Every so often, somebody at the farmers’ market makes the mistake of commenting on how great all this rain must be for the crops.
I do my best not to frown thunderously in response.
It’s been an incredibly wet year, bordering on our wettest ever. After an embarrassingly long time searching for the exact measurements for our neck of the woods, I had to fall back on the measurements taken at the airport 35 miles away. With that grain of salt*, we’ve had over 30 inches of rain in the past six and a half months, twenty of those falling in the past 90 days.
Flowers need rain, as a beloved friend once told me, but too much rain will batter the hell out of your zinnias and make their buds rot, as I am currently experiencing. Too much rain encourages diseases and pests, means there’s less sunshine for plants to turn into leaves and fruit, and sometimes literally washes away the fields. Bees don’t fly when it’s raining, so while my girls are doing okay, they’d be a lot better off if they had more sunshine.
Left and right, farmer friends of ours are reporting huge crop losses as a result of all the rain. We’ve lost a lot of summer and winter squash and probably most of our melons. Our tomatoes are under plastic tunnels, which has spared them—they’d be gone otherwise. Mercifully, the peppers, eggplant, and okra seem to be doing alright.
But working outside in this weather is rather physically uncomfortable. The mosquitoes are out in force, and my legs are thoroughly chewed up. I’ve ditched my rubber boots for being barefoot most of the time—the boots are cracked, plus there have been several times it’s rained hard enough to fill them from the top, which kind of defeats the purpose. There’s been mud deep enough to drag my boots off when I slide in calf-deep, so going barefoot sometimes makes it easier to wrassle myself out of the field, too. I squish every where I go, and sometimes feel despair at the thought of taking a shower at the end of the day, as I’ve only just dried out.
The storms we’re getting are more than just rain, though; more often than not, they bring wind and lightning with them, too. While we’re cautious about the lightning, sometimes tunnels need closed while a storm is racing in—in which case I comfort myself by thinking that if I am struck by lightning, I’m breaking another gender barrier. Most (82%) victims of lightning strikes in the U.S. are men, on account of them engaging in more outdoor activities and being less likely to seek shelter in a storm.
Maybe not the most pressing gender barrier to break, but there it is, all the same.
So the rain is a drag, rough on us and rough on the plants. Rough on the chickens, too, who look like rung-out down pillows most of the time. I can’t complain with much force, though. Not long ago, 19 men died in Arizona for want of rain; millions of people go without clean water every year, while I squeeze my braids out for the third time in one day. We’re doing okay, despite the wet; we’re making soil blocks for fall planting, hoping and praying for a better autumn season. And while it’s dreary and tiresome, sometimes, to trudge through another wet afternoon, the chance to watch and marvel at our smallness in the face of such enormous forces is one I don’t take for granted. A few weeks ago, Ben and I were working in the field and watched ferocious thunderstorms pass around us to both the east and the west—we could hear them growling and rushing and banging, could smell the rain they carried, but we worked in a (hot, humid) pocket of sunshine, all the hotter and brighter for being surrounded by dark clouds. A narrow miss and a chance blessing which sticks with me, still.
So, flowers need rain, and so do vegetables, but just enough, please.
*I learned in the process that if you are incredibly nerdy [like me] you can download .csv files of years and years of weather data from your area at the Weather Underground, wunderground.com. I don’t know why you’d want to do that, but you might. I mean, I also just found out that there is a Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, which I find strangely comforting. I fool around with weather data late into the night, and other people publish about how well buildings work (or don’t). What a beautiful world.