Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Necessity of Rain

I just looked at my calendar for the month of May, and either I have been at Dogs Run Farm or I have traveled to/from here for 18 of the 31 days in the month. Part of this increase in time spent in WV can be attributed to a moderate drought on the farm. When I arrived Friday (May 29th), we had had only 1.61" of rain for the month, with a good part of that in the early part of the month. I would estimate that our average May rainfall is significantly over 5" and is perhaps as high as 6". We try and rely on rainwater for watering the garden, and we have a 10' x 12' collection system (a tarp) and a 110 gal tank. If we had collected all of this 1.61" of rain, it would have barely filled the tank once, but we had long since used that up.

The unfortunate consequence of this small drought is that I have been forced to haul water up to the garden in order to water plants. I bring it up in 5 gal pails with lids, four to the load, in my ATV trailer. Forty gal is two trips up and down the hill (did I mention that our garden and home are on a steep hill? Our driveway is almost 0.3 miles long and climbs about 200-300' in elevation, and the garden is several hundred yards uphill from the house.), which is tough on the ATV. Thankfully, it has a fully locking differential, so in tough situations locking the transmission makes all the difference. Overall, the process is painful, both physically and mentally.

I am pretty convinced, however, that we can survive largely with rainwater. Last year we had several one-inch rains in a row, and the garden was threatened only with erosion. I managed to save most of the potato crop, putting tarps over the bed in which I'd recently planted seed potatoes, and we ended up with 140 lbs of seven varieties of potatoes. The rest of the growing season benefited from continual rains throughout the summer. I only hauled water one time. It would be nice to have a larger cistern (e.g., 500 gal) and a more permanent and sturdy collection system. Couple that with a solar powered pump, and I doubt we would ever have to haul water up to the garden again.

Around noon on Saturday, May 30th, we finally had some rain. It was somewhat of a downpour, but coupled with a lighter rain later in the day, we ended up with 0.67" of rain.  The garden soaked it all up, with no evidence of runoff, and the rain barrel collected around 50 gal of water (10' x 12' tarp = 120 sq ft = 17,280 sq in x 0.67" rain = 11,578 cu in water = 50 gal). It takes about 1.5" of rain to fill a completely empty tank.

So now, everyone is happy. The grasses in the clearing have greened up overnight, the garden has had a good soaking, the plants look healthy, and we are hopefully on our way to a bountiful 2015 crop.

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