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.