We live in a flood plain and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday- I knew we’d go through some flooding. But, being an experiential person, I had no idea what to expect till it actually happened.
I’ll admit, it was a little scary. But we had done some prepping beforehand, so I felt ready. As ready as I could be for the unexpected.
Living up here, I check the weather obsessively. Down in SoCal, I NEVER checked the weather. In fact, it’s an exercise in futility to check the weather. It’s going to be 70 degrees. Every day. Unless it’s winter. Then it will be 60 degrees. The end. But up here, there are seasons. And “weather events”. And such events change by the hour.
A pretty big rain storm was expected to hit us…Ok, I could deal with that. I lived in Juneau, Alaska for a while and it basically rained 24 freaking 7. But then I read the forecast discussion on NOAA. It stated: “It’s going to be like a firehose is aimed at the Sierras.” I swiftly put aside my cockiness and immediately started thinking of how we must prepare.
Just so you know the lay of the land, we have 10 acres of pasture and a house that sits on a creek. And when I say on a creek I mean on a creek. See?
Now, it’s actually a good thing that we are on a creek. That doesn’t seem quite right, but let me explain. It’s kind of a double edged sword. A creek is the natural drainage for a flood plain. It’s where the water wants to go (which kinda sucks) and where the water will sure to be carried away (which is awesome). Moving water is a good thing. Water that just builds and builds because it has nowhere to go is a bad thing.
For the rest of the pasture, it’s a whole different story. Water builds up and drains slowly. (Mainly due to culvert pipes that aren’t big enough, but that’s a whole ‘nother story involving CalTrans that you’d probably rather poke yourself in the eye with a blunt kebob skewer than listen to.)
Basically, all you need to know is 1. Having the house on the creek is probably why in the 154 years this house has stood, it has never flooded. Even when it wasn’t even on a foundation, like it is today 2. We have a barn/garage and a larged penned area with 2 shelters for the goats and chickens that gets massively flooded.
So after reading about the metaphoric firehose pointed at my town, I immediately knew we had to sandbag the shit out of the garage and figure where the hell the animals will go.
I went to the fire station and got some sandbags. (and introduced myself to the Fire Chief, who is a key person to know when the shit is about to go down) Then I went to CalTrans with a shovel and filled the sandbags. I moved a bunch of old sandbags along the garage doors and added the new ones. I went to the feed store to pick up more grain and wood shavings for a make-shift pen my husband and I would build in the garage when he got home. I got buckets filled with fresh water and moved some stuff off the floor and onto pallets.
I then decided to dig out the drainage channel in our pasture, near the aforementioned culvert, in order to ensure the water flows into the culvert pipe. Now, we do have a tractor. Does it work? Negative. If it did work, could I operate it? Negative. So I got my shovel and went out in the crazy wind and dug it out as best I could. Since I was on a roll with all the manual labor, I decided to dig a moat around the chicken pen so the water would flow away from the foundation and provide a safe, dry place for the goats and chickens to weather the storm. Or so I thought…
(Can I just skip ahead and tell you something? All that ditch digging? Yeah, it was for nothing. When you have a lake in your yard, a moat is cute, but totally useless.)
We had 3 storms forecasted- each one stronger than the other. By the end of the first storm, my husband had come home and we knew the measly amount of sandbags wasn’t gonna do diddly-squat. So, off we went to fill up more. By the end of the 2nd storm, we knew that wasn’t going to be enough and our ridiculously awesome friends came over and helped fill up 30 bags more. They taped plastic sheets to the bottom of the doors and threw the sandbags on top. As a tried and true perfectionist, when my husband sets out to ensure that no water is going to get into the garage, you bet your sweet bippy no water is getting into the garage.
The big storm hit us. The wind howled and the rain kept on coming down. The already saturated ground puddled up quickly and the creek rose. And rose. And rose. We nervously watched as it spilled over the banks, lapped at the deck and then the waters flowing throughout the entire property joined together as one big happy flooding family. How quaint.
But before Lake Tahoe appeared in our pasture, we decided it was time to get the goats and chickens into the garage and make-shift pen we set up for them. Thinking it was only deep puddles at the time, we stepped out to find the goats standing in 8 inches of water with the chickens standing on their backs in an attempt to not drown (for such a stupid animal, my chickens are rather smart, don’t you think? Maybe I just have genius chickens from all that free-ranging goodness).
Goats HATE water. And I knew that just behind the desperate and pathetic look in their eyes, they HATED me for letting the water touch not only their hooves, but HALF their bodies. If they could swiftly kick me in the ass at that point, I bet they would have. Yes, I’m terrible, I’m awful and I should have gone out there sooner, etc. But let me tell you people, it went from puddles to flood in 2.5 seconds. Needless to say, we got the goats and chickens in the barn and they did look quite relived to be safe, warm and dry.
In the midst of all the soggy madness, I managed to save a mouse. A little dark grey mouse was desperately treading water and looked at me with pleading black beady eyes, as if to say “SAVE ME!!!” Which I promptly did. I placed it in the chicken coop, on top of some dry wood shavings in the chicken’s nesting box to warm up. I checked after the waters had receded and it had apparently survived, only a little indentation was left where it burrowed in to get warm and dry. Big Ass Karma Points for me! (Though when I told people in town my mouse-saving story and they looked at me like I was a complete jack-ass and a bleeding heart liberal. Who the hell saves a mouse, when it and all its offspring are just going to infest your house eventually?)
So, this is what the creek and property looked like at the peak of the storm:
And this is how our goat pen, side yard, and barn area looked like when the clouds broke and the storm was passing:
I learned many things from this experience…but here are a few that stood out to me:
1. Water kinda sucks. Give me a couple feet of snow, but a couple feet of water? Kiss my grits.
2. That said, I better suck it up, because this “rain event” is just a little taste, an amuse bouche, if you will, of what goes down in spring when the snow melts.
3. We are blessed to be living in a small town with people that really, really help. People who will stop by and let you know that they expect you to call if you need them. People who will drive by and keep checking on you throughout a storm. People who drive 15 miles to help fill 30+ sandbags on a Saturday morning. People who drive 30 miles to help move crap out of your garage up to higher ground. People who will wade through shit-filled water in the rain and howling wind to help get 5 unhappy goats and 6 hysterical chickens into your barn. People who have been there, done that and will reassure you that you don’t have to build an arc. People who are more than willing to drive their ginormous cattle rig over just to put 5 goats and 6 chickens in it if the barn floods. People who will tell you to stop worrying and have a beer…but if you need anything just holler.