20th May, 2018
I hear about deserts that get all their rain in a few short (but often powerful) episodes, and three days later it’s impossible to believe there was ever water in dried river beds and barren landscapes.
Here in VA we had another 24 hour period with around 4 inches of rain, but fortunately everything held, even the very flimsy repair at the site of the last dam breach. We certainly have more rain overall than a desert, and it can be very lush and green most of the time, but occasionally we do get into droughts where rain is scarce over a period of several months. This means that just like in the deserts, careful water management can go a long way to insuring continued growth of crops.
Both new dams are very full, and the 6″ overflow pipe protected the lower gully dam from further washing out. Installing that pipe was a hasty repair after the first 4 inch episode washed out about 1/2 yard of material in the dam wall.
These dams are not the final stage of the water design, in fact, they are not even completed themselves. The full dam construction and the connected swales will really put the ground hydration into full speed. there will still be water flowing from the land into the creek, but it will have to travel a lot more slowly and service many more features before it moves on.
More contour ponds, more irrigation, and generally larger volumes of water being held back to use at later times when the air stream decides to dry up for long periods.
June 3, 2018
Well, we just had about another three inches of rain over the last week, and some of the extra repairs done to the lower gully dam have been paying off. With the new backhoe purchase I have been able to start building up the lower gully dam some more, including a better repair on the washed out section that has raised the water level another few inches, and at one point after the rain stopped this morning, the level rose all the way to the overflow pipe which I had raised up another 5 or 6 inches, along with more clay filled and compacted in on top of the initial repair.
These repairs are still being done in part by hand, but the backhoe is able to at least move the replacement material closer and fill the wheelbarrow so I only have to move the wheelbarrow a short distance and spread the clay and compact it. The real repairs and finish of the dam will come when the water levels start to recede.
Even though I can start to work on adding enough clay to drive the backhoe on top of the dam, there still needs to be more compacted clay added below the current water level to really create the dam as a stable feature in the landscape.
Justifying the use of heavy equipment in a sustainable system requires the creation of productive systems that will last a thousand years or more. Over the lifespan of a dam like these, a week or so of machine labor can translate into thousands of years of increased fertility and decreased erosion, These dams and swales will do what a climax forest would ordinarily do with the large volume of water held both in the bodies of the trees and the soil that carpets the forest floor.
With careful management over time these systems can help create stable ecosystems that are productive for our needs and stabilize the climate of the Earth.