Not sinking up to my knees in dirty clothes may require wearing rubber boots

Our farmyard is getting wetter by the day, thanks to a near-record amount of snowfall last winter and rain we didn't need this spring.

Black rubber boots, a yellow hose and a sump hole with water in it.
Ann Bailey's new rubber boots are at the ready to wear when the water spills over the top of the sump hole in the basement.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Late last spring I bought a new pair of knee-high rubber boots in anticipation of a wet summer.

Excessive snow and rain in April and May had pooled into lakes in the fields surrounding our farmstead, which, itself, was a muddy mess, and I assumed that the summer weather would result in similar conditions.

My confidence that the wet pattern would continue was so great that I also made a purchase that required a much greater financial investment than rubber boots — a Nissan crossover vehicle that could get me over our muddy gravel roads. My former vehicle, a Honda Accord sedan, was great for highway travel and had been maintenance free for the six years I had owned it, but it was no match for our country roads. Though I was pretty adept at traveling at the right speed — fast enough not to get stuck and slow enough not to lose control and slide into the ditch — I wanted something more rugged.

But I was happy when it turned out to be a drier summer than I had expected so I didn’t need my rubber boots. Meanwhile, though I could have traveled the roads easily with my Honda, I enjoyed driving the new vehicle, which has more bells and whistles.

I’m sorry to say that this spring both the rubber boots and Nissan are getting a workout. Our farmyard is getting wetter by the day, thanks to a near-record amount of snow that melted and rains that we didn’t need.


Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the water will dissipate when — or if — the ponds in the fields that surround our farmstead dry up. On the contrary, chances are that as the amount of water in the ponds recede, the amount in our basement will see a commensurate rise.

That’s the unfortunate scenario we’ve experienced in recent history. For the first 80 years of its existence, the basement of the house never had water in it. My great-grandparents had the foresight to build up the ground before the foundation was poured in 1911, so the ground slopes away from it. They and my grandparents, who lived in the farmhouse after them, also stayed high and dry during their lifetime there.

A muddy road with fields of water on either side of it.
The water that collects in ponds in the fields around Ann Bailey's family's farmstead typically finds its way into their house's basement.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

However, since the late 1990s the basement more often than not has been wet. Its two rooms are unfinished and we don’t store anything of value down there, so we don’t have to worry about the floor or items like furniture getting damaged, but we do wash clothes in the basement.

Our washing machine and dryer are sitting on cement blocks, so they are safe unless the water hits a height of more than 6 inches. So far it has not climbed that high and, I’m pretty sure never will. If it does, we’ll have more problems to worry about than the washer and dryer getting wet because the furnace and water heater also will be ruined.

Keeping our clothes clean when there’s water on the basement floor is a much likelier scenario and will require the human part of the washing equation to wear rubber boots to keep their feet dry. Meanwhile, the human clothes washers have to handle the garments with care when transferring them from the machine to the dryer. Dropping an item requires not just crouching down to pick it up, but wringing it out and re-washing it, which doubles the frustration of washing clothes in a wet basement.

At the beginning of the second week in May, the water had not covered the basement floor, but there were telltale signs that it could happen if more rain fell during the week. The two sump pumps were busy keeping the water in the holes from spilling out and the cracks in the basement’s concrete floor were wet.

If history repeats itself, soon a few inches of water will cover the floor because the groundwater level rose above it, and though the sump pumps run constantly, the hoses aren’t long enough to carry the water far enough away from the house to keep the water from recycling into the basement.

At least I can be comforted knowing that I have a good pair of rubber boots to keep my feet dry and a vehicle that will get me down the road and off the farmstead when I can’t stand the water any more.


Ann Bailey Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or

Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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