Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘drought

It Seems

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It seems to me today that I can’t add anything that you don’t already know. What would be the point of describing how oppressive the hatch of mosquitoes has been since the last long ago rainfall? Despite how fast the grass around here grew after that last dosage of water from the sky, I ended up deciding not to cut it, because the days have been nothing but hot and dry ever since. I didn’t want to stress the grass at a time it was again enduring another stretch of hot, dry weather.

Maybe we’ll get another batch of moisture on Friday, but I can only imagine what that will do for the mosquito population. I’m thinking about mowing this afternoon when I get home from work.

As I turned the last corner onto our street coming home from work yesterday, I was passed by a farm tractor coming from the opposite direction. Then another and another. Ten, then twenty, maybe thirty in a row. Every variety of manufacturers, some with a single passenger beside or behind the driver looking almost board, many with flags attached. A few had cute canvas canopies over the top for shade.

I guess that was something you didn’t know about. I certainly didn’t know anything about it. Some sort of parade out in the wide-open countryside on a Wednesday afternoon when few people might be around to notice. I didn’t see any signs to convey a message. Maybe they were headed somewhere to congregate and make a point. Protest at the steps of the county courthouse over the lack of rain?

My positive momentum is fatigued due to the constant waves of angst flowing from Afghanistan / Taliban / Wildfires / Earthquake / Tropical Storms / Delta Variant / Mask Mandates / Booster Shots / Political Blame / Shouting Matches / Criminal Trials / Sick Pets and every other challenge to peace and harmony that is vibrating so strong these days.

A certain feeling of guilt over the blissful beauty of our immediate surroundings needs to be processed before getting on with the beaming of healthy love out into the universe from the heart.

When I walked up to the paddock gate Tuesday evening to see the fallen snag first hand, Light responded to my presence instantly by purposely crossing the length of the small paddock toward me to make a brief connection. She inhaled my scent, paused, and looked around. I extended a hand to offer a scratch but she had stopped out of my reach. She breathed in again with her nose on my hand, then slowly moved on to join the rest of her herd near the overhang.

You probably didn’t know about that exchange, either.

Seems to me, the old adage about writing what I know tends to work out even when I don’t realize there is anything new about which to write.

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Written by johnwhays

August 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Fawns Visit

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Yesterday morning, first thing, Cyndie reported seeing a momma deer and two fawns out our bedroom window. I was just commenting the other day that there was no sign of any nibbling of our hostas back there this summer. I didn’t check yet to see if that still holds true.

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After work yesterday, I was busy mowing the opposite side of our property. After just one downpour of rain over the weekend, our grass responded with a burst of growth. There was nothing strategic about my mowing methods this time. I cut everything possible in the time before dinner was served.

I heard a meteorologist’s analysis that the one occasion of heavy rain on Saturday was not sufficient to break the overall drought our region is suffering. He said that would require getting rain in similar amounts at least once a week for multiple weeks. The long-range forecast doesn’t bode well for that happening.

I’m counting our blessings that we have so few areas where the stress of dryness is obvious. Most trees and shrubs are looking close to normal. Grassy areas that get some shade look downright healthy.

Maybe the deer don’t need the hostas if there are enough other choices for grazing. They were probably just visiting to be social.

Delilah failed to detect them, so they weren’t driven away by loud, ferocious barking. She is a little under the weather and threw up the full contents of her stomach yesterday. Cyndie said it appeared a couple of days-worth of food wasn’t getting processed and came back up.

When that happened other times, we immediately discarded the rest of whatever can of food she was being served and start a fresh one. Since it always did the trick the other times, we are returning to that solution for now.

Meanwhile, she is doing some grazing of her own, chomping on grass when she is out on a walk.

Good thing it got tall after the last blast of rain.

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Written by johnwhays

August 11, 2021 at 6:00 am

Strategic Mowing

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The drought we are experiencing has stressed all growing things but our grass is the plant that looks the saddest. I have tried to stay off it as much as possible to avoid completely turning it to dust. The problem is, we’ve got a lot of weeds that don’t seem to care one bit that it is so dry. Heck, they appear to prefer it.

In addition to the weeds needing to be knocked down, there are shady areas where the grass is growing enough to deserve mowing.

Since I am headed for the lake again this weekend, joining Cyndie who is already up there, I decided to do a little strategic mowing yesterday after work. I made selective passes over spots most visible from the road or our driveway.

It provides a first impression that implies our property is well-tended.

Closer inspection would reveal that is not entirely accurate.

It feels good to have trimmed up the most prominent grassy areas despite the remaining spots where the weeds are getting taller than grass blades. I’m going to focus on the fact I am avoiding driving over the sections where the grass looks the most stressed.

A long, soaking rain would be a welcome change, but we have only been getting brief, heavy bursts that promote just enough growth that I have to strategically mow the green areas while the stressed areas fail to show signs of recovery.

I am curious to learn whether this month will offer any change to the weather pattern we have experienced for the last two. Time will tell.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

Really Dry

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There are places suffering a lot worse drought consequences than we are, but the impact of our moderate drought conditions right now are noticeable all around our property. In the nine years that we have lived here, I have only seen it approach this level of dryness one other time.

It gets a little nerve-wracking owning large animals when grazing land begins to dry up. So far, I’d say we have been pretty lucky. Our hay shed is stacked high with bales and our fields have plenty of growth left from May that the horses have only lightly grazed.

We are still hoping the neighbor farmer who previously rented our fields to grow hay will cut and bale the hayfield soon. The horses barely put a dent in the growth out there and it’s long past ready for cutting. I assume it has increased value to him given conditions, but his delay tending to the task has us wondering. (We just learned his equipment broke down but he’s got it fixed and hopes to make it out later today.)

I feel really lucky that so much of our surroundings are staying as green as they are. Out of the roughly 4 acres of grass I mow, only two spots have dried up to a dead-brown-looking crisp.

We do not water the grass around the house and both front and back are faring really well considering.

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I think a lot of it has to do with the surrounding shade that keeps the ground from baking as severely as open areas.

Now if the trees can just hold out long enough to outlast the dryness, the rest of our land might get by just fine.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Yard Pests

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As the saying goes, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Sure I’d like to have a smooth green carpet of inviting lawn grass to run my toes through as I frolic in the yard with our dog or play croquet and bocce ball, but no, I don’t want to exterminate a throng of burrowing pest to achieve it.

We pick our battles and this is one I don’t want to fight, so we live with the ongoing dirt mounds and raised tunnels of destruction scattered widely across all of our mowed areas.

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With so much real estate available for the critters to thrive, we willed the marauders to move on to open fields by stomping their tunnels and mounds in our yard last year, but as the snow receded and the topsoil begins to thaw, the evidence appears as if their numbers have tripled.

They aren’t getting the message.

The wind is blowing warm air our way today and bringing with it fire warnings because the ground is very dry this spring. Almost all of the snow has melted and we don’t have any muddy areas along our trails. The drainage ditches had water flowing in them only two times this year. It is surprisingly uncharacteristic compared to the previous 8 spring seasons we’ve lived here.

If we observe the yard at a distance, it looks just fine. There remains one dwindling pile of snow near the front door, but that’s about it. Today is officially the first day of spring.

Warm sunshine will beckon for us to romp in the yard and toss the old horse toys for Delilah to chase.

The season of mowing draws nigh, but we are going to need some rain or I’ll be able to trim the lawn with a pair of scissors.

Although, that might just be enough to drive the yard pests back toward the open fields. Either way, it seems we don’t get to have nice lawns.

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Written by johnwhays

March 20, 2021 at 9:54 am

We’re Dry

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During my commute home yesterday afternoon, I watched clouds thicken and grow dark to the south. When I exited from I94 east and turned toward the southeast heading to River Falls, the view looked a little threatening. Then the radio reported there was only one noteworthy storm worth mentioning. With possible heavy rain amounts, high wind, and hail, in Goodhue and Pierce counties, it included the communities of Red Wing and Hager City.

We live in Pierce county, a short distance north of Red Wing.

Good, I thought. We could use the rain. I just wasn’t fired up about driving in the pouring rain.

When I finally reached Beldenville, the road was soaking wet, but the rain was already done. It must have stopped just before I arrived.

We live a couple of miles north of Beldenville proper, and when I turned onto County J, the pavement was bone dry.

We didn’t get a drop at home.

I stepped out on the deck to take a picture of the drooping sunflower for a representation of how the plants are feeling about our long spell without rain.

As I stood there, I noticed there was a lot more than just the sunflower that would show up in the frame.

This sunflower made a surprise appearance, most likely growing from birdseed that fell from the feeder nearby. It shot up with robust energy at first. When the ground started to dry out, the growth stunted significantly. It hasn’t looked very happy ever since.

There used to be a big pine tree here. I’m guessing it might have been root bound, based on my recent discovery about the pines out in the field north of the driveway. We left it standing until it was good and dead, then I cut it down, leaving enough of the old trunk to have a nice support for a balanced rock. Using this chiseled stone for a base (probably a remnant from the construction of the field stone chimney on the house), I balanced a large rock that I was only barely able to lift up to the necessary height.

It eventually fell down.

I’ve yet to decide whether to put a different one up there, but I’ve definitely chosen to leave the too heavy one safely on the ground where it landed.

Even though the big tree died, the ground seems to be fertile for a new generation of pines sprouting in its place. There are at least three rising up around that stump, taking advantage of the sunlight available since I cut the big one down.

And where do baby trees come from? The number of pine cones remaining from the now-removed tree seem to offer plenty of clues.

Maybe if we come out of this dry spell, more of those seeds will sprout.

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Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Creatively Repurposed

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We lost 8 long-needle pines in the last couple of years due to a combination of dry summers that sandwiched one long and very harsh winter. It was pretty obvious last fall that they were beyond recovery, but I just didn’t have the heart to take them down until this spring.

When the time came to finally face that chore, I decided to see if I couldn’t find some creative way to honor the memory of the pines. It just didn’t feel right to cut them all off at the ground. Of course, I have some history with this ploy of not cutting a tree to the ground and then using the remaining stump for something new.

At our home in Eden Prairie, I saved the 2-3 inch diameter trunks of a cluster of 3 choke cherry trees that had sprouted in an unwelcome spot of our yard, and then balanced rocks on them to create an interesting visual display. I liked the results enough to resurrect the concept again. In this instance, however, I have one item that will be more functional than a rock. It’s a birdhouse (Thank you, Mel & Greg!).

DSCN3422eWe have some really nice rocks here, so putting a few up on tree stumps is irresistible to me. While I was cutting down this tree which was leaning significantly, I discovered a twiggy young oak tree growing  beside it. If that oak survives the abuse that some critter has enacted on the bark of its skinny little trunk, someday it may tower over the end of our house beside our bedroom in the spot where this pine was unable to survive.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2015 at 6:00 am

Third Try

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I have not been mentioning the sad lack of progress toward my dream of having a transplanted maple tree growing in the center of our labyrinth, in large part because I’m choosing to avoid framing the previous two tries as failures. Basically, if I don’t talk about them or write about them, it becomes as though they didn’t exist.

However, failure is what happened, and I am obviously now writing about it, so it is not as though I mean to pretend it didn’t occur. I just haven’t been dwelling on it publicly. The attempt we made last year involved pulling a tree up by the roots and transplanting it “bare-root” to the hole in the center of the labyrinth. The shock of the transplant caused it to lose all its leaves, but before the summer was over, it had sprouted new leaves.

I’m not sure what went wrong, but after a while the new leaves drooped and then shriveled, and I figured we lost it. I held off on ripping it out of the ground last fall in the off-hand chance all the energy was being put into the roots so it could sprout leaves this spring in a return to the normal seasonal pattern.

That didn’t happen.

When I was mowing the labyrinth last Friday, I spotted the bark on the trunk was dried out and split open. Snapping off the end of a branch confirmed it was all dried out. No visible signs of life at all. I yanked the tree out.

DSCN3406eLast fall, in preparation for the possibility I would need to try again —and while the trees still had leaves— I located another tree I liked in our woods. Following advice I received from my helpful landscape adviser, I flagged it for future reference. Yesterday we dug it up and transplanted it, taking as much dirt around it as we could in hopes of keeping as many of the small roots intact as possible.

So, number three is now in place at the center of the labyrinth garden.

I have a plan to bury a water line from the house down to the garden, where I will install a valve and a hose spigot. The length of tubing required was not stocked at the store, so I had to order it. I sure hope it comes soon, so I don’t have to lug a half-dozen hoses out on the hill to string together like we’ve done for the last two years.

I’d like the third time to be the charm, so I certainly don’t want the poor thing to go thirsty for any length of time. It’s feeling too dry around here already this spring, which is a sad problem to have since our main complaint for the two previous years has been that this time of year had been way too wet.

Thunderstorms rolled through last night, but we barely received a measurable amount of water in our rain gauge. It’s going to take more than that to satisfy all the growing things currently sprouting forth with gusto, reaching toward the sun.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2015 at 6:00 am

Be Careful

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IMG_4233eBe careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

We dearly wanted to improve the muddy situation that our horses face during the wet spring meltdown. Last fall we excavated an improved drainage swale, cleared out the overgrown drainage ditch along our southern property border, buried drain tile along the uphill borders of the paddocks, and applied several loads of lime screenings on the hill around the barn for improved footing.

We have been anxiously awaiting the thaw to see if our improvements worked the way we hoped. That thaw is almost complete now, and we are standing by to see how quickly the soil dries out.

What we couldn’t control was the amount of moisture we would be forced to deal with by the weather. Our mild winter left us with a below average snow cover and we have been without precipitation for over a week. The effectiveness of our improvements is hard to gauge because the ground is already too dry!

There is still plenty of time to receive some spring rain, but for the time being, we are experiencing what the meteorologists are phrasing as “pre-drought conditions.”

We wanted dryer conditions for the paddock footing, but this is not the way we would like it to occur.

It is interesting that the changing climate seems to be putting us at risk for dryer, drought-like conditions overall, while at the same time unleashing more copious dousings of precipitation from individual storm events. We get too much all at once and then not enough in between.

I am a bit concerned about how that will impact our intentions of growing hay. Over the last two years we have been unable to get more than one cutting in a season, because the spring and early summer have been too wet, and the rest of the growing season has been too dry. We haven’t had enough growth after the first cut to allow for a second batch of bales.

This year we are starting out dry. Who knows what we’ll get in the months ahead. I’m hesitant to wish for more moisture for fear of then getting more than we can handle. Wishes are not to be waved about carelessly. We should be clear about what we want and what we don’t want.

What are the rules again? I can’t wish for more wishes, but can I wish for a precise outcome? Not less than we need, and not more than we need.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2015 at 6:00 am

Pine Love

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I am deftly skilled at passing the same scenery day after day without really noticing details that are plainly visible. Last time I was mowing the grass around our home, the sorry condition of a few of our pine trees suddenly caught my full attention. I hate to think of how long I have been missing signs they were not making the best recovery from the harsh winter.

When spring finally arrived, I was greatly surprised to see almost every pine tree that turned brown during the winter ended up sprouting new growth, indicating signs of life. I had figured many of them were goners. As time passed, I failed to monitor their progress closely enough to spot the few who were having trouble keeping the new growth flourishing. I hope I haven’t missed a possibility of successfully nursing them back to health.

DSCN2207eYesterday, I took action to give the saddest looking trees some loving. Basically, they received a dose of horse manure fertilizer and a thorough soaking of water. We are hoping to be able to give all the evergreen trees around our house a regular watering through the fall this year to do everything we can toward reducing the stress they have endured for the last couple of years. It is hard on evergreens to enter winter without a good water reserve.

I did read that it is good to pause the watering in early fall, until deciduous trees drop their leaves, to allow trees to enter a transitional phase. After leaves have fallen, it is recommended to give all trees a deep watering until the ground freezes. Those evergreens will be losing moisture through their needles throughout the dryness of winter.

Meanwhile, despite total neglect, unwanted trees around our place, like box elder and common buckthorn, flourish and multiply. It’s just not fair.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2014 at 6:00 am