The heat and dryness of this summer is taking a toll on everyone and everything, but things here on the farm are getting downright crispy! How dry is it? Well, when I went out to try to mow the last few stems of grass in my yard I lost my mower when it fell into a crack in the earth. It’s so dry that ice cubes are melting themselves so they can have a drink.
Basically, it is so dry that it’s scary! Fortunately I have pivot irrigation systems on my larger fields, but even with them running 24/7 there is still a chance that the soybeans and corn won’t make it to harvest, or if they do the yields will be ridiculously low.
That’s one of the most challenging things about farming. You work to get the land ready to plant, you plant your crop, then for the most part, your livelihood and paycheck for the year is completely dependent upon things outside of your control. Farming is a true partnership with nature. We do all we can to tend the land and grow our crops, but in the end everything depends upon the weather. If it rains too much or too little the year’s work, and income, is jeopardized. I remember years on the farm when a hail storm right before wheat harvest, or other weather related event, meant no new school clothes and no non-essential purchases. Farming isn’t for sissies. It’s a gamble every year and this year it feels like the odds may be stacking up against us.
So, although we’ve all suffered through the heat and lack of rain this summer, it has taken a huge toll on farm operators and producers. I doubt too many of us are getting much sleep these days from wondering when, or even if, we’ll get some rain and if we do, will it be in time to save the year’s crops. Sure the commodity markets are running high, but that’s mostly an indication of what dire circumstances we are facing as our crops struggle toward maturity. The heat has kept the corn from developing full heads and the soybeans are now struggling to bloom and pod correctly.
But crops aren’t the only thing suffering. The cattle are too. The grass in the pastures has turned October brown already and the pond north of my house is almost completely dry. In nearly 60 years I have never seen that happen! The other ponds are dangerously low as well, and if we don’t get some significant rain soon the cattle will have to be moved out of the pasture. Even if we do get some rain, it will likely take years to get the ponds full and the moisture level in the soil back to normal.
Water is necessary for all of us to thrive, even survive, but on a farm it is the most precious of resources. It’s required for everything we do — from growing crops to raising cattle; from having a garden to keeping our sanity. And many of us who rely on agriculture, wholly or partly, for a living are having that sanity show some wear. So if you drive by and see me in the yard involved in some kind of free-form frenzy, it could either be the last thread of my mental fabric has unraveled, or you have caught me trying to summon the rain gods with that age-old ritual, the rain dance!