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80 Acres: After More Rain, Water Quality Checks - MoonScape [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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80 Acres: After More Rain, Water Quality Checks [Apr. 19th, 2016|12:00 am]
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[Current Mood |accomplished]

The sooner you get into the field after a large rain event the better, especially here.   This involves rubber boots (mine leaked today...I bought women's boots last time.  Just sayin'.)   What you want to see is how the water's moving on the land, if any checkdams or gabions have been damaged, where erosion is active (you hope for nowhere, but there's usually some if there's been hard heavy rain),  how the creek is doing, etc.  Coming down the near meadow, this is what I saw:

Water is flowing right to left. 

When I got close enough, I could see a pale "cloud" of sediment in the near end of the broad shallow stream.

"Darker" water closer and farther away is clearer.  This sediment washes down from
construction yard upslope to the right, and is not caught by a gabion.  Grass
and other plants filter most of it out by the low end of the meadow.

Headng for the creek, I walked up to the dry woods, to look at runoff on that slope; all the water was very clear, no visible sediment, and moving slowly; the existing grass & forbs appeared to be doing their job.  The dry woods swale does not fill from runoff, but is a seep, and if there's enough rain, it will begin to fill tomorrow.  Plants have filled in most of the bottom of the swale, after the last period of seepage.  They must tolerate alkaline water, as the seepage comes through limestone; there's an outcrop forming the hump where the dry woods are.

At the corner of the dry woods, I flushed a small covey of bobwhite quail; they flew down the west grass slope and dropped into the grass near the creek woods.  The west grass bluebonnets are still in full bloom.
Near here, I flushed a grasshopper sparrow, first of the day.
Not the only one; I flushed another one later..

Walking on down to the creek, I notes the quality of runoff from the slope, judging by where it was pooled up against one of the old terrace berms: good and clear, and no signs of scouring on the upslope side of the water.

Creek is about 10-12 inches above level last week, and turbid
Debris in caught in bush suggests it was a foot higher earlier.

On the way back from the creek, I went up the north fenceline and found a native, white limestone honeysuckle, in full bloom, with butterflies and bees arriving as the sun strengthened.

Red Admiral nectaring on honeysuckle.  Gray Hairstreak,
and Paintied Lady butterflies, and bees, were also busy on this bush.

At the top of the slope, near the dry woods, I found a Green Antelope Horns milkweed in flower.  We used to have Antelope Horns (whiter) first, and then the Green Antelope horns, but I had not seen any for several years; the drought got them.
This one has a large milkweed bug on it (orange and black) and behing the floret
the bug is on, is a little crab spider, visible when I enlarged the image.

Stiff-stem Prairie Flax grows mostly south of the dry woods, on the upper part of that slope.

On the way in, I checked water quality at the low end of the near meadow.    And then, later, we had soup leftover from the big pot I made Saturday.


Beef, the nub end of a summer sausage diced up, two strips of bacon, onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, corn, black beans, tomatoes, green chilis, various herbs and stuff.   Livened up today with a diced green Bell pepper for crispness.

[User Picture]From: ann_mcn
2016-04-19 09:42 am (UTC)
So good to see the land recovering from drought!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-04-19 01:49 pm (UTC)
We love it. I'm hoping the creek will flow for months and months.
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From: sheff_dogs
2016-04-19 03:40 pm (UTC)
All the work you have done slowing the flow of the water must make it easier for the land to recover. I admired you first for your writing, I now admire you for this work too, something else to leave for future generations.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-04-19 04:31 pm (UTC)
When I was studying applied ecology in grad school, the mantra was "Manage the water and the land will take care of itself." When I had a chance to put that into practice, it worked just as I was taught: if you slow the water, more of it can sink in and replace soil moisture. Slow water can't carry as much sediment, so it erodes less, and drops sediment it arrives with (thus building up soil instead of tearing it away. Better soil moisture allows more vegetative coverage, and that means more plant material breaking the force of hard rains (less compaction) and more roots in the ground holding the soil. The first thing we did was build the first gabions and checkdams; I'll be building more this coming year if my health holds out.

The goal is to reduce runoff as much as possible, and to have the runoff from your land be clear--or at least clearer than the runoff that enters it. Drought followed by flooding rains is a harsh test of the system: you lose the vegetation and THEN the hard rains come. But the 8 years we had worked on it before the drought started made a big difference, and building the checkdams and gabions first was the right thing to do. I love it when a plan comes together...
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From: sheff_dogs
2016-04-20 01:01 pm (UTC)
I did quite a lot of ecology in college so I am very much aware of the principle. I am sure you will have seen the work on the effect the reintroduction of beavers has had in changing the landscape because they change the water flow; great way of doing it if your land is suitable for them, which I guess yours isn't. I have been finding it very frustrating watching the responses to flooding in Brtain in the past few years, people are calling for higher barriers to protect them and their property; the experts saying 'no that will just make the water flow faster and be more dangerous, we need directed flooding' have barely been heard. A lot of that flooding has happened precisely because we have stopped water from flooding a river's natural flood plain, but the cannalisation has been inadequate to the levels of rain we have been seeing the last few years. Add to that building homes and business on the flood plains and of course they get flooded. This frustration is one of the reasons it is so good to see you applying the principle, the pictures of the wildlife you post is another
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-04-20 03:35 pm (UTC)
Ah...didn't mean to insult you with more explanation than you needed, but I never know what people who come to this site already know.

Yeah, I've watched the flood videos and seen the comments. We have the same problems in Texas--more acreage of hardscape shedding the rain. Made worse here by a pattern of high-intensity/low-frequency rainfall, and the usual urban/suburban demand that watercourses be channelized if they're flooding near houses that should never have been built there in the first place.

I've tried and failed to get people here to understand that the problem isn't the creeks...it's the management that increases flood flow into the creeks with more hardscape while denying them normal recharge...although there's always been flood potential near these creeks, given the highly variable rainfall rates. Before the roads to this town were even paved, and population density was low, there were floods on this seasonal creek, though the non-flowing periods were shorter. And people built houses on the creek because their wells would have water...and they got flooded out.

But in the 30+ years we've lived here, development from Austin has expanded to cover quite a bit of the intervening 50 miles (and that's just on our side) with roofs, roads, driveways, etc. So water use is up, making it worse in dry years, and floods are bigger.
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From: sheff_dogs
2016-04-23 06:32 pm (UTC)
Oh I wasn't remotely insulted, far better to explain than to be misunderstood. One of the things that has been instituted in the UK is a law saying that all new 'hard'standing for cars in front of houses must be permeable so at least some rain is absorbed into the ground rather than flushed away in the drains. There has bee a huge problem in our cities where what was originally a front garden for - especially terraced - Victorian houses has been paved over to provide parking off road. This has hugely incresed the amount of rain ending up in the drains which by and large are still the ones the Victorians built and so were not designed to take the amount of water now coming into them. On occasion this has resulted in some quite dramatic failures, the drain cracks, over time the water washes away the surrounding soil while leaving the road surface intact; eventually when enough of the supporting soil has gone the road surface collapses leaving a huge hole - big enough to swallow a bus! I've seen it happen a couple of times, once with a bus in and once fortunately discovered when there was just a crack in the surface. In the case of the latter I was on a bus that would have gone over the weak art, over the next few days I saw them take away the surface and the bus would have fitted into the hole - this on an ordinary urban road I travelled over every day on my way to university, very sobering.

Edited at 2016-04-23 06:35 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: livejournal
2016-04-19 01:32 pm (UTC)
Hello! Your entry got to top-25 of the most popular entries in LiveJournal!
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From: (Anonymous)
2016-04-19 02:15 pm (UTC)
Can you unleak the boots with some kind of epoxy or rubber cement? Or will you just take them back? Must've been squishy.

As I was still reading about Prairie Flax and the near meadow I glanced down and wondered what the last picture could be. The bottom of a creek with bright red and yellow rocks? A pile of debris? Ah, soup. Looks delicious!
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[User Picture]From: filkferengi
2016-04-21 06:06 pm (UTC)
You are doing wonderful work[s]; thank you for sharing some of them with us!
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