Whence and to Where -- the Water?

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1938 Aitkin Food Hanlon Farm.jpg
Source: Minnesota Historical Society. Hanlon Farm, Aikin Flood, 1938

And the rain doesn't stop. The soil and fields are saturated; the sloughs and wetlands overtop; the roads are squishy and getting blown out; the farmers are resigned and depressed; and, still it rains. Historically, rainfall in western is 22 inches per year-- a full 1/3 less than the Twin Cities' 34 inches per year. This year we are well above historic rainfall averages. Doesn't mean a drought might be in the makings for the next couple of months.

Mind you, we live at the very very top of the watershed. That means that all water flows downhill from here. Minnesota is unique in being the headwaters to this continent's major waterways; the Mississippi River, the Red River of the North that outlets at the Hudson's Bay. Our farm is at the head of the Minnesota River watershed. This area's glacial topography is unique and here at the top of the watershed world, we are in the Prairie Pothole Region and have a dozen or so closed basin-- meaning crater-like areas without natural outlets for the water to flow out of. Our farm is not in one of the closed outlets, so we are better off than some. Even "better off" doesn't look that good today.

The name of the USGS Map section that covers our farm is called "The Dismal Swamp." That's right. About 130 years ago the place on earth where I live was officially named by the United State Geological Service as The Dismal Swamp.

I don't have much of a historical perspective, as our first field season on the farm was 2008. But this land looks different than I've ever seen it. It is soaking wet lushness of grasses and tress. Different flowers growing in the roadsides than I've seen.

Overheard at a watershed meeting in Big Stone County this week. The ditches are running full (engineered estimated flows supposed to be 10 inches, currently running for the past month at 44 inches), backing up onto farmland. Crops unplanted-- those planted underwater. When the guest farmer sitting at the table was asked what he's doing about it, he put his hand over his heart, head downcast, and says 'it makes a man go numb.' It's just too much to take in. Too overwhelming to rally a response.

He spoke for many farmers and others. For those who's very being is linked to the land and the water. For those who know what mercy- being at mercy really means.

6 Comments

Oh... and I just have to mention the irony that I am currently reading the Dune series of books. Wow-- they are masterpieces of ecological and humanness.

Who knew that Minnesota had monsoons?

Echoes of 93's flooding, when we thought in June it would stop raining any day, but precipitation continued unabated into July with results we all remember.

Too many echoes of '93, when it just never seemed to dry out, and we thought each week in June that it would finally stop raining, until ultimately rivers downstream were overwhelmed and St. Louis was praying for its floodwall.

Dan,

Yes--- St. Louis praying for its floodwall and then 6 years later developing into its floodplain. What is with us humans that we simply hope for the best, plan for the best? That's putting it nicely.

'93, '97, 2007, 2011...

Also, driving all over the State, I've never seen as many growing stockpiles of field tile. 15 foot high rolls of black plastic pipe. Both the perforated and unperforated tiles. Need a snappy saying like we had for water quality "the solution to pollution is dilution." Something like the "downstream faster, makes me the master."

I'm thinking that miles of tiles can't drain that pain.

And if I recall, the flodplain development is in suburbna St. Charles. St. Louis floodplain is being incorporated in the Confluence Greenway http://www.confluencegreenway.org/.

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on June 23, 2011 5:26 AM.

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