Saturday, July 28, 2012

When the rain passes by...

Ahhh, a little rain is finally falling on the farm.

While we're not as dry as some areas of the country, parts of upstate New York are now officially designated as drought-stricken, according to the official US drought monitoring website (,NE). The berries are pretty sparse and we've lost a few rows of crops, but mostly we've irrigated the high tunnels and vegetable rows as best as we could. First we used the rainwater capture tanks and when they were depleted (in June), we began pumping water from the creek with a small sump pump. When the upper creek dried up, we found a spring feeding a tiny pool further down the creek bed. That dried up last week and we've been trying to install an old jet pump onto one of the wells out in the field (where we're off-grid, so the project has also alternately included a borrowed gas-fueled generator and a daisy chain of several very long extension cords). Luckily, one of the rain storms didn't completely miss us last week and we got .21 inches of rain. That put some rain in the barrels and moistened at least the top of the ground.

Several of the recent storms have passed frustratingly nearby, but manage to miss our place, leaving many of the planting beds too dry to work in preparation for fall crops. I grabbed a screen capture of the radar this morning as evidence.

See the kind of triangular shaped (beige) field, slightly to the right and below (south) of the highway? That's our field. The green designates a light rain and the yellow a slightly heavier rain... we did get some rain here and there... and for that we're very, very relieved. As we head into August, I'll be working to get the well pump running and this winter we'll be thinking about how much we can invest in a more robust water storage system. Either finding bigger rainwater capture tanks, building a pond, or buying some solar pumps for the wells that the previous owners had dug.

If the effects of climate change are going to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events and more hot dry spells -- interspersed with torrential rains like the 9 inches we got in one week last fall -- we'll have to find ways to make our farms as resilient as possible, in our case within the budget of a small startup.

For now, I'm just happy that the water tanks aren't empty, the pigs have wallow water I didn't have to carry to them, and most of the crops will rebound with today's light rains.