Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘runoff

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

Not Surprising

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I received another weather warning on my phone last night. This time, it wasn’t about another round of plowable snow, but it comes as no surprise that they’ve issued a flood watch for our county. So, it’s out of the frying pan snow machine and into the fire hip waders for us this week.

Oh, joy.

We’ve got so much snow that our 3-board fence looks short enough in some spots that the horses could high-step their way over it. I think the only thing dissuading them from trying is the deepness of the snow on the other side.

We are due to get significant rain tomorrow and Thursday, without anywhere for it to soak in. There are bound to be a number of new rivers and lakes formed in the days ahead.

We’ll probably have the horses in the barn while it is raining, and the chickens will be given the option of venturing out at their own peril, but I’m not confident either of their structures will stay dry.

At least the coop is on stilts. The wood is shrunk from the dry winter air, so there are some gaps in places, I suspect, but it swells up nicely when it gets wet, so that just leaves drips from a few leaky screws in the roof panels.

The barn, on the other hand, is already suffering from areas that were once standing water that subsequently froze and rendered the two big sliding doors inoperable. More water on top of the old ice will not only make that situation worse, it will inevitably start flowing toward the lower ground available inside.

Thank goodness our house is at the top of a hill.

It is not surprising that they chose this spot on which to build.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 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

First Version

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Over the weekend, I completed a first version of the stick-fence backdrop for Cyndie’s perennial garden. The most significant accomplishment was that the thing didn’t completely collapse while I was working on it. It feels as if the whole construct is like a layout of dominoes that will fail in a spectacular cascade when any particular weak point happens to give out.

That leaves me a little timid about going back and trying to remedy some of the hollow spots that were a result of my trying to utilize existing trees for support every few yards. They complicated the simple weave I was otherwise employing.

Part if me wants the random imperfections, and part of me wants to see more consistent lines. I think the imperfections will win out, because that will allow me to do nothing more with it, accepting it as is.

Sounds like it will get a workout in the wind today, with gusts possible in the 40mph range. That should be a worthy test of the weak points.

With this phase done, Cyndie was able to begin redistributing the plants that have been smooshed up against each other all summer after the big mudslide from the neighbor’s cornfield last spring.

She made me laugh yesterday when she dug up a huge mass of something that looked like a tall grass and then wondered aloud about whether it was a “weed” or something she intentionally planted a couple of years ago.

We are into the second version of the garden now, while I am hoping a second version of the backdrop fence won’t be required for a very long time.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Triple Fenced

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The heat and humidity have broken and it finally feels a little more like September now. We were expecting the transition to involve a lot more rain than showed up yesterday. The line of precipitation slowly moving west is doing so at an angle that is sliding from the southwest to the northeast and for some reason, most of the rain moved around, rather than over our region.

Ironically, now I am wishing we would actually receive a heavy dose of rain, because last Friday we put a lot of energy into shoring up the silt fence at the property line adjacent to our neighbor’s corn field. In fact, we turned it into a bit of a terrace with three-tiered layers of silt fence.

The first two are short sections to slow the flow before it reaches our long fence. Between the top two sections there is the skeleton frame for a berm, in the form of piled dead pine trees. The soil runoff will accumulate around the branches and hold them in place. Eventually, weeds and grasses will grow through the branches and that forms a nice natural barrier that will hold soil in place but allow water to flow.

We have added support to the fabric fence by using old hay bales that we can’t feed to the horses because they have gotten moldy.

If I am able, I hope to trek out there in the middle of heavy rain to observe the action as it happens. At the very least, I now know that we need to check it after every big rainfall and remove excess soil if it accumulates.

I don’t know why I originally assumed the soil fence wouldn’t need regular maintenance, but after the soil conservation consultant pointed it out so very matter-of-factly, digging out accumulation makes total sense to me now.

If our enhancements work to mitigate the mud overflow messing up that area, we will be one step closer to being able to enjoy a good cloudburst when it happens. There still remains a problem in the paddocks, where a terrace or silt fence is not an option.

We plan to do some digging to create a couple of better defined routes directing runoff straight to the drainage swale beyond the wood fence, hoping to reduce the amount of flow traveling to one spot with energy that washes away our precious lime screenings and creates a deep canyon of a rill.

It’s fine if a little flow goes that way, but it is currently a problem because most all of the flow is combining to rush sideways along the fence, instead of straight under it out of the paddock.

The trick in the paddocks is, our solution needs to be horse-proof. Their heavy hooves have a way of disrupting all of the simple spade-width channels I’ve created in the past, causing runoff to flow every which way, and ultimately not where we really want it to go.

The next version we have in mind will be scaled up. Maybe I should triple-size it.

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

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