Farmers are never satisfied with the weather. Environmentalists are never satisfied with the weather. In both cases, it seems it’s the worst it has ever been and there is no hope of recovery. I’m an alternative environmentalist and an alternative farmer. I need medication. Global climate change advocates tell me it’s too hot/cold/wet/dry because of decades of human activity. Astrophysicists present that temperatures follow solar flare cycles (and that a huge solar flare could wipe out the power grid). The alternative farmer in me knows I can do little to affect the sun but I can take action to positively (or negatively) impact the hydrological cycle. I can sequester more carbon. I can cycle nutrients more quickly. I can grow more food with less irrigation. I can landscape in such a way to not only hold more of the rain that falls on my farm but to encourage more rain in my region. “If everyone of us would sweep their own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.” These notions appeal to my inner alternative environmentalist but where the rubber hits the road, I need rain now. Now.
Today we’re in a drought and it’s getting pretty gritty.
I helplessly watch the rainclouds float on past to the North and South. They kind of spit at me for a few minutes here and there but no rain. No real rain for weeks. We’re short by 18 inches this year…a big deal to a midwesterner. We had solid rain at the beginning of May, an hour of hail mid-May and a half-inch of rain a few weeks ago. The pond is down a foot already.
The grass under the maple trees has given up…the maples have sucked the ground dry. It seems that nothing can stop the poison ivy though.
What can I do about it now? Not much. Drought is a fact of life. It happens. It always happens. As I read Walt Davis he jokes that the Texas rainfall average may be 20″ but that’s because they get 60″ one year and none for the next two years. I have to learn to manage for drought.
I have grass. It’s not pretty, it’s not a lot but it’s there. Where the goats, chickens and pigs have been there’s a tall, diverse stand of grass…even if dry. I’m surprised how little moisture there is under the tall grass but at least there’s something standing to catch the dew…when there is dew. I need to fence out the neighbor’s cows so I can monopolize the growth. I need to maintain and encourage that stand. Where the grass is short I need to allow rest. Where there is bare dirt I could put down any number of things but I have been leaning toward using litter out of the layer house or sawdust as a mulch.
Going forward I need to catch my greywater (not to mention the infrequent rain) in a series of swales down the hill from my house. I don’t really know how to establish the swales at a minimum of expense but I’m considering using a 2-bottom plow just to get something out there. I need to grow more trees. The lack of shade out there is a killer. Beyond shade, I need protection from wind to help limit evaporation. Also, I need more things for my goats to eat. I may buy a box of hybrid poplars and interplant with fruit and nut trees on the swales. But the real focus needs to be on building additional ponds. I don’t even know how to estimate what a pond will cost but I know what it’s worth to the land. That’s going to have to become a large part of our future farm budgeting. We need to catch and hold the water as high as possible and work to slow it down as it runs downhill.
Each of these things will work to dampen (lol) the effects of drought in the future. What can I do now? Right now!
There are good chances for rain this weekend. All I can do today is pray. Just pray. Rain breeds rain. If we get a little moisture this weekend, maybe we’ll get more next weekend. Maybe, by the time hurricane season gets started in the gulf, we’ll have so much rain I’ll write a blog post complaining about being waterlogged. Oh, to dream! In the meantime I’ll keep my animals watered and shaded and my kids cool inside. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about the solar flares.