We were up late the other night, worrying about the drought that is shriveling our corn and beans, and so we turned on Craig Ferguson, hoping for some silly diversion. Unfortunately, we tuned in at the commercial break which–wouldn’t you know it—was promoting Valley Irrigation Systems.
We have done everything in our power to make it rain. We washed the old convertible and left it sitting outside with the top down. We left the hoe laying in the garden and the hammock out under the big hedge tree. We even left the windows open when we went into town.
But nothing’s worked. And yes, we’re getting nervous. The pond has dropped a foot. We’ve lost two trees so far. Our corn has curled its leaves into sharp points in self-defense, so that it looks like a field of spiky yucca plants. Though it is a foot shorter than it should be, it already is starting to tassel. Our stunted soybeans look healthier, but they are starting to bloom, too. We keep telling them, “Stop! Stop! Don’t rush into plant sex before you’re ready.” But they aren’t listening to us– the heat and drought are stressing them into reproduction. But without rain to help them pollinate, they won’t yield well.
We’re hearing of farmers who already have given up and plowed their crops under. But we prefer to wait for rain, like characters in a T.S. Eliot poem. While we do, we try to put things in perspective:
- The bad news is that we do not control the weather. The good news is that we do control ourselves, and we can institute a moratorium on worrying.
- The bad news is that is has not rained at the Perry Farm for three weeks. The good news is that we have two wells, one to provide water for the house, and the other for the garden, flowers, bushes, and trees. We also have the pond for back up, and we can buy water from the little town of Vermilion if we have to.
- The bad news is that the corn and beans are shorter than we’ve ever seen them at this time of the year. The good news is that the rows are still so wide, I found an arrowhead on the ground as I walked among them, whispering words of encouragement to the plants.
- The bad news is that we already have a water furnace to keep us cool, so we cannot get our 30% tax credit. The good news is that it’s 30 years old, so we likely will have the opportunity to replace it. (We are so lucky!)
- The bad news is that the heat has turned my lovely gourmet lettuces bitter. Even hot, sweet bacon dressing can’t disguise this, so we have parted ways until the fall. The good news is that the chard tastes bitter too, so I no longer have to humor Keith by choking it down.
- The bad news is that it hasn’t rained for three weeks, and the temperatures have averaged 100 degrees for the last ten days. The good news is there are virtually no weeds in the garden, save some purslane and bindweed. These plant versions of cockroaches and vampires do not take “hoe” for an answer.
- The bad news is that the grass crunches when we walk on it. The good news is that this reminds us of the good old days when we used to eat gluten-filled shredded wheat biscuits, the large ones that came in waxed paper wrappers. (Ah, to be a child again, back when somebody else was in charge of the universe!)
- The bad news is that there are so few people out in the heat that the deer flies and horse flies have decided that even I taste good. The good news is that now I can empathize better with my husband, who has been the beasties’ sole target for many years. He has even promised to teach me his secret “Deer Fly” dance.
- The bad news is that it is so hot that even I, who rarely even glisten, am sweating like a pig. The good news is that I’m becoming a connoisseur of shade, able to distinguish by the spread of a tree how much cooler the air beneath it is. I also am developing a good relationship with squirrels which, tempted with a strategically placed bit of food, can be encouraged to whip past, fanning a breeze with their tails.
- The bad news is the heat is making us dull and irritable. The good news is that we’ve decided to invest in a couple of those cast-iron bathtubs like we see in the Cialis commercials. We shall perch them on the hill, fill them with cold well water, and sit in them while the sun sets. Neighbors and passers by, beware!
For the foreseeable future, when we’re not waiting for rain and looking for the silver lining, you’ll find us hauling water from the well to the garden, spilling it into long trenches Keith has dug between the rows. While much of the farm looks more and more like a wasteland, we have a little paradise here: zucchinis and zephyr squash and cucumbers, fleshy as well muscled thighs; basil, tomatoes, and shallots, each one ready to leap into the pasta sauce pot; broccoli and beets, destined for a goat cheese salad; six varieties of sunflowers and two rows of giant zinnias, their colors magnified by the heat. We even have our own Edenic serpent, a family of rabbits which, deprived of green grass, is living off our green beans, which they have munched to the ground.
The bad news is that we have to wait for the water table to recover before we can refill the tank.
The good news is that while we wait, we get to pick the first ripe cherry tomatoes. And nothing ever tasted so sweet and so cool.