Thursday, October 25, 2012

And then.......

So it's now late October. The golden sun and leaves of my last post are gone. Literally - in the 50 mph wind we had last week. But other colors paint the landscape.

We cleared off the garden. Then we cleaned out the garage. The last of the green was gone from the creek, and the garden as well. The ewes relished the last seasonal treats of the immature squash and gourds. The broccoli plants were crunched with great enthusiasm, and the red and green tomatoes eagerly gobbled. We sighed a bit, and unwrapped yet another of the precious few bales.

And then...... it rained.

With a soft distant rumble of thunder, it began with a gentle patter on the window. It continued for much of the morning, each drop disappearing as soon as it hit the ground. It didn't seem like much, so I was surprised when the telltale sign of the glistening puddle appeared at the end of the drive - had it really reached the half inch mark?  Yes, indeed.

By then, the faint rhythmic pulse of the rain was accompaniment to the chorus of the green. If you listened carefully, you could almost hear the turnips singing. Maybe it was just my imagination, but  I think the trees were humming along.

To witness and be moved by such a simple act of nature is a wonder-ous and humbling thing. It brought back memories. Of my Dad, leaning against the frame of the porch screen door, watching the water pouring out of the bent downspout, covering  the lawn in a miniature flood plain, his face almost aglow in a grin. My mother's retelling of a neighbors claim "'Makes me want to break out a chorus of the Doxology when it rains like this', according to  Edith Stone". Was that the refrain I heard?

The 3/4 in we got that day was welcome beyond words. And there were still showers predicted that night. Sleep came easily for the first time in weeks. Brief pelting of drops off and on during the night were but more music to my ears.

The ground seemed unusually wet the next morning when I fetched Dolly from the kennel. Even a hint of mud. But it wasn't until later that day I understood why. "Did you empty the gauge last night?" I asked when Don came home. He went out  to check it, neither of us not sure if we could believe it. An inch .6 total.

And it didn't stop then. Again, today, it rained. Another inch. We can't explain why we continue to get considerably more than our neighbors (well, except in Omaha). Not going to question it.

So the ewes got a few days grazing on the last grass on the west fork. The mixed greens patch is fluffing up, but still not enough to graze. If the weather holds up, and its above normal temps as predicted, there may be some greens of a different sort come Christmas.

Meanwhile, the days pass by, and the usual seasonal activity with them. The girls were sorted by  familial groups, and the bucks turned out. New lambs will be the next crop hoped for. The cycles and circles of life spiral on. I noticed the other day, that the colors of the landscape had shifted. Before, the trees provided a backdrop of dry green over the tanning of the grass. Today, the gray-brown bare branches reach up from pools of green. The world once more has been turned up-side-down. Or has it been righted by rain? It matters not, I suppose.

Oh - it rained all right. But the drought is far from over. There will be many nights spent pondering copeing methods of dry, hopeful minds  emotionally enlightened and physically warmed by the orange glow of a friendly fire. There's one burning now.

And I hear it calling. Or maybe its speaking softly to the still alive trees outside, joining them in the soft melody of an ancient song. I think I'll join them. I'm sorry you can't hear us via blog. I'm humming the old hymn along with them.  It goes "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rambling on the Island of Dry

So here we are. October is nearly half over, and the seasons have quietly shifted. The trees, stressed for much of the summer, were graying with age as the leaves dried out. So I couldn't help but be startled by the bright yellow glow on the ash tree outside the bathroom window.

I have been distracted, to be sure, these last few weeks. But not sorry. It's mostly been good. A Sunday afternoon art show, complete with modest sales and mystified lookers. Educational, both ways. I enjoy answering the questions (you have sheep!), and talking with the crowd gives me insight to the perspective of the non sheepish. And of course there is always much work to be done. Fencing and feed, fleece and seed.

I'm done with summer. The thin ice on the tank was almost welcome. A friendly fire for the evening and a warm wool blanket for the bed at night still comfort a modern shepherd. But, alas, something is still missing - the gently patter of rain.

Thats right. We are still stuck here in an island of dry. Oh, its rained all right.  Rained to the north. Showers to the South. Even a decent amount to the East, which only adds to a farmers frustrations. It would seem that our urban neighbors still just don't get it. An inch of rain on their lawns, and they believe hard times are over. Ha.  Maybe next year, when they got to the store, they will remember the warnings. But probably not.  Uh-oh, I'm already starting to sound a little cynical, and I really don't want to. Whining is still a waist of time and effort, and none of us have any to spare. After all, things will get better. It will rain again. Somewhere. Meanwhile, I finally broke down and watered the lawn, hoping for a brief return of green relief to ensure its survival of winter.

I suppose I was in a sort of mood like this when I went for a walk the other night. The leaves were in the first yellow blaze, and the sun was already beginning its set when I grabbed my camera and set out the back lane for the meadow.... pasture.... creek.   Gosh, I'm still not sure what to call it. The Grass, maybe.

Dolly, of course, was close behind... out front... all over. She clearly loves having more room to roam. Come, walk with us.

                                       The sun was setting on the trees along the lane to the north.

                         The leaves hung limply in the still evening air, turning golden like ripening fruit.

 The shadows had already reached the trees by the time I approached the far hill. Too late for good pictures, but beautiful and refreshing all the same. I watched the darkness creep across the field, and noticed the darker green line in the grass. Don noticed it the next day, while we worked on the fence. "Why is the grass taller there, and there".... he pointed to along the tree line. I gave my answer, having pondered before. "It's the shade line. Morning..... afternoon..."  The difference was profound.

 The chill was noticeable, and with the light fading fast, I started back. I passed a milk weed just opening its pod. Frail fluffy white beauty in the moment, to be hated next spring.

 Golden green and orange brown drifts of leaves were collecting in the safe harbor of the gully under the cottonwood tree.  And then, if my soul had not yet been refreshed enough, I found this....

 It was weeks ago that we planted the fall pasture. Seeds of rye and rape and radish and turnip scattered into dust. The forecast of rain was forgone, and dust it remained. And yet, it grew. And weeks later, though it should have been thigh high and grazed short again by now, the tiny seedlings remain. The tenacity and resilience of nature continues to inspire me.

 I passed by the lambs, just to say, "Good evening".

With the summer we've had, the fall color may be short lived. But for now, at least it makes for pleasant,  peaceful chores.

Thanks for coming with me. I feel better again. The stress of coping with the drought has more than me a little short on patience and enthusiasm. I just keep reminding myself of those tiny little sprouts soaking up dew and waiting. Waiting for more.  While I, on the other hand, already have much.  Much more, this week.

Namely, little Maxwell Simon McClure, who joined the family on Oct. 2. A healthy little potential helper at 9 lb 12 oz, our 4th grandchild, and the first male of the generation born to carry the McClure family name.

So at least we are not alone on the isle of dry. And the wool and the radishes comfort me. I will wait a little longer for the rain. While I watch the oak trees take their turn with color. Already the ashes have dropped their leaves into pools of yellow at their feet.

Enough words for today. There is a fire glowing in the stove, its warmth softly calling. And a forecast with mention of rain come weekend. Only chances, but I will wait.

I'll believe it when I hear it. On the roof.