This past winter was weirdly dry and warm. In early May the skies opened up, and it didn’t stop pouring until June. It put more than a few screws in my planting schedule for late summer (the things we’d be harvesting and eating now). Ground-work for planting and cultivation are impossible when the ground is constantly saturated, and I spent most of May into June crawling around ripping grass out of everything by hand, fretting that the planting schedule was dropping behind week by week.
By early June my dragon turned his tail, and for six long hot weeks not a drop fell from the sky. The pump at the main head of the irrigation system decided to die in early July, when things were at their driest, when it was topping 100 degrees every day. It took over a week to get that fixed, and in the meantime I lost a lot of crops. I fought with leaky drip tapes and rigged pumps and malfunctioning filters to keep enough water running out to the fields just to maintain, and keep things alive, not actively growing. It got so dry I had to water the groundpost on the electric fence so it could carry a charge. It was so dry I had to water the fence. There’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself utter.
Mid-July, my dragon’s back from vacation. It’s rained nearly every other day for the past 6 weeks. It’s constantly overcast. It feels like the sun hardly shines anymore. It’s a soggy 70 degrees in August when it’s usually 95 and drier than the Sahara. I don’t know what to make of it. I look for a 3-4 day dry spell in the forecast to be able to plant. Then the skies pour, washing out seeds, beating seedlings back down into the mud. I crawl around in the muck, rip the weeds out, plant again, wash, rinse, repeat. Johnny’s Seeds probably thinks I’m the dumbest farmer in the country, as I’ve re-ordered the same seeds on next-day air about every 5 days for weeks now.
Saturday I woke up at 1am to the sound of torrential rain pounding the roof and sides of the house, with the storm door banging open and shut in the wind. I groaned at the thought of another couple hundred dollars’ of washed-out seed, and got up to re-latch and lock the storm door before the dogs went into a panic at the noise.
I went out to feed the chickens in the dark before market, to find them all sleeping through the downpour perched on top of their coops, because there was a deep pool of standing water inside their shelters. I felt bad for them, while at the same time wishing I ever slept that soundly! Checked the rain gauge by flashlight: five inches of rain in three hours.
This Water Dragon’s got my number. Saturday afternoon my main well pump died. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. For me, for animals, for chickens, for the greenhouse crops. The wonderful folks at Walter’s Well Service picked up the phone at 7pm on a Saturday night, and sent a repair crew out Sunday morning. I’ve got running water again. You wouldn’t want to see the bill.
The weatherman is calling for more soggy weather throughout the upcoming week. For once, I hope he’s got it horribly wrong. The calendar is turning over towards the do-or-die moment to get many fall and winter crops up and growing. Too much later, and the vegetables will never mature in time before truly cold days set in. I’ve gotten maybe half of it done; still the other half to go.
I feel pathetic griping about all this when the vast portion of middle America is desperate for even a sprinkle. I talked to my grandmother the other weekend, who grew up during the Great Depression on a dairy farm in Ohio. She’s never seen it this bad in all her 90 years, and is depressed at how the brown grass crunches underfoot on her little daily walks; heart-broken surrounded by oceans of withered fruitless cornfields. Her neighbors grow my animal feed. My feed bill is skyrocketing week by week, while grandma’s neighbors collect my tax dollars in federal crop insurance payments. And nobody benefits. This system is so very broken. That’s a whole ‘nother rant for another day. Still I wish I could lure this watery beast out west.
I had planned and planted to keep the tomatoes and melons going through your Labor Day weekend. The larger slicing tomatoes caved to the onslaught of water a few weeks ago. The remaining melons rotted away in the rain last week. I sold through the last of the white potatoes this past weekend, but the sweet potatoes are up and curing and should be ready in a few more weeks, so you will not be potato-less for long. In the meantime, the beans and cukes and eggplant are loving all the rain, and if I’d have known it was going to be this wet, I might’ve installed a few rice paddies to appease this soggy angry water dragon.
It’ll never be a banner year every year. But enough of the water woes: leave me alone now, dragon!