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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Wind Arose and Swept the Snow – Our Place in the Landscape

We occupy a rather unique geography here at American Nacre that has a large effect on how the elements treat us. Here is an aerial photograph that shows the farm last May as seen from an altitude of about 17,000 feet. Our 40 acres is the small square of land surrounding the pushpin – you can see the 1000 feet of lane running up the middle, paralleling Kincaid Creek. You can see all the dark green of wooded creeks running to the southeast, falling steeply off the bluff onto the Mississippi River floodplain. To the northwest, another series of creeks drains more gently into the Cedar River, another of Iowa's many large rivers, but which despite its nearness at this point doesn't have its confluence with the Mississippi for another fifty miles downstream. The grey-tan fields in between these two major drainages are an edge of a plateau scraped flat during the last ice age, and all these rivers and creeks were formed after the glaciers receded.

The upshot of all this is that American Nacre sits just below the plateau, enough that winter winds from the west and northwest tend to pass over much of the farm, rather than blowing across it. You can use the live map link to fly around the farm and see how steeply the land falls into the drainages.

View Larger Map

Which leads to the next set of photographs.

In the woods and the creek valley, the snow has fallen softly and evenly in relatively calm air. Snow several inches deep balances even on very slender branches. But along the west fence line it's a different matter. The neighbors' soybean and hay fields are swept by the wind, which sculpts the snow into beautiful drifts as it is released in the vortices produced by the fences and brush and terraces that separate our land from theirs.

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