Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And the drought goes on . . .

Flame-leaf sumac in fall attire - but it's not fall, yet!

My daughter tells me that people prefer to read funny posts, but it’s hard to find anything funny in this situation. Laughing tends to morph into hysterical cackling (see above). But here goes.

It’s so hot and dry that the birds tap on the window when the water is low in the birdbath. "Excuse me, a little dry out here!"

It’s so hot even the rocks are sweating.

It’s so hot and dry that laundry on the line dries in 10 minutes, or five if there’s a breeze. If there’s no breeze, the clothes will stand upright when brought inside. This makes for uncomfortable underwear.

From my husband:  It’s so hot the hens are laying hard-boiled eggs.

We have our own saunas. All we have to do is get into one of our un-air-conditioned cars at 3 p.m. any day and go for a drive. Unfortunately, there’s no icy cold lake to immerse our bodies in when blood reaches the boiling point.

Hmm, are you laughing? I must confess I am not.

In front is a pomegranate badly in need of a drink.
Behind the Ashe juniper, is a group of dead and dying
trees - three oaks and several flame-leaf sumacs.
Upon returning on Sunday from a week-long trip  (thankfully in an air-conditioned car!), I was dismayed at what I saw along the driveway. The temps shot up over 100 degrees while we were gone, and the native flora is showing the impact.

August is always a slog in Texas. This year it is compounded by a severe drought, which results in higher temperatures as there is little evaporative cooling. The plants have no reserve of moisture to help them survive the hot, dry season. Our average annual rainfall is 33.75 inches; at my house we’ve had just over 10 inches this year, five of them in January.

The live oaks and the Ashe juniper are hunkering down in survival mode, for the most part. But many of the understory trees are suffering:  flame-leaf sumacs, yaupon, mountain laurels, Texas redbuds. The hackberries are losing all leaves, and cedar elms are looking puny. Our lone escarpment black cherry, which we just identified this year, looks terrible – I’m going to water it tonight because I don’t want to lose it. Everything else is on its own.

This is nature, after all. Weaker species will die when overstressed. Perhaps that’s why we have such a monoculture (duoculture?) already. The live oaks and junipers must be the hardiest species.  

Yellowing yuccas surrounded by dead grass and rocks - 
structurally interesting?
People who live in town are not confronted so directly with the reality of this situation.  I just returned from my sister’s house; her town has not implemented water restrictions.  I was mesmerized by the lazy back and forth of the sprinkler flinging sparkling drops of water into the air to hydrate her already green lawn.

Driving home from her house, we passed many brown pastures dotted with cow patties – but no cows. Most of the tanks (Texan for ponds) were extremely low or dry. With little water and no grass, many ranchers are selling all or part of their herds. I saw a few fields of cotton, but according to the news many crops this summer are a loss.

We returned home to our yellowing understory and yuccas, dead or dormant grass and dust billowing behind the car. When you live surrounded by nature and see the ravages of this drought all around you – well, it’s painful.

Sorry, it’s not a very funny post, after all.

Favorite spot in the garden:

Look! Morning glories! Pavonias are blooming in the background. 
That's it. That is all that is blooming in my garden.
Iris says, "But look at me! I'm beautiful, too!"
My garden is also in survival mode. I water daily, a little here and a little there; but the limitations of our well restrict amounts. Truly, well water is not what these plants need. They will stay alive on well water, but not flourish. To make things worse, my beds get little shade, except for the east one – the only bed with any blooming plants right now. What Pam at Digging refers to as “The Death Star” is unrelentingly blazing down on my poor little babies.

However, the other day I turned around and found this vantage point. The garden actually looks a little inviting from this angle – exciting! 


  1. It actually looks beautiful from there. I'm going out to see if I can find any one place in my yard that looks decent.

  2. I agree this is not a laughing matter. Many of our large trees are dying. It's sickening to look out at the sky and see a big, beautiful tree now dead and brown. Most of the pines are still - somehow - making it, but I don't know how much longer they can continue to survive. I water daily, trying to save my garden, but the woods will be permanently altered.

  3. @anon - I hope you found it - I'm sure there's one somewhere!

    @HG - I know - sad trees make sad gardeners!

  4. It's getting to be down right depressing.
    I worry about the trees, and feel so sorry for the wildlife.
    The deer are irritating when they eat the landscape. But, it's hard to see them starving to death. Even if we get some fall rain, not sure there will be enough for them to eat this winter.....ugh
    Sorry...guess my comment wasn't so funny, either.
    Stay cool....

  5. It is just awful. I hope you all find some relief soon and get some wet weather settling in. I heard the news reports that it would take tropical storms to really help now.It must be heartbreaking to see and especially for the farmers and stock breeders. Hang in there.

  6. All we can do is laugh to keep from crying. The laughs are a little forced at this point, but I did get a cackle out of your husband's hard-boiled egg laying joke. Thanks for the link love, BTW.