Three quarters of an inch had fallen by the time we checked the rain gauge at seven AM on July 10th. Over the next four hours bursts of heavy rain followed by steady slow showers brought the total for the day up to one and three quarters of an inch. Unbelievable for July on the prairie of central Montana! After weeks of continual work (gardening, fencing, tending to the cows, chickens, and much more), I thoroughly enjoyed lounging on the couch while reading a book and listening to the rain cleanse the world outdoors.
Muddy pools of water now dot the brown landscape, dry and parched from the last few weeks of intense heat. In the afternoon, the sun peeks out for a few hours and we take the horses up to the CRP pasture to check on the cows. We find the herd in the southwest corner, farthest from the creek where the grass hasn’t been grazed as heavily. Huge puddles on the side of the road allow them to linger there eating and drinking all afternoon. My horse rides well. He is recovering from a sprained tendon that I’ve been treating with ice and leg wraps since we moved the bulls to pasture with the cows in May. I am relieved at his smooth gait and apparent lack of pain. We take it easy, walking leisurely across the wide rolling plain. That evening when we head to town for dinner, I am surprised at how quickly the puddles on the driveway have disappeared. The thirsty ground absorbed the rain in a hurry!
The next morning we wake to the sound of more rain on the roof, another tenth of an inch has fallen overnight. The air is cool, mid 50s, and moist. I feel like I am back in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, which can be damp and chilly even in the summer. I emerge from our cabin wearing pants, a sweater and down vest. It’s as though I’ve landed in a different world than where I stood just four days ago, sweltering in shorts and a tank top. The garden is vibrant green and thick with mud. Last week I replanted the cover crop in the fallow portion, having determined that the mammoth red clover just wasn’t getting ahead of the weeds. Now the ryegrass will get a jumpstart on life following the storm. The rain wraps the world in cool, comforting moisture as it soothes my mind and body. I’ve been cranky from the incessant dry heat of late. One storm like this every week or two would do the earth and me a world of good!
Here above the 46th parallel we bask in sunlight until well after 9 at night on the summer solstice. We sleep with the windows wide open to let in the cool night air and murmur of the crickets. We awake by 5 in the morning to a chorus of birds already greeting the sun. The days are long and we have the good fortune to spend most of our time working outdoors.
With two gardens to tend, I can usually be found in the dirt amongst vegetable plants. A couple rough hailstorms in early June set us back a bit, but everything is now growing well. I keep up on weeding, watering, and removal of pesky potato bugs. Alas, they have already found my new garden in the coulee. Luckily, they are easy to see and pick by hand. We’ve had a marvelous harvest from the town garden already: lettuce, spinach, and arugula. At this time of year, we indulge in fresh mixed green salad twice a day.
Ample June rains have granted us lush, green fields that are ready for haying. We are up to the task as we purchased our first haying equipment this spring. We picked up a swather for a smoking deal after enduring a long hot day at an auction in May. All the sane people left in search of water and shade by five. Out of the few determined bidders left, we clearly wanted the swather the most. After a few minor tweaks, Bart is cutting hay.
Next came the baler. Bart’s commitment to finding hidden gems on Craigslist really paid off. He found this little square baler down in Bridger. Again, a few minor tweaks and it is working like a champ. Luckily, our little tractor can pull the baler. We picked the tractor up from a friend a few years ago. It required several major tweaks before it jumped to life. Now all it needs is a sun umbrella, and we are ready to roll all summer long.
Bart cut and baled the first of the hay last week. We loaded it onto the trailer and brought it up to the barn. Here at the height of summer we are doing our best to prepare for winter: hay for the animals, and vegetables for us.