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between-our-steps-06-13-18-doubleTwice on Monday, someone said, "Isn't it a lovely day out there." I replied, "I wish it would rain." They were shocked, and we had a conversation about why they hadn't noticed the dry conditions. One is a cottager and what they see is high lake levels and perfect cottage weather. The other had a bit of rain Saturday morning, almost ruining their day-off road trip, but dampening things down on their land.

I am glad someone got rain from the distant, dark clouds Saturday, clouds which became thin and white by the time they reached us in Walters Falls. All we've had in three weeks is one millimeter. I am worried.

Early in May, I got the garden worked up and early seeds in. They did nothing until it turned warm, but then sprouted and grew. I've lettuce, cilantro, and spinach for salads, and the peas are growing well. Fewer beets and carrots, kale and swiss chard have sprouted, but others will come.

In the morning when I weed, the seedlings feel damp from the dew. By afternoon, in the heat, they are wilted. So far, the cool nights and more dew bring them back, but I worry there is a limit.

Becaue we were away for a week, the rest of the garden didn't go in until the end of the month. None of what I planted then has sprouted. Those seeds will wait. They aren't going to rot in the dusty dry earth. But the brown ground that should be showing signs of green looks sad. We need a soaking rain.

I worry about weather. Even without crops of my own, I watch what is happening in the fields. When the snow melted in January, and then the ground froze hard, I worried about winter wheat. Fall planted grains like a covering of snow to keep them from freezing. This pattern of melt and freeze that repeated in February is difficult for them.

However, the fields of winter wheat look gorgeous. They are a lush green with heads starting to form. From end to end, the fields are full of green. These plants with early developed root systems, benefited from the moisture we got in April. It was the same with my fall planted garlic: it came through winter and is doing well.

It is the spring planting of oats and barley, beans, corn and canola that will suffer more if we don't get rain. Because the weather cleared in late April, farmers got on the land right away. Because it never rained, they spend twelve-plus hours every day getting seed in. With moisture in the ground and a dampening or two along the way, sprouting was consistent. But those plants are short now, waiting for moisture to grow on.

First cut hay looks pretty good, and it is drying for baling perfectly. But where animals are pasturing, the ground is bare. No second growth is coming along. Getting good hay baled early is a relief after last year when we couldn't get rain-free days, but this stretch of drought means some of it may have to be fed in summer, and second cut will be thin. Unless it rains more than a millimeter here and there.

When I dig in the garden, I find some moisture three inches down. That is a long way, but it does mean that trees, shrubs, and perennials have something to draw on. The plants I put in, including several purchased berry vines and shrubs, have to be watered. My rain barrel is almost empty, and I am going to have to get creative to keep them going.

I won't have to cut the grass very often, except down by the swamp. An advantage, I guess. There are dead brown patches on the high ground though.

No burning please! The risk of fire is high. And if it rains please don't complain even if you've planned a picnic or a wedding--it is good luck to have rain on your wedding day. And I will keep talking to people, hear who is worried and who is not. I will try to enjoy the brilliant blue of the sky, while hoping every day we get a good soaking rain. Or two.
Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.


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