Thursday, April 10, 2014
Going With the Flow Again
Right after my recent "water" post we had some very heavy storms come through our area that dumped a tremendous amount of rain on us. This isn't all that unusual actually, we normally get heavy rains once a year, but if I remember correctly, they usually come in January or February. But, it's probably not that far out of the normal realm for them to come in March or April either. I've shown ya'll the photos in previous years of the large amounts of resulting water that flow through my valley, so this isn't really anything new. What I did want to mention though, is what I've been working on over the years to accommodate these yearly occurrences. I think if you are going to buy land, even if it's not really rural or undeveloped, it's always a good idea to observe the place in times of heavy rains, if possible, before you make your purchase. Not that it may deter you from buying the place, though it might; but it will just give you a good idea of what to expect in the future. Now, I had been around this land before I actually started building the house and I did take into consideration the proximity to the creek, the water dynamics of a valley etc. but I really didn't get a good idea of things until I started clearing land. Trees, forest undergrowth and all that greatly reduce the speed and volume of flowing water and when you clear that...well, it can become ferocious in some cases.
So, basically, I kinda let the water do what it wanted to at first, just to get an idea of where it naturally wanted to flow. Sort of like letting footpaths form before you pour your sidewalks. You want the under structure to actually be in the right spot when it becomes permanent. We tried to locate all the culverts in naturally low lying swales and I further enhanced these swales by digging the stream beds out even more.
In the photo above, this culvert has become just a little clogged but it didn't take much to undo it and that sped the drainage up immensely.
This is the other side of that same culvert. Some strategically placed boulders help prevent erosion and protect the tops of the culverts from machinery and I also planted very hardy iris and such that don't mind having their feet wet or even standing in water at times. These are very tough plants too that can stand up to the flow of water and also help with erosion control. I plan on transferring a good many more to both sides of this area, so it's still a work in progress. I would also like to eventually line these stream beds with some nice heavy gravel because for most of the year they are dry and that would like nice.
The same stream as it dumps off down the hill and flows to the creek.
The creek got quite high, out of it's banks and even crossed the driveway in a couple of spots but had receded by the time we were really out and about. There's always lots of clean up to do after flooding like this. Various things wash down the creek and get stuck the trees and all. Sometimes we find some cool stuff and other times...well, not so cool, just trash. It also washed every single bit of my mulch away that I had placed around my creekside plantings, so I get to redo all of that.
Ya'll know I like to build most anything and I especially enjoy building with stone, like all these walls. They serve a lot more than just for beauty's sake though. All these stone walls act as terraces and help to break up that flow of water. One reason I added this stone wall and got rid of the logs was that I could build the stone higher, and it just looked better. With the logs the water was still washing too much soil in this area but by bringing this wall up about 6 inches or so it has helped the washing tremendously.
You can vaguely see how the water flows towards this area. My garden is just across the drive from this bed also and, as it is on sloping land (like everything else around here), this planting bed helps break that flow before it hits my garden. I used to have a bit of trouble with ruts washing in the garden but no more! With this and the addition of small retaining walls at the lower end of the garden, we have an almost level gardening area now. And it looks nice!
The most unexpected and worse trouble I had was from the flow down one of the valleys right towards the house. If the rest of the house was built that would block this flow, but it's not and I had to do something else. Some of ya'll may remember that I used to get free equipment usage from my old construction company and that was absolutely a Godsend. At one point when I had a Bobcat I used it to build this dam that you see Chigger sitting on. You can tell it's new because the redness of the dirt still shows. I don't know that I would have ever been able to do this by hand with a wheelbarrow. As it was with the Bobcat, it took me most of a day but it helped tremendously. 90% of the water is now diverted out across the yard.
Now, before Jack gets huffy I have to point out that even though I did this main part years before he came along, he did put the tail end on it here that helps shoot the water more directly out over the yard. We lined the dam with stone and broken concrete to avoid erosion here.
I also get many people asking me about whether or not I collect rainwater; you know, every good tree-hugger collects water! Well, no I don't. Not yet anyway. See, the way I look at it, my whole plumbing system is essentially a rain water collection system. I just let mine collect in the ground rather than big barrels. Yes, I do have to pump it to the house but that doesn't actually take much and after we finish using it, it is returned to the ground. Honestly, when I was trying to get this house blacked in and livable, collecting rainwater just wasn't that high a priority because I knew I would need a more reliable way to water the house. However, now that things are further along, I have thought about and will probably at some point put in a collection system for the chicken coop and garden area. I am in no way opposed to such a thing and it would be nice to have water there without having to use a little power.
All of this is just a system that you tweak as you go along, seeing what works better in some cases or not at all in others. It's a very organic way of building to me, where you let the land point out what to do next and then use your imagination to make your own.