Water Flow

It’s that time again! The pond is filing up fast. After a frozen few weeks, the water is flowing again with vigor. Our traditional late winter/early spring flooding will happen again this year. The rain we’re getting is so heavy at times, I had to run around digging out some of the flow channels which had been filled in by hard working hens last summer.

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Below is an example of re-dug flow space. Grass and debris was blocking this channel, almost causing an overflow onto the road. If that happens, erosion would take away our access routs. Note that the water flowing through is clear, this means the sediment around the flow is settles, not causing any serious erosion where water is flowing. This is also very important, because if these channels carve out deeper and deeper paths, the roads next to them would eventually start falling in.

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On the wild water front, Weiss Creek rages on in this high water time. The fallen Big Leaf Maples are creating beautiful cascades. I hope sediment build up again this year to create better salmon nesting sites along the banks. Since this is only the first high water this season, there is a lot of great change in store for this stream bed. What I have learned in a few years of stewarding this stream: it’s going to look different after every flood.

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This creek is flowing strong, with clear water, which is always comforting. This year I hope to test the water for the county, sending in important documentation about the health of the salmon bearing stream. Believe it or not, the state does not test all the water ways, using larger downstream rivers as the baseline of catchment basin health. This seems a little neglectful on the part of the state, but I get budget issues and the lack of interest in wild water. We’ve got all those plastic bottles waiting for us at the supermarket.

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This is our Temperate Rainforest! Weiss Creek is a large water feature folded into a much richer network of systems. Like all ecologies, there is so much more detail than meets the eye. What really blows my mind is the fact that every water feature on this land was engineered by man. Even Weiss Creek, which was filled in by early homesteaders as they cleared fields and established access into the hills. Clearcutting released all the top soil, which washed into all the outflows, clogging them with sediment. Eventually, the water was all diverted and a salmon bearing streams were forgotten. Today, Puget Sound (the ultimate destination of all our Cascadian water, must be dredged to keep it open enough for container shipping lanes. It is estimated that two-thirds of The Sound’s once thriving ocean reef is now a graveyard for Cascadian topsoil.

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Restoring the topsoil will take generations, and a lot of biomass. At Leafhopper Farm, we’re planting trees and shrubs, moving small numbers of animals through the pastures to brows back encroaching bramble and fertilize with black gold. In the picture above, goats are browsing blackberry along the road. They prefer the bramble greenery and easy walk along the road, to the wet and dense forest. The stream flowing through the picture was hand dug to divert water away from the road. Instead, the flow now feeds the forest and continues on down to the larger creek in a place that will not erode the road and bridge.

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Weiss Creek is the main vein of tributary to The Snoqualmie River from the Big Rock hydrological basin. I only see water moving like this off deforested parts of the landscape. In other areas, where the trees and understory are intact, the water is slowed by root systems and fallen trees building up debris to soak up moisture like a sponge. I don’t care how great your pasture is, it can’t hold water to a forest ecosystem.

The water flowing through the forest in the picture above arrives from my southern uphill neighbor’s completely deforested 30 acre horse farm, to my back field, another 4 acres of pasture, and then, into a hand dug basin in the grove of trees that make up the stream buffer for the creek. Here the water is slowed, and more catchment basins will be dug to keep the water in the forest to soak down. Above in the pasture, nut trees are slowly rooting in. In the future, an understory of native plants will be replanted to encourage a new generation of forest to hold the water for the land.

 

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