Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Rare Mowing

On the east side of my property is a pond that in good years stretches three acres and is bounded by the three other neighbors. It's good for fishing, canoeing and birdwatching since it's a common stopover for migratory ducks of all types. Periodically, the cattails attempt to take it over.

Due to the exceptional drought in this area, ("Exceptional" is the true technical rating) I've been watching the pond get lower and lower. There's a slight chance the shallow water left in the mud flats will go away entirely before the rains come again. On the photo above, the 'full' mark is about two thirds the way up the grassy slope. Click the images for a larger view.

The last time the pond got this low was back in '88 or '89 when we had two drought years back to back and I had the opportunity to get the mower down to the mud flats and shred the cattails that, at that time had threatened my whole side of the pond. I had fought them by wading into the muck with a machette for months, but they rapidly grew back. There were thick root systems that extended out into the pond, beyond my ability to dig them out. But the drought and the mowing had knocked out the cattails for many years.

For the past five years or so, they had been coming back, off in the northeast corner where this morning there is just a pile of shredded stalks. The water has retreated just enough to let me get the tractor down there without getting mired in the mud. We're still in a long run of triple digit temperatures, but long range weather forecasts say the Pacific will be shifting to El Nino conditions by September or October, and if past experience is any guide, a run of heavy thunderstorms could refill the pond a lot faster than you might imagine. Since I'm likely to be out of town attending conventions for a while and I hesitate to ask our neighbors and house caretakers to handle the heavy mowing, I knew this was my only opportunity.

I will be really glad when the pond refills and the new problem is how to restock the fish.


shelley said...

I remember the drought in '88/'89. We seined (sp?) our front tank of all the fish, filleted them and froze them. We ate lots of fish for the next year. :-) I also remember spending half the day going around to the different pastures filling water troughs with city water. There were huge and deep cracks in the pastures. We had a very hard freeze that winter before the rains satisfied the thirsty pastures. Because the cracks in the ground were so deep, most of our grass froze down to the roots, killing it. The next spring was spent feeding hay (bought since we didn't make enough our selves because of the drought) way longer than we usually did, planting new grass in all the pastures and praying for it to grow. This point in time is when I believe my parents solidified their aspirations to move to East Texas where droughts weren't near as harsh. And why they bought a place that has 4 springs on it.... never be short of water again.

Henry Melton said...

I'm seriously considering spending cash I don't have to have a deep well dug. Mary Ann has been researching rain collection systems. She saw one in use at one of her photography things, and they were quite common when we were in Hawaii ages ago. Where we are here in Hutto, water rationing is an every year event so I'd love to find a good solution to a chronic problem.

shelley said...

While we do not have water rationing here like in Austin, we will be putting in a well when put in the sprinkler/drip system. But our water table is pretty high. Wouldn't have to dig too deep.

I know there are some Austin companies that have nice rain collection systems.

My parents collected rain out of the gutter into 5 gallon buckets to water plants with. I think it all comes from that being rural and poor growing up and raised by depression era parents that were also rural and poor.