How I Ended Our Drought

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

It was interesting to see our reader’s reactions to my drought blog
(rant) this week. Michelle and I debated posting it, but we finally
thought ‘you know, if you just keep writing shiny happy blogs about how
awesome country life is people are going to think you’re either on
Prozac or that such a perfect idyllic state really exists.’

Some people didn’t like the whining. Point taken. But I didn’t force
anyone to read it. Lots of people offered support. Some expressed
concern. Our good friends Hans and Carolyn immediately called and
invited us for dinner and a swim. Apparently they thought I was pretty
close to the edge. And there were days when I really felt I was. I
cannot believe how ground down a prolonged drought leaves a farmer
feeling.

But here’s the weird thing. We posted that on Wednesday and on Thursday morning it began to rain. And it’s been a good rain.

I know lots of people who were doing all sorts of superstitious
things to get it to rain. Leaving the car windows down. Leaving laundry
on the clothesline. I kept leaving the windows in the office by my
computer open, because in the summer we only seem to get rain that rolls
in with wind in the middle of the night, and I have to drag my
blurry-eyed body to the guesthouse to close windows.

I’d been playing these games for 5 weeks and nothing worked. So now
I’ve found the key. You just write a whiny ranting blog and the clouds
arrive and dump rain.

Michelle had said rain was forecast, but I’d been hearing that for a
month and had finally chosen to never listen to such a prediction
because it was just depressing to be a little hopeful and then have no
rain arrive.

So yesterday was my day to play with water all day. I did some
weeding, but I spent some of the day moving water around from rain
barrels to totes. The totes hold 250 gallons and the rain barrels hold
50 gallons. So the barrels were full early but the totes had a long way
to go. So I started moving water to the totes with buckets in a
wheelbarrow. Apparently you can’t use on a solar pump on a rainy day. 
The tote on the horse barn does not have as large a roof area draining
into it, so next year I’ll move it to the guest house. And it was rainy
while I was doing this and I was soaked and it was awesome.

 It technically probably wasn’t the most productive use of my time,
but after 40 days in the desert I needed it. My soul needed it.

And now I’ve got more than 1,000 gallons of water on reserve and
because of the rain I don’t have to water tomorrow. I actually should
water because of our sandy soil. When I dug potatoes for our CSA
yesterday morning they were very dry under the narrow wet layer of soil
above them.

 Even our new dog Jasper seemed to relish the break from the heat and
sun. We’ve been gradually letting him spend more and more time off the
leash, as he gets more at home here. So today he would sprint from the
chicken coop (where he can watch chicken TV endlessly) to where I was
shuttling water, then back to the coop, then back to me. And he doesn’t
saunter. He races. Border collies have one speed. Fast. He’s actually
quite exhausting to be around. He is an exceptional soccer player and
when I’ve had enough ball play and sit on the front porch and clean
garlic, he continues to play for a long time. He pushes the ball with
his nose. He kicks it. He moves it back and forth. Eventually he grabs
it in his mouth and brings it back to me. He sits at the bottom of the
stairs. He lets the ball drop. It rolls away down the sidewalk, and he’s
right back up chasing it and the soccer play begins again. It’s like
have a toddler around only he moves much faster and scares raccoons out
of the corn. I don’t know, maybe some toddlers do scare raccoons.

The CSA is going very well. We are getting exceptional feedback from the
members and it’s very gratifying. I’m always quite amazed by how great
everything looks in the boxes as we organize them. I’m not amazed
because I know I can grow attractive vegetables. “The All You Can Eat
Gardening Handbook” (which is now available in color as an eBook)
reinforced this for me. It’s more how you start mentally thinking of the
garden after such a prolonged drought. You know it’s not where it could
be, but low and behold, after all the watering and effort, the final
product looks pretty good. And having our members let us know they are
enjoying it is well worth the effort.

It takes me back to my days as a desktop publisher and the catalogs
that I used to produce for one of my customers. It didn’t matter how
great it was, I always got the call after 5,000 of them had been printed
in color that they’d found something I missed. I might have missed it,
but since it was their business ultimately they had to proof it. And
they always did a great job of finding errors; right after they took the
first printed one out of the box.

Running the CSA we’re getting much more immediate and positive
feedback. At the end of the season we’ll get everyone’s input in a
survey. I know I’ve had weak areas this year. My early brassicas,
broccoli and cauliflower, just would not form heads properly in this
heat. I’ve continued to plant them and think we’ll have some by the end
of the season, but in other cooler years I’d have beautiful broccoli by
now. Some years you win, some you lose. That’s the deal in a CSA. You
share in the harvest. Our corn is ridiculously early as are our
tomatoes, thanks in part to the new greenhouses, so it should even out
by the end.

So the fog is lifting from my sunbaked brain after a day in the rain
and clouds. And by September as we’re harvesting up a storm, the drought
will be forgotten… or not.