Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Heavy flow

"On Monday, the Red flowed past the well-fortified town of Emerson at a rate of 83,000 cubic feet per second, the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool rushing by with every tick of the clock." Winnipeg Free Press, April 26/11

Emerson is the town at the border crossing between Canada and the US in my province of Manitoba.

I cannot imagine that much water! But given that I drove a bit south of the city of Friday afternoon, I witnessed the overland flooding and the massive overflowing of the Red River. It was a land of lakes, not fields.

And this is not close to the amount of water in 1997 when we had the "Flood of the Century". At that time, 143,000 cfs of water flowed past Emerson. We didn't have anything in place to handle that amount of water then. But because of that... we do now. All the towns in the flood zone have ring dikes around them. And they will close off the dikes with dirt across the roads to prevent flooding that way. That means, either everyone in those towns is evacuated, or they are then locked in for the duration until the waters recede.

All farm houses in the flood zone have been raised up on earthen mounds, along with a lot of farm buildings. Quite a few farmers and rural residents have also had permanent earthen dikes built around their properties and I've seen a number who has sealed off the driveway access with dirt or sand to prevent the water from getting in.

Because of the measures the government and individuals have taken, the biggest factor in this flood will be the ability to plant crops. The water is expected to remain high until the end of May or early June, which means planting any crops on some fields won't happen this year. Even forage (hay) that grows every year on its own will likely be either drowned out or severely flood damaged. And that means farmers with cattle and horses will have a difficult time finding food for their livestock. I feel for them. Having lived on a hobby farm, growing hay and raising horses, I know how nerve wracking and worrying that can be. It's a very tough life. 

But it's not just forage for livestock that can't be grown. It's food for humans too. Manitoba is a highly fertile agricultural zone. In actual fact, these flood replenish a lot of the top soil and nutrients and are good in that way. But because of the way we humans intensively farm, it has a devastating effect on the economic situation. So given the rising prices of gas (although we are nowhere near as high as Europe and the UK, we are higher than the US by a fair bit) and the limited growing season (we do have about 6 months of winter), it's going to be a lot more expensive to eat around here.

I do believe the time will come, in our lifetime, when just about everyone will have a garden and a few chickens in their yard. Buying local will become a better alternative than shipping produce across the world.

And I just moved to an apartment...


  1. From the title I feared a post on women's problems! :¬)

  2. Map: hehehe! As was my intent... ;-)

  3. You have a balcony? Than you can have herbs and stuff.
    Seriously I fear you are right. In 20 years or so we will have gardens and little fields and grow our own vegetables, not for "fun" but for need.Does all this water alt least bring something like new earth or dung or something - does it improve the land it is submerging? In other regions just a thick mud stays behin that hardens out, like a coating.

  4. Mago: I would need a green thumb to grow anything, and unfortunately, I do not have one. The floods do the soil good by replenishing nutrients. It is the human element they damage more than anything.

  5. We planted a small garden already: I refer to it as "the salad patch" as it's tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers. :)

    All this technology...and Mother Nature still wins.

    My senior citizens and I learned about container gardening last spring and it may be coming in handy soon. You might want to try it...easier than raising chickens. ;)

  6. Emerson ... there's a Lake now - Palmers too?

  7. Hope: Probably a better idea than chicken... the cats might get ideas. ;-)

    Mago: Well, two out of three ain't bad!

  8. 'Grow your own' is very big here but it isn't something I'm good at. Flowers and trees - fine - but you can't eat 'em.


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