There are things drier than our farm--old skeletons in the Mohave desert, dehydrated popcorn farts, toast from last week that I forgot to take out of the toaster. But not many things. It is the end of the second month of our drought. When I say that, people look confused. These are the people who live five miles to the east, west, north or south of us. These people have had pretty good rain for themselves and enough to share, even though they didn’t share. We know they had rain because we saw it on the horizon and on the Doppler radar.
Granted, it’s not a drought in the strict sense of zero rainfall, but it at least qualifies as a pseudo-drought. It has rained three times in the last eight weeks for a total of less than two inches. Our 3000-gallon cisterns, which fill rapidly during most downpours have been nearly empty since July.
Last Monday sums it up best, because it illustrates a recurring theme. Thirty percent chance of rain forecast the Friday before. On Sunday the chance increased to 60%. Early in the day on Monday the forecast was updated: 100% chance of rain. We didn’t get a drop. Or maybe we did get a drop, but it didn’t land on us. If it doesn’t rain when the three-hour forecast foretells a 100% chance of rain, it’s probably not going to rain when there is only a 10% chance, which is most days.
Our drought is not for lack of effort. We have tried all the usual tricks: sunroof down, clothes on the line, shooting arrows at clouds, rain dances (based on old Westerns). No luck. We even tried reverse psychology, based on the hypothesis that Ma Nature has a mean streak. “We don’t care if it rains or not,” we said loudly enough that it would be hard for any precipitomnipotent (a new word) entity to hear. Apparently she saw through that. We have even tried is complaining about it to people who don’t really care. Blatant optimism is next. For the past two days I have been predicting rain. I have to get this post out at once, because there is now an 80% chance of rain tonight and again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Establishing perennial agriculture takes time, so we are selling vegetables in our CSA. We have no choice but to irrigate from our well. It is labor intensive, even with the drip irrigation system I rigged for about 50% of the vegetable beds. In a system geared to sustainability, irrigating from the well feels like cheating, but we got orders to fill. Without Ma Nature’s help, we are stuck. I suppose our daily water consumption is a drop in the bucket in a place where the state tree was just changed from maple to high-capacity irrigation well, but it’s still uncomfortable.
The trees are on their own. We don’t have the infrastructure or time to irrigate the trees. Many of them seem not to care. I hope that means their roots are now deep enough to find water without us. Apologies to people in China for the water our trees must be stealing. (Wondering: Is China really on the exact opposite or the U.S. or is that just in old cartoons?) Some of the shrubs, like our currants, which produced pretty well in early summer, look dead. But, to quote from one of a classic movie, they may be just mostly dead. Spring of next year will tell. I was going to plant a hundred or so more trees seedlings this fall, but I don’t think they could survive without water.
The good news: 1) The mosquitoes are more desperate than we are, and I hate mosquitoes. It’s nice to be able to walk outside even at night and not have those bastards competing for our hard-earned blood. 2) It will probably rain some day. Maybe. Right? And when it does, we will smile. Or we might loudly proclaim that we don’t care. And then smile. 3) At least we don’t have to deal with 30 inches of rain and category 4 hurricane winds. 4) Someday, if we don’t screw things up, our land (soil) will be both flood and drought resistant. 5) With perpetual sunny skies our rooftop solar energy production is high. 6) We can always raise cacti if our fields turn to desert.
Even better than any of that good news is that it looks as if our native perennial grasses and forbs planted in the tree alleys on the highest 4 ½ acres of the orchard, are taking hold. I don’t want to be too optimistic, especially since native plant identification skill consists of knowing which plants don't look like any weeds with which I am familiar, but I do see a lot of plants that don’t look like weeds. Natives are deep-rooted, once established tolerate dry conditions very well. But bring on the rain anyway.