Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘drainage ditch

Wettest Wetness

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It’s official. With the end of September earlier this week came the close of what Hydrologists consider the 12-month “water year” according to my favorite weather blog, Updraft. Beginning October 1, 2018, and running to the end of September 30, 2019, we endured the wettest water year on record.

The start of the 2019-2020 water year is not wasting any time in preparing to make a run at challenging that record. Water is actually bubbling up out of the soil in some places on our land where the pressure of groundwater uphill from us is pushing it to the surface, allowing it to then flow away down our drainage ditch to ever lower elevations.

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Tuesday night, after closing the chicken door upon returning from our class in River Falls, I stopped at one of our two rain gauges. There were 2.5 inches collected, but I wasn’t certain how many days that represented. I dumped it to start fresh but forgot to mention this to Cyndie.

Yesterday, she struggled to reconcile the low collection in the gauge by the house, wondering if it might be leaking or something.

Oops. My bad.

The gauge on a fence post down by the labyrinth made a little more sense with its 2.5-inch amount. It is common to see some disparity between the two, but both easily depict whether we are receiving small or large amounts of precipitation in random blocks of collection time.

Suffice it to say, our land is unbelievably wet right now. Soggy pretty much describes everything.

I think we are gonna need a bigger boat.

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Written by johnwhays

October 3, 2019 at 6:00 am

Serious Soaking

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First, I want to share an image that I received from Cyndie yesterday morning after she read my post. Exhibit A:

She had forgotten to send it earlier, but my description of how Delilah loves rubbing her snout in the snow reminded her.

Just as I predicted, there is very little snow left now. It was very gloomy all day, and rained throughout, but being mostly chained to my desk, I didn’t really notice how much rain actually fell. All I had to go on for what was happening across the state line at home, was the weather radar.

My main concern was over how the thunder might be upsetting Delilah. I wasn’t sure about what hours she might have the company of Anna, our animal sitter who helps out between classes at University of Wisconsin – River Falls. It’s hard to pinpoint the minutes of big thunder claps booming.

I did find the telltale evidence of a throw rug at the deck door pushed up into a pile, indicative of her usual tizzy of “shouting” down the big bully who is threatening us with all that rumbling noise.

From her location and behavior when I walked in the door, I’m guessing she tired of the stormy weather and took refuge in the one place without windows. She didn’t get up until after I walked in –an uncharacteristic behavior– from the rug in a short hallway between bathroom and bedrooms, where she had obviously been sleeping.

The situation at home turned out to be an anti-climax to the alarming sights I witnessed on my drive after passing through River Falls. The whole way from work was wet, but closer to home there must have been an extreme downpour.

Just south of River Falls, I spotted the first epic flooding, where it was pouring over a side road, making it impassable. A short distance later, I noticed a car turning around on an adjoining County road. As my car moved past the intersection, I saw that a highway crew was trying to deal with a missing lane of asphalt that had washed away.

Five miles from home, I cross what is usually a little meandering stream, but the outlines of the banks were completely indistinguishable beneath what was now a giant flowing lake.

The water flowing in ditches looked like raging rivers. I worried about what I might find at home.

Luckily, although there was an abnormal about of water wherever I looked, the damage was minimal.

We now have a pretty significant washout on the path around the back pasture. I’m afraid I will need to resort to a bridge over that gully now, if I want to keep mowing that route with the lawn tractor.

It used to be a slight depression that I could drop into and drive up out of, to keep mowing without interruption. Any attempt to repair the gulf with fill, so I could continue to drive over it, would just get washed away with the next heavy rain.

That spot is calling for a load of field rocks, which then leads me to the plan of needing a bridge for the lawn mower.

Our land is in a constant state of change. I think the rate of change is accelerating due to a certain alteration of the global climate.

It’s intimidating.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2019 at 6:00 am

Flowing Water

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Our drainage swales are finally flowing!

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The largest ditch along our southern border was a babbling brook yesterday.

Eventually, the ditch narrows and meanders away from our property, wandering its way through our neighbor’s cow pasture.

The snow is leaving, and it will travel to rivers that travel to the Mississippi that flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

B’ bye.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2018 at 6:00 am

Helping Hands

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We are feeling a new level of satisfaction today, after an afternoon of long sought progress yesterday. Sure, it was Sunday, but our fence contractor showed up and made quick work of removing the old section of fence on the south side of our hay-field. At the same time, Cyndie and I worked together on clearing overgrowth in the main ditch just beyond that fence line.

With the advantage of having more people than just me out there toiling away, a lot more was accomplished in a short amount of time than I ever achieve on one of my home-alone days. While Cyndie was using the power trimmer to clear some brush, I cut out some small trees with a hand saw. After a short amount of time, I switched to the chainsaw and went after one of the large trees.

It was already dead, and there was nothing around it to worry about, so I may have been a little casual in my attempt to bring it down. My wedge cut wasn’t deep enough and the tree leaned back away from it. Luckily, I pulled the saw in the nick of time to avoid the pinch. On my own, I would have started devising some laborious attempt to pull or push it over, but with the fence contractor right there in a skid loader tractor, the solution was a breeze.

After he pushed it down, he asked me where I wanted it. I would have needed to cut it into small pieces and drag it away. He scooped up the entire tree with the forks of the skid loader and placed it on top of my brush pile. Done! I asked him to push over two other trees.

If I cut down a tree with the chainsaw, there is a stump left over. Tom would push a tree down, drive the forks under the roots, and pop the whole thing out of the ground. After he carried the entire tree to the pile, he returned to fill the hole and drive over it to pack it down. It was magical. It was incredibly quick. Tree gone, in an instant.

With obstructions out of the way, Cyndie encouraged me to go get the diesel tractor and mow the ditch with the brush cutter. I hesitated, not used to moving this fast, then allowed the momentum to carry me away. By the time we wrapped up our afternoon efforts, the majority of the ditch was cleared and mowed.

It was wonderfully satisfying. For me, it was a great chance to enjoy a day’s work with the support of helping hands.

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Written by johnwhays

October 6, 2014 at 6:00 am

First Test

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Yesterday we received a steady rain that coincidentally arrived on the day work was supposed to begin to install drain tile above the barn and paddocks. DSCN2453eInstead of making a muddy mess by bringing in digging equipment, they limited their effort to delivering the tubing and pea gravel. It was a bummer that the project I have been pining for all summer was delayed one more day, but it was great to have our water problems vividly visible in real-time for the guys who are about to install a system to mitigate the flow.

Meanwhile, although it was a bit sooner than I hoped, I witnessed the first real test of our newly defined drainage swale. The grass seed I planted at the end of last week has barely had time to germinate, so I fear a good percentage of it was probably set in motion down stream by the flowing water.

There are some wispy visible sprouts making an appearance at the far end, so I’m hoping all is not lost. The good news is that, despite some of the minor undulations that concerned me, the water appeared to make a nicely controlled flow the full length across the pasture into the ditch on our south border.

I declare that we successfully passed the first test!

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2014 at 6:00 am

No Foolin’

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I think we just might have gotten past the messiest part of the spring snow melt season yesterday. At least, that’s what the optimist in me is hanging his hopes on. It is hard to shake the memory of that 18 inch snowfall that buried us last May and significantly prolonged the drying out of our property last year, but something is telling me that won’t be our plight this year.

IMG_iP0527eA remarkable amount of ground made its first appearance of 2014 during yesterday’s dose of warmth and wind. We were blessed with two separate periods of relatively light rainfall which is always a big help in melting the snow pack. I was able to make my way along a good portion of our southern property line and was thrilled to find that the new culvert we installed, along with the preliminary improvements to open up the drainage ditch, are functioning brilliantly. It is easy to see where we should continue, and I have renewed inspiration and confidence about what I want to do next to maximize the benefits possible in helping our land drain in a controlled way.

The channel I made on Sunday is still in place at the edge of the southern ditch. Looking back up toward where all the water is coming from, you can see how much it wants to spread out now. One of my goals this summer will be to dig out a more defined creek bed across this field with our tractor, and then soften the edges to a gentle slope, and seed it with grass. Most of the year it will simply be a dry depression, only filling with water during the snow melt or a significant rainfall.

IMG_iP0531eOur water-loving dog, Delilah, is mad about helping me get the water to flow. She runs up and down the channels and tries to bite the water wherever it ripples or gurgles. I like it when she helps down here because the ground isn’t muddy and the water is clean, so she just gets wet. The running back and forth does wonders to burn off her otherwise endless energy. When we came in, I toweled her off as she lay on her back, and then she curled up with the towel and took a nap.

On my way back to the house, I plodded past the labyrinth and discovered an interesting phenomenon. The melting snow is creating an inverse image as compared to the way it looked when I was shoveling the route in winter. It takes longer for packed snow to melt, so the path that I repeatedly trekked with snow shoes is now taller than the border areas of stones. They appear as depressions between the paths now.

It’s true. I’m not just saying that because it’s April 1st. Seriously.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2014 at 6:00 am

No Rest

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IMG_3596eWe are now in the season of mud and ice. In the mornings, everything that was squishy and flowing the night before ends up frozen solid. Morning is the best time to get certain things done that require traffic in our wettest areas. After the sun shines on the ground for any length of time, travel around here gets pretty sketchy. I don’t know how the horses put up with it.

Well, actually, I do know one way they deal with it. They lay down and roll in the mud. Shortly after being brushed yesterday, 3 of the 4 laid down and massaged their backs with the manure laced mud. It does wonders for Legacy’s light complexion.

Yesterday was a day of chores for us, and we were blessed by a visit from Elysa and Anne, who helped out with several tasks. In addition to brushing the horses and helping Cyndie clean part of one paddock, they joined us up on the hill of the big field where we took early action on the recently exposed ground.

There were piles of manure that needed to be spread out and broken up, sticks to be collected and removed, weeds to be cut down, and pasture grass seed to be spread. We are hoping to improve the potential of growing desirable grasses, with less weeds, so we can cut it for hay.

The highlight of the day for me was getting water to flow off our property and into the drainage ditch along our southern border. We were getting little rivers of water running from everywhere as the snow melted, but toward the lower portions of our land, it was spreading out and pooling up in the slushy snow that remained. I took a spade shovel and headed down there with Delilah.

The water was almost over my boots in some places, making it quite a challenge to navigate digging a channel out of the slush to provide the water with a straight shot into the creek of runoff that was now flowing along our property border. Because of the way water-follows-water, I like to give it a path that creates enough momentum of flow that the uphill pools get pulled down to fill the void. It’s a lot like priming a pump.

But flowing water is fickle, and if the momentum is slowed by a dam of slush that collects, the water is more than happy to pick an alternate route, or it may simply stop flowing altogether.

The last chore we squeezed into the day was painting the drywall of our new storage room. It got a coat in the morning and another one after dinner to get ready for the finishing touches by our builder this week.

It was the kind of day that leaves you needing another day of the weekend, so you can take a day off to recover. The problem with that is, if we had another day of the weekend, we’d likely end up using it to get even more chores done. There is no rest for the weary.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2014 at 6:00 am