“Don’t waste water.” Grandpa John
Dry. Dry, dusty, exceptionally hot – these are the most precise adjectives I have for describing this summer as it comes to a close. A deep, soaking rainfall in true Pacific Northwest style has been missing since early June. Past summers have almost always brought us one or two deep-soaking rains. But not this year. My rain barrels – all six of them – have been empty since the third week of July. On the 6th of August our area received a small amount of rain but not enough to soak down into the soil, and as my soil is primarily sand (regardless of the large amount of mulch I add) the benefits didn’t last long.
This summer I have watered my garden more than any time in past summers. This is evident by looking at our water bill. But a 30+ year old landscape that supports countless wildlife, a few rare plants, and many beloved maturing trees is not one that I am willing to see suffer, or lose. So, I water. I save water, also, every chance I get. Water from washing fruit and veg, from running the tap to get hot water, rinse water from washing dishes (I do dishes by hand), the water that drips from our hanging baskets is caught and given to other plants, and water used in cleaning the pond filters – all saved and tossed into all garden beds (except the food crops). I hope all this saving has made some difference, but how much difference I’m not sure. I am sure, however, that this is the way gardening will remain. As our climate warms at increasing speed and rain and humidity patterns change dramatically, it is the gardeners’ responsibility to help plants adapt. We must do all we can to keep our soil healthy and water-retentive. After all, as our soil lives, so live our plants.
When I was a young girl, my siblings and I spent a week each summer with our grandparents in Hood River, Oregon. They had an orchard, a few chickens, and large gardens growing food crops and classic flowers – hollyhocks, bearded iris, roses, and bachelor buttons. My brother and I would follow Grandpa John out into the gardens as he irrigated the beds. Grandpa rarely spoke, but when he did, we listened. Mostly, my brother and Grandpa talked and I looked at the flowers. But I do remember the deeply ingrained respect for water that Grandpa John exhibited. He was born in Harrison, Nebraska in 1907 and spent most of his life in that state until moving to Hood River when he and Grandma married. As you may know, the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s hit Nebraska as hard as it hit areas of the U.S. farther south, down into Texas. Although Grandpa John never spoke of those years to us, that time of extreme drought and suffering must have left such an impression on him that he treated water with reverence. Maybe because he spoke so rarely, maybe because of how he said it, but when I water my landscape I still hear his voice: “Don’t waste water.”
“Don’t waste water.” How prescient, those words..