Down, But not Out


The water situation continues to be of concern over a wide swath of the eastern US. That we have so far not had fires is remarkable. But then it is often lightning that starts them, and I can’t remember when we last heard thunder. We never had that pattern of afternoon storms so commonplace in summers past.

And if you look at the stream flow chart for the Little River into which almost all surface water in Floyd County leaves for the New River, we’ve fallen steadily since April.

Even so, Howell Creek [larger image], like Goose Creek, keeps enough water to keep the fish alive, water the cattle, maintain some slight water music. You have to sit in the front-row seats to hear it, though.

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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. Fred, your photo of Howell Creek is stunning. The shimmering gold of the leaves with the silver of the flowing water against the darkness of the rocks–lovely.

  2. One article I read recently spoke of a “new weather pattern” that was pushing rainfall usually destined for the east coast out to sea – the pattern was cited to explain the dryness in Northern Virginia and also was used to explain the dryness in SWVA.

    A while back I purchased a book on Rainfall Harvesting. It’s amazing how one can contour their land, especially if they have hillsides, to capture the water and drive it to where it is needed for growing orchards & gardens. The case study in this book was of a S. African banned from work for his protests (during the days of aparthied) and was left to make ends meet on his barren hillside “farm.”

    With inspiration from his bible, and with observations of the way rainfall ran down his hill, he proceeded to gently contour his land using only hand tools and his own back. He went from barren hillside to oasis.

    Maybe with climate change we will have a permanently reshaped weather pattern. Hopefully not. But if we do, there are examples out there for making every precious drop of rainfall count by having the water go into the ground instead of running off.