So, it is late summer, or early fall. No matter what you call it, the days remain dry.
There is a drought where we are – the kind that people talk about for years. If you are at a coffee shop anywhere out here, you can overhear people saying things like “I haven’t seen this since I was a kid.” Or “This is a first in my lifetime…” Or “We had 2/10ths last night. We were lucky. What did you get?” As for us, we have watched the rain clouds go past us, and wondered why they haven’t given a drop to us. I have driven home from Winnipeg through rains that fell so hard I contemplated pulling over due to lack of visibility, while giving a mighty “whoop” that we have finally had rain, only to get closer to home and find the gravel roads giving a choking, layering tornado of dust as I drive the home stretch.
We have been hauling water for our livestock since early spring. One day – on one of the only days that it did rain, way back in June, our daughter, Jessica, while hauling water, began to fishtail as the water in the tank on the back of the half-ton began to swish back and forth with a force that overtook the sloppy roads. She rolled the truck and wrote it off. Thankfully she was OK and just shaken up. (The police car even fishtailed as he came around the very same corner…going slowly, with no load, and with an audience). Yet some communities just 10 miles East of us received 5 inches of rain. Another community just 11 miles West got 3 inches one night. And yet another community just 20 miles South had their crops obliterated by hail.
So how many tanks of water have we driven that 6 miles each way from home to St. Alphonse and back? 30? Maybe 40 tanks of either 250 or 1000 gallons? It is a LOT of water, a lot of gas, and a lot of hours…hours that on a “normal” year would have been spent doing many other things. On a “normal” year, the dugouts and puddles would have filled up in the spring – but not so this year. Without the water, the cattle would have died, along with the sheep, alpacas, chickens, turkeys, horses and pigs. We went into survival mode. Although we have only cut the grass twice this year, which is a small something to be thankful for, we would like to have some fresh grass. We would like to have enough hay for the winter to feed the livestock. And chances are we will not have the mild winter that we had last year, so they will need a lot more feed than last winter to keep warm. It takes many calories to keep warm. Also, we would like for the chickens to be able to feed themselves on nice fresh grass before their timely demise.
The crops have all come in early. I can not recall a time ever in my life when the crops were off in early August. My parents would be in shock if I were able to tell them this. Driving through the area, the fields of stubble look bare where the crops have been taken off already. Or the golden rows wait for a baler to come by and tidy them up. It is a September scene if you ask me. It’s as beautiful as a post card, but deceiving. Every year has its “thing”. This is ours this year. The ground is thirsty! Maybe some cover crops can be seeded and actually grow before the hard frosts come. Who knows.
The good news is that we DO have a community well to get some water. We DO have a tractor to dig the dugouts deeper, giving much needed relief from the blistering heat to the pigs who can get down there into the very deep pool and not get stuck. We DO have chickens that did not die in the heat, as some neighbors had happen. The kids everywhere are getting ready to go back to school – in our case university and college – whether nervous, excited, ready or not. We are making preparations to “process” the chickens, make sure there is straw for shelters and bedding, and think about all the endless preparatory worries of winter warmth. And for the 40th or 50th time this summer alone, I will say to myself as I lay me down to sleep, “maybe tomorrow it will rain…”.
By Lisa Clousten of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative (HMLFI)
To order food from Lisa or other HMLFI farmers, visit: www.harvestmoonfood.ca