Water, water, everywhere

24 April 2011                 4.00PM      Temperature  48 F      Overcast

So, as sure as night follows day, what goes up must come down ( so, there’s hope for fuel prices yet then) and what comes down as snow must eventually melt and go away. Of course, it takes its own sweet time and creates all kind of carnage as it does so.

I think that some months have a particular cadence or sound that seems to accompany them. Around here, July seems to throb with the sound of RV and boat engines, competing with the clashing reels of the combat fishermen. September rings with the keen howl of the sled dogs as they start hooking up for early season training, battling to be heard over the chattering of chainsaws as the last of the firewood is harvested. November reverberates to the peculiar engine roar of snowmachines, as the first snows of the new winter accumulate. And for me, April will always be inextricably linked with the sound of dripping water.

It’s pouring from the house roof, the shop roof, the gutters and downpipes, the dog houses, the very ground itself seems to be shedding water. Except it’s not really shedding it that far, merely transforming from a nice, solid snowpack into a treacherous, unstable surface that looks safe to walk on – until you actually do so. Then all illusions are undone and you’re left crashing through a foot of soggy snow, into a maelstrom of meltwater heading for points unknown. Each step forces you to extricate your foot from a sinkhole, hoping that your boot comes with you and isn’t left behind to fill with icy water. Because, you really aren’t going to be able to hop very far across the yard without falling flat on your face into several inches of water that even the Arctic Ocean would class as chilly.

We are quite fortunate here in several respects. Our yard sits on a natural sand base, so our drainage is actually quite good. The yard is open to direct sunlight which helps the melt rate and during its construction, it was given a nice, gradual slope which carries the water away. The downside of that is that all the water ends up trying to get to the same spot and obviously there is a limit to just how much the ground can cope with before becoming saturated. Combine this fact with the knowledge that the ground is still thawing, so we only have a couple of inches of “normal” soil sitting atop solid frozen ground and we are left with the obvious scenario. Standing meltwater, collecting at various low points in the yard, awaiting the opportunity to flow for freedom. Unfortunately, those low points are usually formed by the dogs around their houses where they have dug and played through the year.

Irina has been moved to a new location twice already as she seems to create her own time/space vortex and her ‘circle” was several inches lower than everyone else’s. She’s now back in her original spot as it has actually dried up first, so maybe there was method in her madness.

Dogyard and melting snow rivers
A river runs through it. Our middle pen, 20 April '11

The dogs have approached this climate change with a bit of a mixed attitude. Several of them seem to have developed a degree of hydrophobia and will go to great lengths to avoid any kind of contact with the horrible, cold, wet stuff . Top of that list is the ever delightful Dushka, a real gentle soul who loathes, detests and generally hates getting her feet wet. She is so adamant about this, that I have actually taken pity on her and carried her out to the exercise yard when the gatehouse was officially declared a swimming pool the other day. It was either that, or leave her standing at the open gate, listening to her cry. No, I’m not too soft on my dogs, am I ?

Wet water sloshing about in the gatehouse
The gatehouse - now better known as the swimming pool.
Dushka, sunning herself on high, dry ground
Dushka, happy to be high and dry.

And then there are those dogs who don’t care about how wet is, or who are just so happy to see sand and mud that they can dig in, after all those months of ice and snow. Principle amongst that group seems to be Rimi, who shows no discretion about how wet or mucky he gets, and is equally happy to share that joy, no matter how many cries of “Rimi, off, get oofffffff !” are directed his way.

Meltwater running through our yard
Aerial photo of the might Yukon River. Or it could just be one of the many streams of meltwater running across our yard. 22 April 2011

I love Alaska, and living here, but this is probably the only time of year I could quite happily skip.


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