Home > farm, image, Images, musing > Farmers Continue to have Trouble with Wet Weather

Farmers Continue to have Trouble with Wet Weather


I took this picture to show how wet it is here again.  After a two week break from the rain it has rained most of the day.  Even more rain is forecast for tomorrow.  I imagine it will be some time before farmers in Central Illinois will be able to get back in the fields.  Farmers in this part of Illinois have been battling wet fields every since they first came here. 

Central Illinois is well-known for being flat.  This whole area was underneath a large glacier as recently as 15,000 years ago.  That is so recent in geological time that the ground is still rising from when it was compressed by the glacier.  The glacier destroyed the natural drainage here so that this area was once a large wetland. The difficulties with drainage here made Central Illinois the last part of Illinois to be settled by Europeans.  It wasn’t until the 1850’s when the Illinois Central Railroad was built that large numbers came here to try to make farms.

Where I live I have heard that many of the original settlers came from a part of Germany that also had drainage problems.  So they had some expertise in draining land.   It appears that they would dig channels where the lay of the land would cause water to flow more quickly to the few rivers in the area.  These waterways look like small creeks, however most people here call them drainage ditches.  The next step was to lay clay tile underneath their fields to send water from the fields to the drainage ditches.  They needed a lot of clay tile and that made the making of these tiles into a major industry in the 19th century.  Most every town in the area had a factory that made clay tile and bricks.  By the start of the 20th century the land here had been provided with a new system of drainage that helped make this one of the most productive areas for agriculture in the World.

When I was a child the draining of our wetlands was presented as another of man’s victories over nature.  Nobody had any love for wetlands.  As I got older and learned more about wetlands it came to seem like a sad thing that such a large ecosystem was destroyed so thoroughly that today there are only very small remnants.

I did when I was a child consider myself fortunate that one of these drainage ditches was so close to my house.   We did give our drainage ditch the dignity of calling it a creek.  There was a lot of good clay along the creek and I spent a lot of time building miniature cities.  Sometimes the cities would have a harbor that I made wooden boats for.  I suppose it was my own way of joining in the reshaping nature that was so much considered one of the glories of that time. 

Categories: farm, image, Images, musing
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