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Water, Farming, and the New Normal

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waterBack in the early ‘90s I lived in Wyoming. Having grown up in the Great Lakes region, and living in Hawaii before Wyoming, I never thought about fresh water or this odd thing called water rights. Water rights and Wyoming was a great education in the pre-cursor to climate change.

 

I was flabbergasted at the news headlines in Wyoming regarding shotguns and ranchers and a whole Hatfield and McCoys rivalry over water. You can search any day on any of the Western Mountain state major newspapers and there will be a story about water rights contention. Since that time, I’ve had a whole new viewpoint about water, land, and consumption.

 

http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/

Now I live in Western Washington, another place where typically rainwater, snowpack melt, and fresh water are not an issue. Admit it, if you’re reading this and live outside of the Greater Seattle area, you think all it does is rain in Seattle 24-7. The truth is not so exaggerated. But normally I only have to worry about watering my farm in the month of August. Normally being the key word. This summer has reminded me of living in Southern California rather than the temperate rainforest of Western Washington. We have had record high temperatures and in May our governor declared the state in a drought. This on the hills of William Shatner declaring there should be a pipeline from Seattle to Los Angeles. Get a clue, Bill.

 

In all my years gardening, microfarming, and urban homesteading, I’ve never had to water things so much, especially in June. The rain barrels are long empty and I am so judicious with my application and look for every opportunity to gather grey water, too. I’ve harvested zucchini and cucumbers already. In June! Historically we’re just getting the first of our warm weather around the 4th of July weekend. Instead I spend part of the day playing the “keep the house cool game.” See, many of us in the Paific Northwest normally don’t have central air in our buildings and homes here – it doesn’t stay hot for this long – at least not the kind of warm that is sustained. Also, when it does get warm, it dips down to good sleeping weather at night. Last night? Only got down to 72 degrees outside, which for our acclimatization is hot. My own well-insulated home only got down to 71 degrees, but not until nearly 0400 hrs. Not really good sleeping weather. We’re all a bunch of heatwave zombies right now.

 

In the decade I've lived in the Cascade Foothills, I've never seen the fire danger so high.
In the decade I’ve lived in the Cascade Foothills, I’ve never seen the fire danger so high.

Additionally, much of the landscape around me is burning. Lack of rain means the threat of fire is at an all-time high. As I type this, firefighters are putting out brush fires in multiple locations within 25-square miles from me. More than 5,000 acres have burned in Eastern Washington and many homes have been lost. In Alaska, which is also suffering record-breaking temperatures, more than one million acres has erupted in fires.

 

I’ve been posting photos every day of our ridiculous high temperatures with the hashtag #climatechangeisscary. It is scary, folks. There’s nothing more evident that we are in climate change when considering that the temperate rainforest is now semi-arid, much like our Southern California neighbors, or even our Eastern Washington friends. This fall we’ll be installing more rain barrels. We’ll be looking at exactly how to get ALL our gray water.

 

11720347_10207184201505701_958244707_oThen there’s the matter of water rights. It’s unclear regarding my property– just like many places in the U.S.A. But, you better believe my mind is going there, as are my energies. Because it seems this is the new normal.

 

These high temperatures and lack of rain also bring with it a host of new problems for those of us trying to live self-sufficiently – the droughts and wildfires as we’ve discussed already, algae bloom in our ponds and lakes, different pests, more disease for humans, livestock, and wildlife, as well as the economic losses that go with it.

 

We can’t live without fresh water. We can’t grow crops without water. Therefore, I’m looking to the future with more thoughts of water conservation, even more sustainable agriculture, and as much off-the-grid living as possible.

 

This week I was inspired by the story of these folks, The Dervaes Family, down in California. May we all be so smart and energetic in our efforts to live in more harmony with the planet. Otherwise, I fear it will all go up in smoke. Clearly, we all, myself included, have work to do.

I long to see the green again in my community.
I long to see the green again in my community.

 

Published inHomesteadingMicro FarmingUrban Farming

3 Comments

  1. Darian Carson Darian Carson

    Another well written, thoughtful & thought provoking post! This summer so far has been ~hot~. We have air conditioning at our house and it can’t keep up. It stinks to have to close all the curtains and blinds and freeze wet washcloths to be able to survive during the day! But I cannot imagine what it is like for shut-ins with no A/C. I hope they have kindly friends and neighbors who will take them to the mall or the movies in the heat of the day! Our blueberries are ripening so fast that we can hardly keep up. I keep inviting the neighbors to “you pick” at our house but I end up dropping the already picked berries off at their front doors. 🙂 That is a lovely “problem” to have too much fruit! 🙂 I water very early in the morning and I tell my neighbors not to water in the hot sun because it evaporates before it does much good ( I learned that in a water-wise class by Seattle Tilth ). It is such a common sense thing that an still surprised to see people do it, but then I remember I used to be ignorant myself. 🙂 Have a VERY Happy 4th of July! And thank you so much for your service to our country (and excellent reading material!)

    Darian

    PS: I’d love to know what you think of _Mockingbird_ by Kathryn Erskine. I read it (and some other YA books about autism in honor of Autism Awareness Month) because you inspired me! I want to write reviews of those books but I haven’t had time. The list included _Marcelo_In_the_Real_World_; _The_London_Eye_Mystery_: _Rain,Reign_; and_The_Absolute_Value_of_Mike_. Some were better than others. I’m now reading YA Books on the civil rights movement and. _Unbroken_. I love summer!

    • I might have to come by your house and get blueberries!

  2. Edie Edie

    This is an excellent post. We’ve been having a warm summer here in NYC, as well. We got a lot of rain/snow in the winter and spring. We don’t have a garden, but the landlord has landscaping around the apartment complex. He never waters the property, which I guess is a good thing, but I think it speaks more to his lack of care for the property than concern for water conservation. As long as it “looks” OK, that’s his main concern.

    There have been some summers here (2010, memorably) where we had a lot of brush fires in the area where the 4 cemeteries are located, which is part of the Greenbelt.

    But really, what’s going on in your neck of the woods is very frightening. I’ve seen your daily posts about the temperature and rainfall, and it’s disturbing. We’re lucky because we have central air, for which we are both very grateful, as neither of us have had central air before. Otherwise we’d be some of those disabled folks your friend mentioned, relying on other people to get us out of the house when it’s unbearably hot.

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