We have all we need for everyone to live well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Catching Up

The drought broke here, after a fashion, on August 4 when during a large outdoor party in the afternoon we got a terrific thunderstorm and blow that dropped 1.5" of rain. Two hours later, though, one would never have known it had rained – there was no runoff nor even puddles. Since then we've had a couple storms that left about 0.7" each, and a couple at 0.1". None of this has restored the deficit and there's been no runoff so the pond continues to dry up and in the surrounding countryside the corn continues to die. Still, the grass has greened-up and everything looks a lot better. Temperatures moderated over the past couple weeks, 80s and 90s, and this makes for easier working outdoors.

In Seattleland, I always had the impression of the sky, and weather, being quite close to the ground. The skies here in Iowa are big, expansive, and layered into the stratosphere. On several recent days the cloud cover has primarily been composed of condensation trails from aircraft crisscrossing this piece of flyover country.

Today I met the farmer on the other side of this fence. He'd was looking for a four-year-old, 2500 pound bull that had gone missing, and I had to tell him I'd not seen it. It's a bit of a mystery because his pastures are well-fenced, but he told me that, without the addition of electric wire, a bull of that size can jump five strands of barbed wire. I rather hope I don't find the big thing.

The previous owners installed chain-link fencing around the house, presumably to contain their small children, and one of the first things Alan & Donna did when they arrived was to take down the mesh, but the posts were set in concrete – not just the corners but every one! – and proved quite difficult to remove. Alan and I gave it another go last weekend, using a technique derived from a 1909 book, Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them. We had a tractor instead of a team of horses, but the principles were the same. Our first attempts failed, but after digging away the turf that had covered the top of the concrete bases, creating little moats, and soaking these for a while – success!

Now the collection of posts is stacked in our stockpiles area, awaiting repurposing. Perhaps we'll cut off the pipes above the concrete and make giant wind chimes in the woods.

On a recent evening the clouds boiled up then, as has usually been the case, parted and went around without producing rain. But such magnificent tableaux! As my hero Jack Vance might put it, allegories of battles between good and evil...

The rain caused a lot of the tomato crop to split on the vine, and these fruits require a lot of culling and trimming before we can use them, but the dehydration project continues and the next step will be to pack them in oil and herbs. There are still a lot more on the vines, and sauce to be made and preserved.

Donna harvested Concords from one of the grapevines and made jelly. A rip-roaring success for her first attempt at this – excellent color, consistency, and flavor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Atlas and Diary

Opening up the trails has given us more and easier ways to get to the east side of the property, and from the verge of the woods and eastern fields I watched the sunrise a few days ago.

Moving the gaze south one encounters the neighbor's massive oaks.

First rays catching the interior of the cedar forest.

This sequence approaches the ruined bridge near the grade control structure under the county road.

It floated in a flood and turned sideways and was destroyed. We think we can salvage much of the material to build the replacement bridge. It's going to be a good challenge to build something that we can take the tractor across and that will withstand flooding.

Looking back the other way.

Of course, the full moon always sets opposite the rising sun, so by the time I got back out of the woods on the west side...

And here some spatterlight in the grandmother cottonwood tree.

Saturday midday a rather violent thunderstorm blew through, leaving an inch and a half in the gauges after about 40 minutes. There were no puddles, no runoff, and three hours later no indication that rain had fallen except that everything was a lot cleaner with the dust rinsed away. We could use a rain like that every day for a week, so it's no end to the drought. But the rain we did get and the moderate temperatures behind its cool front have made everything look and feel better. It's been cool enough to really enjoy the pond and Deck Dock.