Searching For A Floodgate That Really Works

fa floodgate that works…


There is nothing so lovely as a pasture field with a creek running through it, but you will pay for it a thousand times over.  If you have a pasture, you have livestock grazing there, and so where the creek enters and exits the pasture, you must have fencing decidedly different from what you have on dry land to keep your animals from wading out of the pasture and to keep your neighbor’s animals from wading in. We’ve always called them floodgates. So far as I know, no one has yet invented one that really works without spending a fortune.  I was certain, when confronted with the necessity of floodgates, that I could design one that would work without my constant attention. A hundred or so floodgates later, I admitted defeat.

Here is the situation. The gate or fencing over the creek should be able to rise as the water rises and then settle back in place when the water recedes. If you just run fencing through the creek, like three strands of barbed wire, the flooding creek will make short work of it. That’s because water is not the only thing that flows down the flooding creek: also tree limbs, corn stalks, dead grass, flotsam of all kinds and all this mish-mash tends to pile up against your floodgates and eventually they give way.  So what you need, as farmers for centuries have realized, is a gate than rises with the water.  Seems simple. Just stretch a pole or cable across the creek  and hang a swinging gate on it. As the water rises, it pushes the gate out and upwards and as it recedes the gate floats back down in place. Never is there an opportunity for animals to get past it.

Signs Of Change In Food Farming


I attended the Acres USA conference a couple of weeks ago. The magazine, Acres USA, is often referred to as the voice of alternative agriculture, or at least used to be. It gets more mainstream all the time. It has been years since the last time I attended and I was struck by the change in tone and temper of the  attendees. People I talked to are convinced, utterly convinced, that the day of large scale industrial grain farming is coming to an end. The fact that big grain farms continue to get bigger does not impress them in the least.  The first conference I attended, in the 1970s as I recall, was a rather motley affair with lots of wild eyed devotees of various kinds of wild eyed notions and practices to improve soil health and fertility. At this 2014 version, however, there was a strong current of self assurance, cool success— quite a few ties and suits and fashionable dresses, speakers with all kinds of academic degrees, a general aura of having arrived.

Acres USA was founded by Charles Walters about 50 years ago. He filled its pages not only with what for me were strange new agronomic practices and theories, but with fiery rhetoric against conventional farming or anything else that might be displeasing him at the moment. Lots of fun to read.

What’s Behind The Pet Craze


I thought I had heard it all with the ad on National Public Radio for pajamas for every member of the family, including the cats and dogs. But now on sale are coats for your pet chicken. Obviously, Henny Penny, not only is the sky falling but our collected social sanity. But then my wife, ever the practical one, pointed out that if your hen has a tendency to fly over the fence around her chicken run, a coat over her wings would solve the problem. Why didn’t my mother think of that instead of clipping the wing feathers of errant hens?

Even the most fervent pet lover has to agree that we are going a little bit overboard on pet love. An editorial in the New York Times editorial section (Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014) tells about a couple who keep two rabbits in their house and if one or the other pees on the floor or wherever, well, you clean it up and go on just like you would for a child. Some really imaginative ways to handle animal hair clogging up air ducts, or poop on the rug are being advertised on TV. Some cats can learn how to use the bathroom toilet. In ads, dogs are allowed to lick the faces of children. In one ad, the dog looks like it is about to copulate with its owner. Pet cemeteries are all the rage, and old horses are retired to green pastures at a cost I’m sure is almost as high as what is spent on low income humans in homes for the aged.