Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Still Waiting for Rain

A bumblebee systematically works the tiny flowers of purple prairie clover
Dalea purpurea.

It has been just more than a week since our last rain. That bit of weather dropped only a little more than half an inch on us. Unless I've forgotten to write down one of our May rains, both May and June together, so far, have seen less than half the rainfall that we typically receive in just May. Our next best chance of rain is 50 percent on Wednesday night. (Fingers crossed.) If I wake up in the middle of the night again and do not hear rain, I will go back to sleep, instead of lying awake trying to will it to rain.

Rattlsnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium

We missed a heck of a storm last Thursday morning. When we looked at the radar before we went to bed Wednesday night, it looked as if there was no way we would miss it. I woke up at 2:14 a.m. and heard thunder to the southwest. I kept listening for rain and was awake for at least an hour. We received no rain. The storm diminshed some and tore into two pieces right where we are shortly before reaching us. My parents about 80 miles west of us got 2 inches. So something good came of it.

I harvested all of the kale and collards and pulled the plants. They were getting pretty strong-flavored, and we have half a freezer full of greens from the winter and early spring. Also, less to water.
We plan to reduce the size of our blueberry patch to lessen the watering load. The decision was made one day when hubby was the one who watered them. I didn't cry long, I've been wanting to expand the black raspberry crop and the strawberry patch. Bye bye blueberries, hello black raspberries.
So far, I have been able to water everything from the two 1,500-gallon tanks catching rainwater off our roof. We (I mean, mostly hubby) put a lot of work into building a platform and setting the tanks. Even in this dry summer, I have not yet sucked either one dry. The half inch of rain last week put more than 300 gallons back into each tank. So we don't need big rains to keep them going.

The black raspberries and blueberries are nearing the end of their harvest. The Eversweet strawberries are just getting started, as are the blackberries. The red raspberries should still have their main crop coming -- if we get a little cooler weather and some rain.

Slender mountain mint, Pynanthemum tenuifolium
This week I am working outdoors in the morning and staying indoors in the afternoon. Mid- to upper 90s can be tolerated, but nothing is that urgent. Today I hope to head outside again when the sun is less intense and it cools a bit. I hope that wind dies down a little, too.

On Saturday, I attended a tour of the KU (University of Kansas) medicinal herb research garden, where these photos were taken. All are Kansas natives and all have been used as medicines in the past. The garden provides plant materials that are studied for their chemical constituents. I would like to have all of these plants growing out here. I have been trying to start purple prairie clover again, with no success, probably because of the heat and drought.
The slender mountain mint makes a tasty tea and its flowers were visited by numerous pollinators. I'd like to have big patches of it growing in various spots for our honeybees. The rattlesnake master just looks cool. But, apparently, grazing animals find it quite tasty (it is not hard and prickly as it looks). So I probably would have to fend off the deer.
My elderberry plants are burgeoning.
There's always something. The other day I found that something had nibbled leaves off of several of the strawberry plants. (Grrrr!) The pattern of grazing made me suspect deer, so I put bird netting over all the strawberries. I bent plastic pipes over the beds and attached the bird netting -- it will keep the deer from grazing. Bird netting is incredible frustrating to work with. It snags everything and you can hardly see it, which makes cutting it a challenge. But that also makes it a more attractive alternative to row cover, which sticks out all white and billowing. Besides, the bird netting will allow bees through to pollinate the flowers. I may need to employ it on some of the other berries. Birds haven't been a problem, but deer graze on the new growth of even the most prickly brambles.

Now I've caught myself rambling without any gentle way to end this post. I will just  have to end it and go on waiting for it to rain.


Only in Louisiana ~ documenting the adventures we call Life! said...

We were in that situation last year ~ 100 degree plus temps and no rain for weeks...it was awful! But this year is so pleasant! Our summer is a great balance of 90 degree weather and some breeze blowing in the evening. Just enough rain! And don't bash the deer ~ we are trying to keep one alive right now! Your garden looks great...the fod garden tour wago is so adorable...you have done a remarkable job! Congrats!

The Harried Homemaker said...

I would be interested in seeing your water collection set-up. That is our next big project after we finish our poultry expansion. (We have chickens and are adding turkeys and ducks. I have batch of Ancona duck eggs in the incubator; Anconas make wonderful garden partners. Do you need a duck or two? I'll deliver. ;)

I didn't know that KU had a medicinal herb garden. I'd love to learn more about that.

Sandra M. Siebert said...

We also had really hot, dry weather last summer, but it did not heat up as early as it did this summer.
I will post some photos of our water catchment system, although the tanks are hidden by a structure my husband built.
Here is the KU Medicinal Herb Research Garden Web site address http://nativeplants.ku.edu/about/medicinal-plant-garden