Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘downpours

Making Peace

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It is getting to a point where I think I just need to make peace with the fact that water runoff on our property will carve its own path no matter what feeble attempts I make to direct it.

We received another short-but-robust deluge from the rain gods yesterday afternoon, which generated eroding runoff flow digging ever deeper into all the existing rills and washouts that had already evolved from the last few downpours this summer.

While standing on one of the spots inside the small paddock where our insufficient attempts to establish a direct route to the drainage swale had long ago spectacularly failed, I tried to envision what a successful solution might look like.

I picture a much more assertive effort along the lines of what you would see done to create a drainage ditch along a roadway. If we dig an unmistakable ditch, we could dump the material we scoop out of it to fill the washouts we’d rather not have.

The big challenge with a serious excavation is getting planted grass to sprout and hopefully hold soil in place before rainfall gets a chance to wash it all away. If money were no object, maybe we could line the ditch with enough river rock to form a creek bed.

Aw, heck, why stop there? Let’s just line it with a rubber pond skin first, and then pour on the rock. Wouldn’t that make a sharp-looking dry creek that’s always ready for a flash flood. It’s called Rainscaping.

There are a lot of images out there depicting some incredibly artistic solutions along these lines. Fifty dry creek ideas right here! But there is one thing missing from all photos I saw: weeds.

If we tried any of those solutions, in a very short time, you wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful rocks through the 3-foot tall weeds that would happily take root.

Maybe there’s a happy medium in there somewhere. I’m thinking I need grass to grow to hold soil in place, or rocks. How about grass and rocks?

It would be a hassle to mow, though.

Back to reality. The rocks to cover the distances I need would be an awful strenuous effort to accomplish, in addition to the cost of having them delivered. Grass seed is something I can afford and plant easily myself.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream. I like picturing the possibilities. In the mean time, I am stuck looking at the ongoing and frustrating erosion that has had the better of me for the last five years.

I want to work on making my peace with that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Standing Corrected

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I stand corrected. My neighbor finally got my message and stopped by yesterday to discuss the soil eroding from his corn field. In my angst over the mess, I had jumped to the conclusion that he had neglected to leave a patch of un-tilled grass waterway.

In fact, he did, and it has a wonderful patch of grass, below which are some weeds taller than his corn. I had not walked far enough up into the field to notice the full scope of what was going on. Had I looked just beside my focus of the current source of sandy top soil, I might have noticed.

I think it was the willow tree that obscured a full view.

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The sad truth is that the heavy flow of downpour runoff has simply migrated to either side of his grass waterway.

There isn’t really anything he can do about it right now, but just the fact he is now acutely aware of the current situation helps my mind. When he cuts at the end of the growing season, he will better be able to see the whole picture of what is happening, allowing him to consider options going forward.

It may simply be that he tries making the grass water way wider. I got the impression that he believed it was just an unlucky timing of heavy rain in the spring, before the planted corn had sprouted, that created this situation, so the fix will rely on a hope we get lucky and it doesn’t rain like that next year.

I am more of a mind that the likelihood of heavy downpours will only increase until the global temperatures somehow reverse the current trend and drop a degree or two.

Either way, the solution appears to involve a wider portion of un-tilled soil, but that won’t take effect immediately. For now, I am facing the challenge of dealing with the filled silt fence and finding a way to stretch its effectiveness through the rest of this summer and fall.

I’m trying to decide where I can put the sandy soil if I dig out the front of my silt fence. I’d like it to go somewhere that doesn’t end up just washing away the next time it rains, and that’s a daunting feat. I love the hilliness of our terrain, but the runoff erosion tends to be a constant result.

I’m back to that challenge of striving to work with the natural order and not against it. I want to figure out a solution that involves allowing water to take the easy path it seeks, but without it causing such extreme erosion. It’s hard to convince water to flow gently when the land is not so flat.

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Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2017 at 9:31 am

Nature Wins

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This round goes to Mother Nature.

I’ve heard tell that our warmer climate allows the atmosphere to hold more moisture. With a pattern of increasing frequency, our anecdotal evidence of the years we have lived here is that downpours are increasingly bringing multi-inch totals that overwhelm the old drainage paths.

Overnight Wednesday we received over 2 inches, bringing the 24-hour total to more than 5.5 inches.

When I combine our experience and the recorded data of measurable climbing global temperatures, I get the impression we are seeing the beginning of downpour trend that will, at best, keep happening at this level, or worse, continue to grow more extreme.

This presents a daunting challenge for devising a plan to improve our drainage paths to a point they will be able to handle ever-increasing volumes of massive flow in a manner that avoids major washouts, if that is even possible.

Our attempt to stem the tide of topsoil flowing from the neighbor’s cornfield came up short of successful after not very many storms. I don’t know if there is a more industrial version of a silt fence or we just need to pull out and re-install the one we have, above the new ground level.

Ideally, we would like to enlist the assistance of the neighbor-farmer to get him to not plow the portions of that field where the runoff flows and instead, create a grassed-waterway.

Recent efforts to contact him have thus far failed. I have a sense that his not having already maintained a protective waterway reveals a certain lack of interest in having one, so I’m imagining I may need to be prepared to offer a convincing sales pitch.

I suppose I could pull out the corn plants that washed down from his field and are now growing on our property, and bring them over to his house to see if he wants them back.

If it wasn’t so much work, I’d love to also bring him a load of the mud that poured out of his field and now covers the grass of our walking trail.

Since the rain will likely keep dumping on us, maybe his field will just empty out and that problem will go away. I can switch my attention to marketing the sale of a large amount of sifted soil that magically became ours when it crossed the property line.

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Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

Frequent Downpours

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I hope this isn’t an omen. This coming Friday and Saturday we have scheduled a custom event at Wintervale for close friends that is intended to serve as a warmup to the annual Tour of Minnesota bike and camping week in the middle of June. I didn’t mean it to become a conditioning exercise for nasty weather.

I don’t want the weather we are currently burdened with to be representative of what we can expect in a month’s time. The good news is that the last few days have provided several quiet moments of time when it is not raining, between the cataclysmic outbursts of over an inch-per-hour gully-washers festooned with spectacular flashes of lightning and heavy rumbling thunder that roll overhead in gargantuan waves.

The forecast for Saturday: ** Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 56. East wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three-quarters of an inch possible. **

A temperature of 56° with 100% chance of precipitation is not the kind of weather in which I want to ride.

Our rain gauges are getting a good workout, needing to be frequently dumped of the inches accumulating by the hour. It’s crazy making.

Meanwhile, animals just seem to deal with it. Our horses usually choose to stand out in the rain, but occasionally they will stay under the overhang. I wonder if it might be that they are growing used to the roar from the metal roof.

The wild animals are usually hunkered down far from sight, but yesterday Cyndie came across this beautiful fawn curled up on the edge of our north trail.

She reported that Delilah had completely missed sensing the little one and walked right past, oblivious. The momma must have done an excellent job of cleaning the newborn to minimize any scent.

There was no sign of the mother, but she was probably nearby, observing.

When I got home from work, Cyndie took me out to see if the fawn was still there. She held back with Delilah as I moved ahead and scanned the trail. I kept asking her if we had reached the spot yet, because I wasn’t seeing anything. We figured it had probably moved on.

Just as I was about to head back, my eye caught a glimpse of the brown color. It had definitely moved, but not very far at all. The fawn had settled in a new spot, a little off the trail, so that it was better surrounded by the tall grass.

I reached out to snap a shot looking down from overhead and then we stepped away. We didn’t have much time to tend to the horses before the next deluge.

As the rain pounded down with dramatic intensity, I wondered about that fawn folded up in a tight little ball among the tall grass. I was hoping the momma had showed up and guided a route to the woods for better cover.

Or at the very least, higher ground.

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

Rainy Results

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One day later, with the sun shining brightly, I surveyed the results of our crazy mid-summer type of thundershower in October. As I drove in the driveway after work, I could see right away from the car that the grass was laid flat below the culvert.dscn5320e

There was a clear impression of how wide the little runoff river rose after the deluge.

Our rain gauge collected over an inch from Monday night’s dramatic evening cloud burst, and that was on top of a previously accumulated inch that Cyndie had dumped out of the gauge after a drenching earlier that same day.

When we moved to this property, which happened exactly 4 years ago this week, we had no idea the warming climate was going to start dishing out the kind of gully-washing downpours that we have witnessed with increasing regularity each year since.

We have tried a variety of ways to manage the flow —or with regard to the sub-soil, the lack of flow— of water across our land. One trick to reduce the muddiness of our paddocks was the installation of drain tile to help dry out the soil in the springtime, but that didn’t do much to help with the immediate surface runoff of heavy downpours.

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Pouring rains rush down our slopes and carve a multitude of rills around the paddocks below the barn. Dezirea surveyed the sad scene with me yesterday and agreed it kinda sucks.

The geography of our property makes this a difficult thing to prevent, especially since both the frequency and intensity of rainfall have continued to increase since we arrived.

Water will always find a path downhill. The hilly features that we adore so much about this property are also the cause of our erosion problems. We want water to drain from our land, but we would like it to depart with a lot less energy, …preferably leaving all our precious lime screenings behind.

That’s hard to accomplish when the clouds repeatedly unleash inch amounts in spans as short as mere minutes.

Maybe we should look into terracing the paddocks and turning them into rice paddies. Do they make rubber boots that fit horses?

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Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2016 at 6:00 am