Friday, August 31, 2012


Saturday night (August 25th) it finally rained.  Not much of a rain, only about an inch, but it came gently and all soaked in.  The following day, another three quarters of an inch or so was added to that, settling the dust here at my place for the first time in well over a month, even though people living one mile east of me claim to have had more rain than that on three or four occasions during that time..  Strange how much difference a mile makes in the weather.

All through this extremely hot and dry summer, I have been carrying water to the plants with no hope of making them produce, just hoping to keep them alive in anticipation of a cool rain.  Please do not doubt that I have often been discouraged, disgusted, exhausted, depressed and down right angry at the sometimes obvious futility of carrying so much water for what might well be nothing.  I had begun to count the myth of rain and cool temperatures right up there with Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.  One question became always present.  "IS IT REALLY WORTH WATERING UNTIL THE RAIN COMES?"

When the weather finally cooled a little, my hope was renewed somewhat, but it certainly didn't leave time to rest from watering.  My special "pets", the pumpkin vines, had been being watered every day while the other plants were on a two or three day rotation.  With cooler temperatures, the pumpkin vines began to look better and actually grow a bit.  The Saturday night and Sunday rain made all the difference.  The vines burst into growth and began to bloom.  Taking no chances on bees and other insects (and I am normally a major advocate of letting nature take its course) I made certain the first female bloom was thoroughly pollinated.  This was done on Monday afternoon.

The pictures (taken Thursday evening) do not do justice to the results.  The largest of the small pumpkins is now a bit larger than a softball, and the vines are going wild with growth and blooms.  Today,, so far we have had heavy mist and light showers all morning, and there is hope of heavier rain through the rest of the day and tonight into tomorrow, thanks to the hurricane turned tropical depression passing nearby.

So for the question of whether or not watering and hoping were worth it,  Right now it feels like a resounding YES.  With not only the pumpkins doing so well, but also tomatoes and peppers blooming again, I am glad I watered enough to keep them all alive until the rain came.   As an added bonus, the green beans and summer squash I planted Saturday, just before the rain, are up and today's moisture should get them off o a good start.  With a little good fortune, the cupboard will be stocked from the garden this winter.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


As you probably know from previous posts, I have been hauling water and feed to horses through the summer.  Only one of the horses actually belong to me, the other two belonging to my daughter, but it hasn't made sense for both of us to have to take care of horses separately, so I have been taking care of all three. 

Monday evening, when I took the feed and water to the pasture, my horse, Thunder, was not feeling well.  He seemed tired, lethargic and a little disoriented, not at all like the day before when he was energetic and actually trotted to the feed trough.  Even more unusual was the fact that he wanted  to be petted.  He has always been willing to be petted but has never asked for it.  With all that, there was nothing to indicate what might be wrong and he didn't seem to be in any pain, so I hoped he would be better the next day.

Tuesday evening, Thunder didn't show up to be fed.  I found him in a wooded area where he would often stand on hot days.  He had simply laid down, stretched out and quietly passed.  Still no sign of what might have been wrong other than the obvious fact that when I fed the night before, he had been saying goodbye and preparing to die. 

I had bought Thunder from my son several  years ago but had never managed time to work with him (he wasn't broke to ride and breaking horses takes time and devotion that just wasn't available).  Thinking back on the amount of time I had had this horse, and even farther back to when a neighbor had tried to sell him to me years before, and how long it had been since that neighbor had passed away, it seems that Thunder would have been at least thirty years old.   In disbelief I went through the time frame again.  Sure enough, the neighbor in question passed away well over twenty years ago, and I had considered buying the horse a few years before that.  Time passes so quickly and is so easy to loose track of.

It seems that the summer heat, dust in the dwindling pasture and his advanced age were just too much to overcome.  The only bright spot is that with hay scarce and feed prices rising, I won't have to worry if he has enough to eat.  Even though Thunder was not a working horse and did not officially contribute to the farm, he was always there, a good friend and at times a playful nuisance.  He will be missed terribly.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

(DF) COOLER FINALLY!!!!! but not much rain yet

Late Thursday evening (August 9th) a cool front  finally made it through, bringing rain to the area.  Notice I said the area instead of my place.  I got a sprinkle in the evening, while I actually watched the bulk of the rain pass by to the east and enjoyed the cool damp air from it.  On my way to work later (yes, they have me on night shift temporarily), I found myself driving on wet pavement and looking at puddles a mile east of my road.  The glorious rain we could hear from inside the store for a half hour, later in the night, split in a north-south line over my place with a decent rain on both sides but only a quarter inch here.  Believe me, I have never been so grateful for a quarter inch of rain.

With the rain came the cool.  After over a month of temperatures over 100 degrees and several of those days around 110 degrees, Friday's high of 94 and the Saturday morning low of 60 felt a bit like winter.  That was a week ago and the time between has remained cooler (highs in the 90's) but still mostly dry, though there has been rain "in the area".

This Thursday night (August 16th) was different.  I actually got a little rain, almost an inch in fact.  That was less than the amount in town 5 miles away, but excellent just the same.  Unfortunately, Anna didn't get a drop of rain where she lives, the storms just kept passing her by completely.  We still need rain both places but the forecast for the next week looks like all the rain is west of Tulsa, and we are both east.  Enough of complaining about the weather and on to better things.

Ok, still a little complaining to do.  The heat and lack of rain are absolutely devastating to water supplies.  More watering to do and less water to do it with.  There are two wells here, one for the house, complete with electric pump and an old hand dug well with a hand pump, which I use for watering livestock and plants.  Neither well is particularly productive, though generally adequate.  Notice I said "generally".  With the necessity of hauling a 55 gallon barrel of water to the horses every day and about that much carried to the garden, the old well has become inadequate for the task.  It now only produces enough for the horses, leaving the garden dry.  The house well only supplies enough for the house, so no help there.

With lack of  rain and limited well water, there can't help but be plenty of consideration of alternative sources.  Though I have not yet prepared a viable rain capture system, there are barrels under the eves of buildings to catch a good amount.  Problem is that you can't capture rain that doesn't fall.  With self-sufficiency in mind, it doesn't make sense, even if the money was available, to hook on to an already overloaded rural water system.  That leads to considerations of better conservation of what is already available.

I have never been an extreme water waster in terms of what is considered acceptable water usage in our society, but we could all do better.  When I look closely at water usage, I see that a daily shower, though nice and hygienic, runs quite a lot of water down the drain.  Likewise, washing dishes and the routine rinsing of this and that while cooking adds up to a fair amount of water.  Even flushing the toilet several times a day gets rid of quite a few gallons of perfectly good water.  With these water losses identified, I determined to find a solution.

Water from showers is easy, I just plugged the bathtub during the shower, then dip the water out into buckets and carry it to the garden.  The use of environmentally friendly (or better yet home made) soap is better for the plants and at least they get some moisture.  As for the kitchen sink, dishpans work well and it is surprising how much water can be recycled in that way.  Flushing the toilet, on the other hand, takes a bit larger leap.  My answer, which saves a lot of water and has other, more far reaching environmental and agricultural benefits, is to simply compost.

Before you say YUCK!!! and decide that I have finally gone too far, there is a book I highly recommend that you read.  "The Humanure Handbook" by Joseph Jenkins, is a well researched, well written volume packed with information that brings all the technical and statistical details to the front and also (and this is the important part) translates all the academics into the simplest, most practical form possible so you don't have to have a degree in environmental science to use it.  Even if you never use a composting toilet, you should read this book as a really good guide for other forms of composting and conservation.  It will also heighten environmental awareness, which is always a good thing.  With that being said, I will save the details of this and other conservation topics for future posts.

On a much lighter and (in my opinion) more cheerful note, my garden has produced a bit, in spite of the weather.  In the midst of everything, I have managed to can some green beans, several quarts of tomatoes, some salsa, and have dried okra and sun dried tomatoes in olive oil to show for the hard work.  The tomato plants are still alive and just waiting for enough rain to start producing again.  The garden is also ready to be replanted for fall crops, and now that I am back working days, I may actually be able to get some planting done after work, especially if it rains enough that my time isn't spent watering.

UPDATE:   I spoke with Anna a few minutes ago and she told me she got the really good rain that passed to my southwest last night.  Maybe she can take a few days off from watering.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

(DF) HOT, DRY, BUGGY, ETC.; but we are still here

As you may have noticed, Anna and I have not posted recently, so I wanted to take this opportunity to say that we are still here, still alright, and most importantly, still together (we just celebrated the first anniversary of our relationship on Thursday).  Though it was not the celebration we had planned, we did get to spend it together and it is wonderful to look back at the year that has so quickly passed.

Now for reasons (not excuses) why we have not posted recently.  To begin with, Anna's computer is still down and her stone-age laptop, like my stone-age desktop, just doesn't handle working in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.  By the time either of us is forced by the heat to take a break,  it is already to hot for the computers to work.

Time and energy are other factors to be dealt with.  With the long stretch of record breaking heat and record low rainfall in our area, most of our time is being spent watering plants, trees and livestock.  No, we are not getting a lot of production, but in this heat, the goal is to just keep things alive until it cools off and rains.  Today is wonderfully cool by the way, at least so far.  It  has just passed the 90 degree mark, and though quite humid, is still better than the 100 degrees plus that it has been this time of day for awhile.

Between the heat, drought, and what I jokingly refer to as a grasshopper plague of near biblical proportion, it is amazing that anything is left to do here.  Actually though the grasshoppers are most plentiful, they aren't quite on a biblical scale.  However, it looks like the small apple trees will have to be replanted thanks to the grasshoppers eating all the bark off of them.  Managed to keep the deer off them just to save them for the bugs.

On the up side of the situation, my tomatoes have been producing up until the last few days, and okra is still going.  I have actually had a chance to can and dry some tomatoes and have dried a bit of okra.  As an added treat, I found a wild plum tree which I didn't know was there and was able to make several jars fo plum butter, which will be great this winter.

Bottom line is that it could be worse, we have a lot to be grateful for and there is hope for more production in the fall (if the drought breaks in time for a fall garden).  We are keeping notes and taking some pictures so we can bring you all up to date when it cools off and rains so we aren't spending all our time hauling water.  
We are learning lots of things to help us through such times and are making some interesting adjustments, all of which we well share soon, so please bear with us and check back from time to time until we are back to our regular posting schedule.