• John Hogeland

Waiting for the Season to Break

This last week in south central Iowa has been punishing. The summer heat has been amazing, not in it's intensity, but in its longevity, rolling into more than a month of clear days with no hope of rain. While not uncommon, this dry spell is also not usual for the plants and animals, and all have hunkered down.


Our lawn looks more like shredded wheat

In what I hope is the last stretch of this mini drought, 95+ degree temperatures have kept the cows and yearlings under shade and mostly quiet.  Even the promise of better pasture can't sway the bovines to move when the temperatures hit the ridiculous levels we have seen over the past 8 days.  


The Kentucky Bluegrass in the yard has given up and gone dormant, looking more like shredded wheat than a lawn, In the pastures, deeper rooted, warm season, native grasses still look green, but have stopped any pretense of growth, waiting out both their short rooted, cool season cousins and the complete lack of rain.


Everything waits, slowly baking in the late August sun.


Sometime tomorrow, it is supposed to happen, a sudden end to summer as the mid 90's give way to a cool front that will (hopefully) roar through and finally displace the high pressure ridge that has plagued us now for nearly a month.  If we are really lucky, it will bring with it both some much needed rain to jump start our pastures back into growth and a more unstable weather system that could bring us more precipitation later in the week.


The clover beginning to brown

But maybe I shouldn't talk about it at all.  I swear that I am becoming a bit prone to superstition, having watched multiple summer rain systems roll through north western Iowa toward us, only to dissipate almost magically as they neared our farm. I find myself wondering which local Nature God we have angered enough to keep this punishment up for this long.

Truth be told, it is likely a side effect of climate change, drawing random lines on the land where some will get rain and others will go without. We need to get used to a lack of moisture, then perhaps too much of it, as extremes become more of the norm.


Still, I have been lucky in my change to managed rotational grazing. The daily moves have allowed the grasses, forbes and legumes to regrow vigorously earlier in the season, so even pasture grazed three weeks ago are ready to be regrazed. Many of our neighbors are almost completely out of grass with no hope of anything growing back.


So for now I hold my breath, keeping out of the heat as much as I can, waiting for the season to break. It may come with a crash of lightning and a bucketing of rain, or it may softly sigh into cooler days and long dripping soakers, but at some point it will come. With the weather here in Iowa, nothing is sure except change.

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