Our half of Massachusetts is now in severe drought. (See here.)
The picture is one I took of a corn field in Concord, MA. It’s not supposed to look like that.
We’ve had droughts in the past and managed to cope with them. My son was born in a drought. That year we Ben was born and we managed to grow our first watermelon. A good year. Another year, we again had melons but lost them to desperate crows.
I don’t know if this is the worst drought to ever be recorded in Massachusetts. We’ve lived here for twenty-nine years and it is the worst drought we’ve experienced.
I’ve been watering the garden as best we can. If I miss a day, things wilt. Surface watering is the least efficient but it’s what we have at the moment.
The way we handled drought in previous years was to water where we needed to. We don’t water the lawn or any non-edible bushes. (Sometimes, I’ve watered the flowers. Don’t tell anybody.) The grass dries up. The ornamental bushes turn brown. If they die, they die. We’ll reseed or replant. But we get fruit and vegetables.
But in previous years we had working cats. This year we have out of control chipmunks, voles, and squirrels.
We first noticed a problem with disappearing sets.
At first, it was cutworms. We tried some cutworm prevention mechanisms (tubes) with new beans and that worked for a bit. Then, when the beans disappeared far beyond the cutworm stage, we got suspicious. Then, larger sets disappeared. We had a lovely melon that had flowered and it was eaten into the ground. Along with most of the carrots.
This year we went with Birdies Raised Garden Beds for potatoes and carrots. That greatly lessened the damage. We’re still getting predation—from voles, in this case—but it lessened the impact. We have a single carrot left in the main garden.
We knew from last year that chipmunks were going to be a problem so we had a trap process in place. That significantly lessened the impact of the chipmunks, leaving plenty of predation room for the squirrels.
The squirrels have eaten our peaches, pears, Cornelian Cherries, and apples. They’ve started on the corn stalks, the blackberries, and the tomatoes. We’ve been attempting various methods of control but squirrels are meaner, stronger, and smarter than chipmunks. They are desperate and they are winning.
I can’t wait for them to figure out we have field corn in the main garden.
The drought even brought down our big hickory tree. That is, it precipitated a crack that felled one of the main trunks. This meant we had to have the entire tree taken down. It took the tree professionals three days. (BTW, if you’re in Massachusetts, I highly recommend Adam’s Tree Service.) We counted the rings and estimated the tree was ninety years old. We think it might have been nearly ninety feet tall.
While there was a time bomb of a crack in the trunk, we think it was the drought that brought it down. It had been dry for weeks. Then, we had brief spats of hard rain—not enough to really help but enough for a brief respite. Two days later, the hickory split in half. The one-two punch of dry, dry, dry, followed by rain, followed by dry was too much for it.
We were lucky. It didn’t hit the house, automobiles, or garden. It did hurt two of the new quinces so that’s a bummer. One quince is completely destroyed. Another was lifted and moved but I may be able to save it. The espalier frame was destroyed for those two. The remaining two quinces, and their espalier frames, were untouched.
It’s also going to have an impact on the squirrels. The hickory was their main home and their main food source. Will its loss drive them away? Drive them into the garden? Drive them into the garden and then away when there’s nothing left? I don’t know.
This throws a whole new light on our effort to be as self-sufficient as possible. I had been figuring between reasonable summers and the hot May/Cold Wet June/Hot July-August problem. I had not factored in a hundred year drought. Which, because of climate change, is really going to be every third year.
Hear that people? Those 1000 year, 100 year, 5 year weather events? They’re going to become normal. Not every year but you won’t have to wait five years for the next one.
I’ve been watching the weather down south. Good luck down there.
So: I had high hopes for this year. Now, I’m just hoping to get out of the growing season with potatoes and corn.