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   Dear friends, family, alumni, CSA shareholders, guests, bird watchers, nature lovers, fellow communalists and farmers,

Greetings from Tolstoy Farms/Mill Canyon Benevolent Society. As we enter our 51st year of communal living and organic growing, we are faced with some huge challenges...

This past winter has brought with it a series of devastating floods that have wreaked havoc on our community. Twice in two months, on Feb. 12th and February 26th, rapidly melting snow caused heavy runoff while the ground was still frozen solid. No one here has seen floods of this magnitude, ever. Feb. 19th’s flood lasted four days and left Sperry’s creek filled with rock to the degree that it literally moved over to the driveway and began carving out a new channel. When it finally stopped flooding, the creek was no longer flowing at all, lost under the rubble. Ken’s house had 14” of water downstairs and Turquoise's house (the house Rico, Nadine and Paul, and Pete and Shelly formerly lived in) was badly flooded as well. The driveway was very rough and just barely drivable.

Rubbled remains of Main Driveway

Sperry’s creek did not flow again until march 5th, when an even bigger flood resulted from a rapid melting of 6” of snow compounded by heavy rain. This flood lasted two days and caused catastrophic damage in many places. The water surrounded Coni’s house, breached the road in two spots between the orchard and the mailboxes, filled the entire field from the tack shed to Ken’s house, carved a 4’ deep chasm in the main driveway, and re-flooded Ken’s and Rico’s old house. The high waters of Mill Creek took out two foot bridges (Stone house and Rico bridges) and damaged the only driving bridge. Perhaps the most disturbing of all is the massive deposits of rock that have been left in Sperry’s creek. 

Floodwaters in the downstairs of a community home.

Upstream from Coni’s house, the creek flows normally, but then it meets with a massive infill of rock and debris. The creek now turns and tries to flow in a new channel, but it soon becomes subterranean, not to be seen or heard again. There is also a 6-10’ high deposit of rock downstream along the driveway near potluck area. Any future floods that will undoubtedly come will pass from the creek bed to the driveway and on to the same houses that have already been flooded before. 

Above grade mound of rock in what used to be deep flowing creekbed.

Facing up to all this and trying to plan for the future is our current struggle. We have a great deal of work to do to secure our water supply, restore the creek bed, clean up the debris and rebuild lost bridges and the driveway. We have been trying to get by on our own, but must now admit that we need help.

Our local Conservation District is providing us with limited assistance to pay for watershed engineers who will help us devise a plan for restoring Sperry’s creek and to get the proper permit for this work. This work will involve dredging the rock from the creek bed down to pre-flood levels, and using the rock to rebuild the driveway and levees along its edge. As much as we dread the reality of machines in the creek bed, we dread even more the reality of having the creek dry up permanently, the loss of vital wildlife habitat, and the threat of repeated flooding of our homes and gathering places. We need to raise approximately $50,000 to pay for this work. 

Footbridge normally 4 1/2 feet above flowing creek

We have applied for Emergency Watershed Protection funding, and although we qualify, there are no actual funds available at this time, or anytime in the near future...

So we are asking you to help us continue the goals of decentralized rural living and support local organic agriculture by making a financial donation and/or coming to a work party.

To those of you who rely on us for fresh organic food, rest assured that we will be growing our crops this year. We are extending our water system upstream to where the water flows normally. This will be costly and labor intensive, but we are committed to keeping our farm growing, and our livelihood intact. We thank you for your support and for any assistance you can offer.

To those who enjoy Tolstoy as a place to come and get away from it all, to participate in potlucks, parties, visit family, birdwatch, pick strawberries, collect herbs or go hiking, we are happy to share this beautiful land with you. Please share with us however you can to overcome these hardships.

Smashed remains of footbridge, one of four bridges damaged in flood.

To those of you who came before us or who have lived or worked here in the recent past, you know what a special place this is. We cherish the land, trees and gardens you passed on to us. We live in and maintain the houses and buildings you built and worked on. Please help us carry on the legacy of Tolstoy Farm in the hopes that we can pass on this beautiful utopian experiment to future generations. Your donations of any size toward creek bed restoration, driveway repairs, clean up, bridge building or irrigation costs will be greatly appreciated. Please note that donations are not tax-deductable. Make an electronic donation here:

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Or send checks made out to Laura Harris or Stanley Jackowski, with Flood Recovery in the byline to:

Mill Canyon Benevolent Society Flood Recovery

C/O Laura Harris

32300 Mill Canyon Rd N

Davenport, WA 99122

Diane in Main Driveway

Please contact us for more information or to find out when the next work party is by email or call 509-725-0317.

Thank you dearly on behalf of all of us here,

Laura Harris and Timothy Pellow on behalf of the Tolstoy Farms community

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