July 2023 | Practical Self Reliance
Sunshine, rainbows...and floods
There’s an old saying in Vermont that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes or move 5 miles.” Thus far, it’s held true for the 20+ years I’ve lived here.
We’ll see crazy micro-bursts of rain, and get an inch in just a few minutes. You won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face…and then abruptly, it’ll go back to sunshine in the blink of an eye, and the birds start singing like nothing happened.
The locals know to simply pull over if they’re driving, ideally not under a tree or power lines, and it’ll pass before you know it. The first time my parents encountered this phenomenon on a visit, they thought it was downright apocalyptic.
Nah, it’s fine. It’ll be over in 5 minutes.
Or, at least, that’s what usually happens. We normally get a nice steady inch or two of rain a week, mostly in afternoon bursts, and then the gentle breeze and sunshine return to paradise.
Usually, Vermont doesn’t make the news either.
But this month, our tiny state made the front page of the New York Times. Big news is almost never good news, and that was certainly true here, when we received record rainfall and immense flooding.
A normal Monday forecast of 2’’ of rain was bumped up to 4’’ at the last minute…and then the sky delivered us just short of 9’’ of rain.
Rivers jumped their banks, landslides covered highways, and whole downtowns were buried under feet of water. Now, more than a week later, bulldozers are still working to clear the mud off back roads and main highways alike.
I’ve received emails from many of you asking if we’re Ok, and yes, we’re fine. We’ve spent the better part of the past decade working to make our land and gardens more resilient to things like this, but honestly, it was luck as much as anything.
You can prepare for the weather, but the weather sometimes decides no amount of preparation is enough. This time, it was enough.
Our gardens are all 2-foot deep raised beds, and they drained the deluge and hardly noticed. The curtain drains and culverts to divert water away from the house and into holding ponds worked wonders. The water raged over the tops of our hand-built bridges, but none washed away…and all in all, everything was tested right to the edge of breaking…and it held.
With roads washed out, there was no way out all week, but we’ve always got plenty in the pantry and basement. For us, it was little more than a drill that showed where we will need to dig ditches and swales a bit deeper, and shore up drainage, but many others were not so lucky.
I do not have pictures of any of the chaos to share, as we were hunkered down in our nest trying to stay out of the mess…but if you do want to see what things looked like, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture recorded some intense drone footage in the days following the initial flood. And a group called Montpelier Alive covered damage in the capital, which was one of the hardest hit towns.
What I do have on my camera roll are pictures of sourdough starters, chubby bumble bees, baby turtles, herbal remedies, and a little girl teaching her geese how to swim.
Those things are not all that happens here, not by a long shot.
We battle ice storms, floods, tractor breakdowns, ticks, bears, ornery roosters, whole families of skunks moving into our nesting boxes, week-long power outages at least once or twice a year, and more leeches than I’d care to count.
I mentioned this to a neighbor, one that follows my blog (Hi Wendy), and she said to me,
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, don’t ruin it. I don’t wanna see any of that. I see that every day, and I’ve got my own ticks, thank you very much. I lived through the Cold War, on the front lines, so to speak. My job was making contingency plans for a hospital in a major city, and at that time, I lived every day not wondering if something bad was going to happen, but when. I’m off duty now, long since retired, but I still read the news…and it’s still there. But when I read your blog, it’s not there. It’s all somewhere else…and I’m in your garden picking fruit, or sitting by the pond watching your littles splash. Just whatever you do, don’t ruin that.”
Don’t worry, Wendy, I’m not going to ruin that.
There is a lot about this life that’s truly magical, and that’s mostly what I share here in the newsletter. A bit of sunshine in your inbox, and when you’ve seen enough rain.
The blog itself though, has plenty of stuff that nobody wants to see (until they need it). There are practical guides for dealing with all manner of pests and problems, big and small.
And later this year, I do have a post coming out about how to build a tick trap that works, how to get leeches out of a pond, and how to stitch a wound, among other things. Those are things you really don’t want to think about…until they’re right there in your face, and you’re frantically searching Google looking for answers when there’s no local help in sight.
At this point, about 80% of my blog’s traffic comes from Google or other search engines. People that have a problem, and need an answer, even if that problem is just a pile of garden zucchini the size of a Volkswagon that needs preserving.
I’ve thought about it, actually, adding a section to the bottom of newsletters titled, “Ain’t nobody wants to see that!” And hey, maybe I will someday…
But in the meantime, know that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and the less rainbow-filled tutorials are all there if you need them. There’s a search box right at the top of the main page, and an article index with all the most commonly searched posts.
Hopefully, y’all know that if there are pictures of chickens, there’s someone there shoveling out the chicken poop. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. But it also doesn’t mean you need it in your inbox, either.
If you have one of those less-than-presentable problems, there’s always the comment section at the end of the newsletters…and I’ll do my best to direct you to the right answers, so you can get back to your regularly scheduled sunshine and rainbows.
Until next time,
Ashley at Practical Self Reliance