Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Aftermath

Naturally, I wrote too soon in the last post when I said the creek was going down and the parade of trash and trees had subsided. On Day 4 of the Great Deluge, the rains came harder than before and the creek rose higher than it had been all week. And the trees. Oh, the trees. I've never seen such large trees come down the pike and so many. One after another, huge trees some as big as 40 feet tall (long?) and some a good 18 inches in diameter. Unlike the earlier floating forest, these trees were fresh. Not the accumulated debris of the past year washed down the hillsides and the gullies. No, this time the trees were freshly fallen. I have to assume that we were seeing the arboreal aftereffects of landslides somewhere upstream.

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Unlike many of the areas to the west of us, we were fortunate to avoid major landslides and washouts. Given the crazy amount of water that came down and sat here for days, we feel quite fortunate to have experienced little lasting damage this time. The barn is still soggy but I've managed to get the worst of the indoor lake drained. Our neighbor's barn did not fare as well. Their old barn collapsed in the flood. Located at the bottom of a steep slope, near the creek but above the floodwaters, the barn most likely was felled by soggy soil. I expect the gush of water coming downhill for days made the ground under the barn so unstable that eventually some key support posts gave way. So sad. Sorry I don't have a before picture. I had actually tried to capture the lovely view last week when I was taking photos from the guesthouse but the sun was in the wrong place. Had intended to try again this week. Sigh. Here's what it looks like now:




I hate losing these old barns. Even if they're not in use (and I don't think this one had been used for much--the owner doesn't farm and leases the land for grazing), they are a beautiful part of the landscape. I love the craftsmanship from an era when people built their own buildings with massive logs and stones from their own or nearby land. The character of the wood--it's color and heft--is unmatched in modern architecture. Most of these barns were built with chestnut trees, so they really are quite irreplaceable. This wasn't the biggest or the prettiest one but every barn I see trips the pragmatic puzzler part of my brain which loves to try to deduce why a barn was designed just so. What purpose did each section serve? Why does this one have a window up there and a lean-to attached on that side? What kind of livestock was kept and was it designed for tractor access or no? Was it all built at once or did they add on as the needs of the farm changed? Now the only question is whether anyone will try to salvage the wood. No doubt the roof will be scavenged for scrap metal but the rest may become just another pile of rotting beams, joists, and siding. A most unjust end for a barn that served honorably. And our valley will never look the same again. Sigh again.

In other news, the snow never materialized and although it got cold, it was nowhere near as bad as predicted. Thanks to the massive rain and moderate temps this month, it is looking like spring now. The grass is greening up, the speedwell and dandelions are flowering (a boon to the bees looking for nectar and pollen on warm winter days), and even a few lawn tractors have been spotted exercising in the neighborhood. It's been so mild that I still have chard, kale, and a bit of oregano growing in the garden despite my neglecting to put on the floating row cover before winter.








All of this is quite wrong, of course. It is January and we need lots more cold hours for our fruit trees. Just yesterday, I saw a tree in town covered in pink blossoms as though it were March or April. And our hyacinths are coming up. Much too soon. I fear a repeat of last year's early warmup following by a freeze that killed all our apple blossoms and zapped the asparagus. At least we'll have a few stretches of real winter weather this week and next with temps in the teens and 20s. That should convince everything to go or stay dormant for a little while.



The reprieve from extreme wintry weather last week did give us time to do some repairs. We redug ditches and cleared one major blockage due to one of the resident groundhogs digging a new burrow (photo above) and depositing the dirt in the exact spot in the ditch where the water drains off the hillside). Then we filled in the channels in both driveways where water had started to carve out new paths and we re-established the firepit. So much sand had been deposited on top of it that we didn't bother to dig out the rocks that used to form our ring of fire. Just dug up the logs of the outer circle and dug out the center of the pit. We'll have a nice big burn as soon as the wood dries out and the cold wind dies down.


And that, dear ones, is the final installment of our January 2013 flood update. I hope.


6 comments:

  1. Oh goodness ... never a rest! Hoping things ease up for you soon.

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    1. Thanks! Looking forward to your post about dehorning.

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  2. Crazy temperatures, Alison. Glad you have the water sitch under control. At least your bees get a mid-winter break. We're crossing fingers ours (in Chicago, where it's single-digit cold) can vibrate fast enough to produce the heat they need to stay alive.

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    1. Will think warm thoughts for your bees!

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  3. Your blog always inspires me to get outside and work on our property! You're always so busy. :)

    (By the way, we have daffodils poking out already; and some crocuses have already bloomed. Yikes.)

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    1. Not such a slacker yourself, Mr. Pierson.

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