Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Life Isn't Landscaping

back creek drought
Originally uploaded by Contrary Goddess.

I want to tell you about the drought. But what do I say? It didn’t rain in June at all, and it was dry then. In July we had about normal rain, as I remember it anyway. At least we had some rain. And since then, almost nothing. And temperatures in the 90s most every day of August and September and even into October. We’ve had a mist a couple times in October, and maybe one sprinkle. There was water in a puddle after one sprinkle.

Our big huge creeks are trickles now, but we’re thankful they are still flowing. A lot of them aren’t. People have ponds to water their cattle . . . and they are dry. Virginia farmers (and the state through grants) spent a lot of money in the last few years fencing cattle out of creeks and putting in water systems based on either RAM pumps or springs . . . and they are dry. In some places, it is so dry the roots of the grasses are dying.

We’ve kept some things going in the garden by watering. Our corn and potatoes, staple crops, made before it got so bad. But there are no fall seedbeds because it was too hot and too dry (even with watering) for them to germinate.

Our springs have stopped flowing. One isn’t entirely dry. We haul water from the creek. We bathe in the creek and have for months now. We take a load of laundry when we visit the in-laws and bring it home to hang it out. We don’t flush. We don’t mop the floor . . . well, unless we first haul water up from the creek. You might can imagine how this adds time to tasks like washing dishes, even if you have the water already up here -- you have to heat it and set up the dish pan and two sinks and wash them from cleanest to dirtiest. I can do pretty much a whole day of dishes on about 3 gallons of water but it takes some coordination. And we still cook from scratch because with food going up so much, who could afford not to? But we aren’t above resorting to the occasional use of paper plates.

Our animals are on the pasture we usually use in January. We’ll buy our first bale of hay this week and feel lucky that our supplier, a good old boy neighbor, is keeping 300 head of cattle on his other farm and says that as long as he has hay, we’ll have hay. Of course, it’ll cost about half again as much as it did the last few years. And that's if he's easy on us. I’ve never actually seen the goats hungry before. They are now. As soon as it is cool, we’ll start killing them.

It is so bad that some people are cutting trees so their cattle can eat the leaves. Of course, the leaves are about gone now. They say they try to cut a good tree so they can get a saw log out of it, and some firewood from what the cows don’t eat.

People do not understand. Hell, I don’t understand. I just know. I know that you just deal with it and you don’t complain and that life is always about change. You aren’t owed anything.

And you might starve to death.

I don’t believe anybody but me realizes that because if they did, they’d live differently. Ok, maybe there are one or two other people who get it too.

Which, it started raining, ever so lightly, Monday. Today there is a little more vigor in the precipitation. It is supposed to continue through Friday at least. This is very good. This is more rain than we’ve had in four months. We’re still at half what is normal for the year, and we were already behind then. Still, it is good. With a little water and warm temperatures, the grass will grow still. So will radishes and spinach and the like. Beets and turnips for late greens and early roots in the spring.

And tomorrow we will finally get to visit with my best friend and family!


Anonymous said...
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Alecto said...

I have no idea where my comment just went.

CG said...

maybe it'll come back. Seriously, blogger does that sometimes. Sucks.

Anonymous said...
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arcolaura said...

Hope your grass greens up again.

It looks to me like the hardships are starting to come in waves, drought some places, unusually wet weather in others, and it makes it hard for people to "get it." It will also make it hard to adapt, if it is very unpredictable, and it looks like that's the way it's going.

Alecto said...

all right, here I go trying this again: (what I think I said the first time)

You aren't alone. I have friends who have friends in Alabama who are shutting down farms and / or shipping livestock out to save their lives.

I am glad you are posting here again. I suspect you have no idea the number of lives you've touched and the difference you've made in the last three years. How many countless suburbanites have woken up to the concept of understanding where food comes from and moved right into the back yard garden.

Before I started reading here I conserved, gardened, bought locally, car pooled and fed my family food that remembered where it came from. What I did not do was share that. I shut out my unbelievably wealthy community and pretended they weren't there. I did not contribute. I did not share. I did not look. And I was not gentle.

I love who you are, I love how you live and I love your willingness to share that. I respect your passion and the edge you live on. And I love you.

Now lets see if it's posts.

Alecto said...

(and she does the happy dance)

Ren said...

Everytime I look outside (or walk out) and it's still raining I feel a slight sense of relief. What is so surprising to me, is the lack of information about how serious this drought is.
People at work were complaining about getting wet from puddles in the parking lot. Yeah, I didn't stay silent.

I just hope it keeps coming. Heavier. The cow pond (which was my emergency back up plan with a gravity filter should things get really bad) is almost gone. So much for my brilliant ideas.

Ren said...

Oh, and I forgot to say that I'm glad you finally get to see Laura!! Have fun.:)

Danielle said...

Glad to see you post—never really said goodbye because I knew you had too much to say. And I took comfort in the lower case emphasis of sabbatical.

There are signs everywhere and more people like me are getting it—getting that it's not just playing at homesteading but there are real instincts that led us here and very real issues at stake.

Our drought this year has been difficult, yet no where near what you all, Alabama, and Georgia are experiencing. We've had weather in the 90s from June through October. Our regional airports are closing, harbingers of out-of-reach oil prices.

Life as we know it is changing, and I'm glad we're on a self-reliant path. I'm even more glad that I have people further along, like you, to lead the way.

Woody said...

Prayers for a slow, steady, and persistent rain that will hang on till you post about how damned dreary the weather is. Cattle had been on hay through the late summer here. We finally seem to have busted out of the dry pattern for now, long enough to provide a modest growth spurt but not enough for another cutting.

You're absolutely correct, this is for real. I pray that folks start to "get it" but I doubt most give a damn. It still amazes me when people have not a clue where their food comes, or water, or heat, or electric. They are just consumers. Nothing more.

Peace and prayer for rain

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I get it---and if we hear people complain about puddles they get a serious "talking to" from us.
I don't know what will happen---but at this point I think it is way beyond what we can control.
Hopefully things will change for the better and this isn't something that will be the normal.
Good luck---I know from where you come.

CG said...

As I'm doing dishes, under (of course) extreme conservation measures, I'm thinking of the difference in doing this when you judge the results by the water is that is in your cistern and in your creek than when you judge the results by abstract numbers on a meter. It is the difference in being The Donald and playing monopoly. Playing the water conservation game is like playing the how many miles my car can get game -- it is a game ultimately and doesn't change your habits or challenge anyone's assumptions. It remains firmly in the comfortable expectations zone. It is (yet another) way to pretend to do something while accomplishing nothing.

And somehow I always think the pretense of doing something (Al Gore comes to mind) is worse than actively doing nothing (Dick Cheney comes to mind).

Anyway, that's what I was thinking of doing the dishes on three gallons of water.

Alecto said...

All right, you leave me no other public option! I'm laughing my ass off because you write in your profile that your industry is accounting and I'm so so so afraid I might actually get it. Also, no fair posting a picture of your clone!

CG said...

I changed the photo and so must have unwittingly changed the industry. Although like you when I think about it, I rather "get" the accounting thing, although really, maybe not. I've been over there and there are no decent options, not even "other" or "NOTA" so I picked "not specified".

And you don't like the Halloween black cat witch photo with the bat ornament daughter made for me?

laura said...

wow, i hadn't visited here in a bit since the sabbatical and so i was glad to accidentally click this link instead of the other.

i just did a post on my blogger page (i've moved back to blogger now know how i like moving). i mentioned just ever so briefly that i learned a lot up at your place about water conservation. i'm ever so thankful for that. more than just about anything. the eye-opening aspect of it. i often get tired of having my eyes open all the time and so i'll shut them for what i think will only be a brief time and then years go by while i sleepwalk through it all. thanks for opening my eyes again...just like you always do. it's so much more powerful in real life than in email though, so therefore more effective.

CG said...

I am so curious la . . . what did you learn? And how is it different in person. Perhaps your explanation will open someone else's eyes.

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laura said...

i'm not even sure how to put it into words. it's different in person because you can see it. well that's not helpful is it.

it's made me look at how i use water, especially doing dishes since that's something i did up there with you. the not flushing is something we've always tried to practice. but i think it's so easy to think that you do your lunch or supper dishes and that's that for that batch of water and you let it run on down the drain. i've been reusing my dish water more...even when it gets a little cold. something i never did before.

i guess what's happened is i'm thinking about it a lot more and trying to come up with different ways to not waste so much.

it's really easy to dump water out of a cup you're done with or if it's gotten something nasty in it. instead it can be poured into the dish water or over a plant or even a bucket to save until you need to flush.

again, it's all these little things that add up. i guess just the fact that i'm paying more attention to those little things. those little habits that can be so easily changed.

we've always had the lowest water bill in our apt. complex...well, of the people i talked to anyway. even though we had more people in our family. so we've wasted less than most. but we've wasted nonetheless.

i think the best thing about staying with my parents is that they have no dishwasher (well, except for me and my dad that is..taha). i've relearned how relaxing it is to wash dishes by hand. i'd become accustomed to using the dishwasher about every 2 or 3 days. and i can see now that even though that is less than most it is still terribly wasteful.

i don't know what else to add. just that i'm glad in a sort of weird way that there is this drought. without it i might not have gotten the opportunity to start thinking more deeply about water than i did before.

i think it's been a wake up call for a lot of people. a little slap to get us thinking and doing differently. i know no one personally who has been as affected as you and yours. in fact, for most people nothing has changed. not even the ever so subtle and steady increase in the price of gas and food has really started to get to people yet.

but i'll betcha if we turned on the tap tomorrow morning and nothing came, well we'd all be wide awake then wouldn't we?

CG said...

yeah, a dry tap would have folks up in arms. Most of the time I think "water conservation" is over-rated because most of the time there is no shortage. So when we HAVE water, I feel NOTHING about flushing! But just your comment about how you can keep the end of that cup of water to use as flush water . . . I'm thinking other people may not know how to flush a toilet with a bucket (well, really about a liter) of water. So maybe that's something to think about.