Five Feet High and Risin'

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About a quarter of our farm is underwater. You can hear the water rushing through the large drainage pipe into the slough from about 1/4 mile away. It's not safe to walk from our house to the pond right now. The water is fast, ice cold, and treacherous.

An increasing portion of our farm is subjected to flooding due to the upstream drainage tiles that have been put in over the years. There's more and more incentive to install field drainage tile as the price of ag land and commodities rises. Big Stone County had not had such an aggressive tiling mindset, but it is increasing here. This is a complex issue with folks on all side and high emotions. We've waded into those hot waters. We're trying to find some peace on the extremes of the continuum-- from throwing in the towel and turning a recurring flooded area into a permanent wetland to installing more drainage for another part of our farm to seeing what regulatory interventions exist to stop the increase of tiling the points to our farm. I.e. we are both solving and exacerbating the problem.

That said, we're lucky. Our house and barn were built 100 years ago up on high spots on the farm. The thaw has been happening very slowly with the days only flirting with above freezing temperatures. It's only March 26th, so there's time for the water to go down before it is time to plant. Hope springs eternal- right?

One of my fictional heroes is Neighbor Rosicky from Willa Cather's short stories and novel. Anton Rosicky asked his wife to prepare a nice picnic on a particularly hot day during a drought. The young family enjoyed the unexpected break from farm work. As they relaxed, his wife asked if he wasn't worried about the effect of the heat on the crops. Nope, he said, no sense in worrying since the crops had all died in that day's heat.

We are no way as dependent on the land as the Rosicky's were in Cather's novel. But in keeping with being mindful of the moment to moment joys in Full Catastrophe Living (re: Jon Kabit-Zin) we enjoyed a wonderful dinner on Friday night. It was Mike's birthday and all three kids were at play practice with the Prairie Fire theater troupe. It was, by our calculations, the first time in 11+ years that Mike and I had dinner alone in our house. We took the best steak left from beef in the freezer, baked up our potatoes and the last of the squash, and sipped a fine Minnesota wine with some fresh sliced pear and smoked salmon. The sun sparkled on the water around the farm.

Our best hopes go to those facing flooding in the days and weeks to come.

2 Comments

Drainage is such a vicious cycle. When I was still in Mn the foundation funded a U of Mn study showing how drainage had increased runoff + flooding in the Mn Valley. It is a tribute to Minnesotans' valuing of community that keeps this injustice out of the courthouse. In Ca, our farm landscape is all squared up and channelized to handle drainage. We'll see how it does this spring, when the Sierra has gotten 40' oF snow.

Glad you 2 could enjoy a night 'out', despite flood worries.

I guess I agree with you, though I now probably wont qualify for Boston until Im, oh, say 60.

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on March 27, 2011 1:21 PM.

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