Goose Creek Journal ~ 25 Jan 10

The Hazards & Benefits of Free-Range Living

The latest challenge to country living (but not so much that as leaving it for town) met new obstacles this weekend with the floods.

There was not so much rain–maybe 2 inches–but it mostly came Sunday overnight and fell on frozen ground. Here in our valley, other than washing more of our gravel off the road and covering the low-water bridges, the only matter of concern was getting over to let the chickens out of their house in the morning. We pulled the plank the night before, and it was later Monday morning we were able to put it back down, but upstream 75 feet where the banks are a little higher.

By the time I took this picture, the water had fallen six inches and the hens had found the board-bridge and been back and forth several times so that they could, well, get to the other side. The south-facing hillside behind the garden has become a favorite scratching place and they have left no leaf undisturbed. Offered commercial laying mash or the chance to free-range, they rush past the metal feeder headed for the hills.

The folks on Griffith Creek were not so fortunate. The little tributary pretty much cuts at 90 degrees across the steep contour of the ridge that runs behind our house and continues to the notch that holds Shawsville Pike. On its way to merge with Goose Creek, the water cut a cleft in the road that I heard you could stand in and it would be more than head-high. VDOT patched it yesterday, but I doubt it was more than temporary. We expect Act II before a more permanent fix, which some of us out here will need–so we can get to the other side.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. You should have seen me dance when I hit the board last night in the dark (with my miners headlamp) and discovered it was already ICY! Coming back from putting the darlings up, instead of walking the plank, I just stepped in the creek up to the top of my boots figuring wet socks was a better choice than a traumatized tush.

  2. Winter rains wreak havoc; frozen earth torn away from banks, silt clouding water, water covering grass and snow. But that is the nature of areas that flood, and that is why people need not build in them. It’s interesting how this gets overlooked.