Monday, July 28, 2014

Wash Out

Weather: Clouds every day, last rain 7/17; river is running brown.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, datura, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, alfalfa, sweet pea, yellow yarrow.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, velvetweed, buffalo gourd, purple mat flower, pink and white bindweed, Queen Anne’s lace, goat’s head, horseweed, wild lettuce, Hopi tea, plains paper flowers, tahoka daisy, strap leaf and golden hairy asters.

In my yard, looking east: Large-flowered soapwort, Jupiter’s beard, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, sidalcea, pink evening primrose.

Looking south: Betty Prior, Fairy and miniature roses.

Looking west: Johnson’s Blue geranium, catmint, David phlox, ladybells, sea lavender, Mönch daisy, purple coneflower.

Looking north: Coral beard tongue, golden spur columbine, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, blanket flower, coreopsis, anthemis.

In the open, along the drive: Dorothy Perkins rose, fernbush, buddleia, larkspur, white yarrow.

Bedding plants: Snapdragon, sweet alyssum, blue salvia, moss rose, French marigold.

Animal sightings: Geckos, small birds, bees, grasshoppers, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: It’s been almost two weeks since soaking rains caused flooding in Española. That’s the period when one surveys the damage and considers how to protect oneself the next time.

I live on the side of a great sloping hill that collects water that moves in sheets.

Sometime since the last bad rain, my uphill neighbor used a backhoe to strengthen a berm on the periphery of his land.

During the rain two weeks ago, it deflected the water enough I didn’t see any evidence of flooding the next morning in my yard. In the past, some water would have cascaded over my retaining wall and left rivulets in the flower bed below.

Some of the water backed up by his berm may have found a low place to enter a washout on the north side of his land.

Land here is catacombed with these unseen passages from the pre-Pleistocene past that have been filled by sand and gravel. This one appears shallow at the road, but deepens as one walks farther back.

Some years ago, the man who lives on the other side of the wash out decided he didn’t like vegetation in the washout. It offended his sense of a proper landscape. He took a backhoe and cleared everything in the wash. Pigweed has come back where ivy leafed morning glories and scarlet creeper used to bloom.

One result was guys with ATVs turned the wash into a road that compacted the soil in parts of the bed.

This spring the man to the north placed a dead tree across the wash out to prevent people driving by his land. What one man can move, another more determined one can remove.

The man’s backhoe also damaged the culvert that went under the road.

When the rains came the night of July 14, the culvert was quickly jammed by debris.

Water backed up at the road and spilled through a low place on the south side by the first neighbor’s drive. Mud and uprooted plants lined his drive in the morning.

Eventually, enough water accumulated to flow over the road to leave a path of sand.

Two men’s attempts to control nature left both on dry land abutting a wash that probably deepened in places upstream.

1. Ivy leaf morning glory and scarlet creeper blooming in nearby wash, 31 August 2008.

2. Wash after rains of 14 July 2014, taken 20 July 2014.

3. Slope of hill above the wash and my neighbors’ houses, 10 April 2011.

4. Berm behind my uphill neighbor who lives south of the wash, 10 April 2011.

5. Wash behind my uphill neighbor’s house, 10 April 2011.

6. Upstream in the wash, 8 November 2011. The one-seeded juniper gives some idea of the depth.

7. Ivy leaf morning glory growing between ATV tracks in the wash, 18 September 2011.

8. Culvert after it was damaged by a back hoe, 11 April 2013.

9. Culvert after the flood waters of 14 July 2014, taken 20 July 2014.

10. Vegetation washed along my uphill neighbor’s drive and into the road, 20 July 2014.

11. My uphill neighbor’s berm directs water into an abandoned road bed that breaks into the arroyo. The junction is marked by the muddy, trapped vegetation. From there it washed back into the base of this drive where it met the road. No muddy plants exists upstream on 20 July 2014.

12. The continuation of the berm from behind the house in #4 to the road bed that lies between the property and the wash, 10 April 2011.

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