Monday, August 16, 2010

Kickapoo Beach

This morning the kids follow behind me while I make a tour of the front field. In a break between potato harvest/weed removal, I'd mowed part of that 2 acre parcel. Mandy doesn't seem to mind the high, wet unmown grass, but the Pooch keeps to short grass. A crow caws off in the west. One happy cardinal whistles in the green willows by the farm lane to the river. We make the full circle stopping to check the water level on the road that leads into the 5 acre field adjacent to the river. The farmer who planted soybeans in that field will be lucky to harvest any crop now that it's under water. In a shallow depression in the far corner closest to the road, the bridge and a head high culvert under the front edge of the bridge, water collects in a miniature pond. Over the course of the summer, I've been filling the gap between the high end of the berm that separates our land from the river bottom with yard waste. The smart thing to do would be to hire the local hauler to dump back fill, that is if we had the money.In the photo above left during the 2008 flood, the demarcation between our east fence line and the lane going to the field in what was once Kickapoo Center is a white metal box that is the new telephone interface for the fiber optic system. Saturday night the river crests well over the banks toward 14.25 feet. That's 2 feet above flood stage. Measure twenty yards to the back of the picture from the telephone pole at right and you have the water level at 9 pm.

Mandy and I take advantage of a break in the thunderstorm Friday morning. Ominous black clouds morph into sheet gray. Heavy downpour subsides to mist. We make a run to the Amish farm and then to Bent and Dent for discount coffee. On the way to town for propane the torrent unleashes for another twenty minutes. Being somewhat single minded, I think nothing of the 4.5 inches of rain when I dump the rain gauge. Rain here means rain elsewhere, Dum Dum. Up stream of our narrow, treacherous twisting Kickapoo River at the town of Ontario which serves as the headquarters for the canoe outfitters for weekenders to paddle the scenic Kickapoo Reserve, the weather service records record rainfall over the course of a weather service summer(June 1 to August 31). Normal rainfall is 14 inches for Ontario. This summer it measures 24+ inches. Westby, closer to home, lands the number three spot for record rains at 21 inches.

The local service station in Viola begins evacuating cars from the parking lot and trucking away used tires stored next to the building late Friday afternoon. Johann reports that the main street of LaFarge is closed to vehicular traffic. He and a friend with a high ground clearance Toyota truck are allowed to pass through town.

Dawn notices at dusk Saturday that the marshland below our east fence line is now a muddy brown lake. It looks a bit like this picture with the exception that this is our backyard in 2008. Preparations for dinner are interrupted when Dawn comes up from the basement reporting that water is seeping up from the abandoned floor drain. After the 2008 fiasco, I installed a check valve to drain off water from the A/C system and dehumidifier while blocking any and all back flow. Dirt clogs the valve from closing completely. Armed with hoses, a sump pump and a wet/dry vac, the leaking valve is repaired. An hour later, we finish dinner and toss and turn through the night expecting the worse come morning.

The weather service forecasts that Saturday night the river will crest at 1:00 am and begin a slow downward spiral. My visual inspection on Sunday morning finds the water level forty yards closer to our fence line. In the east and north it appears that we are now lakefront property. I breathe a sigh of relief that the flood waters haven't inundated my russet potato patch. While Dawn cans jalapenos, I slather myself with sunblock/insect repellent. The russet potato potatoes were planted in a single row in an 85 foot patch. Harvesting includes removing low growing weeds that cover the dead vines. I spend two hours digging a wheelbarrow full of tubers. The bathroom scale I bring out to the garden records two boxes weighing 35 and 65 pounds respectively. There's another 300 pounds waiting for me, but lawn mowing takes priority.

Here are the 2010 award winning gnarly russet potatoes.

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