Friday, September 22, 2017

Getting Hit Below the Belt

The forecast for yesterday morning was for scattered thunderstorms to pass over us without much accumulation of rain. I don't have enough fingers to count up the times this year that has been the forecast and we have received not a drop of rain. But due to a sick child during the early morning hours, I had plenty of time to hear the rain falling and at times really hard to know we were getting a pretty significant rainfall. We received an inch of rain last week, the first such amount of rain since May 1rst this spring. But this sounded like more. I was guessing two inches but it was still too dark to see the rain gauge.

It is too late for the crops and has been for a long time. Farmers around here have already been in the corn fields for a week, an unheard of early start thanks to the premature death of their crops. Early yield tests are showing corn has been making 30 to 50 bushels per acre. Compare that to last year when corn was producing 240 to 260 bushels per acre. Right now, it is just about harvesting what little there is to reduce the amount of planting expenses that went into it this spring. In just about every other facet of life, is someone was told that they would only get 12% of their salary for the entire year, it would be utter devastation. For farmers, it is the facts of life and not only due you take that 88% reduction in your salary, but you double down and put in another crop next year.

Although it was still raining yesterday morning when I couldn't wait any longer, I went out in my bare feet to check the rain gauge. Being lazy and not wanting to have to clean my glasses, I left them inside as well. When I got over to the rain gauge I was dumbfounded because I couldn't see the water line at all. There wasn't a single drop of rain in that thing! I figured it must have cracked and touched the glass tube only to have some water slosh off the top. I had been wrong. It wasn't empty but was clear full and running over. It's only a 3" rain gauge but that has been the first time in years, perhaps a decade that we've gotten that much (how much I still don't know yet) rain in one storm.

As I surveyed my yard in the early dawn light, I could see a puddle of water, the first puddle I have seen all year and what a gorgeous sight it was. All those cracks that extended down 18" were now sealed up and the dirt had swelled and filled in the huge cracks along the sidewalk and driveway. Water was actually flowing through my reinforced entrance to my driveway culvert (worked like a charm!) and was flowing out the bottom of my newly installed retaining wall and all the way down to the ditch by the road in the bottom of the valley. Another thing I haven't seen happen since last year sometime.

While it was nice knowing that we are finally getting some rain which is a start, (we were over 20" short since last fall) to perhaps see us over winter, it was a real gut punch for the farmers. Not only do they have minimal crops to harvest, but if this keeps up, they will have to destroy their fields to get what little they have out. When you mud out a crop (named for the wheels of the equipment digging deep muddy furrows into the field), it compacts the soil and it takes two to three years to undo the damage which is a further reduced yield in those tire tracks.

Hopefully this storm isn't a sign of a trend that will continue the rest of the fall. There is still plenty of time for harvest if our typical dry fall starts today and run for the next six or seven weeks. Then the pre-winter rains can come and soak the ground really good for next spring and we can start over again. We'll just have to wait and see since obviously the weatherman can't be trusted.

(Since I wrote this yesterday, I have learned that we got somewhere between 5-1/2" and 6" of rain. A sign of how dry it was; an hour later I was working out in my lawn and the ground was still firm to walk on.)


Susan said...

It takes an iron constitution to be a farmer - especially these days. A sense of humor helps, but I imagine that is in short supply. I am surrounded by farms and know how difficult and frustrating it is. Glad you got some relief - we had a very wet, cold spring and summer and now, in autumn, we are having a prolonged hot, dry spell. It is downright weird, and not in a good way.

Kelly said...

I'm glad you finally got rain. It's a shame, though, what a tough year it's been for the farmers in your area. I'm kind of glad we don't have to deal with that anymore.

I do defend the meteorologists to a certain extent. They do the best they can and it's not an exact science. Plus, forecasts are not necessarily localized and, as you know, it might not be raining at your house, but pouring a mile or two away.

It's the first day of fall, yet the past week has been far warmer here than what we had through most of August.

Ed said...

Susan - It certainly isn't for those who need a steady paycheck from week to week.

Kelly - My comments about meteorologists are certainly tongue in cheek. They have a thankless job for sure.

Vince said...

Wow, even for me that's a lot of rain in one shower. But with us if we had such a fall it would become dangerous for the ground would be like concrete if we didn't get rain for a month. Meaning it would run in torrents. They tend to get that in the UK for they have drier summers than us. But also tend to get deluges then in August and September.
The grain guys here tend to use a balloon tyre on harvesters and service tenders when the ground is soapy and definitely when almost liquid mud. Those tyres are far wider and so the ppi is dramatically lower. But I can remember back in the day when combine harvesters would beach themselves in wet sections where the header would be raised to the limit and still sunk into the ground.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I hope that the rainstorm is a sign of good things to come this winter. We had about 5 years of a drought with so little rain (and snow) it was very weird. And as you said, we'd get what seemed like rain weather but nothing would ever come of it. We are now hearing that was because of the el nino/nina systems we've had over the last few years (which were predicted to be rainy). They think the warmer air was keeping it all from happening. Anyhow, we finally did get a wetter winter this past year and they are predicting a colder/wetter winter this year.

Ed said...

Vince - Some farmers around here have what we call "rice" tires which are essentially what you are describing. However, they are rarely used since fall time around here is typically dry. When we do have a wet year, they are in short supply.

Pumpkin Delight - The forecast is for a snowy winter and I hope it is true.