*In a drought there’s only one thing to do … wait. We tried collecting rain in buckets. But there was no rain. A line of white plastic pails sat hopefully under the roof line, the heat slowly turning them green on the inside. The garden grew, somehow, except for the lettuce, planted and replanted, but it just won’t germinate in dust. Then the well went dry. Dirty dishwater saved in a watering can, only goes so far in a big garden, and there is less and less waste water as we tighten our usage more and more. Hauling water from town guarantees that.
During the past seven days, a three-week dry spell ended. I’d been watering my newly planted garden by hand on a daily basis using dirty dishwater and an occassional spritz with the hose, but now I can take a break. We’ve had little bits of unmeasurable rain almost every day, mostly late afternoons after the heat of day builds up and during the night, keeping the ground slightly damp. Then on Sunday, a big rain overnight left two welcome inches in my rain gauge and yesterday another half an inch was gifted us.
There is a one-hundred-twenty gallon rain barrel sitting in the yard but it is not hooked up. I wait for the for the man who delivered it two weeks ago and promised to come back the next day to install it. Yesterday, as the afternoon rains came he called to say he was on his way but then decided not to come because of the hail, the thunder, the lightning. Who can blame him?
The people of Florida are living through a long, hard drought. I was told that rain levels are down some 25 inches. Lake levels are down in some areas six or seven feet. There are wildfires breaking out. Around the world all creatures, human and non-human, wait for the rains to come.
Back in 2004 we had a serious drought here in Central Virginia. I had moved several years prior to a home situated on the banks of the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir which is the main source of water for the city of Charlottesville. We were on a well, but afraid to run it dry, I didn’t water my newly landscaped gardens. The river fell to alarming levels, more like a small stream than the wide expanse of moving water it usually was. Water restrictions were put in place. I read a newspaper article about a new company in town specializing in harvesting rainwater and became the proud owner of a 3,000 gallon + underground tank, filled with rainwater runoff from the roof of the garage and the kitchen. After that my garden was watered only from that system. It was an investment that I would make over again if I still lived on a large parcel of land with expansive gardens. But here our garden is tiny and our water usage much lower.
Now we pay the city for our water and besides wanting to save money, I don’t want to overuse the water we have. If the rain barrel gets hooked up and we continue to have rain, the garden will be in good shape. But in order keep the humans hydrated in our community we need also use other tactics to conserve this precious resource. Using water from rinsing and washing dishes to water the garden is a good idea. I pour it by the bucket onto thirsty potted plants that go dry more quickly than in-ground plants. I turn off the water while I’m brushing my teeth, and turn it back on when it’s time to rinse. Collecting water from the shower as the water heats up saves many a gallon, as does not flushing the toilet unless you absolutely have to. At my house the motto is, If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. I also plant drought resistant plants in the garden. Those that can go long periods of time without a good rain or a sprinkle from my hose. They can begin looking a bit tattered when it’s dry but always come right back when the rain starts falling. Water is becoming a scarce and precious commodity. In order for us to continue living as we do, we must use less of it.
*Everything is drying up in the drought, even my creativity, and I know you can’t push the river, but you can try, can’t you? I still go to the desk every day, as if writing something, and even though nothing comes flowing in, I’ve got to keep those buckets lined up just in case. A drought can end any time, without warning. This spell without rain, record-breaking, heart-breaking, leads me to wonder if it ever will rain again, or if this is it … the turning-point in planetary viability, the end of lettuce as we know it.
*The Lessons of the Well, by Linda Tatelbaum, found in the book, Writing on Water, edited by David Rothenberg and Marta Ulvaeus.