Monday, July 11, 2011

The Big Tease

Sunday started with such promise. A blue sky to the west and a faint rainbow over a neighbor's soybean field held the illusion of answered prayers.

The night before, nature's lightning show punctuated the skies as my brother Kent and I drove home from the Manhattan airport, where we landed after a three-day trip to help our sister, Darci, celebrate her 50th birthday. (More on our Chicago trip to come.)

But the lightning show was just window dressing on a heat-scorched landscape. Maybe some lucky people got an isolated shower. It seems that rain, at least in our part of the world, is as hard to come by as a winning lottery ticket. The people who win the prize get a lot of publicity, while the ones who don't are forgotten.

It's supposed to be another week of triple-digit temperatures here in south central Kansas. News people have clever stories about frying eggs on sidewalks or baking a pizza in an enclosed car. But for farmers in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the excessive heat is more than a story on the local news about ingenious ways to keep cool (though that will be quite a trick this week during the Stafford County Fair).

July 10, 2011

No, for farmers and ranchers, the drought means scrambling to find pastures for growing calves and their mamas.

Contrast the pasture photo I took yesterday (above) with the one from June 30 of last year.

June 30, 2010

That's why Randy is supplementing the limited pasture grasses by feeding hay.

Without some rain this summer, we won't have much hay to feed next winter. The second cutting of alfalfa isn't any better than the first. At the field south of our house, it was again impossible to find a windrow, so Randy decided not to waste the diesel it would take to swath it.

It's not the only show-and-tell photos in my arsenal.

Randy planted a sorghum-sudan cross in this wheat stubble. What? You don't see any green? Neither do we, even with a closer examination. Without a rain, it hasn't emerged from the ground.

Here's a milo field yesterday ...

(A neighbor's field 1/2 mile south of our house, July 10, 2011)

compared with a photo taken on July 9 of last year.

July 9, 2010

Even the most optimistic souls are wilting in the face of continued oppressive heat and no rain.

There's not a lot of irrigation in our area because of salt in the groundwater. But I took this photo of a neighbor's irrigated corn field yesterday to illustrate the difference in plants that receive "rain" and those that don't.

The corn plants in the foreground are on the "corners" of the irrigation circle, and the water doesn't reach those plants.

The brown, shriveled leaves are quite a contrast to the green of the corn plants that are watered with the irrigation system.

But with triple-digit heat and no help from Mother Nature, even the irrigated fields are struggling.

Normal rainfall for our area is 24 to 26 inches a year. So far this year, we've gotten about 3 inches of rain.

So we'll keep our eyes on the sky. And we'll keep praying that the rainbow will signal a much-needed rain ... and not just a beautiful optical illusion.

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