How dry is it?
There have been certain benefits from the weather this summer. I have barely had to mow, and the weeds in my vegetable beds are more under control than they have ever been. The benefits pretty much stop there.
Even people who don’t normally join me in outdoorsy discussion have had their chance to acknowledge the unusual conditions. It is now beyond comment. The drought has been noted. We all see the brown grass, sad trees and cracked ground. There is almost nothing new to add to the conversation except to try to define the degree of the drought.
This is my fifth summer in my home. Each year I have done a little work to transform my expansive yard into gardens, orchard and vineyard. Two rain barrels had sustained these efforts up to this year.
I could draw down the water enough to keep my plants alive. The barrels would get dangerously empty, and then rain would come, refilling them and giving me temporary relief from carrying buckets. There were whole years I never turned the water on outside my house.
Of course, this year those barrels have been dry for months. The time I have spared from mowing has been spent dragging hoses around to one- and two-year-old apple trees, grape vines and blackberries. There have been weeks when it seemed the water stayed on every minute I was home, and it still wasn’t enough.
With all the watering excitement, I had neglected a single plum tree, planted away from the others and easy to overlook. It is in pretty bad shape. The leaves that the deer didn’t eat have been chewed on by Japanese beetles. I decided last night that I would make it up to this tree. I dragged the hose over to it, turned the water on and went to look at the other plants.
Half-hour later and water was still flowing into a crack near the base of the tree, and the only wet soil I saw was where the water was actually flowing out of the hose. I left it running and went in the house.
In the middle of the night I woke up thinking about the tree and the water. I checked the hose to find it still running, seven hours of unrestricted water flowing to the base of the tree. I turned off the water and went back to bed wondering what I would find when it got light.
As I cautiously approached what I expected to be a swamp, I was surprised to find only a small wet spot under the end of the hose, maybe a square foot. At the edge of the wet spot there was still a crack, and beyond the crack was dry, crumbly dirt.
I don’t know how much water that crack and the parched soil around it can absorb, but I know I’ve never seen it this dry.
Chris Hershey lives outside of Parkville in Platte County.