Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toby's water fountain

A while back I wrote about the black slate fountain that my husband created. Since it's been running we've been amused to see that our dog Toby has decided that it's his own personal water fountain.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rain at last - we're cheering

View from patio on our back hill - note brown lawn in background

As many others were contending with record rainfall and flooding, we stayed dry. But today, we finally got a decent rain: 2/10ths of an inch overnight, plus 8/10ths this morning. And as I post this in the early afternoon, it's raining again!

In my neighborhood, we're all thrilled after a gardening season that turned dry in mid-May and stayed parched through the entire summer. As my neighbor Rose put it in her email to me just now: NICE RAIN, SOOOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!!

PS: Total rainfall from Thursday to today, 1 and 8/10ths of an inch (most of it today). This is most rain we've had in a week since April. Even the creek is flowing again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Crazy rain and flooding - but not here

One of my sisters lives in Algonquin, Illinois, near Chicago. In constrast to our never-ending drought, she reports:
Crazy rain – we are now at 27.5 inches since mid July. We drove through several areas of flooding over the road on our way home from work last night. It took 90 minutes as opposed to the usual 25 to get home. The river in our town is flooding as well. Good thing we don't live near it.
Meanwhile, in Mike Johnston's part of Wisconsin it also keeps raining. As he wrote yesterday:
Damned if it's not going to rain again today, if the gray sky is any indication. I don't mean to complain, because I know a lot of people have gotten far worse in recent days, weeks, and months—in other parts of this country as well as in England—but, man, have we ever gotten hammered lately. It's been raining for six days. We haven't had a chance to get the grass cut in between downpours. Every day I think, well, it can't rain again today. I should stop thinking that.
In the six weeks that my sister has seen more than 27 inches of rainfall, we have just barely cobbled together two inches in dribs and drabs over the course of several disappointing little showers. We could actually use six days of rain in a row, we're so parched.

Here's the result: the Agriculture Canada drought map (click on the picture to see it bigger) updated to Aug. 22 shows record dryness spreading through many regions in the southern part of the province. We are in the record dry red area between London and Toronto.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Luck turning? Early morning thunderstorm

Click on the radar map to view bigger

4:30 a.m.: Wake to thunder and lightning and then finally some rain falling around 5 a.m. I take a cup of tea and sit outside on the front porch bench while it comes down. It feels like balm for the soul. When it's over, the rain gauge shows 3/10ths of an inch. More in the forecast for later this morning, around 11 a.m. We'll see.

10 a.m.: Another small thunderstorm cell passing through. We get maybe half a tenth of an inch more, which doesn't quite take the rain gauge to 4/10ths.

Meanwhile, south of the border, more reports of flooding through many parts of the American mid-west. It's hard to believe that we are still so dry.

My friend from Michigan reports:
There's massive flooding in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Some parts of those states have received 14 inches of rain with 5 inches on Tuesday, alone. We are lucky to have been on the outskirts of the storm. it's hard to believe that you - in a rather direct line east of here, have no rain. I'm actually beginning to believe the US weather maps that have only white above
the northern US border. There is no weather in Canada, only hot or cold.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It sucks the life out of gardens and gardeners

Today I actually thought I was losing it. My impression of the last few days was that I hadn't watered a lot, and so I didn't bother to check the cistern before putting the sprinkler on my shade garden. As a result I almost burned out the pump because I let the water level get down to the dregs. This was the first time all summer I've made that mistake. I guess I'm pretty tired of it all, but I did call the Water Truck for a refill - again.

The picture above from Canada's Weather Network shows our 14-day trend forecast. You'll notice that it indicated rain for today. The day's done, as for the rain, well, you know the story: it didn't materialize. The rest of August looks equally dismal.

The title of this post comes from one of the kind comments I received from a blog reader in Washington. It's so true: drought will do that to you. I was interested to discover that mental health researchers in Australia have actually coined a word, solastalgia, for drought stress as it affects people.

PS: Here's a link to article about solastalgia as a human response to environmental stress by Glenn Albrecht, an Australian researcher in environmental health. It's a bit academic, but fascinating.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monsoon season? Everywhere but here

Click on picture to view bigger size

I don't live by gardening alone, and so I follow quite a few blogs that have nothing to do with gardening. My favorite is The Online Photographer by Mike Johnston, who writes beautifully on photography and many other topics. Anyway, today he reports:

On the home front, here in Wisconsin it's monsoon season. We don't actually have a monsoon season, or at least not usually, but that hasn't stopped it from raining for three days straight...
Then my friend Sandy from Michigan emailed the following:
It's still dark and misty outside but I think the bulk of the rain is over for now. There were 4.25 inches in the gauge at 4:30. However, there is rain in the forecast for Tuesday as well as 90 degree temperatures by midweek. We were concerned because the sump pump has not engaged even once since the rain started. After checking, we found that the sump crock is still nearly dry! Weather report says the rain is related to the tropical storm (Erin) so maybe there's hope that you'll get a few inches as well.
What I wouldn't give for such a rain! Come on you folks south of the border: Why are you hogging all the rain? Send some up here.

Actually, there was some rain in southern Ontario today around the London area, but it didn't reach up this way. Tomorrow looks to be more of the same: a trace is forecast, but many inches are needed. The map above shows just how little rain there has been over the past 30 days.

So far in August we've had barely half an inch, and that fell within the first week. Since then: nothing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lack of acknowledgement of the drought

Precipitation Compared to Historical Distribution (Ontario Region)
Map: Agriculture Canada (See key below)

Featured comment: T Gordon said...

Finally! The drought has made the evening news. Only because it is the worst drought since 1959, so worth reporting. I feel some validation. All summer I have been frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of the drought. Several times I have mentioned the drought only to have people say, "Oh really?" If it were not for your blog, I might have thought I was imagining it. It helped greatly to have it. Thanks!
I wrote about this very thing in an earlier post: I guess it's just a reflection of how uninvolved most people are with growing things.

Partial Key to Drought Map
Red = Record Dry
Brown = Extremely Low
Orange = Very Low
Yellow = Low

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hanging in there through dry August

It's record dry, but the beds look as colorful as ever. The picture here is of a bed we call the "well bed" (because that's where the house well sits, not far from the blue spruce at the left). Now, I've been watering this bed every week or two. It's the bed that gets watered from the pond with the firehose.

Past the well bed, there's a dip in the land in which lies the pond. The pond is now quite low, maybe down five feet (1.5 meters), but because it's 12 feet deep (3.65 meters) it still has a lot of water in it.

Beyond that in the distance is a bed that I've given up maintaining. It's full of grasses and native perennials like Rudbeckia subtomentosa, a nice tall black-eyed Susan. This bed now has many weeds creeping in, but all we do is mow around it. (Our ambitions proved unsustainable.)

Amazingly, this bed is full of life and color, record drought not withstanding. Meanwhile, in our two acres of meadow, the plants are quite stunted, about half their usual height due to the extreme dryness. However, they are still blooming, but not staying in bloom as long as usual.

Below is Agriculture Canada's drought map to Aug. 14. As you can see, the red area marking record dry conditions keeps expanding.

Precipitation Compared to Historical Distribution (Ontario)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grass turns out not to be

We have a gravel driveway, which, as anyone who has one knows, is a great incubator for weeds. So whenever my husband or I spot green stuff in the gravel around the yard, we reflexively bend down to pull it out. Tonight, as I reached down for a bit of errant grass, it jumped away. Ah, ha, not grass, but a grasshopper - a very green one.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shower today nets 10th of an inch

I start the morning off by taking some pictures of the front garden, which is full of grasses and Russian sage. This picture, I take from the loft of the barn where we have a high window propped open so the barn swallows can fly in and out even when we have the barn doors closed.

As I set up my camera on the tripod, a pair of barn swallows gets the surprise of their lives when they find me at the window. Oooops: abort landing, bank sharply right and head for the open door below. Then, the chatter begins, and continues the entire time I'm up there.

The afternoon brings a shower, but very little rain: only 1/10th of an inch. We were going to get the firehoses out again to water the front garden, but we just didn't get around to it - it's a big and heavy job (now I know why fire fighters need to be so burly) - maybe tomorrow night. It's exhausting, all this watering.

Next chance for rain? The Weather Network predicts "a few showers" for Thursday. Yeah, right...

A closer view of some the front garden plants

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cool, drizzly, cloudy day - but still no real rain

Today was another showery day, kind of an unexpected bonus, but we only got 1/10th of an inch. Late last night, the Weather Network forecast suggested that we could get as much as an inch, but I didn't get too excited. By morning that forecast was downgraded. No surprise to me: this has been the dominant weather pattern since mid-May.

Note the drought-stricken lawn in the background

At least we had a cool, drizzly, cloudy day instead of a sizzling hot one. At this point, I'm grateful for small blessings!

I'm actually ok, and not too downhearted. I have a lot of projects on the go, and helpers in the garden, so I don't really have too much to complain about.

But if you love plants, you feel for them when they have to suffer without rain. They look so sad. I do what I can to help them with my watering, but I wish could help them all, including the poor old lawn. Alas, my water supply is limited.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How dry can it get? Evidently, much drier

Yesterday's rainfall amounted to 4/10ths of an inch in total, but it stayed cloudy, cooler and dampish all day, which was a blessed relief.

Here's the Agriculture Canada drought map for southern Ontario again, now updated to Aug. 6. Red means record dry, and brown extremely dry. (We are in the record dry patch under where it says "Toronto" - close to the tip of Lake Ontario.)

We're now in the middle of a heat and humidity wave that looks like it won't break for another five days. After that, the 14-day forecast shows warm and dry to August 22.

I hate to go on and on about drought, but unfortunately this summer it is the issue that dominates my life. I haven't given up fighting back with the hoses. Sure, my garden beds are filled with mostly drought-tolerant perennials and ornamental grasses, but even those plants can't keep going (let alone look good) when it doesn't rain for months. But what's really heartbreaking is what this extreme dryness is doing to all the trees and shrubs that I just can't water.

The bottom line: I can't wait for winter and a good, long break from all this. What a cruel summer for plants and gardeners! Of course, the farmers have it much worse. At least we gardeners don't depend on rain for a living.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is it raining? Or am I dreaming?

We got almost half an inch of rain today (4/10ths of an inch). Earlier on, the forecast predicted lots more rain tonight coming with thunderstorms. Whether these materialize or not remains to be seen. At the moment - late afternoon - it looks like the potential for overnight showers might already have evaporated.

We weren't as lucky as London, Ontario, where my parents live. They had an inch-and-a-half today. What I wouldn't give to get that kind of rain! At any rate, the landscape is so dry now that any rain at all is a blessing.

The view from the front porch during the shower

Friday, August 03, 2007

Big skies and cool clouds

One of the things that really impressed us when we moved from the city to the country was the big sky. Sure, it's nothing like the big skies of the prairies, but it can be impressive nonetheless.

Usually when I see neat clouds, I'm out on a dog walk and don't have my camera handy or the cloud is gone by the time I get to the camera. But today I was lucky: this was the view from the front porch late this afternoon. To me, it looks like a big steer's - or should I say - bull's head in the sky - a pretty cool cloud for a scorching hot day.

Purslane for lunch

I generally pull weeds, but yesterday for a change I ate weeds, specifically purslane (Portulaca oleracea), which I put into my lunch salad. I wanted to give purslane a try after reading this article at the Nutrition Data blog, where nutrition maven Monica Reinagel writes:
"Purslane is one of the richest vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

A big part of the reason that the meat from pasture-raised cattle (and wild game) is higher in omega-3 fats is because grazing animals favor these succulent wild greens and will eat them preferentially over other grasses. It makes good grazing for people, too. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 100 grams of purslane contains 300-400 mg of omega-3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid), along with over half a day's supply of vitamin E, a third of the day's vitamin C, and a quarter of the day's vitamin A. But does it taste good?"
To answer the question: Yes, it tastes fine. Like many salad ingredients, to my mind, it doesn't have a strong taste. Being really into healthy eating, I think I'll collect it when I can. Who knew that it's such a good source of omega 3s?

I'm kind of sorry I ate the purslane before taking a picture of it, and believe it or not, I can't find any more of it at the moment, but there are pictures and more info at

There are some purslane recipes at the Prairieland Community Supported Agriculture site.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

News headline: Scorched earth

I always find it interesting that drought conditions rarely make the news. The radio and TV weather people seem oblivious, continually trumpeting that it's going to be another nice sunny day.

I guess it's just a reflection of how uninvolved most people are with growing things.

The southern Ontario drought situation finally made the local newspaper yesterday. The Hamilton Spectator reports that this summer's dry weather has indeed been record-breaking. We have had the least rainfall since record-keeping began in 1959, only 40% of the normal amount. Outside the city, I believe we had even less than that. The city counted nine days when some rain fell; here, it was only six days.

The Spectator quotes David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, saying the rains were "just enough to keep the dust down. They were two-bit rains, not the million-dollar rains conservation authorities and farmers need."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Not welcome news: prolonged heat wave

If I can say anything good about this record dry summer, it's that the heat and humidity we usually get have mostly stayed away. The nights have been great for sleeping and we didn't have to use the air conditioner very often.

But that has now changed. We're into a heat wave that looks like it will last for at least a week. Hot, hot, hot - just what we needed on top of this endless drought! I may well start whining again, but this weather isn't unexpected. The last week of July and the first week of August are traditionally the hottest of the summer across Canada.

To my sister and my friend with the pool, you're going to see a bit more of me. (Or a bit less: since February, I've lost 15 pounds.) To tell the truth: I've had it with summer. Fall and winter just can't come soon enough for me now.