Friday, April 11, 2008

A Bit of Mitigation

I spent most of the last week--Spring Break!--at my new cabin, a lot of it pacing the subfloor, stoking the woodstove, and wishing the rain would at least slow down a bit so I could work outside. When it did, I made my first attempt at a rain garden. The cabin's footprint is fairly small, and the winter runoff wasn't severe, but there were puddles in the dirt road below that I don't think needed to be there.

One side effect of new construction is that topsoil gets scraped away. What's underneath at this site is mostly sandy soil that perks like crazy, but in some sections we hit a layer of clay, where runoff from the gutter slides across like grease on a skillet and heads downhill.

So I leveled out a section on the slope, piling up the clayey soil into a berm on the lower rim. Then I hauled in buckets of topsoil from the miniature mountain left by the backhoe. I would definitely have hauled this lovely fluffy dirt by the cartload instead of the bucket had one wheel not blown out early into the operation. After that, my routine was four trips with the five-gallon bucket, followed by a stroll through the nearby woods, admiring whatever trilliums the deer hadn't eaten and gathering nettles for the compost pile, while my bucket-carrying arm and shoveling elbow took a break. You can see the difference between the hauled-in topsoil and the subsoil in the photo.

Once I had about a foot of topsoil, I planted a red osier dogwood, some yellow-eyed and blue-eyed grass (which are actually tiny irises despite the common name), and a fringeflower. All are moisture-loving Northwest natives.

The runoff from the roof already had a clear path down the hill, so all I had to do then was to wait for the next spate of rain. I didn't have to wait long. It began to sprinkle, then to pour, and a rivulet headed down the hill to the new dark patch of level ground. To my delight it stopped there, spread into a shallow puddle and then soaked in within the hour. I could see no sign of any runoff moving on toward the road.

If the deer spare these first plantings, I'll add some more. If not, I can either fence in the spot or simply wait for the elderberry to colonize it.

Other "greenish" features of the cabin project
  • Low-flush toilet and pretty green enamel kitchen sink bought used from the RE Store.
  • Ceramic tile for splash guard from RE Store.
  • On-demand water heater
  • Reconditioned kitchen range from Appliance Depot
  • PaperStone kitchen counters made in Hoquiam from pulp mill waste. We got an odd-lot directly from the factory, bringing the cost for this small kitchen down to manageable.
  • Floors and window trim from trees that had to come down to clear the building site, milled on site
  • Most of the wood waste chipped and used for mulch

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