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Image provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT
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rtisroHiCA Oc9o : m T A 1 rarnei^tocnaii Drainage Ditches for Dry Land ■ DRAINING DRY LAND may sound like a project on a par with providing ice boxes for Eskimos, but many Montana farmers are doing it. The problem, of course, is potholes. These depressions in fields collect spring runoff water and create swampy areas that can not be farmed over with machinery. They dry up too late in the spring to be seeded with the rest of the fields, and after heavy raihs they often hold water so long that growing grain may be killed out. In short, they create considable areas of waste land in otherwise productive fields. But they can be redeemed. This has been demonstrated by many farmers who have established small but highly effective and profitable pothole drainage projects. Reclaimed 25 Acres There's Clarence Nelson, for instance, who farms under the Reserve soil conservation district in Sheridan county. With the help of the soil conservation service he has drained off 18 potholes to reclaim directly 25 acres of land and materially improve man invo y more surrounding acres. The project TVed about 5,000 yards of dirt. At 15 cents a yard the cost amounted to $750, In one unit 10 potholes were connected with ditches and drained into two large slough areas. These areas now stay well filled with water and make year around wildlife habitats. The principle involved in dryland drain age is the construction of ditches or chan nels that are deep enough to drain the area yet wide and sloping enough to permit full use of machinery over them. One cut in the Nelson project was 4 feet deep but the aver age was 1 Vz feet. In one field where many potholes were drained some years ago the cuts are' now seeded over and hardly visible. Plagued for 14 Years Then there's E. J. Hankins who has drained several spots on his farm on the Highwood bench in Chouteau county. He Secret of successful pot hole drainage projects is ditches that are wide enough to be worked easily . with machinery. The ditch shown in the center picture is 4 feet deep but its easy slopes make it a part of the field. The slough shown in the bottom picture is one of two created by drainage of 10 smaller potholes on the Clar ence Nelson place. Sher idan county. It pro vides year around shel ter for wildlife. MONTANA AND NORTHERN WYOMING ■ ; f -■ ■ ' , -, ■ : ■ ii . ■ . Jl'AÈ ■ ilÄ - ✓ -, ♦ y # ii yAM lisp m \ f : i-P : ' drained # with a ditch running to the north had one pothole that had been a nuisance to him for 14 years. Crops were frequently drowned out, and just as frequently he was unable to fallow the area when he worked the rest of the field. A survey made by the soil conservation service showed that the hole could be west. Formerly Hankins had assumed it would have to drain to the east. He rented a whirlwind terracer from the soil conserva tion district and in 10 hours constructed a ditch about 800 feet long, 12 feet wide and 2 feet deep in places. had been a nuisance for 14 years. The ditch is 800 feet long, 2 feet deep in places and 12 feet wide. ■ . ■ : * ■ ■M ■ Snowdrifts indicate the line of this ditch on the '^ : E. J. Hankins place, Chouteau county, which drained a pothole that 'Wi . - , * i '}■ ; K . ... .... There have been heavy spring runoffs since the ditch was built and last yoßi there was a cloudburst during the summer, but the ditch carried off the water easily and the summer fallow in the area was never flooded as it often was before. This ditch and several other constructed on the place have paid off well, Hankins says, dur ing the wet harvest seasons this, year and last. Yes, there's dryland draining to be done on many farms in Montana. Projects such as these prove it can be done and this is the time of year to da it.