But April remained dry and so we counted ourselves lucky, as we were able to get in the soil and catch up with our fieldwork. And then we even had a couple of nice warm spells and the soil began to wake up, and as the microorganisms started growing more active, our plants reaped the benefits and started to grow.
But then May came along and we realized that we had an accumulated ½ inch of rain for the entire month of April – a month that is usually far too rainy for our tastes. And now May is passing and we might have squeezed out another ½ inch of rain for the entire month of May. Not to mention this last week of steamy temps way above average. Looking around the farm, the soil has turned a texture we have never seen from this soil before. A breeze comes through and dust fills the air. Some of our fields with less organic matter than we would like are covered with a Mars-like crust that is nearly impenetrable.
So needless to say, spring has not been what we expected. Or maybe that is just what spring is. Unpredictable.
But for us, there is nothing like a weather-related calamity to invoke a strong sense of helplessness. While we do have irrigation and are able to get water to most of our crops, it is not the same as a nice solid rainy day. The drip lines we use for irrigation provide uneven water flow and some areas end up flooded while others are barely damp. The water never penetrates into the depths of our soil so those deeper reservoirs are never replenished. And we never get to enjoy the smell of the earth and the plants embracing the moisture as the sun makes its first appearance after a rainy day.
One night, as we were sitting here, watching systems full of rain going either north or south of us and feeling a decent dose of self-pity, Alex pulled up the US drought monitor – a website that tracks droughts by county across the country. They have drought ratings ranging from 0 to 4, 0 being classified as “abnormally dry” and 4 being “exceptional drought.” To our surprise, while we were considered in a drought, we were a mere 0. When we looked west and saw vast stretches of ‘4’s across the country, we shuddered to think what that must feel like.
And then today we got a couple more tenths of an inch of rain. And while it will certainly be dried out again by the end of tomorrow, we still get to enjoy the smell of a fresh rain as we listen to the evening bird song. And as we walk the fields, we see the plants breathing in the moisture and can’t help but feel grateful for the day.