“Move to the country and forget about all your troubles”, seems to be a sentiment for what locals call “come-heres”. We must admit that we have had this mindset early in our transition from suburbia to the mountain. At the same time, coming from hard-work ethic families, we adjusted pretty easily as we accumulated chores. Many of these relate to the Farm Life experiences, of which I write. Developing our gardens and maintaining the dirt roads are two of the major sources of labor on our days off. One of our neighbors appreciated our efforts enough to have magnet signs made for our truck, “Dept. of Dirt Roads and Ditches”. Others make oblivious comments, such as “These roads stay in great shape without doing much to them…”. Others, stop, chat at us, delay our chores by a half hour, and if we make any suggestion that they could help, we get a look that “That’ll never happen”. Sometimes, they go beyond a look, and actually say the phrase.
About 1/3 of a mile along our subdivision’s private, dirt roads sits a culvert, channelling water under the road at a low point where a hollow opens up. This culvert has been a chronic plug-up problem for the twenty years that we have been up here. It is just a matter of physics and hydraulics. Wind breaks twigs and branches from the trees and blows off the leaves every year. High water from thunderstorms picks those up and moves them into the creek in the hollow. Eventually, a twig catches across the culvert. It is just a mater of time, whether minutes or weeks before enough sticks begin to accumulate leaves, which begin to back up with rocks and silt. A really heavy Spring storm can roll a rock, bigger than a bread-box, down and into the culvert.
This occurred on more than one occasion. Sticks and leaves pushed by a couple of feet of water can be pulled out by hand and with a pitch fork. A rock lodged ten feet into a twenty foot culvert is a different matter. I eventually assembled a culvert battering ram from 2×4’s, 16 feet long. However, more than once, I was standing crotch deep in fresh, spring water, pushing my battering ram, when a neighbor would drive up and ask what I was doing. Remember that Ephesian’s blog of Love and Wrath. Yeah, they got the later.
Anyway, a couple of years ago the association board agreed to replace this culvert. The original was metal, 18” that had rusted out. The debate went from one 24” to two 24” to 36” passes to allow more water through. No one wanted to hear about the sticks that would be 26” to 38” plugging that up. They settled on one 24” culvert, as this and a second culvert would spend half of the association’s bi-annual road fixing budget. The work was done & all (except us) were convinced that the new culvert would never back up.
Last winter, we had no problems. I hand dug a spill-way channel across the road, at the lowest point about ten feet beyond the culvert. That would at least redirect high water across the road, and not along the road for the next 50 feet, as had happened every other time the culvert plugged up. A few weeks ago, we had our first Spring thunderstorm. Of course, it was early January. Several arm sized sticks lodged into the culvert, caught winter leaves and silt, and overflowed into the spill-way and across the road.
This occurred on a Thursday. We drove off to work, unable to address the flow of water that day. The other hard-working resident up here stopped after work and dislodged enough of the sticks to send the water through the culvert, before we returned home. That Saturday, we spent an hour or so cleaning up additional sticks and a couple dozen wheel barrels of leaves to reduce the risk of the next plug-up.
One of the weekend neighbors, drove by, got out of his truck and talked at us while we worked. “I noticed water had gone across the road. I thought that culvert wouldn’t get blocked…” We reviewed water dynamics in wooded areas, pointed out the pile of debris that we had removed, and the sticks that had blocked the culvert. “If someone who has a cabin near this area would come by, say once each month, and check to see if any sticks are across the culvert and remove them, this would not happen.”
“That’ll never happen”.