Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Torrential rain ~ I dig ditches to divert the deluge

In mid-winter June of 2015 heavy rain became torrential, and went on, and on. Weather in these parts is changeable and we do get heavy rain from time to time, but not usually for such extended periods.  I wasn't really worried as the place here is on a fairly steep hillside and the risk of flooding was not the same as it might have been on a level section.  All the same I did check the basement from time to time for signs of water getting under the house.  I was glad I had previously linked up two old field drains ensuring that water was not running down the middle of the lawn above the house, and although there was a lot of water gushing down the garden it was to the side of the property... 


But as the rain continued I found it had started to get into the basement via cracking at the base of a flights of steps.  I did not want water in there, however temporarily, or softening the ground anywhere near the house foundations.  What to do?

Suitably clad in a knee length raincoat and gumboots I went outside to see what I could do: I first attempted to divert the water by placing a ridge of tarpaulin and earth diagonally across its path, then, finding this was was completely ineffectual decided to dig a ditch instead.  

I was glad of my trusty spade, which is nice and strong and reasonably sharp:


I set to work to dig a ditch alongside the concrete path where it was covered with running water.  Each time I sank my spade into the ground, water spurted out of it - that water was really moving and the ground was absolutely sodden.  In the photo below the running water can see sees as ripples in the grass.  As I worked the ditch filled with water, overflowing downhill, so I extended its length until it was well below the house and water could flow away harmlessly.  


What a day!  Despite the chilly winter weather working away at my digging soon warmed me up and then made me hot!  Knowing the ditch was doing its job and that there was no longer any danger I relaxed and rather enjoyed myself - I like messing about in the garden and it seemed rather like water play for grown ups!  Play with a purpose, in this case.

I went on to cut diagonal trenches above the young trees I have planted near that side of the boundary as I didn't want their roots to be eroded:


When I came in I was wet to the skin but warm from work and pleased with the success.  I love this sort of practical problem solving which is so satisfying!  The ditches certainly did the job of diverting flood water on the hillside property here.

The next day when the rain had eased off I took this photo.  When I dug up the turf I had kept it as intact as possible and placed it on the path where it wouldn't kill other grass, and everything could dry out a bit.  It narrowed the path but proved to be a good strategy as some weeks later when I carefully replaced the turf into the channels, everthing worked out well.  It took time and effort, but now you wouldn't know they had ever been there:


We were fortunate.  Some other nearby residents on flatter land were hard hit as could easily been seen by piles of wrecked household fittings outside houses. 

One unexpected bonus of the ground getting so saturated was that I was able to get out some stubborn dock roots.  Readers familiar with my writing will know that I don't use chemical weed killers and rely rather on digging out and cutting back.  Docks are particularly troublesome as they grow very long tap roots any part of which can regenerate the whole thing, but with the ground so wet they didn't have the same grip.  Look at this one - those roots are over twenty inches (50 centimetres) long - and intact.  I just wish I'd had the time and energy to have a go at getting more of them out, but such is life.  I certainly got to the bottom of that one!


News articles about the floods:
  • Flooding wrecks havoc in Dunedin - Stuff website, 4th June 2015.  This one contains a good video which gives an indication not only of the amount of water, but the speed at which it was travelling.
My earlier article about making a field drain and filling it with mussel shells can be found here:
My other articles about working in the garden can be found here:

No comments: