wide as is deep



Dig from downhill, piling dirt on the downhill side – creating berm – where you can plant trees. The berm will be mostly rich topsoil ideal for planting.

Immediately sow trees, deep rooting plants, cover crops and nitrogen fixers.

Don’t let your slopes be steeper than 1:3 ratio – don’t let the sides of your swale or berm drop more than 4 inches for every 12 inches.


When designing a pond geared toward permaculture – maximize your edges; keep a wavy parameter with lots of inlets and spurs.

With your pond, it’s generally suggested to keep at least 3 varying depths to allow for more habitat. If you can leave trees near the pond they are good for shade. Shade keeps the water from too much sun exposure, which prevents excessive algae to grow and prevents evaporation.


If bringing in clay for your liner, use at least a foot, compacted.

Add stones, logs, stumps and other natural features to the pond. Some fully submerged and some partially immersed. These features act as heat sync and allow for more niches and habitats in your ecosystem.

Introduce the appropriate plants to your new ecosystem. They help with bank stabilization/erosion control. For our site we have selected waterhawthorn, golden club, buttercup, bulrush,water hyacinth, water fringe, common fishweed, water violet, flowering rush, watercress, fool’s watercress, white water lily, arrow head, and water chestnut. All of these plants possess multiple aquaculture functions and varying levels of depth and location in proximity to the pond. Some of these functions are: water purification, food baring, medicinal, wildlife habitat, erosion control, fish food, ornamental, weaving fibers and other tools.


Bat boxes and bird habitat near the pond help with mosquito control. If the pond is uphill, a pipe can be run through the dam wall with to gravity feed water to areas downhill. Be sure to use a pipe collar to keep water from seeping into the dam wall. Keep the pipe opening at about 16in below surface of water for best quality. Too low and the water is gunky – too high and there are bugs in the water.

Design shallow areas of the pond to allow access for smaller animals.


Terraces can be geared toward permaculture as multi-function features to add to your land. They can act as a pathway for access and also catch water and nutrients and allow for a better gardening environment. At first your terrace can act as a road to access other areas to do further digging. Once done driving on the terrace it can be sown and turned into a vegetable field. Terraces by design are self irrigating and self fertilizing and stop the erosion of soil. One session with the excavator and your terrace can last for generations.


While terraces can be all different sizes, the width of most large scale permaculture terraces are about 10 to 20 foot.

Rice Paddies

Rice paddies can be added to a landscape for a more diverse growing terrain.

Rice paddies do well in sunny locations below a good water source. Rice likes very wet soil with a lot of nutrients. Paddies are designed to accumulate water and nutrients.

A rice paddies are kind of a mix between a swale and a terrace. The bottom of the paddy should be carved flat and level, with a stable berm on the downhill side. Paddies should be kept weeded.

Other forms of engineered wetland agriculture are pumpkin and melon patches, and polyculture shallow water crops such as sweet flag, watercress, azola, and arrowhead (duck potato) to name a few.

Natural swimming pools

An alternative to a pond is a natural swimming pool. No chemicals are used in these pools. The water is purified by biological filters and select plants placed around the borders of the pool.

Here are a few examples:

  • Buttercup – not edible; as a ground cover for the pond edges it absorb nitrates from the water and is suitable for clay
  • Water Hyacinth – cleanses waste water, beneficial for fish, can be invasive
  • Water Fringe – shallow waters of the ponds edge, prefers alkaline conditions, edible and medicinal
  • common fishweed – oxygenates the water preventing anaerobic bacteria buildup
  • Water Violet – Oxygenating, semi-submerged, attractive flowers, and shelter for fish
  • Fool’s Watercress – water cleansing, and edible



Equipment Options

When choosing equipment there are appropriate tools for different landscaping projects. Excavators are great for making swales, terraces and paddies. Bulldozer are efficient for dam building. Different scoops can attached for different results.


While we have the equipment we could use the opportunity to try making a walipini  underground greenhouse.

walipni_constru tion.jpg

In conclusion:

With just a few short session with the right equipment, you have the opportunity to create a majorly productive permaculture infrastructure that can transform the landscape into one of productivity, profits, and enjoyment.


Sepp Holzer's Permaculture by Sepp Holzer
Permaculture a Designers' Manual by Bill Mollison
Whole Systems Designs Website by Ben Falk




Planning a Permaculture Goat Sanctuary

These are some of our notes in preparing to construct the most ideal goat sanctuary using permaculture design. The goal of this sanctuary is to provide the goats the happiest healthiest life possible, while at the same time reducing the amount of management through proper planning and strategy. This is not a comprehensive guide, if you have any personal experience, advice, or corrections you’d like to point out we would love to hear what you have to share! Permaculture is all about using as much information as you can to make decisions that benefit you for a long time to come so we have more research to do!


Coffee is probably not for goats.


An area with diverse conditions is ideal, with a more densely forested section, and a more open sunny field. This will give the goats a wider range of plants to forage, as well as provide shade for varying temperatures for the goats comfort. There should be enough room for them to comfortably roam with the protected space.

Happy goats are less likely to attempt an escape. As long as there is ample and diverse foods that they like they are less likely seek food outside the fence. Rotating more frequently or planting more forage plants can save on time chasing down escaped goats.

Ideal Plants for Fodder

(These plants were selected for Zone 7, in NW Arkansas)

Nitrogen Fixing
Storage for Overwintering 
Attracts Pollinators

Self-seeding Annuals

  • Red-clover – leaves, and flowers
  • Amaranth – leaves, stalks, and seeds
  • Yellow Dock – leaves, stalks, and seeds (in moderation)
  • Buckwheat – leaves and seeds
  • Lambsquarters – leaves, stalks
  • Thistles – leaves, stalks, flowers
  • Alfalfa – Leaves, seeds


  • Maximillian Sunflowers – leaves, root tubers, and flowers
  • Sunchokes – leaves, root tubers, and flowers
  • Rosa rugosa – leaves, flowers, and rose hips
  • Lilac – leaves and flowers
  • Blackberries – brambling, leaves, vines, flowers, and fruits (plant around established fruit trees to protect them from hard grazing)
  • Siberian Pea-shrub – leaves, flowers, seeds 


  • Black Locust – leaves, bark, and flowers, coppices well
  • Honey Locust – leaves, bark, and flowers, coppices well
  • Willow – 13% leaf protein, coppices well, easily grown from cuttings
  • Apple – leaves, twigs, fruit, flowers; a good use for crab-apple varieties
  • Poplar – fast growing, 17% leaf protein, coppices well
  • Tagasaste – Leaves, Flowers, seeds high protein
  • Loquat – leaves, twigs, fruit
  • Seaberry – leaves, fruits, twigs


  1. Additional seeds and tree saplings
  2. Permanent Secure fencing for main grazing area
  3. Portable Electric Fencing for short grazing rotations
  4. Shelter for goats to be protected from the elements and sleep
  5. Water trough that can be filled from the secondary spring or pond.
  6. Goats

tonis goat.jpg

Written by Tas Zinck


Goat Fencing Guide



Materials, Pricing and Installation


After much research and consultation with the Greedy Goat, a local organization that lends its goats to Fayetteville’s parks to control poison ivy and brush, it appears that a portable electric fence alone would not be enough to permanently contain goats. So they recommended a more secure fencing system to act as a fixed pen for the goats while the electric fence could be used to control grazing patterns within their permanent pen and outside. The electric fence works with goats but they are capable of escaping if they really want to. So the best way to use the electric fence would be for day use when someone could monitor the goats and grazing zone. The whole property could still benefit from the controlled grazing while when there isn’t time to oversee grazing, the goats can be left in their permanent pen.

Vegan Ethics

The electric fencing is required to keep the goats safe from predators, sometimes, by preventing them from escaping away from our protection and care. These goats would otherwise be sent to the slaughterhouse, and the fencing is necessary, not to exploit them, but to provide them a safe, happy, healthy life. The goats quickly recognize the effect of the fence, and only dare to touch it when they are determined to reach some food on the other side. By maximizing the availability of their preferred foods the incentive to brave the fence is decreased.

With these concerns aside, knowing we are caring in our actions, we continue.


Movable Electric Fence and Options

Fence Netting – The fence itself, containing the netting and the posts.

Energizer Unit – The energizer takes power from a battery and electrifies the fence. The energizer unit will always connect to the fence and a grounding rod. Once an animal touches the fence the circuit is complete and a shock is delivered.

Energizer Setups:

  1. Solar Energizer – Buy solar panels separately to connect and charge a battery which connects to energizer. Energizer then normally connects to fence and grounding rod.
  2. Solar Energizer kit (All in one) – A kit that has a solar panel, energizer and battery in one unit.
  3. DC Battery Energizers – Buy a 12v battery that connects and powers a energizer. Charge up the 12v separately. Maybe have two batteries that can be interchanged.
  4. DC Battery Energizer kit – Energizer and rechargeable battery in one unit .
  5. AC Plug- In (Mains) Energizer – Energizer that gets power from an outlet (Probably not preferably for our situation)

Connection Wires – The wires used to hook up energizer to the fence and grounding rod.

Grounding Rod – Hooks up to energizer and is used to complete the circuit.

Charge Tester – Small device used daily to check and make sure fence has appropriate charge. Without proper charge the electric fence will not be effective.

*Polypropylene (non conductive) twine* – used to safely secure electric fence posts to extra support posts, steaks, fencing, buildings, etc.

Permanent Fence Options

For permanent fences, there a few things to keep in mind. The fence has to be very sturdy to keep the goats in. The cheaper the fence, the more often repairs and replacements will take place. Many farmers recommend buying higher quality fencing so you don’t have to replace it every 3 or so years. Also the spacing of the fence squares needs to be appropriate for goats. If spacing is too large, the goat can get it’s head caught and won’t be able to get free. The recommended size is 4” x 4” or smaller for the squares. Appropriate fence options:

Redtop Wire Fencing (Recommended by Greedy Goats, can get at Lowes)


A stronger option: Some websites suggest a stronger (although more expensive) wire fencing. The below option for example:

Bekaert Gaucho 30 High-Strength Sheep/Goat Fence, 330-Ft.*

Another option:

Sections of fencing panel with wood posts or T-posts:

Can use appropriate cattle, goat or horse panels attached to secure posts.

*There are a few fence options that can contain the goats

Other Fence requirements:

  • Quality Fence Gate
  • Bracing Wire
  • Fence Staples
  • Fence Stretcher

Examples of sturdy permanent fences for containing goats:

Issues with goats and non-electric fencing

Pricing and Purchasing

Pricing depends on the size and breed of goats which affects the required size of netting. Most products can be ordered online directly from manufacturer.

The Greedy Goat recommended Kencove for our electric fencing supplies, another highly recommended brand is Premier1.

They recommended getting the permanent fence supplies at Lowes.

Electric Fencing:

Pricing on Premier1 Netting:

ElectroNet® & ElectroNet® Plus

Single spike posts – 164’ x 35”        – $119

Single spike posts – 82’ x 35”           – $95

ElectroStop® & ElectroStop® Plus – (taller, extra twine,) (bigger, stronger)

Single spike – 164’ x 42”                  – $144

Single spike – 82’ x 42”                    – $104

Double spike – 100’ x 42”                 – $155

Double spike – 50: x 42”                  – $114


Pricing on Kencove Netting:

Electric Netting 14/48/7 (Taller, larger squares, cheaper)

164’ x 48”            – $150

82’                        – $97

Electric Netting 14/48/3½ (Shorter, smaller, more squares in net)

164’ x 48”          – $180

82’                      – $116

Electric Netting 9/40/7 (Taller, larger squares, cheaper)

125’ x 40”          – $125

82’ x 40”            – $81

Electric Netting 10/40/3½ (Shorter, smaller, more squares in net)

164’ x 40”         – $145

82’ x 40”            – $94

Energizers –

Recommended energizer setups:

These options come in more powerful or weaker version depending on length/size of fence. Costs change accordingly.

Solar Kits – This is the option we will probably go with. The kits are convenient because they include everything needed to operate an electric fence. Almost everything is in one unit while the wiring and ground rod are included with kit purchase. Most kits even include the charge tester.

Solar IntelliShock® 60 Energizer & Kit       – $266

Includes everything to set up and run an electric fence. Just ‘plug and play’. Includes tester.

Premier PRS 100 Solar Energizer & Kit        – $354

Includes everything you need including charge tester. Website stats:

  • High output
  • Half the cost of others
  • Vandal and theft resistant
  • Very portable
  • Strong rust-free metal case

Kencove 12-Volt Solar Energizer – .50 Joule    – $197

  • Warranty includes lightning damage
  • Has AC adapter
  • Includes cables

Parmak Magnum Energizer – 0.5 Joule            – $269

  • Steel case
  • Built in performance meter

Stafix Solar Energizer – .5 Joule                         – $299

  • Lasts up to 21 days without sunlight

Battery Energizers – Option is good for piecing together supplies. Will have to purchase energizer, battery, battery charger, wiring, ground rod and charge tester separately.


Permanent Fencing:

Wire Fences

Red Brand Field Fence Silver Steel Woven Wire

  • 330’ x 48”                   – Around $130

Kencove 4″x4″ Woven Wire, Sheep & Goat Fence

  • 100’ x 48”                                   – $71
  • 330’ x 48”                                  – $235

Fastlock Woven Wire, 7/36/24, 12½ Ga

  • 330’ x 36”                                  – $90

Bekaert Gaucho 30 High-Strength Sheep/Goat Fence, 330-Ft.

  • 330’ x 53 “                                 – $239

*Can add electrified offset wire toward bottom of fence as another option

Panel Fences

  • 16’ x 42” panels – $15 per panel (graduates from 3” x 8” squares at bottom to 6” x 8” squares at top)


  • 6’ tall T Posts – around $4 each
  • Wood post options ?

Installing and Use

The movable electric fence is easy to set up and get going:

  1. To set up netting and posts, first untie bundle
  2. Walk backwards along desired fence parameter, dropping posts on ground and spacing out netting

  1. Once diameter is charted, secure first post (tie post with non conductive wire to another support i.e. steak, fence, building, etc.)
  2. Put up remaining posts, keeping netting tight as you go

  1. Once all posts are up, put in ground rod

  1. Set up energizer on stand or in desired location

  1. Attach grounding wire to from energizer to grounding rod
  2. Attach hot wire from energizer to metal clip on end post of netting
  3. Turn on and check energizer
  4. Regularly check fence voltage with charge tester

Tips for movable fence,

  • Keep grass and foliage short around fence
  • Goats have been known to get caught up up netting – mostly because of no voltage or low voltage
  • Add supports to corners for longer periods of use – use a T-post about 6 in. away and tie with non conductive twine
  • Be cautious for netting gets caught in woody areas while setting up
  • Any weeds that grow up and touch netting can drain electricity from the battery

Tips for fixed fence,

  • Leave about 4 inches between bottom of fence panels and the ground – for easier weeding and maintenance (you will go through a lot of weed eater line hitting bottom of fence)
  • Build solid braces on either side of gate
  • Wooden posts suggested be 2 foot deep in ground

In Conclusion

While proper fencing is a costly initial investment, it can be a lasting resource for many years.

What we need to do to get ready for fencing

  • Go to fence class hosted by Greedy Goat at Tri Cycle Farms in June
  • Find out how many goats we plan on having
  • How big our temporary grazing paddocks will need to be with our number of goats (maybe use fencing calculator on Red Brand website)
  • How large our permanent fence will need to be to accommodate the number and type of goats we plan on having
  • Decide which equipment will suite our needs


So we would like to know what are your thoughts? Do you have any experience with fencing to protect goats? Let us know if you have any recommendations or advice on the subject.


Written by Chase Jones with contribution by Täs Zinck