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Friday, April 19, 2013

After the Storm, Our Attention Pivots

The storm has passed but floodwaters gather, the ditches and gullies into receiving creeks and rivers, and on to the Mississippi, which will continue to rise in the Iowa-Illinois-Missouri region for the next week. At home, runoff into the pond turned the relatively clear water brown with silt and clay. The water surface continued to rise and we awoke yesterday morning to find the Bass Tender, despite being half-filled with rainwater, had opportunistically tried to escape (a yearning for independence, one suspects, and new horizons).

As an engineer who has designed and built earthen dams, I have a pretty good understanding of the forces at work, so I've been fascinated by the rising level of the pond, its implications for the area of land draining into it and how that area generates runoff, and the testing of structures: the dam embankment itself, the principal spillway, and the emergency spillway. Is everything stable and balanced? Will the pipe connections hold? Did we survey the spillway elevations correctly? Are we creating any downstream hazard?

Naturally, as the rains eased, the pond is filling more slowly as the rate of runoff slows, but also because the banks spread out, so that every next cubic foot of water entering the pond has less effect on raising the level.

And this is how it looks this morning – I think we can call it full. The emergency spillway is an earthen weir six inches higher than the pipe lip, and the top of the dam embankment is another two feet higher.

So, now: next Thursday the first cider apple trees are scheduled to arrive, our work team will assemble on Friday, and we'll plant those trees on Saturday. Ideally, we'll have quite dry weather between now and then so the planting tasks won't be so sloppy and muddy. Digging around in too-wet conditions destroys soil structure and this can take many years to recover. Once we have our own nursery established, timing won't be so crucial, but when the trees are being shipped from upstate New York, we've got to get them in the ground shortly after arrival.

We've accumulated some new kit recently. This is a PTO-driven generator, sufficient to power the farmstead in the case of outages. Overhead lines plus the history of ice storms in the area (not a good combination) drove the motivation for getting a generator, but also the need to operate power tools remotely.

This is a 3-point hitch-connected, hydraulically-driven post driver. The cider apples (on dwarfing rootstock) will be trellised, and the orchard protected from deer by electric fence. This implies a lot of post driving. We'll have to convert it from a Category 2 hitch (for tractors larger than ours) to a Category 1, and modify the tractor's hydraulic system to supply power to the driver.

And we're feeling quite official as a farm with the cleanup, painting, and installation of this diesel fuel tank. Because fuel taxes primarily fund road construction and maintenance, on-farm use of fuel is exempt from the taxes, so we can get a good discount by purchasing in volume for farm delivery, rather than fetching five gallons at a time from a gas station in town.

Behind the tank is one of our collections of stuff we've found around the place, much of this uncovered while tilling the east garden. Some of it will always be junk, but other bits we expect will find a use in art projects. The Fred Smith Memorial Sculpture Garden awaits its first installations and, by the way, we're accepting applications for exhibition of others' work, and even for artists-in-residence.

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