I am generally loath to complain about rain. We started farming in 2012. We returned back to the States from three years in Norway and hit the ground running by purchasing a small herd of cattle in June. It had already been a weird Spring they told me, with several days in the 80s in March and not much in the way of April showers. June was blistering hot and the grass was already turning brown. No matter, I thought, it has to rain sometime.
But it didn’t rain. In fact, 2012 turned out to be the worst drought since 1988. We made hay off our Conservation Reserve land, built a fodder system, and got by. When rain finally came in September, it was the most welcome sight in the world. I ran around singing the Luke Bryan song, “Rain is a Good Thing” at the top of my lungs. That initial experience with drought has made me grateful for every drop of rain we get, until now.
Usually, at the end of August we are hoping for a change in weather. The pastures have turned a little brown, the heat and humidity have been frustrating for warmblooded folks like me, and the return to school is made easier if you don’t have great air conditioning in your classroom. We look forward to somewhat frequent rains, cooler temperatures, and greening pastures.
Well, this year Mother Nature got the “please rain” message loud and clear, and then went overboard. The first wave of storms hit Madison and West the hardest, with some fellow vendors at the Madison Market from Cross Plains saying they got 15 inches in 13 hours. Two weeks later tornadoes and heavy rains tore the state apart, causing a week delay to the start of school and Jordan’s new job in Montello.
The floodwaters eventually subsided, but barely. Since then we have gotten heavy rains every few days, making accomplishing things on the farm difficult as we are always worried about getting stuck. We experienced the onslaught of the largest hatch of mosquitoes in years, to the point where even wearing repellent resulted in bugs in your mouth and bites all over. Luckily that only lasted two weeks until it got cold enough to drive the mosquitoes into dormancy.
Yet the cooler temperatures signal the near arrival of winter. We have been asked many times since Jordan took on his teaching job how we would continue to manage the farm with us both working full time. The biggest answer is in improvements to make life easier. We had an excavator come out to dig trenches for water pipes so we can have permanent waterers for the cows, as hauling water to them is the most time consuming part of chores. The trenches were dug, and they looked beautiful and we were starting to get really excited about changes on the horizon.
And then it rained. Like 3 inches in an afternoon rain. We had to load lambs in that weather, and it wasn’t fun. But the worst part? The sides of some of the trenches fell in so they are no longer deep enough to put water pipes in and have to be redug, and it just keeps raining so it is too wet to have someone come out again.
Needless to say, I am really starting to tire of rain. It is predicted to rain heavily again tonight, but then the forecast looks clear for a while. Hopefully it stays that way and we can get our projects back on track. On the upside we have at least started the process to have permanent waterers, which we have been putting off for five years.
The drought of 2012 is one I will never forget and reminds me to take good care of the soil so it is drought resilient. I have been afraid of cursing the rain ever since for fear of another drought. The sandy soil and high ground at our farm protects us from a lot of the flooding our neighbors and friends have experienced. Yet this year, I think it is safe to say that too much rain is not a good thing.