Today I wanted to post about the big, bad thing in our lives right now...the drought. We are in our second year of it, though we did get a little moisture this winter and early spring. Drought is something that makes a farmer/farm wife feel helpless. We work so hard to get the ground ready for crops, doing soil tests so we use just enough fertilizer but not excess and picking the best seed. We try to plant just at the right time and get the seed just at the right depth. And we spend so much time doing everything we can to make sure our cows are well cared for. Checking them every few hours during calving, bringing them in and doctoring them right away if they show the tiniest sign of being sick, sampling and testing their feed to make sure it is the highest quality, fixing fences to keep them in so they won't get injured, monitoring the pastures to make sure they don't eat too much in one place and damage the grass, etc.
And then drought comes. And we are helpless. The crop start looking withered, then start looking brown, then dry down to nothing. They don't pollinate well and don't set seed, which is what we harvest. Some farmers around here do have irrigation, which we don't, but even those can only pump so much water so fast and the heat sucks it up faster than the plants can. And the hot dry wind blows the pollen away before it gets where it is supposed to go. And by the day it gets drier and browner. And the grass in the pastures starts turning brown and it stops growing and the water holes dry up. And you start to wonder when you will have to start giving the cows extra feed because the grass isn't enough and you wonder how many and which ones you will have to sell to get through the winter with the feed you have.
So you do the best you can. You bale up the corn or chop it for silage to feed to the cows. You haul water with a truck or run hoses long distances to tanks to water the cows. You try to decide if it is worth it to plant wheat this fall or hope the drought breaks by next spring and you can plant corn or milo or soybeans instead. You pay someone a little extra to graze their CRP grass that USDA opened up for drought help. You watch the radar and read the forecast. And everytime you see a cloud on the horizon you get a little hope. And you thank God for even .04" of rain because it at least settled the dust for a few hours.
And then, the well you get your drinking water out of starts to go dry because you have been watering the cows from it too. And you test it and it has coliforms and isn't safe to drink. So you do what you can and bleach it and wait for results from new tests, and hope its safe now.
And you try to be positive about it and joke that at least you haven't had to mow the yard much. But in your heart the tan expanse around you house and the dried up plants in your garden weigh on your heart. And you can't keep up watering them because the well is low and watering the cows and water for the family and the pets and having clean laundry and dishes comes first.
And still, you say, "next year will be better, it has to rain sometime".
That is what drought feels like for me.
Here is what drought around our house looks like:
Corn that should have been cut for grain being swather to bale for cow feed
This should still be all green
D looked long and hard for these few almost full ears. They are small and so are the kernals
The corn all baled up and ready to move off the field. It turns out it is high in nitrates so we will have to grind it and mix it with something else or it will make the cows sick.
Our pastures are dry and brown but the cows can still get some nutrients out of it, sort of like they do from baled hay.
Our water has tons of air in it when it first comes out of the tap because the well is low
100% of our state is in severe to exceptional drought. We are right on the line between "extreme" and "exceptional". We thought last year was bad but only 45% of the state was in severe or above a year ago. Another week of no rain and I think we will be in the exceptional drought category.