It is the middle of the night, and I can’t sleep. I can hear the rain on the roof, and I’m measuring it; not in inches or in centimeters, but in my mind, adding up the chores accomplished in time and subtracting the tasks left undone.
I can hear the logs burning in the fireplace too. I’m glad I spent time last week cutting up dead, fallen branches in the forest. Now I’ve got a couple of months’ worth of dry wood cut, split, and stacked in the shed. The house won’t be damp and cold and my family won’t be crabby. That’s a plus!
Our cat, Sarah, is in the living room, in front of the fire, “toughing it out” on her tuffet. She’s happy. Rain tests all the preparations I’ve made to care for the animals. How have I done? My dog, Red, is happy; she’s in my room sleeping on her fleece by my bed. She snores. Blue, our other Pyrenees Mountain dog, is asleep in the shed outside. He’s so fluffy he may not even be aware that it’s raining. My two donkeys, Prima and Sweet Pea, have noticed the precipitation and they’ve retreated to their dry shed. The goats are in the barn. Only my cows are out in the wet night, but they’ve taken shelter down in the oak trees. Besides, my cows are Dexters; fat, little, heirloom Irish cows, and a light California rain doesn’t alarm them.
I do hope the rain gets heavier. For the past month I’ve kept the cattle in the pasture next to our house so that I can more easily feed them hay. There’s been so little rain this winter that the grass hasn’t grown like I need it to. I plan on keeping the cattle off of their regular pasture for another month or so. With the nights getting a little shorter and a little warmer the grass will soon get a little longer— if there’s enough rain. I can’t afford to feed the cattle hay all summer, so if it doesn’t rain I’ll have to sell them.
The rain is good for the vegetables too. Crops always grow faster after a rain than they do after an irrigation. The water’s cleaner, I guess. Rain is certainly cheaper than irrigation. I’m short on irrigation pipes right now, so a rain means I don’t have to spend money to move pipes. It doesn’t cost me anything to move clouds! The rain means lower power bills too. If the rain is going to do the irrigation for us we can spend our money to harvest crops. I’ve got cauliflower, carrots, yukina, cabbage, spring garlic, nettles, escarole, and lettuce planned for harvests this week, plus some potatoes out of the cooler. It’ll be a muddy day in the fields, but do-able.
Of course the rain slows some things down. We got ½ of our last winter cover crop planted yesterday before we ran out of seed. Now it will be too wet to plant for a while, which gives me time to get down to King City and buy more cover crop seed. I’d better take more seeds in to Headstart Nursery too. They grow my vegetable transplants. If I can’t sow directly into the field I have them start seedlings for me for transplant out later so that I don’t get off schedule.
It’s awfully early in the year to know how we’re doing, but so far things seem good. We’re on time with our plantings, things are growing, it’s finally raining, the house is warm, and the cat is in front of the fire. It all adds up. Time to go to sleep.
Article and all photos by Andy Griffin.
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