All you need is dirt and a generous amount of water. Apply water to dirt. Let sit 24 hours. You will get toads. Wait another 24 hours and the first mosquito will whine its way to your door. Meanwhile, the earth has turned green, the grass suddenly looks lush, and all those weeds you thought you’d gotten rid of? Think again.
RedQuarters has gotten over ten inches of rain (26 cm) in the month of May. This is half the annual average rainfall – 20″ or 60 cm, give or take. Because the house is built on a ridge, we have stayed dry. There is a lot of green space in this part of town so a goodly portion of the rain is absorbed, or is slowed by trees and bushes. The built-up areas nearby still flood, and the bottom of the lake nearby also collects water. That’s what lakes and lowlands do, no matter what you think you can build there. In this case, the city decided to make a quasi virtue of a necessity and deepened the lake, as they have done with several others.
The rainwater (“pluvial”) lake on the way to St. Angus in the Grass School is filling very nicely. Last week I heard toads for the first time in a few years. The playa had been 99% dry, with that remaining one percent mostly mud, as best as I could tell through binoculars. The land is still private, and I don’t trespass without permission. Now, there’s enough standing water in the core that you can see reflections in it. The various rings of plants have begun to come back to life. Open water in the middle, then sedges and cattails that like wet feet appear. Slightly farther up the slope are arrowhead plants (named for the shape of the leaves), then other forbs and grasses that need good moisture (taller grasses, western wheat grass), then the gramas and buffalo grass. This should also drown out the cactus that had begun creeping in.
It only took 36 hours from the lake starting to fill to hearing the “singing” of the toads. They are relatively small and brown, larger than the spring peepers of the upper Midwest. With the toads come insects, mosquitoes (boo, hiss) followed by dragon flies. The birds have also been busy. I suspect the snakes have moved away from buildings and out to where the mice and birds and toads are. The meadowlarks are also scattering out, now that there’s more food. A large hawk or two patrols the area. Western flycatchers and swallows have divided up the intersections in the area, extending the moth season into “anything else” season.
In fact, when I went back to work last week in the afternoon for chapel, I heard a commotion. Meadowlarks were mobbing something in a tree near the middle school. First. I’d never seen meadowlarks mob before. Second, well, if they’d treed one of the students, the kid probably deserved it. Just as I crossed the parking area, the tree shook and a Cooper’s hawk erupted from the leaves, with a smaller bird pecking on his head! I was impressed.
The past three weeks have been glorious for ranchers, and for people who were irrigating wheat. Some dryland wheat and other grains have perked up and will make it. It was too late for other places. But now the farmers need the rain to stop so they can plant, and for the weather to get warm so the corn can start to mature. Truly unfortunate places got scythed by 2.5-3″ hail. All you can do is either turn some livestock out to feed on what’s left, or plow it in as green manure and try again with something like sorghum. Several towns have had high-water problems, and Tucumcari, NM completely lost power because of flooding and giant hail that took out a main transmission line. Hereford, TX got seven inches of rain in a few hours upstream of town. Almost 90 houses had water in them, and a US highway had to be closed because of water over the road. What’s good for the land isn’t always so good for the people on the land.
No one is complaining too much yet. I don’t think anyone dares. We needed this, so desperately needed it. El Niño has returned, with all the good things and bad things it can bring. For now, everyone’s just being thankful for the rain. I hear the singing of the toads, the bragging of the meadowlarks and smile. The air is full of green-ness, sweet and clean. ” … as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain,” As King David put it (Second Samuel 23: 4).
“And it was very good.”