When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.Benjamin Franklin
I have to admit I’ve had Eddie Money’s 1978 classic Gimme Some Water rolling around in the back of my head now for a couple of weeks now. No doubt its repetitive refrain is caused by the distinct lack of water we’re receiving here in our part of NE Ohio.
We’re in a drought here in the mid-west. In fact most of the mid-west, 58% as of this writing, is experiencing moderate to severe drought. Nearly 80 percent of Ohio is either abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought. And Stark County, where we live, is split between abnormally dry and moderate drought, with our homestead unfortunately falling into the moderate drought area.
May was one of the driest on record. Only half an inch of rain for the whole month. June hasn’t been much better. Even the benefit of over an inch of rain last week failed to lift us up and out of our current drought conditions. Worse yet, drought begets drought, and there doesn’t look to be any significant relief in the immediate forecast.
So what does drought look like on our farm?
We’re asking a lot of our well. We’ve got hoses running this way and that, all to deliver water to the gardens and flower beds. Most nights we venture out after the heat of the day breaks and we set to watering each of the beds. This is also the time we refill the water for all of our animals. Everything needs water, and in copious amounts.
The growth pattern in our in-ground garden mimics the orbital path of our impact sprinklers. A perfect figure eight of corn, beans, and squash grows only where the water falls. Outside the arc of the sprinklers any growth is stunted.
Insects are bad this year. The lack of heavy spring rains did little to impact the aphid population. They, along with other pests, are finding their way into the gardens. Luckily organic controls like diatomaceous earth (DT) and insecticidal soap aid in managing their populations. DT lasts a lot longer when there are no rains to wash it off into the soil.
Because our raised bed garden soils are heavily amended with wood chips and compost, fungi grow readily in the soils of these beds. We welcome the fruiting bodies of the fungus though, because they are an indicator that we have a healthy and vibrant microscopic mycorrhizal network alive in our soils. Fungi break down essential nutrients into usable forms readily absorbed by plants in the garden. The mushrooms are an indicator of our healthy soils. Though with the lack of rain, they too dry out rather quickly.
The flower beds reward our efforts the most. The routine watering lends to bursts of color from the hollyhocks, beardtongues, and clematis. Flowering plants have a language of gratitude all their own.
We worry less about the lawn. It began to turn brown in earnest about two weeks ago. The Kentucky bluegrass is always the first to tap out. It just cannot handle heat and dry spells as well as the perennial rye and fescue can. But even those seemed to lay down and take on the fawn color of dormancy.
We only mow now to control the weeds, the one thing that seems unaffected by the drought. Mowing at a height of 4 inches doesn’t begin to cut the grass, but conveniently chops the tops off of the sea of seed heads from plantains and dandelions. The longer grass shades the ground, keeping it cool and allowing it to hold on to more of the scarcely available moisture.
Even with our efforts though, the ground begins to crack and pull away from building foundations. With the ground so dry soil compacts and clays fracture with deep fissures. Some areas have noticeably sunk with the absence of water.
But we’re grateful that our well runs deep and, at least for now, we have plenty of water to help us sustain everything that needs it here on the farm. We’ll keep running hoses, attending to our nightly watering, and doing our part to tend to both our animals and land until the rains return.
We’ve watched scattered chances for rain vanish repeatedly over the last few weeks. Hopefully this trend breaks and summer rains will relieve us of our watering duties for a little while.
But until the clouds open up and rain falls again across the homestead, we’ll pray for rain and be grateful for our well. Farm life goes on.
Cool, cool water. Gimme some water.