Danny and I moved permanently to our farm in January, 2009. We sold our house in town, and totally committed ourselves to living the rest of our lives on the land that had been in my father’s family one full century, plus a quarter of another.
During our first two years, we lived in a small cabin while we built a larger, modern house. During that time, there were many memorable weather events: thunderstorms, blizzards, heat waves, and high winds. But there were also many sun-drenched days and star-studded nights that were so beautiful, we had to pinch our own arms to convince ourselves that we had not died and gone to heaven.
In a word, it was typical “Kansas”. And it was why we loved it.
We moved into our new home on the farm in November, 2010. Ironically, it was also in November, 2010 when our typical weather pattern changed.
That winter, we got no snow. The following spring of 2011, we got no rains. Or at least, not nearly enough. With no grass established around our newly built home, the prairie winds blew and swirled the bare dirt into every nook and cranny. Instead of using our snow shovel for its intended purpose, I used it to scoop dirt off our porches. We planted some shade trees that spring, but struggled to keep them alive. Their leaves wilted in the scorching summer sun. And still no rains.
Oh well. There’s always next year, everyone said.
But 2012 was even worse. Stories my mother had told me of the Dirty Thirties haunted me as I checked my horses’ water in 112-degree heat. Creeks and ponds had hard, cracked bottoms. Water wells dried up. Wheat fields had record low yields. Cropland was left unplanted because farmers needed rain before they could seed. Rains that never came. Cattlemen hauled water for their cattle daily and reduced herd numbers so they could survive on the sparse pasture grass. There were feature stories about grass fires in the newspapers and on the nightly news. No conversation between locals was complete without mention of the drought.
It was on everyone’s mind and affected everyone’s psyche. I taped my Prayer For Rain to the front of my refrigerator and recited it daily.
As much as I had wished for it, by 2014 I began to doubt our decision to move to our treasured family farm. Life in the country was just so hard with no rain!
Then on June 4, I visited my sister and brother-in-law in town to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday. When I began to complain, once again, about the drought, he stopped me.
“Mary Kay, it will rain again someday. You know it will. And today, you’re one day closer to the next big rain.”
I sat silent, absorbing his profound insight. I’m not sure why his words affected me so, but my spirit had been immediately lifted!
Little did I know that his words were also prophetic.
Within the week, we received over an inch of rain! Although certainly not a drought-buster, it was the first big rain we had received in far too many months. Farmers smiled again.
By the end of June, we had received over twelve inches of rain! That is almost half a year’s moisture in a typical year!
Of course, after four years of drought, the thirsty soil, trees and grasses greedily soaked it all in, so creeks were still not running. But then we got more rains in August! Finally, by the end of 2014, creeks and ponds held stored water for the upcoming winter, and it appeared that our drought was officially over. Things were back to normal.
Until this year.
Life is filled with cycles. Wait long enough, and even bell-bottom jeans come back in style.
This past winter, we received more snow than we had in the previous decade. Snowmelt caused our creeks and ponds to spill out of their banks. But it didn’t end there. Our spring was also wetter than normal, and since Easter on April 21, we have had over fourteen inches of rain.
Now, flash flood warnings have replaced wildfire warnings. Instead of shoveling dirt, I pick up flood debris. Instead of watching their crops wither and die from lack of rain, farmers now watch their crops mold and rot in fields too wet to enter with machinery. Instead of hauling water, cattlemen search for calves washed away by flood waters.
And, for now, I no longer recite my daily Prayer For Rain.
But life will get back to normal again. I know it will. And today, I’m one day closer.
(Weather – blizzards, thunderstorms, even tornadoes – play a major role in many of my farm stories in all three of my books. One cannot live on a farm without being intrinsically affected by weather.)
Next Week: Meet Junior!