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between-our-steps-07-25-18-doubleLast Sunday at Keppel Croft gardens, we sat under umbrellas and a tent, let water drip around us, got our feet and pant legs wet, gave thanks for what was falling and prayed for more. As we moved from song, story, and prayer to lunch, the drops got bigger. But we stood under apple trees and chatted, letting shoulders and hair enjoy the moisture.

Any other year, we would have been tempted to move the service back to the church. But with no wind and a warmish day, the light rain gave joy. No one hurried away. By the time we dispersed, the rain got heavier, deepening our gratitude. And it lasted. Right up to evening. The next day started cloudy, so the moisture had time to sink right in.

Immediately, the grass in my front lawn started to grow. Weeds took off, and tomato plants filled out. The next few days, I took time to discover what was coming back in the garden and what was not.

There is a patch of grass where I often park that I was quite worried about. It turned to dust the first week of July. I had already stopped parking there in June when the grass first turned brown. That high spot died back to nothing. Grass died. Weeds died. Looking at it I understood for the first time how the dust-bowls of the 30's could happen. Without roots to hold the dirt together, even foot traffic can send dust into the air. A few plantain and wild camomile have started to grow there now. I will spread some white clover seed, but I won't park there until grass comes back.

Another sign of stress from the dryness has been the trees that are shedding to protect themselves. Dry yellow leaves dot the land. Apples too have been dropped and those on the tree are small. This rain should fill them out, and I hope the trees won't need to shed more.

Last week, I found some of the hardiest perennials suffering. Comfrey was dying back. Jerusalem artichoke wilted. Tuesday morning the Jerusalem artichoke looked strong, though not as tall as usual. The comfrey shoots are turning upward.

Most of the lilies are taking their time to bloom, but they've good root systems and the plants look a deep, healthy green. One patch up by the house, however, hardly bloomed and has died back already. It is going to need TLC to come back next year.

Early Sunday, before the rain started, someone said they were wondering when the point of no return for farm crops would be, when the coming rain could be too late.

For hay and pasture, this week's rain is too little, too late. First cut hay was half what we usually get. Pasture has died back. There is a thin second cut for those who took early hay, and there may be a later second cut if we get more rain and a window of sunny weather in August to get it dry. Pasture too may come back if folks are able to feed hay in the meantime to let it recover.

One farmer who rents land in Grey Highlands, Meaford, and Chatsworth said that the timing of the rain was perfect for their corn and beans. Corn is just tasseling, which means the moisture will help pollination and the formation of the kernels. Beans are flowering so the rain will help fill the pods. However, one of their fields missed too many of the July sprinkles and looks like a total loss.

Because the bit of rain that came from May to July was spotty, coming in narrow bands of cloud, the answer to the question "was the rain in time?" will be different in different parts of our region.

In this reflection, I focussed on the plants, but I know the water table is low and wells are dry. Streams have shrunk. Animals from insects to birds to mice have also suffered. As we walk the fields and forests, lawns and gardens, it will be good to carry that question with us: did this rain come in time?

Cathy Hird lives near Walters Falls.


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