Outside my window at this moment, a fantastic storm cloud is looming, looking a deep grey-purple shade of scary, rolling up its sleeves for a bit of leery ass-kicking. As any person that lives in drought-stricken south Texas will tell ya, its a welcome sight. Bring it on, slap us around a little bit with a storm. Knock out the power. Make my roads impassable. Just rain. Rain hard.
The running spate of triple-digit days seems to be running out here in South Texas. Scalding heat is gradually being replaced by an occasional cool breeze, a hint of clouds skittering across the sky, and recent rain yesterday left our barren landscape flush with hope and energy and color.
Its been so long since its rained that I forgot which side the windshield wipers are on Sam’s car, forgot to carry my umbrella to the farmer’s market, forgot to roll up my windows … I relished getting drenched during my pre-dawn morning run. If it would stop the ominous crawl towards an dust bowl, I’d welcome a year of daily downpours like that.
This summer’s drought left our terrain utterly parched, bleached of life and color and crumbled, roughly scraped clean of vitality. Wildfires have screamed across the state, leaving devastation and blackened reminders behind … think you’re in control? Nature is the one in control. You can’t make it rain. You can’t snap your fingers and make that fire stop. You can not make the springs flow once they’ve dried up or make that snowstorm stop its path to ice if thats what its got on it’s mind.
I’ve struggled to grow anything at all this summer. I was so excited to get a cantaloupe that I nearly went on a Squirrel Hunt when I discovered these teeth marks in my solo melon in the garden the morning I went out to harvest it. I was not happy with Shrimpy the Squirrel after he decided the melon wasn’t to his taste and left it behind after all.
Trying an expermint with bag gardens, I wanted to see if I could eek something from my garden. The tomatoes had already packed up and left town, promising they’d write from someplace cooler and less … Hades-like. Even the tomatillos were not speaking to me.
After two weeks, I’d already seen great progress. Cucumbers were considering residency and new shoots were arriving each day from gourds, pumpkins, and squash that’d stopped by.
And today, we’re 2 weeks into September, with parts of the country already talking about the first frost, about closing down the garden. Here in Hades? No, I think we might linger a bit.
I have a Baby Radish Forest that will soon, very soon *(rubbing hands together) overtake the world.
Those reluctant tomatillos have stopped giving me the cold shoulder and are now making lima-bean green chinese lanterns of loveliness. I fantasize about the sauce I will make for tamales very soon.
During the worst drought this state has seen, I look for any opportunity to find beauty in nature. I leave fruit rinds for the thin deer, water baths for the birds and seeds for those damned squirrels. A trickle of water runs for my wildlife friends who have only bone-dry creeks and a crispy terrain with no nutrients left for them.
Each time I go into my garden, I thin the plants in the bag gardens and leave the greens for the animals. They are always gone before I come back to hang the laundry.
Coming in from the garden with a clutch of things I grew myself is an amazing feeling. The taste of the food is so bright and deep. Supermarket food just doesn’t taste like this. We eat the radishes, we put the greens into our salads, and the House Bunnies eat the stalks. Nothing goes to waste.
Now weeks into the bag garden experiment, I am starting a new bag each week. The greens and beans container garden I started two weeks ago will soon make room for a roots garden box of carrots, potatoes and onions … all things that do well in south Texas winter gardens.
Drought is a good instruction tool. We shouldn’t take prosperity and the bounty of nature for granted. Life, whether a fragile squash blossom or that of a deer that can not survive without its native land to nourish it … is tenacious, unpredictable and beautiful, all at once.