My name is Pete Lytton-Hitchins and I am a volunteer within the Eco System Recovery Programme of the God’s Way Environment Branch.
The Environment Team has recently commenced a new project within the Eco System Recovery Programme called the Terrace Project. In time, God’s Way Ltd will produce extensive documentation about the loving principles guiding this project and the exact method we are using to implement it. Today, I’ll give some background, briefly describe the basic premise and objectives of the project, and then explain how God’s Way Ltd went about purchasing some heavy machinery that will be used in this and other God’s Way Environment projects.
Introduction to the Terracing Project
In March 2018 God’s Way Ltd purchased a 116.55 hectare (288 acre) property in the Cushnie locality of South East Queensland, Australia. As God’s Way Ltd has future intentions to build its own function centre on this land, the property is now referred to as the God’s Way Ltd Function Centre.
The property is undulating, rising up to hills with views across the district. Historically the land has been used for cultivation and farming of livestock including deer, cattle and horses. As a result, the land is mostly cleared of large trees and original vegetation. The soil is a mixture of red, sandy loams and granites.
Approximately eight years ago the property was again cleared of any fledgling timber regrowth to create open space for crops of barley, cowpea, millet and oats to be grown. Bulldozers were used to push trees into rows and the timber was then burned. Afterwards, earth works were undertaken to create large drainage banks for the crops. These banks channel all of the water that falls on or runs over the property either into one of the dams or off the property the property altogether. No water is retained anywhere on the property except in the dams.
Due to the over grazing of livestock and cropping methods used by the previous owners and the absence of moisture to foster vegetation the property is no longer viable for agricultural purposes. Some areas of the property are completely bare of any ground cover (grass, weeds, shrubs, trees) and the soil is 100 per cent exposed to the weather all year round.
Where soil moisture is present, the cultivated areas are dominated by Australian Wattle regrowth. While the soil is hard and extremely compacted from years of cropping and livestock, it also erodes very quickly once wet and the rain that does fall onto the land runs off via the drainage banks into eroded gullies and creeks taking with it more and more layers of top and sub soils.
Under the supervision of Environment Branch Manager AJ Miller (Jesus), the terrace project aims to rehabilitate lasting and environmentally sustainable ecosystems at the God’s Way Function Centre property.
For the past 8 years Jesus, has been completing environmental experiments on his own property to perfect ways to capture rain, re-hydrate the soil and rehabilitate ecosystems on land in similar condition to the Function Centre property. Part of his experiments have involved discovering ways to encourage micro organisms, fungi, bacteria, creatures and wildlife of all sizes back into the ecosystem.
So on the Function Centre, the challenge we as volunteers had, was not what to do. Jesus had already worked out that the most efficient way of capturing rain and rehabilitating land in this condition is with terraces. Our challenge has been to decide how to implement terracing on a large scale in a way that is functional, economical and efficient.
What is a Terrace
Terraces are formed when sloping land is transformed into a series of flat areas that often look like steps across the landscape. The flat sections (terraces) are built perpendicular to the slope and have a ‘bank’ or raised wall which holds water. Many terraces are levelled and run uninterrupted for long distances perpendicular to a slope and cover a large area. For example, rice paddies in Asia follow a terrace design.
In the God’s Way Function Centre Terrace project, the terraces we are building run perpendicular to the slope but are closed at shorter intervals so that we can achieve accurate levels in each section without having to excavate the large amount of soil that would be required to create one long continuous terrace over the large segment of land that we are rehabilitating.
The Objectives of Terraces on the God’s Way Function Centre
The creation of terraces will be beneficial to the recovery of this property for a number of reasons.
The terraces will:
- capture and retain all water from rain events
- spread existing moisture evenly across the terraces
- remain moist for longer periods of time, creating the ideal environment for seed germination
- greatly reduce the velocity (speed) that water moves across the landscape
- allow water to move slowly through the sub soil for longer periods of time
- improve hydrology (ground water flowing throughout the entire landscape)
- allow tree and plant roots to penetrate clay and deco sub soil horizons through improved sub surface moisture
- prevent further erosion and surface run off in wet times
- catch seeds and provide a basin for their germination
- create the ideal environment for growing and building new soil
- protect organic matter, plants, grasses, trees and shrubs from being washed away in storms and rain events
- allow locked up minerals in the compacted clay and rock profiles to be accessible to plants now that the clay and rock has been crushed, crumbled or ripped by the bulldozer while building the terraces
Ensuring Terraces meet God’s Way Ltd Objectives
For the terraces to work effectively they must have a level base and sides. Making them level ensures that the maximum amount of water is retained and also that terraces maintain their structural integrity.
In our local area since the maximum rainfall is 1 metre and the wet season often delivers rain in short, heavy downpours, we have made our banks 1 metre high around the perimeter to capture and hold every drop of rain that falls on the land.
Background of the Terracing Project
Have you ever wondered why some things you buy or projects you do work out really well while others sometime end up a disaster?
Well, what I’m learning from Jesus and Mary Luck (Mary Magdalene) is that planning, research, testing, experimentation and documentation is the key to successful outcomes and to finding equipment that best suits the project’s specific requirements.
What I love about the way Jesus and Mary and God’s Way Ltd directors work is that they are always looking for solutions that have multiple benefits. Consideration of what is most loving always leads to finding the most loving way to do things, which is also inevitably the most efficient way and helps the most amount of people and the environment. They are always very mindful of the time, resources and energy it takes to do any project and the multiple benefits from such efforts.
So, after the God’s Way Ltd Function Centre was purchased, some decisions had to be made on the best way to rehabilitate the land.
Step 1: Planning led by Jesus
This involved walking over the land, looking at contour maps and aerial photos. We could then work out the amount of land that needed rehabilitating and consider how we could best implement Jesus’ terracing plan.
Seeing that we are implementing this project on such a large scale we also began to consider that the purchase of large machinery to complete the earth works would be most efficient in terms of time and financial resources. Properly assessing the area at this stage meant that we could work out more accurately the number of bulldozer and excavator hours needed for the terracing project.
Step 2: Assessing the Need for Heavy Machinery to Complete the Project
As a team, led by Jesus, we assessed the options and began to answer the following questions:
1. What machines would we need to complete the project?
Would God’s Way Ltd use a bulldozer or an excavator or both?
2. Who would do the earth works?
Would God’s Way Ltd use a contractor or do the earth work itself using members and volunteers?
3. How much would it cost for a contractor in comparison to God’s Way Ltd purchasing its own machines and operating them ourselves?
After doing the maths, it became clear that God’s Way Ltd would need a bulldozer and excavator for over 3000 hours (this includes work on other God’s Way Ltd properties) and if the organisation used contractors to do the work it would cost a minimum $600,000.
Step 3: Research into Machinery
Now that we had an approximate figure of how much it would cost to hire equipment and local operators for the project, we realised we needed to do some research. None of us could answer the question as to how much it would cost God’s Way Ltd if the organisation bought its own machines. In order to come up with this cost we had to answer these additional questions:
- Which machine, dozer or excavator, would best complete the rehabilitation (terracing) work required?
- What sizes machines did God’s Way Ltd need?
- What make and model of machinery was most reliable and could easily be maintained?
- How much fuel would be consumed and what additional costs would be incurred in maintenance of a dozer, excavator or both?
- What options did God’s Way Ltd have for purchase or shared purchase of machinery?
- Was it best to purchase new machinery or second hand?
In this part of the project I had the opportunity to work with Bruce Carrigan. Jesus helped us to understand the requirements of the job, to measure costs equally (that is, correctly evaluating the money, time and physical resources that would be incurred and prioritising these in terms of love). Our job was to take that information and apply it in our research of bulldozers.
Jesus & Bruce have a love for research and discovering new things. They have taught me so much about heavy machinery, how to care for it, and most importantly to ask lots of questions when researching. When we found bulldozers that might be suitable, we kept looking and then looked some more before we came up with a short list.
I started out with very little knowledge of bulldozers. To really understand any product or machine you have to know it inside out. I had to learn about different blades, different motors and understand the language that people use to describe bulldozers, for example ‘a Cat D6N compared to a Cat D6R’. In this case, ‘Cat’ refers to the Caterpillar brand of dozer, the D6 stands for the size of dozer (in Caterpillars they range from D3 to D11) and the N and R refer to the model, horsepower and weight of the machine. A D6N weighs 16.5 tons and is 178 horsepower compared to the D6R, which is 21 tons and 200 horsepower. The company uses higher letters for newer the models of dozers, until they run out of letters. If you were to talk about a D6R series 3, the series 3 tells you that it is the 3rd generation of that model. All this information is very important to understand. Just like when you purchase a computer or car.
In order to evaluate what is good value and what’s not when purchasing a bulldozer, we also had to learn the difference between bulldozer companies and the service they provide. We compared imported bulldozers to Australian ones, how much a machine would be worth when God’s Way Ltd was finished with it and wanted to sell it in the future, and how important the age of a dozer is compared to the hours it has worked. The list went on.
Jesus encouraged us to talk to contractors (people who work with bulldozers every day) rather than dealers (people who sell bulldozers as a business). This was important because as we found out every one has an opinion. So whose opinion do you trust? In the end you want to be able to trust your own. When someone has a very firm opinion that you respect, you still want to find out how he or she got to that opinion, and why he or she feels that way.
A person who used the machine every day, such as a contractor, is often far more aware of the real capacities, limitations, advantages and drawbacks of that machine in various situations. But they also have their personal emotional preferences and prejudices that might be based on injured emotions or personal fears. For example, one local contractor who knows a lot about bulldozers wanted us to buy a particular model and type. Both Bruce and I weren’t convinced that it would be the best option for God’s Way Ltd but we didn’t know for sure. So, we kept investigating.
Once we had narrowed our options down to 5 different bulldozers all with different appealing features we were ready for the next step.
Step 4: Trial Experiments
We wanted to gain some first hand experience so that we would make an informed choice. Being complete beginners when it came to using bulldozers we needed to experiment and test out different types.
Test 1 was driving three different types of bulldozers and getting a feel for them.
To start with I was very much reliant on Bruce. Just the thought of driving one of these huge machines tested my own inner beliefs about myself and had me completely out of my comfort zone. Bruce kept encouraging me to have a try at driving one but it wasn’t until I freaked out and started owning up to the fact I was real scared that I had my first go. It was a really cool experience and I have never been worried about driving bulldozers since.
Test 2 involved ‘dry hiring’ one of the bulldozers that we liked for two days and seeing if we would be capable of driving it successfully. To me this was vitality important. Up until now our knowledge was intellectual rather than practical.
Both Bruce and I were extremely challenged driving the bulldozer in a real life situation. Because dozers are very powerful machines it is easy to achieve a lot or do a lot of damage very quickly! It highlighted the fact that we were both going to have to spend more time planning how we wanted to use the bulldozer and then learning how to use the bulldozer effectively if we wanted to get good at operating the machine and complete God’s Way Ltd projects efficiently and effectively.
After Test 2 we still weren’t convinced we had the right machine for Gods Way Ltd.
We went back to Jesus and weighed up the options. The two main questions we still had to answer were: what blade type would be most suitable? And, what size machine was going to be the best overall? If we went for the bigger machine, it would also cost more money. If we went for a smaller machine, it would use less fuel and move less dirt. So it was back to researching for a week.
For Test 3 we negotiated a one week ‘dry hire’ test with the option to purchase the machine. If God’s Way Ltd decided to purchase the bulldozer, the organisation would not have to pay for the transport or dry hire cost, on the other hand if God’s Way Ltd chose to send the bulldozer back then transport and dry hire hours would be charged. We decided that this was a good option because in any case we would gain knowledge and experience.
The aim of this test was to know for sure if we could build terraces with a bulldozer in the way Jesus wanted them made, and secondly to ensure that the size of the machine and its blade type were the best match to our purposes.
Test 3 was a great success.
The bulldozer was great but more importantly, using a specific blade, we were able to make the terraces we desired. As for the size, the bigger machine was excellent at ripping up hard rocky ground and the pat blade we chose was fantastic at finishing. A pat blade enables you to use the blade like a grader where you can angle the blade to either side or straight ahead. This allows you to place your pushed up dirt on either side of the blade or push it straight ahead, and is very helpful when finishing off banks and levelling pads.
After Test 3 the bulldozer was purchased and the terracing project started.
The Future of this Project and Lessons Learnt
Now, with the correct equipment for the first phase of the project, the fun is in the planning, implementation and documentation of how we use the dozer to make the terraces.
With continued planning and monitoring by Jesus, the project will stay in harmony with the overall goals of God’s Way Ltd.
Currently, during God’s Way Ltd work weeks, the Environment Team is fully focussed and involved in the creation and fine tuning of building terraces. Documentation is required so that God’s Way Ltd can share the theory and practical methods we are using. We would like to demonstrate how effective these terraces are over time at regenerating heavily damaged farming land and hopefully inspire others to build terraces and rehabilitate land for long term sustainability. The documentation will record any failures as well as successes and be a transparent record of what has happened and what changes occur to the environment over time.
During this experience I have enjoyed learning how to make good decisions which uphold many of God’s Principles pertaining to economy, function, love and truth. Planning, research, testing and experimentation are the key to making good purchases and having successful outcomes. Anyone can use this model in every day life for decisions like buying a house, car, computer or anything else we desire.
I’m learning that challenging myself and trying new things that get me out of my comfort zone can bring joy to my life.
Purchasing a bulldozer may not be the first thing that people think of when it comes to environmental regeneration. Who would ever think that buying a bulldozer was a good idea when you want to rehabilitate land? Aren’t they so destructive? But it’s not the bulldozer that’s destructive, it is only that the way it is used can be destructive.
My observation is the more we destroy our planet, the more effort and resources it takes to fix. Poor treatment of our natural resources has a huge effect over time. Some of today’s deserts were once fertile lush landscapes. By using a large machine for a short period of time, God’s Way Ltd can quickly alter the overall landscape so that the entire area more rapidly responds to the gifts God naturally provides to assist in the maintenance and recovery of natural environments, such as rain, seed transfer via animals, etc.
Extreme measures sometimes have to be taken to fix extreme problems. One hour with a bulldozer can do hundreds of years worth of environmental damage or create hundreds of years worth of environmental benefit.
In this project the terraces being built will still be having positive effects on the environment in hundreds of years time.
I think that’s pretty cool!
Information Sharing Auditor & Editor
Author: Peter Lytton-Hitchins
Date of Submission: 27 August 2018
Date of Event: 2018
Auditor: AJ Miller (Jesus)
Manager: AJ Miller (Jesus)
Program: Eco System Recovery
Project: Terrace Project
Attendees: God’s Way Members & Volunteers