We are singing paeans of praise here at The Havens as we enjoy a long steady soaking rain. We realize that certain of our readership have seen enough rain lately, but we have been suffering through a very long, hot, dry summer.
We got quite good rains all during May, and when we enjoyed a small shower in early June, we thought we were going to have plenty of precipitation this summer. Then it dried up. For the remainder of June, we only received .35 inches of rain. July opened dry, but the second week of the month doused us with 7 inches of rain, and again, we thought all our water troubles were over.
It was only fooling us. From July 13 until today, we saw exactly zero rain, and at the same time the temperatures stayed high for weeks. Over and over again we saw scattered thunder storms proceed through the area and skip us. There seemed to be a charmed swathe right in the middle of Laclede County that was under some sort of cosmic ban on precipitation. It made all the mowing chores dead easy, as there was no grass growing to speak of. It also put a certain amount of excitement into the receipt of the water bill every month as we endeavored to keep the vegetables coming and the flowers active.
Yesterday, the yard looked like this:
Despite all the irrigation, the flower beds were showing the signs of stress.
This morning about 5 a.m., we had a few claps of thunder, and then the rain began. Our forecast last night was 40% chance of scattered thunder storms in the area, so when I heard the thunder this morning, I prayed that it would rain longer than just a few minutes like it did the last time we had rain in the area, back in July.
Someone must have been listening to my pleas, because it settled in for a long, slow drenching. After a breakfast of tasty home made scones, I walked Ruby in the steady light rain. By the time we went a couple of miles, I was soaked to the skin and starting to chill a bit, which was quite ironic considering two days ago we were laboring under an excessive heat advisory. I cut the walk short and we went home, exalted by the walk through the woods pattering and dripping in the badly needed water falling from the sky.
In addition to having a well-filled massage schedule, one of the things that has kept me off-line in the past few days was the fact that it was time to give everybody out in the garden a hair cut. The day lilies had gone dormant and the Rugosa rose that provided me with so many amazing images last winter had died back either from the heat, a virus or a fungus. Or a bug could have munched it. My “to do” list had an agenda item — Dead roses to burn pile — which has since been crossed out. That particular chore involved a short lesson in the fact that the thorns on a Rosa rugosa are perfectly capable of stabbing right through leather gloves and into the bare skin inside them. But I digress.
It was time to give everybody a haircut. This was taken when I was about half through with the job.
That is the picture you never see in the gardening books: what it looks like when you are doing the end-of-season trim to the perennial border. No one tells you that when you decide to have a wildlife habitat you are going to have robins and jays (just to mention a few of the resident birds) who will ensure that the supply of weed seeds in any garden under a tree limb where they like to sit is renewed on an annual basis.
In addition to extracting the dead leaves and flower stalks from the dozen day lilies that live in this bed, I also had to dig out a couple of mulberry trees, a large goldenrod bush, numerous asters, some red bud saplings and a well established grape vine. Then I also made sure that all the violets were beaten back from the other plants. I have not found any studies to prove or disprove my theory, but I believe that violets exude some sort of growth inhibitor from their roots that stops or stunts the growth of any plant they are sharing space with. So I ruthlessly dig them away from my day lilies, clematis and hostas. They compost nicely.
It took me two days to get all the trimming and weeding done in that border and also in the front gardens. I filled the wheelbarrow with stuff for the compost grinder four times. We just got all the stuff that has been piled out there for the last half year ground up a week ago, and have enjoyed the cleared area near the compost condominiums for a whole week. it was so nice and tidy. It’s not clear any more, there is a small haystack of spent day lily foliage mixed with other organics out there now. And since it has been well rained upon, it is no longer dry enough to run through our grinder without causing it major indigestion.
When we ground up all the old stuff, I had the broccoli and the bean stalks to deal with, so I chopped them up with my shovel and built them into the compost pile. Two days ago I turned the whole thing. It is satisfactorily hot and the broccoli is already more than half broken down. Compost is a miracle.
While I was turning that pile, I found some compost that was done enough that I could use it as mulch out in the day lilies where I just trimmed and weeded. It was so dry out there; despite the major irrigation we have done there were big cracks in the earth. I spread mulch about and prayed for the weather pattern to change.
While I was engaged in that, I had to fix up some of the places that our lovely new wildlife excavated for us in the past week or so.
That up there, folks, is what it looks like after an armadillo has dug out the ant colony and grubs that it dined on for dinner several days ago. Notice the plant tag and the desiccated leaves just below it. That is what a Prairie smoke plant (Geum triflorum) looks like after it has been summarily excavated and tossed aside and then baked by the hot afternoon sun a couple of days. I was pretty sure it was dead, but I optimistically re-planted it and watered it well. Today after a day of rain it actually has hydrated some and looks like it is thinking about putting out some new growth, and I think that is completely amazing.
The ability of plants to make it through droughts by going dormant is nothing short of miraculous. I did get the message that it was a good idea to walk around the place and check to see what the armadillo had found to dig up during the night, and I found a dianthus yesterday that had the misfortune to live on top of a place where there were grubs:
That got replanted before It really knew it had been dug up, and is just fine.
The rain is still falling, it fell gently all day. So far our total is 3.3 inches. The rain garden looked like this pretty much all day.
We can almost see the grass turning green before our eyes. Nobody’s complaining about that. Yet.