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We need rain

07/10/2012 @ 8:21am

We need some rain.

The crops still look pretty good, at least right around here.  There is corn on both sides of my driveway and it’s like driving down a green, leafy tunnel.  Really, when I think about how long it’s been since it rained and that for the entire time to have the temperatures about three degrees hotter than the surface of the sun, it seems like a bit of a miracle for the crops to still be alive, let alone looking good.

Of course, it can all change.  It’s only July – good looking crops right now are fine, but it’s a long time until harvest and there’s plenty of time for things to go to hell.

And parts of the country are already there.

I have significant experience with weather related disasters and I believe that a drought is probably the worst.

A hailstorm is like a mugging, leaving you huddled and dazed in a corner, muttering “Why me?”  A flood is a tremendous amount of work, both during and after, and for a while you’re just too busy for the ramifications of what’s happening to sink in.

But a drought is a slow motion train wreck, with plenty of time to observe all the details.  The slightest hint of clouds in the western sky raises your hopes with the unreasonable optimism that is a prime requirement of a farmer’s life.

The first year we farmed was in 1976, which was also the worst drought in a generation.  The cornfields looked like a pineapple plantation, with stunted plants two feet tall.  Grains of fertilizer laid on the surface of the ground all summer –  we didn’t get enough rain to dissolve them.  Luckily, we had nothing to lose. My wife got a job in town, we worked harder and came out the other side.  

The stakes are higher now.  Granted, farmers have been making a lot of money, but they’re spending a lot of money, too, on soaring rents and equipment costs.  There are a lot of nervous people in farm country.

Even people who don’t really know much about farming have reason to be concerned.  There’s enough food in the world to feed everyone who is hungry (people starve because of shortages of both money and competent governments), but there isn’t much of a surplus.  Depending on who’s doing the figuring, there may be only about a month’s worth of extra food in the world.  To put that in perspective, financial experts recommend that you have six months living expenses in a savings account, and most businesses want around five months of operating expenses in reserves.  When you think about that, when you really ponder that everything that matters – from our civilization to life itself - revolves around the fact that most of the time the sun shines, every now and then it rains, and the whole thing is balanced with a margin thin as a razor’s edge, it can make you take a step back and count your blessings.

We need rain.  We need rain, then sunshine, warm weather and fair winds.  In order to raise the food that feeds the world, we need what seems like an impossible combination of weather events, and yet that’s what we almost always get.

Almost always.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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