Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ski Lake Claire

When we lived in Atlanta, we lived next to a neighborhood called Lake Claire. The good-humored residents of this charming collection of Craftsman bungalows drive cars sporting bumper stickers that exhort one to "Ski Lake Clare." The joke, of course, is that there is no lake in Lake Claire. Since the flood waters returned yesterday, I have been pondering whether to promote our new guesthouse with a slogan like Ski Lake Sandy. Sorry. I know it's already been a bad year for people named Sandy. But our creek is Sandy Mush Creek and Ski Lake Mush sounds more like a dreary breakfast offering than a pleasant way to recreate.

It seems as though I've been writing about floods here quite frequently. Sure, living down by the creek where all the water drains down from the surrounding hills, we expect to be soggy. They call it bottom land for a reason. Soggy bottom. Still, I can't help but feel that these 100-year floods are happening every six months or so. Why it was just six months ago that the calves were born amidst a similar flood. I feel bad for the new neighbors who over the weekend moved into the doublewide just up the creek from us. A raging creek rising up to greet you in your backyard is not the welcome wagon experience one wants.

I must admit, there's a kind of excitement, an amped-up state precipitated by the sight and sound of the rising, rushing waters. A bit like the heightened state of awareness that comes with a big electrical storm, there's an anticipation of the extraordinary, that which takes us out of our everyday routine, as well as a dread of impending disaster. It's hard to take one's eyes off the creek as a mind-boggling array of logs, trees, stumps, trash, bits of barn, and UFOs (unidentified floating objects) race toward the house then veer away down the creek. Then there are all the branches--the feeder creeks that cut through our property emptying into Sandy Mush. This one's a wet weather creek--normally dry but this year it's been flowing with alarming regularity.

Once the sun goes down, we are left with nothing but the roar of the creeks. The sound surrounds and permeates the house even with every window shut tight. Sound sleep is impossible. The mind imaginatively fills in the details that our eyes cannot. Just how high is the creek now? Has the water breached the lower pasture or swept away the garden? Is that crashing the sound of flotsam smashing into the rocks as the logs and stumps get washed round the bend of the creek or is it one of our trees losing its grip on the soggy soil. Hard not to worry that dawn's first light will reveal a tangle of mangled fence line and deep channels gouged into the driveway and the sloped pastures long since denuded of their protective summer cover of grasses. Let's not even think about a repeat or worse of the landslide a few years back that came within inches of taking out the main road. Instead, we try to think good thoughts about our house, nice and dry, high above the creek and perched on solid rock.

The first big flood during our tenure here scooped out a lot of sand from the area we call the beach (home to our fire pit). The subsequent floods, however, have dumped much more sand than they've taken away. We're rather pleased with this trend in terra forming but remain quite cognizant of how easily it could go the other way. Each time the waters recede, we look to see if our landholdings have increased (and, if so, grab the shovels to excavate the fire pit) or if someone downstream will be benefiting from our unintentional largesse. Here's the beach now:

As any homeowner learns eventually, water is going to go where it wants to go. Despite your efforts to capture it, repel it, or get it into a diversion program, water takes these as mere suggestions at best. We have dug ditches, built berms, and installed gutters, rain barrels, and drainage pipes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. And what works one time often doesn't the next. This time we have been lucky. Despite massive torrents of water gushing down the main driveway, the gravel has largely stayed put. The steep and historically badly rutted guesthouse driveway that we just had regraded last week also seems to be holding. On the downside, the barn has taken on more water than ever but fortunately, it is an area where it will not do much damage. The buffs will have soggier bedding than I'd like but they don't seem to care. Just an added level of challenge for me to carry their not insubstantial cowpies out to the manure pile.

Also on the plus side, the Fish Pond may soon be living up to its facetious name. The normally dry vestige of what we think was once a water retention area (from long ago when this property was part of a dairy farm) we named in honor of our real estate agent's vision of us farming tilapia here. Personally, I'd still rather the buffs relocate their wallow here than get into the whole fingerlings-to-fishes scene but never say never. We all may have to adapt to the changes that global weirding seems to be bringing. Just glad I have water buffalo since water seems like it's going to be our friend and our foe for the foreseeable future. Insert your own favorite f-word here. I know which one I'm using.

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