You Can Only Catch So Much Rain!

 

3-6-14 052After a seriously dry and warm winter, last weekend we received most of our rain allotment over four days. Here in Fallbrook we received four inches.  A long soaking rain would have been preferable, but I’m happy for what we received. Normally we receive downpours like cranky temper tantrums of the clouds that thunder down for a minute and then whimper away, but not this time.

The pathway between the Mexican bush sage and quail bush became a river.  Now we know where to put new swales.

The pathway between the Mexican bush sage and quail bush became a river. Now we know where to put new swales.

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Water from the driveway was channeled down to the new veggie bed trenches, and filled them up.

This storm had rain events where it would pour down buckets, and then become heavier and last for much longer than usual.  The last storm of this type was back in December, 2010, which is when I lost chunks of property down into the streambed due to erosion across the property.  Thanks to permaculture methods, the property received very little damage and no serious erosion.

New temporary streams everywhere.

New temporary streams everywhere.  This was a directed overflow from the ponds.

If we had just received what had fallen on our property then we would have captured all of it.  The downpours were so hard and long that we had tens of thousands of gallons of water flowing through from the street.  My daughter and I left just after one of the last ginormous downpours and drove past a brown river running down the street and onto our property.  It not only collected and flowed from other properties, but rain water was flowing from the cross street, Alvarado, down our street, through the neighbor’s property and through ours.  It is amazing that we suffered as little damage as we did.

The large rain catchment basin worked beautifully, percolating well and slowing the flood.

The large rain catchment basin worked beautifully, percolating well and slowing the flood.

The rain catchment basins worked beautifully; the top one filled and percolated down many times, recharging the water table.  Overflow systems worked well to channel water down an overflow pipe and into the streambed below. Water from the driveway was diverted to the long, level trenches we’d dug under our new ‘sunken’ veggie beds, and it worked well.  It was good to see the overflows working, because there was no way in the world to capture the amount of  water that flowed through this property.  Oh, if only I could have!  Let’s see: one inch of water falling in one hour on one acre is almost 27,000 gallons of water.  I have 1.68 acres and we received four inches.  That means that about 181, 440 gallons of water fell directly on my property alone.  I couldn’t begin to calculate how much water flowed onto the property from the street and neighbor’s properties during the heavy rainfall times.  Sigh. I’ll have to keep working on catching more!  I’m water greedy!

The big pond backed up to the cement slab where the cob oven sits!

The big pond backed up to the cement slab where the cob oven sits!

It wasn’t until the last day that water backed up and overflowed the cement channel, effectively removing mulch we’d just laid over plywood and cardboard on the pathways.  One area, notorious for its squidgy clay when wet, emulated quicksand under the layer of mulch (the boot photo at the top).

Plywood that had days before been topped with mulch.  Repair work was time-consuming but not difficult, only we need more mulch!

Plywood that had days before been topped with mulch. Repair work was time-consuming but not difficult, only we need more mulch!

One of the great benefits of the overflow, however, is that it deposited sand and decomposed granite over the heavy clay in the beds.  The storm helped amend the soil in these troublesome areas!

You can see the difference between the sandy silt that once belonged to our neighbors, deposited on the shiny thick clay of our garden bed.  Thanks!

You can see the difference between the sandy silt that once belonged to our neighbors, deposited on the shiny thick clay of our garden bed. Thanks!

In fact, outside of our gate where the street water flows to enter the property a lot of silt accumulated.  We were out there with wheelbarrows today clearing it out and using it.  It is a great mixture of sand, decomposed granite and organic materials!  Beautiful stuff.  We hauled it down the hill and used it to plant potatoes in milk crates, mixed with a little pigeon poo from our generous neighbors.  I had been wondering where I’d be able to get the soil for those crates.  We still have a lot left (more to collect, too, but it is heavy business) for other projects.

Just before the rains we'd covered this area in newspaper topped by mulch.  You can see the river of water behind the tree and the shifted mulch in front.  Strawberry plants under the olive were covered with debris.

Just before the rains we’d covered this area in newspaper topped by mulch. You can see the river of water behind the tree and the shifted mulch in front. Strawberry plants under the olive were covered with debris.

So on top of trying to catch up with the early spring here (did we even have winter??), we’ve been repairing the trails and making the walkways safe for the tours which have begun.  It is a good lesson about where to place more swales and rain catchment basins for the next strange rain event.  Since its March already, I don’t really have to worry about possible flooding for another twelve months or more!

By the end of the four days everything overflowed, but not violently.  Here we have a temporary pond by the Mock Pavilion.

By the end of the four days everything overflowed, but not violently. Here we have a temporary pond by the Mock Pavilion.

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