April 26, 2013

Here Comes The Red

The inevitable is upon us as the Red River makes its dramatic rise.  In the last 5 days the river has completely come out of its slumber, going from frozen solid at 16' to raging out of its banks and already over 30' as I am  writing this.  Our current forecast puts us in at a crest of 45' by next Thursday.  This ridiculous river will end up rising close to if not more than 30' in about 10 days.

We are as prepared as we are going to be at this point.  Equipment is staged where it needs to be, the pumpstation and irrigation satellites have been removed, and the staff is ready to get things cleaned up as soon as the water recedes back into it's banks.  Gunner will likely be coming out to dike the lower section of the clubhouse early next week depending on how the crest forecast holds up over the weekend.

I am tired of waiting on this damn thing.  Let's get this over with, get it cleaned up, and start moving forward with golf season!

Andy trying to figure out how we are going to get the 200 lb
pump off the winch on the ceiling of the pumpstation....

Pumpstation totally disassembled.

The spillway beside the golf course is going fierce!

Some serious ice jams just beside hole 17

Water up the bench on the left side of 9, it will likely be covering the
fairway in another two days.

April 15, 2013

The Spring That Wasn't

I am seriously getting tired of blogging about snow, cold temperatures, snow, flooding, snow, shop projects, snow....

The latest winter storm dropped only about 4 or 5 wet inches of snow here in town, but as usual, the real problem was how much fell in the beginning of our watershed in Fargo and points south, where some areas received over a foot on snow that contained close to 2" of liquid equivalent.

This pathetic excuse of a season called spring is starting to get pretty old.  It started off in the middle of March, and in the last month has progressed from annoying, to frustrating, to angering, to now its just starting to seem like a joke!  Last year at this time we had been working on the course for a month already, had charged the irrigation system, and finished construction and seeding of 4 new tee boxes.

For this 3rd week of April we should be averaging daytime highs of about 55-57 degrees, and lows should be hovering at or slightly above the freezing point.  We have been stuck in the 30s and sometimes even 20s for the last few weeks now, for the entire year of 2013 we have now broken 40 twice (42 and 40).  The forecast for this week looks to continue our trend of daytime highs that are about 20 degrees below average.    I realize how much I am starting to sound like a broken record with weather data for the last month....

What really puts into perspective how late and cold this spring has been is the predicted flood crest date for the Red River.  From records that I have found, the latest spring crests of the Red that have been caused by snowmelt (as opposed to a later spring crest caused by heavy rains) is on April 26, which occurred in both 1979 and 1883.  It looks like data for the Red River in Grand Forks goes back to the early 1880's, so about 130 years of data.

2013 is shaping up to be the latest spring snowmelt flood by at least a week in over 130 years of data.  That is kind of scary.

Getting really tired of seeing this when I get to the shop in the morning.

Still a solid 3' tall berm of snow on the edge of the shop yard.
The staff is set and ready to go as soon as the snow melts.  I hired 2
additional guys this year to accommodate for the late start and the
extraordinary amount of work we have to get done in May.
Andy and I spent ANOTHER day in the shop going through flood supplies:
pumps, hoses, fittings, squeegees, shovels, waders, etc.  We end up splitting
up all of our supplies and equipment, half stay at the shop and the other half
get staged at the clubhouse.  We lose vehicle access to the shop
for a water level over 42'.
One of our largest efforts in fighting the effects of a large flood is getting the silt off the turf surface.  The most effective way of doing this is to wash the silt with a hose back into the flood water as it recedes off the fairways, tees, and greens.  It is a LOT of work hosing, squeegeeing, and shoveling all of this silt (not to mention horribly boring and filthy).  In the past we have just used hoses with nozzles on the end, requiring a line of workers to stand in place for hours at a time slowly blasting the turf canopy with water to get the silt out and washed back down into the flood waters.

I came up with the idea about a month ago to figure out a way to use a pressure washer to do some of this work for us.  I fabricated a contraption that utilizes 4 pressure washer nozzles mounted to a walk behind sprayer handle that is hooked up to a pressure washer with a 13 HP Honda motor and a 4000psi pump.  My hope is that this device will make washing silt significantly faster and more productive, essentially covering a 20" wide pass at a time instead of just a tiny area hit from the end of a single hose nozzle blast.  Not sure exactly how well it is going to work, but I have a feeling we will be finding out soon....

April 11, 2013

April 11th, 2 years later

Today marked my 2 year anniversary at the Grand Forks Country Club.  On April 11, 2011 I had just completed a 900 mile drive from western Montana to start my new life in North Dakota.  We've seen a lot of highs and lows and come a long way in the last 2 years.  For those of you who know me, one of my favorite things to do is document my life in photographs....

Early April 2011, not a trace of snow and the river only a few days away
from almost a 50' crest.

Early April 2012, snow is a distant memory, the turf is already greening
up, and the creek is almost dry!

Early April 2013, might as well be the middle of January.

The variation of weather patterns in the northern plains is mind blowing.  With that, it seems that each year I have spent at GFCC has been characterized by a unique set of challenges that sets each year apart.

2011 was defined by a large flood, a huge renovation of massive areas of turf, learning a new golf course in a new part of the country, and finished with the beginning of a large, 3 year renovation process of our nearly 50 year old tee boxes.

2012 was defined by an extraordinarily warm and early spring, no flood, but massive amounts of dead Poa Annua on the course due to the dry, open, and cold winter leading up to it.  That led into a very hot and dry summer that was a challenge for our outdated irrigation system, but finished with a very pleasant Fall that allowed us to make a lot of headway on the tee box renovation process, as well as continue to make some other serious improvements to the golf course by adding a significant amount of concrete cartpath.

2013 is of course still an early year, but will without a doubt be defined by the incredibly late arrival of spring and what is shaping up to be the latest spring flood crest caused by snowmelt in the 130 years of data from the Red River.  I can only hope that the rest of 2013 is defined by something a little more positive.... (like the completion of our new pool, a pleasant but not hot summer, a successful attempt to interseed some new bentgrass into our greens, and another long and warm fall so that the golfers stay happy and we can get a lot of projects completed on the course.)

April 4, 2013

April 4th: Our 154th Day Of Winter

My mind says that winter starts on November 1st.  Meaning today is the 154th day of winter, since that is still where we are firmly entrenched.  We had a nice balmy day in North Dakota today for this 4th day of April; sunny, light winds, and a daytime high of 29 degrees.  Things are slowly starting to melt, but there is still a long way to go, especially since our 10 day forecast is mostly 30s and maybe a low 40s or two if we're lucky.

Still out blowing snow, lots of puddles of water starting to show up on
the course.  12 tee is buried under a 4' drift right in front of the 4 evergreen
trees on the left side of the picture.

I went out and blew the snow off of the bentgrass nursery today.  We then put covers on it to try and initiate some heat and growth.  One of the worst parts of this late start is how much it is going to set back the completion of the tees that we started rebuilding last fall.  My goal is to get the bentgrass nursery matured ASAP.  We will then use it to sod small hitting pads on the new tees while the rest of the seed is still growing in.  This will hopefully limit the amount that we have to use the temporary tees this spring.

Got the covers on the bentgrass nursery so that it can start growing
into a solid base of turf that we can use as sod in another month.

And the 1 extra cover we have is on 16 green.  If only we had 17 more....
Another turf health update.  Batting 2 for 3 on this
batch.  The top left plug is all Poa, and it is toast.

April 1, 2013

Marchuary Is Finally Over

Not sure who coined the term, but we have just experienced "Marchuary" since the entire month felt more like January than a typical March.  It has been a tough month for the turf, since for the most of the month everything was still covered in snow or ice.  We just finished clearing all of it off our greens by the end of last week, removing the snow and ice from close to 3 acres of turf.  The ice layer formed on our greens on January 10th after a mid-winter rain storm fell on top of 4" of snow, and then froze solid overnight.  All told we experienced about 75 days of ice cover.

As I mentioned in some previous blogs, Poa Annua can take about 40-50 days under ice before death starts to set in.  Bentgrass can take close to 100 days under ice, sometimes more.  The following pictures pretty well sum it up.

Close to 1" of solid ice formed in spots on 4 green.
The tale of two grasses:  bentgrass is dark green.
Poa is pale yellow.
I have been putting a lot more turf samples into my windowsill "greenhouse" in the last 2 weeks.  The bentgrass continues to pop right back to life.  Of the Poa plugs I have put in there, some have popped right back, some have struggled but finally came back, and some are flat out dead.  There definitely was some variation in the formation of the ice that allowed some turf to survive under it.  All told though, I don't really expect the damage to be nearly as widespread as the death from dessication that our golf course received last winter.  There's always a silver lining I suppose!

Now that Marchuary is over, we can total up some weather records.  Not surprisingly, March 2013 was a  little....well, a LOT colder than March 2012.  Last March provided a record setting average temperature of almost 38 degrees, about 12 degrees warmer than average.  This March, we totaled a chilly average of 16 degrees, a full 22 degrees colder than last year and close to 10 degrees colder than average.  Also, 19.2" of snow fell in the month of March, which barely broke the old record of 19" set in 1966 to make this the snowiest March on record in Grand Forks.  Breaking down the days individually, in 2012 there were 5 days in March colder than average, and 26 days warmer than average.  2013 turned out to be almost a perfect mirror of that number, with 6 days warmer than average, and 25 days colder than average.

Currently we have a snowpack of about 8" on the ground, I really hope that the majority of that will be melted by this weekend.  There will of course be some large drifts left remaining for another few weeks though....

Blowing snow off 6 green last week

The back of 18 green had close to 3 feet on it.

After the snow was removed, all the melting ice and water was
shoveled and squeegeed off.