Thursday, August 4

As of today, the drainage ditch is officially closed. It has taken almost five months to complete the installation of a drainage ditch in the new orchard which is the most utterly unnecessary drainage system in existence since we are in the middle of a severe drought. Granted, the best time to install a drainage ditch is during dry weather to adequately measure and grade and slope. But the farmer in me is deeply disturbed about the amount of time, effort, money and frustration poured into a project revolving around flooding while we are in the middle of the worst drought in our area since 1965.

The creek is bone dry.
We have been here 11 years and have never seen it dry up like this.
It is usually between 2 - 5 feet deep.

The daylight hours are precious. Keeping the delicate balance between projects lists, budget allowances and those daylight hours is a full time job. Sacrificing so many weekends and late nights on this one project – one item on a long list of “To Do’s” – has caused much aggravation and the use of foul language on occasion.

The setbacks and delays on this project are almost comical to think about:

  • Renting a backhoe to dig the trench on a snowy weekend in April (only time it was available)
  • Having half the trench collapse back in on itself the next week from heavy rain
  • Having to wait for the trench to dry out from all that rain and watching it turn into a gigantic swale
  • Spending months working with the trees and having to constantly 'vault' the trench
  • Waiting those months for the trench to dry and for the 4th-hand tractor with backhoe attachment to be affordable
  • Having to have all the hydraulics repaired on the 4th-hand backhoe, mostly by ourselves
  • Re-digging, re-leveling and re-contouring of the trench with the repaired tractor/backhoe
  • Working around Roy's office schedule since I have no idea how to use the backhoe, nor do I want to try with two little kids on my lap. 

The drainage pipe, wrapped in the fabric in the trench before we covered it all up with gravel,
landscape fabric and lots of dirt.
The process of actually installing the pipe is pretty straight forward. One layer of landscape fabric, one shallow layer of gravel, one drainage pipe wrapped in what is referred to as a "sock", another thicker layer of gravel, another layer of landscape fabric and then the dirt to fill in the trench. It sounds so simple. It wasn't. Temperature and humidity soared, tempers flared but now I can look at the trench - all flattened over with dirt - and wonder if we are ever going to actually need it. It is so dry and hot and everything is just about dead. I don;t know why all those weeds and wildflowers are alive and taking over the orchard since there has been no rain in over a month.

The field that has developed in the orchard due to inability to mow.
We have been watering the trees - all 250 of them - with the bucket and barrel system about every three days. It takes about 4 hours and 4 trips to refill the barrels. I re-watched "The Permaculture Orchard" the other night just to remind myself that all this was really worth it. 

One step to restoring the property here and it sure has been one to test our resolve. More news about other parts of the property soon. The forest is trying to heal itself, we have rabbits where there were none before and the fields are reclaiming their rights after years of mowing and mistreatment. It is amazing to see.

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