Glorious weather this last week and a little eerie, similar to when hurricanes are around and they suck all the moisture up into their circulation, creating strangely clear skies with clouds moving in directions completely different than normal. None the less we have been enjoying almost sweat free work and getting things done in the afternoons that we would normally just put off because it would be just too beastly to be out “there”. At some point you know the other shoe must drop and so it did this week. That shoe being the continuing and deepening drought. Sunday I was going down to turn the irrigation on and and found the gravity feed line, that we use to run water out of the creek to help keep the pumping pond full, was not running. This happens from time to time, especially when the creek flow is very low. I walked back up to the head of the field to check the creek and the line to find the creek not running at all. This is not the first time we have seen the creek dry up but it is very unusual (it has happened maybe 5 times in 26 years) and is a sure sign of seriously dry conditions.
This drought is one of those insidious ones where it is not really apparent unless you are trying to keep plants alive and producing. We think of most droughts as hot monsters that clamp down and it doesn’t rain at all for weeks. This one is tricky, a little cool weather here to lull you into a false sense of comfort, a bit of rain there to make you say to yourself “well it rained just the other day”. With the creek dry we are now down to using the last above ground water we have. The “upper pond” as we refer to it is about two months worth of water when full, but after months of evaporation it was down about two feet already. That was before I ran its water down hill to the pumping pond yesterday as it was less than half full. We can refill the pumping pond about 4 times from the other until it is dry too. Maybe six weeks of irrigation. So it goes, daily watering to keep it all happy, cutting off crops as soon as we decide they are done, checking for leaks, deciding which crops are marginal and maybe won’t get any water at all or we won’t plant for fall as there just isn’t enough water to go around. There are good things about droughts too, especially for us organic growers. When it’s dry we have much less plant disease problems because the fungus and bacteria that cause the problems can’t thrive in dry conditions. Weeds too are slowed down, they either don’t germinate at all or are not as vigorous and easier to kill. And mowing is a marvelous thing, mow an area and it lasts for weeks, some areas of the farm I have only mowed once this year!