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Notes from the farm

Posted 10/10/2007 4:22pm by Leaf Myczack.

A young woodworker whom I’ve taken under my mentoring wing recently asked me, “What positive benefits can you get from a drought?” That was a good question as we stood and gazed out over our drought stricken farm with the brown grasses, yellowed leafed trees, and puddle sized irrigation ponds. Having resisted the tendency of my melancholy personality to feel victimized and overwhelmed by the worst drought since the dustbowl days, I actually had an informed answer for him.


A drought is an insidious beast, slowly, almost imperceptibly squeezing the life out of the land. In its early stages it may go unnoticed by all but the most observant. It isn’t dramatic like a flood, hurricane, tornado, or blizzard, where reporters quickly flock to the scene of devastation, set up their cameras and spew hyperbole at the viewing public. In fact, even the weather reporters are usually behind the curve as they inanely chat about the wonderful, rain free weather in the seven-day forecast. By the time the general public is aware that the natural rain cycle has gone awry, the drought is usually quite advanced.


As small scale organic, and mostly unmechanized farmers, we are so intimately linked to the land and its plants that we sensed we were in moisture trouble long before it became news. As the drought intensified, we shifted our attention away from other projects and focused on our water collection system. We upgraded and tweaked our system to where a drop of runoff from any roof surface on the farm is captured in a holding tank (barrel, cistern, or clay lined pond) for future use. We had a good system before this drought, and now we have an excellent system. As the irrigation ponds dropped lower and lower, we followed the pond’s waterline drop with pick and shovel. Every new bit of bottom that was exposed was quickly dug out to make more future storage room. Before the drought, our ponds had some shallow areas where rocks had prevented us from further mechanized digging. However, by using hand methods, we not only eliminated the shallows, but added irregular features as we dug around the embedded rocks. This created better habitat structure while eliminating high evaporation and warm water temperature areas that encourage excessive algae growth. We took the soil and muck excavated from the ponds and used it to further berm the basement of our house, thus making it cooler in summer and warmer in winter.


The drought also gave us a great opportunity to destroy noxious weeds and plants that became established after the land was overgrazed and under cared for by the former occupant. Unable to grow vigorously, they were easily dug out and then destroyed by laying them exposed to the intense sunlight.

The title of this blog explains the activity option available to those who go to sea. We hope the body of this blog informs you the reader of the activity options of those that till the land.


NEWS from the Farm


The latest rain event (a cold frontal system) evaporated as it approached East Tennessee. When the frontal system had passed to the east of us, we had a mere .02 inches in our rain gage. (.01 at the official site at the airport) This morning (10/10) we moved our gasoline powered water pump out of the barn and down to the bankside of the Tennessee River slough that ends 185 feet from our property line. We are filling our main pond at the rate of 1.5 inches per hour. We have two feet and many tens of thousands of gallons of water to go to before it will be full. However, already we are seeing an increase in aquatic activity (dragonflies and damselflies) as the water slowly rises.

~ Leaf