Walking the Farm in a Spring Rainstorm

According to the very expensive, precise and scientific bucket that was left sitting out, we got a total of 5 inches of rain yesterday, 3 inches in the first hour. When that kind of rain hits the farm I like to put on my raincoat and spend time looking around. I want to know where the rain is soaking in and where it is running off. Is there any soil washing out? Did any lids blow off of chicken tractors? Are the ducks teaching the chickens how to swim? We’ll start at our broken old bridge to nowhere.

Bridge

There is normally a trickle of water flowing through here. The kids crawl through the tunnel and hunt up crawdads or pretend it is a fort. Today it is roaring as water flows through. I’m glad to see that there is not more water flowing through. This tunnel is fed by the overflow from the pond (not much is overflowing yet thankfully), the runoff from the alfalfa field (again, just a trickle) and the runoff from the corn field and feedlot and the ditch across the road (the majority of the water you see). It looks like most of my water is either soaking in or being delayed in reaching the branch. I love it when a plan comes together. But the pond is receiving quite a bit of water and topsoil from the neighbor’s field and then there is that feedlot. Well, not much I can do about that. Following the water downstream I’m concerned the branch will flood the bottom…where the chickens are currently.

Branch

The water was about a foot from coming out of the banks. Too much water for me to cross so I can’t go any further to the North. Within an hour the creek was already receding so I slept soundly believing the chickens to be high and dry…until I heard it raining again about 2:00 in the morning. (Skip to the end: chickens are fine). No choice but to go east. Cows are out in the open east of the yellow house. I’m taking advantage of the cool weather to graze open areas right now. The cooler weather will end this weekend so we’re watching the clock. The cows are so full they are a little hard to move. I’m giving them larger areas right now to get back to the trees in time. We will have a big, square cutout in the pasture that will remain ungrazed until fall. That’s how it goes I guess.

RainCows

Further east the little wash is flooded and we are just about to lose our fence. I stop to adjust the insulator a little bit.

Flooding

This water is either overflow from the neighbor’s new pond or runoff from the eastern half of the alfalfa field. There is a dry dam on the alfalfa field that is making a huge sucking noise as the water rushes through the pipe. It was too dark in the woods to get a good picture but a dead tree was against the drainpipe and it was spraying water in two directions. There was a huge pool of water there. I’ll need to take some corrective measures to heal that forest floor. When I say “corrective measures” think cow hooves. Most of the green you see is poison ivy so it won’t be milk cow hooves.

DamDrainFinally I stopped by a mulberry tree for a snack, something I try to do a couple of times each day. Mmmmm, freshly washed fruit. I’ll get tired of eating mulberries in a few weeks…about the time I run out of berries I can reach. Mulberry trees will grow anywhere a bird can poop. They are tough plants, will take serious pruning, will grow from cuttings and make good firewood. They are all over the farm and I try to visit each one regularly. There are some deep in the woods that aren’t ripening yet extending the harvest season.

MulberriesLet me know if you got any of this rain too or if you have any ideas for preserving mulberries. I don’t care for them frozen and we don’t tend to make jelly. Wine maybe?

One additional note:

The chickens are a long way from the cows and have been for about 2 weeks. The chickens are currently housed in our portable layer houses. That design has worked well for the last year but has its limitations. We will be re-purposing those structures or the components. One severe limitation is the lack of portability over distance. We are moving to a new design on a wagon running gear so we can close it up and head down the road (cause we can’t cross the broken bridge). I have been delayed getting that project finished. Look for pictures soon.

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13 thoughts on “Walking the Farm in a Spring Rainstorm

  1. Chris, I get those mulberry trees growing everywhere and if you don’t pull them up when they are very small there is no pulling them up as their tap root goes deep fast. I have a couple in places I would really like to get rid of. Got any pointers on how to do that? How to kill them off?

    • Vikki,
      They are persistant. Cut them and they come again. It’s especially hard to kill brush when rainfall is high as it is now but if you wait till July you’ll have better luck. Just keep cutting the suckers, eventually you’ll win. Goats are handy for this.

      Since you don’t have a goat you may have to use a little brush killer. (I know) Most anything you buy will have triclopyr. Use as little as you can and apply it with a paintbrush. I know that will get me some bad comments but it is a lot more reliable than rock salt.

      You could just put a 5-gallon bucket over the stump. Anything that grows won’t survive in the dark.

      • Thanks, Chris. I bought a bottle of that toxic stuff, but haven’t quite worked up the nerve to use it. I have a very persistent one growing where it shades my garden not letting it get enough sun. I’ve cut it back and cut it back and cut it back. To make matters worse it is growing between and around two back to back fences. It has to die!

  2. Looking forward to the trailer/chicken house. I’m thinking of ideas of a movable house between vines/tree rows.

    Enjoy the rain. We’re having a week of 110 degree temps her in Central CA. Yesterday it only got to 102 and it felt nice.

  3. No rain here either. It’s been forecast for about 10 days, and we had showers one night last week, otherwise just heavy clouds that pass over us and dump somewhere else. Not too hot either though, about 22C, though occasionally up to about 25C. Pretty mild compared to CA, who are definitely having a poor time of it. I would say we’re in the normal range for here, at least the last few years. This forecast situation is playing havoc with haymaking, and I have notes from the last two years that tell me it was the same dilemma then too.

    • We talked about cutting hay this morning but that 30% chance of rain looks like it’s becoming more like 70%. It may be July before we get our first cutting. Usually that’s when we get the second cutting. The alfalfa has fallen over and the heavy stems are laying against the wet ground. The whole field is a big sponge. That’s good…unless you’re wanting to cut hay.

    • Oh, and it’s hovering around 27C here, should fall as the cold front comes through tonight then it’s supposed to go to 30 next week with high humidity and more chances for rain. When the temp and humidity rise we head toward the shade. The moos just can’t take it.

      I really should do the conversion for the rest of the world and their logical measurement systems. Our Serbian wood stove thermometer is celsius only…just to further complicate baking in a wood stove.

      • Canadians don’t cook in Celsius – we’re as stymied by those kind of cookbooks as you are. Actually, that’s not quite true, my girls had to learnt to cook with metric measurements and Celsius temperatures in foods classes in school, but they still had to convert to Fahrenheit when it came to turning on the oven, which is only marked in Fahrenheit. Besides, you still have company – Burma still uses Fahrenheit, I think.

  4. eerrch… a Feedlot neighbor ? How many head and how far away as the water flows, before it hits your land (i.e. 1/2 mile)? Is there a lot of filtration before it hits your land? Does it only runoff onto your land when you get heavy rains or is it part of the normal trickle you refer to?

    So… how do you move your Full Cows that you are not pushing too hard (as you allow for them to work around the fescue)? Pretty sure they are not waiting for you at the gate every morn… Do you just open up the new area and let them take their time; vs push and fence them out of the old cell at the same time? Got a good lead cow, bait bucket or any tips and tricks?

    Portable Layers to rebuild on running wagon gear (an idea I have been toying with too so am stoked to see you do this!), hay to cut and bale, portable shade structure to build, barn to paint, trees to plant, yellow house repairs, chickens ready to process soon?, Julie getting the shop organized… Where I come from it sure sounds like the stars are aligning for your annual modern day working farmers holiday from his J.O.B. lol ! Holiday or not, I look forward to seeing what comes out of your workshop!

    • Not a big deal. A cousin bought part of the farm across the road. He modified grandpa’s feedlot, keeps maybe 10 head there and has a grass buffer between us. But 5 inches of rain in about 2 hours…grass buffers don’t matter. A lot of water came through.

      No broilers until August. Still in limbo on the yellow house.

      Cows are easy to move. They hear me rattle the reel, they stand up, stretch, roll their eyes and meander over. No big whoop. This morning the jersey steer (Freezer) took point. Normally it’s Ms. White. Nobody stands at the fence bawling but they know the drill.

  5. Oh, I miss mulberries- we had them growing up in NJ. Technically they grow here in the PNW, but I’ve only ever seen one tree nearby. One of these days I’ll see about getting one. Have you thought about making fruit leather?

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