Monday, August 20, 2007

Praying For Rain

Nothing is in my pasture except pokeweed. Well, there are other kinds of weeds. Morning glories count since they grow wild. There is something I don’t know the name of—purple Velcro pods stick up out of the cracked orange dirt—prehistoric-looking things surely kin (I’m trying to pick up the lingo around here) to Venus fly traps. These are things that look like they should be on the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are sticky vines sprawling like spiders and plants with spikes and spines somehow both ugly and beautiful at the same time. There are stickers, thorns, nettles and burrs, thick stems that splash liquid when you chop one (we call it milkweed, though I have no idea what milkweed is), and tangles and knots of something drying up it’s easy to get your foot caught in when pushing a wheelbarrow through the gully looking for manure to pick up.

But there’s no grass. Somehow the weeds flourish in a drought but everything else stops growing. Maybe it’s Mother Nature’s way of evening the score. Weeds get such a bad rap. Everyone hates them. Perhaps they deserve to have gotten an extra dose of hardiness from whoever decides what’s what.

I’ve given up on my petunias. I put all the baskets in the wheelbarrow and dumped them in the manure pile. No matter how much I watered them, they dried up. I don’t know what we did wrong. We did exactly what the guy at the nursery said to do. We bought everything he told us to buy. Little white balls that slowly release nutrients. Special disease-free soil so soft you could lay a baby in it and so expensive I considered panning for gold. Something liquid in a spray bottle and metal wire baskets lined with brown moss. But nope. None of it worked. We’ll never do that again. From now on it’s the $5.99 pots from Wal-Mart that you just hang up and throw away come the fall.

Sometimes I dump tomatoes in the manure pile but I put them in the pile farthest away from the horses so they rot before the horses know they’re there and eat them. I don’t know if they’ll give the horses colic. I have three manure piles. One is by the barnyard right next to the barn. Pokeweed and pigweed is growing all over it. The other one is in the front pasture by the tobacco shed and where you wouldn’t know it’s there because weeds taller than a man cover it. It’s a jungle in that part of the pasture. The third one is down by the gully. When I’m picking up manure, I empty the wheelbarrow into the pile that is the closest. Someday Kurt will scoop them up with the tractor and push it all into the gully in the back. The gully is filled with split, splintered trees from when the old owner bulldozed them all over to make another pasture. It is a skeleton of rotting wood that shifts and moves according to the amount of rain and wind we get. We haven’t gotten any rain in a long time.

We want to burn all that wood. It is dangerous to climb on and it’s an eyesore, plus, it takes up space that could be made into more pasture. Someday, when we get up the nerve, we’re going to light a match. But I’m scared. Even though we had the firemen over here to advise us about doing it. It’ll be a big blaze. It’ll be a ball of fire. People far and wide will exclaim, “Holy smoke!” And my well is iffy. What if a cinder floats innocently over this way and lands on the house? My water is practically worthless. I can turn the hose on for five minutes exactly and then the well is empty. Then what do I do? Wait for it to fill back up again and prime the pump while my house is burning down?

This well might have been fine for the pig farmer who used to live here. There were no dishwashers and no pools. They watered animals like I do but the farm consisted of much more than the eleven acres I own that has no water source—no creeks or ponds—and no doubt included the creeks that are now on the adjoining properties. But someone sold off this piece a while back with no water.

For me, it’s a problem. I have to conserve the water. It works okay if you don’t use it all at one time. You have to spread it out. For example, I water the horses after Kurt takes his shower and I water the garden in the evening. I stick the hose in the pool to refill what has evaporated after Kelly has gone to bed and I put a load of laundry in the washer at midnight. We warn the others when we’re using the hose, “I’m using water, don’t flush the toilet!” and we make plans to wash the car or bathe a horse. It’s an inconvenience. Alright, it’s a pain in the ass. And it’s actually pretty scary because I always worry that the water is going to run out and this time we’re not going to be able to get it back on again. We have five horses who drink ten gallons of water per day each. That’s a lot of water. It would be a hardship if we had to buy fifty gallons of water every day down at the Wal-Mart just for the horses alone if we ran dry and had to wait for the well guys to get over here and dig us a new well.

I keep telling Kurt, let’s schedule it now. Let’s not wait until it goes dry for good and then we’re under the gun. What if the well guys are backed up and we can’t get them right away? But it’s one of those things that’s not fun to buy. It costs a lot of money and you don’t actually see anything for all of your pain. It’s about as satisfying as getting the yearly maintenance done on your furnace. You don’t see anything different but you know it’s got to be done. It’s not even as exciting as putting a new roof on. At least there, you have a couple of choices—black, grey, green, red, the new architectural tiles, metal. Digging a well, you don’t even have a color choice.

And now we’re having a drought. I wonder—will I finally use too much and whatever is down there will dry up hard as a rock like the dirt in the pasture? It can’t be an endless supply. I am praying for rain. I hate rain. I am outside all the time with the animals and rain puts, no pun intended, a damper on things. But this time I am wanting some.

My pasture is not the only one that’s all dried up and filled with weeds. Farmers are using hay they stored away for the winter to feed their cattle now. There may not be a second cutting of hay this season because nothing has grown. Therefore, hay will be in short supply and very expensive, if it can be had at all. We are about finished building our hay shed but I don’t have any faith that I will be able to get anything to fill it up with. It’s always something on the farm. Either I can get plenty of hay and have no where to put it or I have a place to store it but can’t get any.

I don’t know what happens down here when there’s a drought. Is it possible that animals will go hungry? My horses are starting to nibble the weeds even though I give them hay every day. They come up to the barnyard with burrs in their forelocks. They are desperate. They should be knee-deep in grass right now but they’re not and so there’s nothing to do.

If this keeps up, I expect to see tumbleweeds blowing across the pasture. I can pretend I’m back in Oklahoma again. The only good part is I haven’t mowed the lawn a half dozen times this season. But somehow, still, I’ve pulled plenty of weeds.


Marion said...

Keep on praying for a nice steady hard rain. We moved here in '99 & this is the worst we've seen it. I worry about our well, but don't have horses to water. Dick took all 3 dogs down to the (very low) river and bathed them.
Hang in there...this too shall pass. The sound of rain on the roof will make all of us sleep with smiles on our faces!
And for plants next year, get Million Bells from the nursery on 220 with the big wheelbarrow out in front. Mine are still blooming like crazy (they love even this hot sun)& I even (dumb!) planted them in a 3-metal-pot hanging planter. The humming birds were all over them today. Google Million Bells flowers to see what they look like.

Heather Froeschl said...

I think what you have there is thistle. The finches love that stuff but I don't think horses do. Too prickly! They are pretty in a prehistoric weed kind of way. Remember that wilflowers are weeds! It's a nicer way to look at things. I always felt horrible for Alice in wonderland when the flowers accused her of being a weed.

Paying to dig a well is bad, yeah, but paying to pump the septic tank is worse. Truly flushing money down the drain. So, it could be worse, eh? Good to read your post, hon!

Becky Mushko said...

Those prickly prehistoric things are jimson weed. Highly toxic! You don't want it in your pasture. A few years ago, you'd hear about stupid kids trying to get high on the seeds with tragic results.

See info at this site (you might have to cut and paste this URL:

Also called jimpson weed:

You don't want this stuff around your horses. Or any other critter.

This year isn't as bad as 2003—yet. But it's getting close. A lot of wells ran dry that year.

Amy Hanek said...

Marion, I will take that advice on flowers too! Thanks!
Debi, hang in there. It can't last too much longer. I think I smell rain coming this weekend, if not sooner. My nose could be wrong... but I hope not.

I feel like I am back in Florida. We have hot, dry days like these and they stretch from July to September. The only rain we will get sometimes in the fall is from Tropical Storms or Hurricanes. I see Dean off on the Horizon hitting the Yucatan and hope they fared okay. I am glad to be in the mountains during Hurricane Season.

My weeds are the only green part of my lawn and they are getting free rein. It's disgusting.

Amy said...

Debi, I'm with you on plants from Walmart. When we first moved out here we bought all this fancy stuff and the deer ate everything! Now I buy 2 or 3 hanging plants from Walmart and pitch them in the fall. I admire folks with a green thumb, but I have purple thumbs and Franklin County orange fingers. Maybe we'll get some rain this weekend!