The Reintroduction: Impending Rain   9 comments

This is the first of several reintroduction posts in anticipation of resuming this blog for the fall, winter, and hopefully beyond. I’ve been absent for multiple months now, so I’ll be setting the stage of where I am right now and what’s been happening in my life. That will all lead into my plans for this blog over the next several months, which are going to be tweaked a bit from what I was doing last winter.

It’s good to be back.

— ∞ —

It’s hardly rained since I last posted here.

Some days it feels so dry. The humidity is low. The deep blue September sky has transitioned to the deep blue October sky. The sun is surprisingly harsh. I’ve noticed the last few years—once I began farming—how intense the September sun is. Even though it’s usually cooler than in August, direct sunlight seems somehow merciless, more draining than during the hotter days of July and August. This year has been no exception. September was a month of almost no rain and few clouds or fog, even. Just intense sun.

In fact, July through September was the driest on record in Portland. While I’m not sure if that holds true out here on the coast as well, it’s been one of the driest summers here, too. I’d guess we’ve received maybe an inch of rain in those three months, and there’s been none so far this month. The couple rains we did receive wet things down but did little else. It never penetrated deep into the soil.

The creek we get out water from is low. The creek at the farm just down the road I worked on last year is almost dry, though there’s still enough behind the small dam to supply their water. It shocked me, though, when I walked back there about a week ago and saw the stagnant puddles and mere hint of trickle that now makes up the creek I normally know as a healthy flow. The direct and immediate connection to water out here keeps these dry days ever more present in the mind.

The pastures are brown and thin, yet the cows and sheep still seem to be finding food. We’ve been feeding hay, but not massive amounts. The animals are mostly staying out on the grass—dead as it appears—for the time being, rather than spending most their time in the barn where the hay can be found. Last week, the wind kicked up, though now it’s died back down. It was nice in the sense of variety, but it further dried things out. I could feel it on my irritated skin, my chapped lips, in a strong desire for a good rain storm that continues even now.

Of course, this is nothing like what the Midwest has seen this year. I don’t mean to be wringing my hands so much as describing the reality out here—a reality so different from the one I experienced last summer when we received semi-regular rain even during our dry months. We normally receive 90-100 inches of rain annually and the winter months are dominated by clouds and rain. It’s odd to have gone so long without any good storms, without the occasional dumping of precipitation. It feels so antithetical to this climate. In many ways, of course, it’s been nice and I think a number of vegetable growers are appreciating it, even if they are starting to feel the need for a good rain storm. But working now on the animal side of things, I see these dry pastures and hear about the hay bills, eye the barely-trickling creeks and see this flip side of the coin—the danger of too little water. Luckily, we had a wet spring, so we had a good base from which to deal with this dryness.

Still, it’s been interesting seeing the reactions even of my friends who hate all the rain we get in the Northwest. Most all of us are feeling ready for a storm—even those who aren’t eyeing a low creek or worried about feeding animals. Sure, we love the sun we get—especially with how limited it is in this region—but the reality is that we’re all adapted to a climate that just normally isn’t this dry, even during our natural drought months. The leaves are turning and dropping, and yet it still doesn’t quite seem like fall. The wind and rain is missing. The dark dreariness. That constant wet chill. It’s not the loveliest sensation in the world, lord knows, but it’s what should be. And so it’s missed.

In 1952, after receiving only a half inch of rain from July through September in Portland, it stayed relatively dry all through November. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this year; it’s not appearing that it will. The rain is supposed to start tomorrow and we may be in for as much as five or six inches over the next few days here in the coastal range, though the models seem to be backing off that extensive a scenario. A possible deluge, perhaps. A good rain, almost surely. A reprieve, for sure.

“It’ll make up for it,” one old farmer’s said to me about this dry weather. I suspect that’s true. While the rain beginning tomorrow may be followed up by another dry spell to close out the month, I suspect November’s going to be a soaker. It probably won’t be long before we all forget just how dry this summer has been. It won’t be long before we’ll be dying for a cold, sunny day—anything to remind us that the sun’s still out there, that our little star hasn’t collapsed and disappeared. Anything for a break from the constant dreary drizzle and downpour, the multiple different types of rain, each of which we have names for here, sometimes all of them falling in the same day. But still, I can’t wait for that first heavy rain and wind, to see these falling leaves through a prism of water, to hear the creeks roaring again and watch the mud and muck build, as annoying as it is. It’s not the most glorious of conditions, but it’s ours. I look forward to that (literal) cold comfort.

Posted October 11, 2012 by Joel Caris in Farm Life

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9 responses to “The Reintroduction: Impending Rain

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  1. Nice to have you back, Joel, I always enjoy your columns. I hope all is well with you, besides the drought, of course! Here (North of Pittsburgh, PA) we are having a most beautiful Fall, the loveliest since I’ve been here. It has been a bit dryer, but no drought, thank God. The garden did well this summer, and now are the beautiful squashes!
    I hope you get your rain, and soon, and that your creek runs full.
    Many Blessings, Heather

    • Thanks, Heather! Thankfully, the drought hasn’t gotten to the point of causing serious trouble. No lack of running water and we’ve still got feed for the animals (and ourselves!) It’s more just this strong desire for a change in the weather pattern as much as anything else. It really helps me sympathize for those who have experienced serious, devastating droughts in other parts of the country!

      Glad you’re having a beautiful Fall and congratulation on the squash! I think a lot of my winter squash failed to ripen fully–I’m trying to finish it off in the greenhouse. We’ll see. Otherwise, though, the garden did well for me, too. Since I was able to water, most things grew quite well with all the sunshine. And I’ve got tons of potatoes, which will make for plenty of satisfying winter eating.

      Thanks for coming back after the long break, and thanks for the well-wishes in regards to the rain! I’ll keep you updated on it.

      Joel

  2. Good to have you back my friend (and I feel that you are, even tho’ we’ve never met). It’s also been a long dry spell here in the ‘State of Jefferson’ – which includes Jackson and Josephine counties here in southern Oregon – but that’s not too unusual hereabouts. I think we’ve been close to 90 days with nary a drop. The weather-watchers are predicting a few showers this weekend and more on Monday. And even tho’ the area where I live is well supplied with a large-scale open ditch irrigation system, it’ll be a good thing to settle the dust, pollen and smoke residue that has permeated the air for awhile.

    Like you, I can hardly wait for the first ‘three-day-soaker’.

    • Thank you, Martin! I consider you a friend, as well. Yeah, seems the storms will be good to clear the air a bit, as well. We haven’t had too much trouble out here, but it’s been a touch smoky once or twice while I was working a market in Portland. Hope you’ve had some showers already. I don’t know if the soaker they’re predicting for tomorrow evening into Monday is supposed to hit you, as well, but I wish you good rain.

  3. I’ve noticed that as I have grown older the weather effects me more. I lived in Seattle for a while in my early 20′s. The gray didn’t bother me then (of course I stayed stoned most of the time while I was there). We just had a three day period of gray overcast with no sun. My wife and I both got into a funk and couldn’t figure out why. We finally the sun came out and we were both suddenly fine again. I gotta say that was the first time I ever experienced such a thing…not the weather, just begin affected by it like that. It may just be that I’m paying attention to the natural world more these days.

    I think we’ve gotten more rain this year than we usually get. We got a lot, that I know. Definitely no drought in the Upstate of SC this year.

    • Over the last few years of working outside, I’ve certainly paid more attention to the effects of weather on me, as well. I imagine the effects have been more pronounced, too, just because I’ve been more in it and exposed to it. The rain started yesterday but I was working (part in it and part not) and so I think the work—which involved much time on a tractor—proved a greater impact on my mood than the weather. Today, though, I just spent the day inside and definitely felt a certain emotional restlessness that I think was very much influenced by the rain outside. I imagine it’ll fade as I settle into the fall and winter, but for now I had become pretty accustomed to consistent sun with just the occasional overcast or foggy day.

      It would be interesting to know if you’re just paying more attention now or if it really is having more of an effect than it used to.

  4. Glad you’re back! I saw you posted over at the Arch Druid Report and thought there might be something, here.

    I live outside of Chehalis, up about the 620 foot level. Night before last, it finally began to rain. The night of the 11th. Yesterday morning, it was still drizzling, a bit. But, I had to drive cross county to visit some friends (training for a weeks house / animal sitting) and saw a man discing his field. He was still raising a cloud of dust. By the time I got home, there were puddles of standing water in the yard. Cliff Mass, a Pacific Northwest meteorologist has a pretty interesting blog. His post for 10/8 discusses how our mini drought effects people psychologically.

    http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/

    I’m a native Northwesterner, so, I need my rain and gray. I often say I have webbed feet and moss in my armpits. Washington’s motto is “won’t rust.” How can you tell someone from “away?” They carry umbrellas. :-) . I lived in S. California for a couple of years back in the early 70s. I had to bet back up here. The rain. The rich black earth. The fir and cedar you can smell, even over the jet fuel at PDX. I think any kind of changeless weather makes me twitchy. There have been a few years where the rain and gray went for too long and I got restless. For those not from here, we can have months where there might not be much rain, or, lots of mist but a consistent lead gray sky. It can be a trade off. Rain and warmer temperatures or, clear and sunny but cold as hell.

    I had a pretty good summer, considering it’s my first year “in the boonies.” I conquered the blackberries, at least temporarily, with the help of two borrowed goats. Cutting and feeding them blackberries kept me “on task.” Now I’m running around spraying sprouts with mostly straight bleach with a bit of salt and dish soap. Not exactly organic, but better and cheaper then that nasty stuff that comes out of a lab. There’s 8 gallons froze up in the freezer and 6 large jars of jam in the fruit closet. I also have 12 gallons of apples in the freezer and 5 jars of apple butter. Several bottles of plum jam. It was my first adventure in canning. I found an old canning kettle in the cellar and several boxes of jars out in a shed.

    Didn’t get anything in the ground. But, living here awhile, I have a better idea of what I want to grow and where. More variety, next year. I have a new kitten. She’s at the exasperating, fun stage. Since I call this place “Wuthering Heights aka the Old MacIntire Place” I’ve named her Nell after a character in the book. If she turns out to be a very grand cat, I’ll call her Mrs. Dean. I guess I’ll resume my nightly slug patrol. One month last spring, I nailed 1,958. Saw a bobcat in the yard last month. I can hear elk bugling. I’m looking forward to the hummingbirds coming back in the spring. Want a few chickens next year. Maybe a goat the year after. Life is good.

    • My goodness, Lew, life for you sounds pretty fantastic. I just went through a crazed canning spree of my own that I’ll be writing about soon. Hope to get a bit more done before I wind it down. It was not quite my first adventure in canning, but pretty close. Certainly my first “season” of canning, so to speak. I loved it.

      Congratulations on the blackberry. Conquering those is impressive, indeed. It seems like they’re taking over the farm here. They’re kind of taking over the house I live in—I’m going to have to find some time to knock them back at some point before they really get growing again next year (not that they look too dormant at the moment, for that matter.) Congratulations on the kitten, as well. I’ve known that exasperating, fun stage. Enjoy it, even in the exasperating moments. It’s a hell of a stage.

      I’ve never seen a bobcat. I’ve always wanted to. I imagine one day I’ll stumble across one, though hopefully not too close. I did notice a lot of hummingbirds around the house this year and they’re always a joy to see. They’re creatures that consistently amaze me.

      Chickens are great, of course, but have you also considered a duck or two? I’ve come to prefer the richer taste of their eggs and they love this climate—when the chickens are wet and miserable, they’re about as happy as can be. I suspect our ducks have been overjoyed the last couple days with the rain. They were probably getting pretty restless with all this damn sun. Speaking of which, I’m with you in being a Northwesterner through and through. I love the rain and could never live in southern California or a similarly year-round sunny place. Perhaps that came through in this blog post. Just three-ish months of near-straight sun started to make me a little crazy.

      I have to admit something, though: I’ve been known to walk around with an umbrella in Portland in the past. In my defense, I didn’t take it out for errands so much as for long walks around the city while it was raining. The biggest issue was probably that I didn’t have great rain gear at the time. But I always enjoyed an hour or two long stroll around the city in the rain—particularly at night. Portland’s a lovely city to walk around in.

      Thanks for the Cliff Mass link. I know of him and have been to his blog a few times, but I’ve never gotten into the habit of reading it regularly. Maybe now I will. I check in with the KPTV weather blog run by Mark Nelsen from time to time and always enjoy my time there, even when I’m completely confused about what they’re talking about. Cliff Mass gets mentioned there now and again.

      Good luck with the slug hunting! I think you should go for a 2,000 hit month.

  5. Pingback: The Reintroduction: A Pantry Full of Jars « Of The Hands

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