Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere....

Fitful weather these past few days...much thunder and lightening and rain. A few small branches--twigs, really--fallen on electric fences, but otherwise just inconvenience and MUD. I'm very grateful that my farm is intact...a slightly leaking roof in the entryway really doesn't seem like such a big deal compared to what happened in Western Kansas. My heart goes out to the folks in Greensburg. If it were a year ago, I would go help with the work there. But I have plenty of recovery and rebuilding to do here.

It's SO hard to get much done, farm-wise, in the rain. Potatoes are still mostly pre-sprouting in the living room...and here it is time to start planting tomatoes! I've been trying to mow the lanes and yard all week, to no avail, and now it looks like the scythe will work better than the power mower. A time to cling to pure FAITH that I'll manage to get enough done at the right times. The alternative to faith is pure panic.

Turning the sheep into the back yard is a routine way of keeping that part of the lawn sort of under control...tonight with the unintended consequence that one of the rams made himself at home in the washhouse (shed with chickenwire walls and equipment for washing vegetables). What a mess...and we had just gotten it cleaned up and functional again!

I've been trying to find time to walk out around the perimeter of the farm, in the 150' wide wildlife area on the north and west boundaries. This area is in the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) Riparian Protection Program, to keep runoff out of the two drainage ditches that border the farm. It's planted with various native trees (pecan, black walnut, burr oak, redbud, wild plum, etc.) and tallgrass prairie plants. So amazing how big those trees are, yet friends and I planted them only about 10 years ago!

Well, I got my walk in tonight, by flashlight. The Kansas River is swollen well beyond its banks on the south side, and pressing against the levee on the north side. As I drove the bus today I've been watching streams of water running down otherwise dry streets as yesterday's torrential rains continue to move towards the river. So I figured I'd better go see what the drainage ditches looked like.

Development in the area east and north of the farm pushes more and more water (runoff from roofs, driveways, other impermeable surfaces) into these ditches. And people are (not always legally) filling in a lot of the traditional low spots that slow this water from reaching the river. Where does it go? My north pasture becomes the "default stormwater detention pond" for the area...which could eventually cause long-term devastating parasite problems for the sheep, if it gets too wet for too long. Friends once lost nearly all their sheep to liver flukes, which host in a certain species of snail that can breed on damp pastures.

The water is backing up quite a bit behind the huge culverts that carry it to the pump station that pushes it through the flood control levee about a 1/2 mile from my house. The pump station is really critical in times like this, because without it, water trapped on the inland side of the levee could not get to the river without the river flooding into the area protected by the levee...thus the water would just back up on this side until it topped the levee. With the current flow of water exceeding the pump station capacity, it is backing up anyhow, just slower. Where? As of 10pm Maple Grove tributary was still in its banks, but if it rises a few more feet it will be in my pasture.

I used survey marking flags to mark the water line. In the morning I'll walk out again and see how the level has changed, and take pictures. It's very hard to get good pictures of flood waters at night!

The frogs, at least, are rejoicing in the situation. Their endless chorus, much more intense than usual, was the background music for my walk. At one point I flushed out some small sleeping bird that fluttered around me in dazed panic before finding its way clear of the brushy trees. I could see that even though the black raspberry patch has been in sad decline (from a virus; a normal and unpreventable fate of black raspebrries in this area) for several years now, and is but a skeleton of its former bountiful magnificence, there are a few brambles beginning to bloom...so perhaps there'll be a little home-made jam this year despite the devastating freeze. There is also a much larger patch of elderberries near the northeast corner of the property than I remember, so perhaps that will be another source of sweetness on warm winter bread.

There is always something, where there is diversity.

1 comment:

Wandering Coyote said...

Hey Natalya!

Just reading through your main page here and catching up on everything. Cool that we both blog, eh? I am enjoying reading about your adventures on the farm. I know how you love it and how much you missed it during your Great Canadian Adventure. I am so glad you're back at home. I have added a link to your blog on mine, so I'll be able come come and visit really easily.

Take good care, my friend!