Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rain Break of the Bored Farmer

Rain Break of the Bored Farmer

After weeks of rain, the farmers have become restless. You see them in town during the day, loitering around the hardware stores and tractor places. Encounters have always been a brisk howdy-do, a run down on what’s up, and then on their way back to the fields. Now there’s nothing to talk about. No one’s doing anything. They’ve even been seen aimlessly roaming the aisles at Walmart, hunkered amid the screaming kids and harried mothers. Sad.

As a drought-ending deluge this one took as much as it gave. Ruined the winter wheat crop with too much rain, leading to sad spongy kernels flopping at the end of stems. Then created a bumper crop of corn, huge ears on immense stalks, a blessing after the two dried-out harvests before. But another week of rain and it’ll be rotted out, too. We appreciate having lawns again, but would like our gravel driveways back from where the rain has moved them several yards downhill.

Then Saturday morning brought sunny skies. The inland hurricane finally ambled to the east, drenching north Louisiana. Wildflowers responded with pent-up energy, able to open up their blooms unbattered by rain. The prairie fields erupted into a giddy frenzy of butterflies. Humidity evaporating from the fields formed expansive billowing clouds that grew by the minute. Soon the farmers’ unhappy hiatus would be over.

July 8, 2007

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Monsoon Season in North Texas

It’s monsoon season in North Texas. We’re halfway though the year, yet we’ve reached our annual average of rain. A huge low-pressure system hovers to our west and is slow to amble away. This hungry beast pulls up air laden with water from the Gulf of Mexico. The result is rain, rain, rain. On the weather radar, vast clouds spin slowly around the low in the middle, rotating like a diffuse inland slow-motion hurricane.

Lakes that dwindled to mud-puddle status now overflow their banks. Wet-weather “sudden” creeks surge 24/7. It’s nice to be out of drought for the first time in two years. It would be even nicer to see the Sun again. Or maybe not. When sunshine does break through, the fungus blooms. Your sinuses fill with spores and swell up like a watermelon inside your skull. Mushrooms sprout out of your ears.

But enough is enough. Rain no longer soaks into our black clay gumbo soil. It just rolls off the surface and on to creeks and rivers until reaching the Gulf of Mexico. There the spinning low pressure system picks up the gulf moisture and promptly brings it back to us. A seamless hydrologic cycle in which are soggily immersed.

In the endless rain, roiling creeks and rivulets appear where none were before, trumping the artificial grid of gutters and gullies. Water goes where it flows, in ancient paths never forgotten, each drop following its own call of the Continental Divide, making contact with the ground and then flowing one direction or another, toward the ocean of its intent.

July 3, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sugar Freaks on Planet Earth

Sugar Freaks on Planet Earth

A sweet tooth is universal. If aliens ever land, I’m sure they’ll head straight to the sugar cane fields of Brazil. From the grizzly bear that raids the bee hive, to the microbes in my garden soil that get delirious over dried molasses, planet Earth is full of sweet freaks.

Hackberry emperors are the beer drinkers of butterflies, tanking up on rotting fruit and tree sap rather than the fine wine nectar of flowers. It looks like a tiny flying swatch of Persian rug, intricately patterned in brown, black and tan. Macho butterfly. Ants are the top sugar fiends of bugs, so hooked on sugar that some breeds will farm aphids, a soft white bug, and milk them for a sticky sweet secretion called honeydew, a nice word for aphid poo.

Down on our shady bottomlands, the sugar freaks have set up a bar district. The leaves of lean 10-foot water ash trees are all curled up and puckered, each encasing a small aphid colony. Hackberry emperors and their butterfly buddies careen about the trees, staggering from branch to branch, then go quiescent in stupor. An occasional bee tries to crash the party, June bugs dopily wonder what’s up. The bartender ants go briskly about their business, their slops and slip-ups the happy feasting of drunken flying bugs.

late June 2007