Thursday, August 21, 2008

black bear sighting

Black bear sighting.

This last weekend, a couple of shareholders came over and we went on a hike down the valley and almost walked right into a black bear (or is it the black bear almost walked into us).

I’ll post a couple pictures of him on the web.

This is the first time Wenonah has had the pleasure of seeing a bear in our valley since she moved here as a teenager (of course she's seen many bears in other places including the one that climbed in her kitchen window when she lived in that house at the base of Old Rag)

But more on wild animal sightings later. The important news around here is the weather, and especially about weather that hasn't happened.

We're talking about weather that now hasn't happened in just about a month.

And you know what they say about vegetables?

It’s not how much rain that’s fallen in the last year, or, for that matter, in the last month. (Our last rainfall was 46/100ths of an inch back on July 23rd).

With vegetables, its ‘how much rain has fallen in the last week.’ And for the last week we’ve had nothing but clear blue skies (and twinkling stars at night). Which is starting to seem like one of those desert movies with a lot of camera shots of hot, dry, parched lake beds and distant mirages.

So, its past time, if you know a rain dance, to bring on a rainstorm.

Actually, we need a good gentle rain to start now and last for at least several days! Our gardens are turning dusty and even the weeds are drying up (fortunately, this year, we put down drip tape so the water goes right to the plants and not to most of the weeds).

In the meantime we are irrigating. All the water we have is going on our vegetable plants.

As you probably remember, our water comes from an artisan spring several hundred feet above us on the mountain. In year’s gone by the spring has put out 20 to 25 gallons a minute but it seems to be slowing down somewhat since last year's drought and now I think we’re only getting about 15 gallons a minute.

And all of that goes to your vegetables.

In fact, during the night I switch a valve and the water that is normally available to the house is sent out to the fields.

No water in the house does, though, upset Wenonah just a bit when she gets up in the morning and starts to get ready for work.

To turn on a faucet and not get even a drop of water is somewhat upsetting. This morning she woke me at 6 am so I could go out and turn the valves so water heads toward the house instead of the vegetables.

Tomorrow, if I have enough time in between picking vegetables and going on delivery I'm climbing the mountain carrying several bags of concrete.

I'm going up to the spring and repair the spring house.

When I was up there last week I noticed that the spring house wasn’t capturing all of the water. Maybe as much as five gallons a minute was seeping past the catch basin and being soaked into the ground.

That's 5 gallons a minute that's not going to our vegetables. Which, with a little math translates into 300 gallons an hour. Which means a little over 7000 gallons a day.

That’s something like 50,000 gallons a week more water we could be giving to our vegetables.

Then there’s the other spring. This is the one down below the house that Wenonah claims she had to walk back and forth to each and every day as a teenager. She would carry empty buckets down to the spring, and bring full bucket of water back up to the house.

Can you imagine that as a chore that has to be done every day just to drink and bath? To wash clothes and dishes? Imagine no indoor faucet with plenty of clean, safe water. But instead having to carry by hand every bit of water that is used in your house?

If you think about it there are a heck of a lot of people around the world that don't have access to safe, free water.

Our public water system that provides clean, safe water to just about every home in our country is sure something we take for granite.

Anyway, enough of that. Back to thinking about that lower spring. I’ve never measured its output but I think its something like 30 gallons a minute. I’ve already bought a 2500 gallon water tank. to store it in.

If I can just pipe the water to the tank I could then take my water pump and move the water up to the fields.

That might just protect us from a drought.

Which brings us back to the bear.

Here's what happened. Last weekend we went out hiking with Shane and Adria. Our destination was the old Dawson family cemetery. About two miles through the forest toward Chapman’s Mill. In the Dawson cemetery there’s a huge white oak (must be over 30 inches in diameter) growing out of a grave marked 1853. The tree, close to the largest one in the valley, must have been planted on the grave and sits up on a quite hill surrounded by several dozen unmarked graves.

That was our destination, but following my directions, we had made a wrong turn and were standing on the edge of a flagstone quarry, The quarry is the site of a civil war skirmish (the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap) that happened during this time of the year in 1862.

We were standing there looking at the quarry and trying to imagine where the soldiers had been when Adria looked up and said. 'See the bear?'

A large black bear was just then meandering up the side of the hill, through the forest, toward us.

As you can see from the picture he passed not much more than 20 yards away.

At one point he stood up on his hind legs and sniffed the air. He stood maybe another foot taller than I am.

And then he got down and kept going, up the trail in the direction of the cemetery. I don’t think he ever saw us.

We followed, though, down the trail in the direction he was heading. And after a while we found the cemetery.

But we didn't find the bear, again.

Leigh Hauter

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