By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
Water is the lifeblood of all living things. Without it, hard times are sure to come. In the Ozarks, periodic summer drought is common in the months surrounding July and August, but the prolonged drought of the last four or five years has had everyone on the edge of their seats, watching and waiting and hoping that this summer would be different. In some ways it’s been very good. Early moisture and much cooler temperatures have made a huge difference. But as most summers go here, we hit the wall with a continued drought.
It’s been five weeks since we last received any measurable amount of rain. It’s been a tough slog in the garden, but we managed to keep the right things alive through selective deep watering once a week. Anything that was failing or falling behind or pest ridden was left out of the watering routine or has already been added to the compost pile. Giving well water to garden plants can keep them alive a little longer, but it doesn’t do them nearly as good or nourish them the same way as rain does. And while we’d like to water everything, preserving the integrity of our well is our number one concern.
It’s a frustrating thing to watch the world dry up into a crackling dessert before your eyes. Super fine dust churned up from countless gravel roads hangs in the air, producing a milky white haze that reminds one of distant wildfires. I etch my frustration into the quarter-inch of dust on the back window of the car.
The other day, I was up on the ridge road,when I spotted the matron of our deer herd and her twin fawns at the edge of my neighbor’s pasture near the mossy stock pond. The twins stood looking out at me from behind the twisted-wire fence as their mother grazed the nearly barren pasture filled with pretty, but inedible, sneezeweed.
I fear for the creatures in these dry days. It’s been tough for them.
From atop the ridge, I looked across the big valley to the rolling hills far beyond and watched as a line of darkening clouds unleashed their burden upon the earth. Cicadas buzzed as the sun shone hotly on my shoulders as I imagined that cool moist mass of air and water wrapping itself around us. I could smell the wet earth on the breeze.
Each day we watched and waited for our turn under the rain cloud. Weeks went by and the days grew hotter. We watched with anticipation as skies darkened along the edges, but were left only with the fleeing hope.
Our routine became a necessity for survival. Up at dawn, out in the garden to do some precision watering, harvest the ripening crops and tend to other basic chores. The goal was always to finish and be inside the house before the sun breached the top of trees perched on our easterly ridge around 10:30 am and baked us into oblivion, yet again.
It had been hot and humid and cloudy for days, but no rain. Many cells popped up and advanced upon us, only to part like the Red Sea – leaving us high and dry. Again.
At first we didn’t believe the darkening clouds because they had been teasing us for weeks now without any show. I was in the kitchen and Dean was monitoring the radar. I heard him say it looked good – but we’d been through all this many times. Here it comes! There it goes! Ah, well. Next time. Next time…
Frustrated with the game that we had been playing, I went outside and shouted at the clouds, “Hey, how about some rain over here?” and a very light, almost imperceptible drizzle of moisture began to fall.
After ten minutes of nothing more than a mist, I began to beg. “C’mon, please? Over here! Just a little more!”
The drizzle turned into a sprinkle.
Encouraged, Dean and I started to lay it on thick when a big clap of thunder rolled across the hills. A real, honest-to-goodness rain began to fall. It’s hard to express in words that moment of extreme joy and sudden relief, but suffice it to say that it was awesome.
God-knows what my neighbors would have thought if they saw us out there screaming at the sky like a bunch of nut-jobs; but who cares, really? So when the rain began to come down in sheets, we ran out and did a little twirl in the downpour and were quickly soaked to the bone in the blessed, life-giving rain.
I hope that everyone in our area received at least some of that lovely stuff and that those of you still waiting will soon have the opportunity to dance in the rain, too.
© 2013 Jill Henderson
Set in the rugged heart of the Ozark mountains, A Journey of Seasons is memoir, back-to-the-land handbook and nature guide rolled into one. Henderson’s 20-years of living off the land and foraging in the wilderness shines in this cyclopedic work filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor. This is one journey you don’t want to miss.
Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.