We are redirecting flow of water, by severing and blocking tile-lines. Tile-lines are laced throughout our farm to drain wet fields for agricultural production. Now that we are reestablishing wetlands and hydric-loving trees are planted in specific fields, we are impeding flow of water in those fields to recreate saturation historically typical of these soils. This white tile-line emptied into the creek. Mike cut it with his track-hoe and then packed the hole with dirt to block further drainage. Just beneath the bottom of that hole is a layer of blue clay, which holds water and keeps it from dissipating downward, ensuring saturation of soil above.
Finding these tile-lines is not a simple process. They were installed 50 years ago and are buried three feet below the surface, far out of sight. In flat fields we know they were installed on 50-foot-centers, or every 50 feet. Once the first line is found, we were able to find subsequent ones pretty easily, as in the picture above. The piles of dirt are approximated 50 feet from each other. This field is about 1,000 feet wide, so Mike blocked tile lines in 20 different places over two passes of the field, for a total of 40 obstructions to that drainage system. That will certainly hold water in place, as groundwater and rainfall accumulate.
In topographically undulating fields, the drainage system is less systematic, and it has been harder to find the feeder lines. So, we started with the outlet and worked backwards. All one theoretically needs to do is block the outlet in one place, but a great deal of water pressure would build up behind it and perhaps blow it out. In these fields we probably blocked the drainage system in 20 or so places, which will be fully sufficient.
Mike was working within the 8-foot rows of newly planted trees. He was able to snake his way through and around them, with hardly doing any damage to new plantings. He is an artist with equipment. His exquisite touch is demonstrated throughout our farm, in our laneways, tile-lines, waterlines, streambanks, and stonework. In another month, he will be digging shallow ponds for wetlands. There is not much he can't do, and he always does it efficiently and artistically.
Redirecting flow of water is a powerful thing. The new wetland fields will no longer expel water into the creek, but will standby, like a sponge, to absorb and hold it in place. This will reduce flash-flooding, while creating rich new habitat.
We had a great trip south. One of the most remarkable aspects of it was the fabulous live oak trees that are common to the region. They are so graceful and poetic. This one is almost in perfect balance, with its great pendulous branches spreading in all directions. It was a marvel to behold. But if one looked closely, it is clear the tree is leaning in one direction. It won't be able to hold its perfect pose indefinitely. The weight of time will change its balance, and its flow will be redirected.
In like manner, our two weeks off the farm, helped us clarify how our time and energy should be redirected. Redirecting is always complicated, because of many connections and relationships to be resorted. But I am finally seeing that the time has come, by Thanksgiving of this year, to fully retire from growing and marketing grassfed foods. We have loved the work of our past 15 years, because of the relationships with animals and with customers. But this is a physically demanding game, and it is becoming an increasingly heavy burden to bear. We want to stop while we still have energy for other aspects of life and before mishap falls upon us for not listening to messages in the wind.
We have just received turkey chicks, so we will have turkeys for you for Thanksgiving, as part of our swan song.
These strip steaks, dusted with a mushroom rub, provided necessary and quick fuel this past week. Our beef is better than ever.
As we finally succumb to redirection, the timeless Robin's egg offers hope that all will be well.