How I Ended Our Drought

By Cam Mather

It was interesting to see our reader’s reactions to my drought blog (rant) this week. Michelle and I debated posting it, but we finally thought ‘you know, if you just keep writing shiny happy blogs about how awesome country life is people are going to think you’re either on Prozac or that such a perfect idyllic state really exists.’

Some people didn’t like the whining. Point taken. But I didn’t force anyone to read it. Lots of people offered support. Some expressed concern. Our good friends Hans and Carolyn immediately called and invited us for dinner and a swim. Apparently they thought I was pretty close to the edge. And there were days when I really felt I was. I cannot believe how ground down a prolonged drought leaves a farmer feeling.

But here’s the weird thing. We posted that on Wednesday and on Thursday morning it began to rain. And it’s been a good rain.

I know lots of people who were doing all sorts of superstitious things to get it to rain. Leaving the car windows down. Leaving laundry on the clothesline. I kept leaving the windows in the office by my computer open, because in the summer we only seem to get rain that rolls in with wind in the middle of the night, and I have to drag my blurry-eyed body to the guesthouse to close windows.

I’d been playing these games for 5 weeks and nothing worked. So now I’ve found the key. You just write a whiny ranting blog and the clouds arrive and dump rain.

Michelle had said rain was forecast, but I’d been hearing that for a month and had finally chosen to never listen to such a prediction because it was just depressing to be a little hopeful and then have no rain arrive.

So yesterday was my day to play with water all day. I did some weeding, but I spent some of the day moving water around from rain barrels to totes. The totes hold 250 gallons and the rain barrels hold 50 gallons. So the barrels were full early but the totes had a long way to go. So I started moving water to the totes with buckets in a wheelbarrow. Apparently you can’t use on a solar pump on a rainy day.  The tote on the horse barn does not have as large a roof area draining into it, so next year I’ll move it to the guest house. And it was rainy while I was doing this and I was soaked and it was awesome.

It technically probably wasn’t the most productive use of my time, but after 40 days in the desert I needed it. My soul needed it.

And now I’ve got more than 1,000 gallons of water on reserve and because of the rain I don’t have to water tomorrow. I actually should water because of our sandy soil. When I dug potatoes for our CSA yesterday morning they were very dry under the narrow wet layer of soil above them.

tote-rain-barrels-Jasper

Even our new dog Jasper seemed to relish the break from the heat and sun. We’ve been gradually letting him spend more and more time off the leash, as he gets more at home here. So today he would sprint from the chicken coop (where he can watch chicken TV endlessly) to where I was shuttling water, then back to the coop, then back to me. And he doesn’t saunter. He races. Border collies have one speed. Fast. He’s actually quite exhausting to be around. He is an exceptional soccer player and when I’ve had enough ball play and sit on the front porch and clean garlic, he continues to play for a long time. He pushes the ball with his nose. He kicks it. He moves it back and forth. Eventually he grabs it in his mouth and brings it back to me. He sits at the bottom of the stairs. He lets the ball drop. It rolls away down the sidewalk, and he’s right back up chasing it and the soccer play begins again. It’s like have a toddler around only he moves much faster and scares raccoons out of the corn. I don’t know, maybe some toddlers do scare raccoons.

soccer-dog

soccer-dog2

The CSA is going very well. We are getting exceptional feedback from the members and it’s very gratifying. I’m always quite amazed by how great everything looks in the boxes as we organize them. I’m not amazed because I know I can grow attractive vegetables. “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook” (which is now available in color as an eBook) reinforced this for me. It’s more how you start mentally thinking of the garden after such a prolonged drought. You know it’s not where it could be, but low and behold, after all the watering and effort, the final product looks pretty good. And having our members let us know they are enjoying it is well worth the effort.

Sunflower-Farm-CSA-week7

It takes me back to my days as a desktop publisher and the catalogs that I used to produce for one of my customers. It didn’t matter how great it was, I always got the call after 5,000 of them had been printed in color that they’d found something I missed. I might have missed it, but since it was their business ultimately they had to proof it. And they always did a great job of finding errors; right after they took the first printed one out of the box.

Running the CSA we’re getting much more immediate and positive feedback. At the end of the season we’ll get everyone’s input in a survey. I know I’ve had weak areas this year. My early brassicas, broccoli and cauliflower, just would not form heads properly in this heat. I’ve continued to plant them and think we’ll have some by the end of the season, but in other cooler years I’d have beautiful broccoli by now. Some years you win, some you lose. That’s the deal in a CSA. You share in the harvest. Our corn is ridiculously early as are our tomatoes, thanks in part to the new greenhouses, so it should even out by the end.

So the fog is lifting from my sunbaked brain after a day in the rain and clouds. And by September as we’re harvesting up a storm, the drought will be forgotten… or not.

10 Responses to “How I Ended Our Drought”

  • Hi Connie! I wish you lived closer as I would gladly give you all the zucchini you could eat! Every day I go out to check on our plants and every day I come back to the house with my arms LADEN with zucchini! I’m sure my CSA members are wondering what to do with it all! There’s no secret… I guess they just like this “drought prone” area we live in!

  • Thanks Karla! I had tried that trick too… numerous times…. to no avail! 🙂

  • Thanks Kitty. How are things in NE Tennessee?

  • Hi Antoinette! Ya, sorry about the blurry photos but Jasper moves so quickly we are hard-pressed to get a sharp photo! And yes, his boundless energy and enthusiasm, is wonderful!

  • Antoinette:

    Cam and Michelle, delighted for you that the rain finally came. I know it did our garden the world of good. It was such a pleasure to see the blurry pictures of a dog in play. Such fun! What a great contribution to the raising of your spirits, this fun partner in you life.

  • Kitty H:

    Here in NE Tennessee, we’re delighted you got rain.

  • Karla:

    Actually, God made it rain but I completely hear you w/ the games we play to try & get it to rain! I always found that as soon as I had thoroughly watered my garden it was guaranteed to rain! I’m so glad you were able to get some relief from the drought!

  • Cam, you’ve got zucchini! How do you manage that? I’ve been trying to grow golden zucchini in my greenhouse (up here in Sudbury) for several years now and they just won’t go! Well, I did get a handful my first year–but since then they’ve all aborted on the vine. What’s the secret??? Hoping it’s a matter of pollination (because we seem to be short on bees or maybe the bees don’t like to cross the chicken wire doors) this year I’ve been hand pollinating all the female blossoms I see. It seems to be working great for the hubbards and potentially for the pumpkins, but the zucchini–HELP!

  • Gerrit Botha:

    Cam, I agree completely that in these blog posts you should reflect accurately and without varnish on your experiences, whatever they may be. Otherwise it wouldn’t be real and we wouldn’t appreciate it as much. I’m very happy for you that it rained and your water storage is full again. Enjoy the rest of the summer.

  • Cathy:

    Some of mi catolagos giv prisez for the mosr errers fownd. Sum poeple ar naturols at it. I have rain barrels but had not considered totes, the new portable cistern. When our bodies dehydrate, we shrivel up like a dried up potato too. Our brains too, from lack of water. Our heads sweat more than most of our body. Keep it covered with a somberoo, cowboy hat, turban or asian wolven hat. Other cultures do it for a reason, not for fashion.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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