Late-breaking update to the previous post:

F. stood at the kitchen window after dinner staring out at our new river with a grim expression on his face.

We’d had a round-table discussion at dinner about the various options for shoring up the wall, diverting the stream’s flow, and/or blocking it where the majority of the water was originating at the forest’s edge, perhaps urging it to join the small lake that has developed at the side of the house.

My sister was of the opinion that attempting to divert the flow might cause another stream to form elsewhere in the plot, with potentially worse consequences.   She also pointed out to me that only two garlic bulbs are completely exposed, and both of them are still upright in the stream, their roots hanging on somehow, so the actual crop damage is likely to be minimal — although I did remind her they’re predicting two more days of this crazy downpour, and the stream could get quite a bit wider and deeper in that time.

I didn’t want anyone touching the wall at all.  The portion that has held up is holding back a great deal of my precious soil, amendments, and compost, and I intend to salvage them later rather than lose them to a washout in the lawn.

Other than that, I was all for any attempts to save my garlic and my plot of earth.

F. announced he was going outside to see what could be done.  I asked if he wanted any help, secretly hoping he would say “no,” because it was cats-and-dogs time out there and almost dark already.

“It’s probably too late to do much,” he said morosely, shaking his head.  Mumbling “if onlies,” he stepped out into the dreary, wet twilight.

And then I promptly forgot about the whole thing, forgot my sweetheart was out in the mud jungle that my backyard has become.  (Hey, I was clearing away the remains of dinner and folding laundry with pauses to read entertaining blog comments!  Don’t judge.)  I was busy trying to decide if tomorrow I make corn-&-potato chowder or bean-&-barley soup when my sister called out, “Look what he’s done!”

Sure enough, F. had diverted three different water flows, two originating at forest’s edge and one within the garden itself, to converge directly on my naked garden path.  It really does look like a small creek now, in places two-and-a-half feet wide, and at the streams’ conjunction, rather deep and pooling beautifully before cascading down again.

Maybe Mother Nature is hinting that what we really needed in the Victory Garden was a water feature?

I tried to photograph the miniature cascading rapids for you, but moving water after dark is beyond either my camera’s capability or my skill level.  Probably both.  I only managed a shot of a flat and not-too-deep portion at the very top of the new river’s trajectory.  You can see the current building momentum as the land begins to tilt downhill on the right-hand side.

You can also see that once the mulch has been washed away from my garden paths, all that is left is bright red clay.  That clay is part of the reason I have a new water feature where I used to have a garden path.  It doesn’t drain well and becomes easily saturated.  It’s perfect for lining a creekbed, but terrible for growing vegetables without major improvement.  (We’ve tried our best, but there’s only so much soil amendment one can do in a single growing season on a limited budget using hand tools.)

I grew up thinking of this as Georgia red clay, but we’re no longer in Georgia, and that distinctive earth is still part of my life.  An Italian visitor this summer said in fascination, rubbing it between her fingers, “But it’s as dark as blood!”

While I wouldn’t go that far, I sometimes wonder if red clay is in my blood; I know it is in my heart.  I do love it, even though it can cause some serious headaches and pain sometimes.

22 Responses to “redirected”

  1. Oh, Meredith…I do hope you have your flooding under control. A water feature sounds lovely, if that will work! I have a small wash running through my AZ property, and I welcome the rainstorms that come all too seldom, our “river” is so pretty to watch.

    I’d go for the potato corn chowder, it’s my very favorite soup. I have two grandchildren anxiously awaiting my return, so I can make their very favorite meal….potato corn chowder.

    • Well, Granny, unfortunately no water features are in our future… we’re temporary here, a situation I suspect you can understand perfectly, since you’re moving back and forth with the seasons. We’ll have to try the chowder soon. (I’d actually chosen the bean & barley before I read your message, though. :()

  2. It seems you either need to install an enormous French drain system, or permanently incorporate it as a design element in your garden. A rill might look pretty 🙂 I used to watch the British show “Ground Force” all the time, and they built a lot of Rills in gardens…could only find this one on YouTube though:

    Check around the 6 minute mark…yours might need to be bigger though! Good luck, I hope the rain subsides soon. We have more coming too!

    • I am a fan of rills, actually. They can be quite classy if they aren’t overdone. But since we’re only temporary residents of a rental unit, we won’t be installing one here. Nice video, though!

  3. Got red clay here, too. And even more exasperatingly, we have springs that run through our property…including into our rockwall/dirtfloor basement. Good thing we have a really, really good sump pump. 🙂

    • Jodi, I had no idea the red clay went that far north. And yet in Montreal we had this fine, dark, loamy stuff to make one dream… The basement flooding would be such a pain! Glad to hear your sump pump keeps it under control.

  4. I’m glad that F. managed to do some diverting and I’m glad the garlic bulbs are clinging on for dear life, but I’m sorry you’re putting up with a deluge.

    But I’m glad you got to enjoy the weight of sunshine and the beautiful light and I’m happy to have lived it vicariously.

    I hope the rain at least lets up for you! Seems there are some serious storm systems all over the place!

    • Talon, yes, crazy storms are covering large swaths of the continent right now. We’re getting an unexpected reprieve this morning. The forecast called for rain ongoing all day. I don’t think the weathermen know what is going on lately…

      The garlic bulbs thank you for your kind words. 😉

  5. I like the photo, but I am sorry you are having water troubles over there. Hope the rain subsides soon!

    • I liked the photo, too, Elizabeth, and I’m so glad someone commented on it. I was pretty pleased to capture it in the last dregs of the twilight! I’m sure you understand. 🙂

  6. Oh, I hope the garlic make it through after the downpour and deluge Meredith!
    I spend a lot of time wishing for rain these days, but not rain delivered in that manner or quantity! I really hope that much is salvageable and that you get to feel those warming rays again soon.

    • Thanks for the good wishes for the garlic, Heidi. I hope y’all get some rain soon where you are. If only there were a decent delivery system, I’d send you some of ours. 🙂

  7. Dear Meredith, You have my deepest sympathy. I am so sorry as this sounds to be ghastly and very damaging. Any solution should be sought in DAYLIGHT, after the rains have stopped and when you have time to look at and think about the situation objectively.

    • Edith, thank you for the sympathy. You are right about taking a step back and looking at it objectively in the light of day, of course. But I married an impulsive man whose instincts are sometimes quite brilliant. 😉

  8. We started with something like that. I linked my current rainbow post back to our Floods post. French drains – well we have a sunken pipe with holes in it, to drain the driveway into the Spanish reeds. Way back when, the Ungardener was pouring barrowloads of rubble and broken bricks into a bottomless hole, which ate half a visiting bakkie (?panel van?). We always wanted a pond, and we have two swales, which catch the worst of a downpour. Gravel paths, so we can walk on wet clay. In May it will be 3 years. Seems to work for us. First the Ungardening, then you can get gardening.

    • Oh, if we’d done more “ungardening” before gardening, we’d never have made a start, I’m afraid, EE. We’re only here for less than 2 years, or so we expect, just the time for F. to finish up his PhD and find a job. (My work, being portable, is not part of the equation really.) We also have no right to do more permanent hardscaping to an area slated to be returned to grass once we move out of this rental unit. And grad student income plus freelancer-struggling-to-find-adequate-work-in-this-economy does not get us to the level where a French drain installation would be possible financially anyway. We’ll just have to fly by the seats of our pants. 😉

  9. Hi Meredith, we have red clay here in northern VA, too. Some areas of my garden have had years of amendments with compost, and lots of mulch, but not everywhere. Somehow I’ve gotten things to live in it without adding extra soil but there are lots of things that have died, as well. It gets harder and harder to dig into it, the older I get! When we first moved here we had a river that ran from my neighbors yard right through the middle of our backyard. I built up the area with rocks, landscaping timber, etc., but it always seemed to find its way around them! Now we added a gravel path between the neighbors yard and ours, and that seems to stop the ‘flow’ whenever we get a lot of rain. Right now we have LOTS of snow on the ground (!) so ‘rivers’ aren’t a worry at the moment. I know you don’t have that ‘problem’ in SC, having lived in Columbia for about 4 years back in the early ’80’s. We had a LOT of trouble growing anything in our yard there. We were very young, had no money, and pretty much lived with it the way it was! We had a lot of sand in our yard in SC so the only thing we could get to grow was ‘centipede’ grass. We put NO amendments in the soil ($$). Anyway, I hope you can get a ‘permanent’ solution to your drainage issues and if you can add a permanent water feature in that area, maybe that’s the solution;-)

    • I guess the red clay is ubiquitous to the East Coast? This is the first I’ve heard of it. The things you learn from the comments section!

      No, snow is not a worry here at the moment. And since we’re not in the coastal portion of SC, but in the Piedmont, we have quite different growing conditions, thank goodness. If the only thing I could grow was centipede grass, I’d cry.

      There, you see, you’ve made me feel better … and grateful for what boons I already take for granted. 🙂

  10. My mom used to despair at the Georgia red clay. She even brought in topsoil and it worked.

  11. Your post has made me appreciate my sloping, ridiculously-well drained property anew. Maybe things won’t looks as bad in the light of day. You did get a cool photo out of it.

  12. We have clay soils as well, but they are not red. I am glad that the water was diverted from you garlic and that you had “F” to help you. Please let us know how everything fares once the rain ends.

  13. I do hope you and your garden remain safe from flooding. Well done to F. for diverting the water course to a more agreeable position.

    We have had constant heavy rain since yesterday and, as the lay of the land is flat, the water just sits on the top of the backyard lawn. There is one small drain built into the lawn but it is quite ineffective so, even when the rain clears, the backyard will feel like a swamp for a week or more. It’s times like this that I wish we were in our own home and not a rental because I would be able to make changes.

    Stay safe and dry ~

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