All Hail Breaks Loose

150724-hail-2Yesterday we had what will likely end up being our largest rain event of the year. A sudden onset of torrential rain was soon accompanied by large volumes of pea- and chickpea-sized hail. Our house sits at the bottom of our hill, and I knew that water coming down the hill wouldn’t drain terribly well after it hit our foundation. Yesterday it came down the hill in torrents, through the bare dirt near the house, and accumulated to a depth of several inches, getting up to the bottom of the siding, but not quite to the crawlspace vents.

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I went out in shorts and a boonie hat and semi-frantically moved a dog-dig-barrier out from under a fence at the corner of the house, and then removed more dirt with a shovel to get it draining faster. After the storm abated and gravity did its job, the water along the back of the house had dropped by about an inch, just below the edge of the siding. An inspection under the house revealed a lot of seeping through the concrete, but no puddles, so it seems the ground was ready to absorb quite a bit of moisture – no surprise considering how dry it usually is here.

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The bare area of soil behind our house is on the list for some TLC, and this event just highlighted the need to get on with getting something growing there. It is a frost pocket in winter, and I don’t believe that helps with keeping ground cover alive.

We had obtained four adult Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chickens the night before, and during the storm they weren’t quite sure where to go. They sought shelter under a ponderosa, but still got pathetically soaked. I managed to catch three of them, and Mrs. D. dried them off with a towel. We put a heat lamp in the coop in hopes of keeping them from getting chilled further. All are doing fine today. I was feeling a mite wet and chilly myself by the time I was done reacting to the storm.

150724-hail-4We have been leaving the van out of the garage, since the garage itself is seeing a lot of use. Moving bikes, toys, and various projects out of the way in a hurry while trying to get the van in out of the hail highlighted how much keeping things tidy helps when you have to respond to an emergency.

The tomatoes and beans seem little worse for the wear. Our summer squash leaves look like they were blasted with a shotgun, but the plants will probably make it. The storm did no other noticeable damage.

 

Our Summer is Cut Out for Us

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Time and project management are the biggest perennial challenges of both self-employment and homesteading. There are always half a dozen things that should be done today, or as soon as possible, or yesterday, and the day inevitably only has room for one or two – and that is if you can even get to the end of one without realizing it’s going to require a trip into town or a part that you have to order via the mail. Or else you get interrupted by an appointment you nearly forgot because you were so immersed in a project.

Apart from some impending modifications to our house and office (a ventilation hood over the kitchen range, a bathroom for the office, etc.), the big projects this summer are:

  1. Permaculture Zone 1. Finish setting up vegetable and herb beds near the house and cabin, and get a fall crop into them if possible.
  2. Soil Maintenance. Begin to maintain/rehabilitate the rest of the property by planting cover crops and adding manure and/or biochar. We have ever-growing piles of pine cones and tree branches, and had plans to rent an industrial-strength chipper/shredder to make mulch, but are now looking into setting up a kiln to make biochar instead.
  3. Irrigation. Our well and pressure tank supply the house adequately, but will barely put out enough pressure for two sprinklers. The only way we know to get a food forest off the ground in an arid climate like this is with extensive irrigation. This will probably entail upgrading or supplementing the well pump and pressure tank, and laying a lot of pipe in the ground. Some automation will be a plus if we can afford it. The duck pond (actually a small pond liner propped up with rocks) is going in near the top of the hill. Some microswales are planned to direct the pond drainage to where it will be most useful.
  4. Deer fencing. The deer decimated our newly planted raspberry canes last fall. They will do worse when we plant a lot of trees this fall. The plan is to extend the existing fence posts with poles or tomato stakes, and run flagged netting between them, raising the fence to 8′ in height.
  5. Planning and purchasing for fall tree planting. Fruit trees galore, especially apples and cherries. Some ume (Prunus mume) (a Japanese apricot/plum) for the unique blossoms, not to mention the fruit. Support species galore, and perhaps some fedge species as well. An aggressive, multi-layered hedge/fedge along the road for privacy. Maybe some black locust. Some piñon pines to eventually replace the ubiquitous ponderosas and produce pine nuts instead of just an endless rain of pine cones.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us! But I’m sure I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew…

Author’s Soundtrack: Hunting High and Low by a-ha. On vinyl, of course.