Monday, July 23, 2012

Watering the Cucumbers

The cucumbers growing in my raised bed are plentiful. Most years, I preserve the first batch of bread and butter pickles in late July. However, this summer I pulled the third batch from the canner on July 21. I've gone from platters of cucumbers to enough pickles for another year. This makes my family happy as store bought pickles don't have the same flavor.  

As the smell of vinegar, celery seed, and tumeric wafted up from the kettle, I thought of my grandmothers and great grandmothers. None of them had air conditioning. When my great grandmothers worked in farm kitchens, they hauled fuel to cookstoves and pumped water to clean vegetables. If they wanted a drink, they took a dipper from a nail on the wall and filled a glass from a pail of water on the counter. They emptied dirty water into another container and poured it on flowers and gardens. Great Grandmother Dickinson was relieved when she moved from a soddy in Custer County Nebraska to a Dawson County farm with a large windmill. Instead of collecting water in a cistern and filtering out bugs and weeds through a sieve, she used a pump in her yard. Even though it required hauling heavy buckets to the kitchen, she and her family were mighty grateful for more accessible clean cool water.

This July the temperatures have been in the high 90's or over 100 degrees. Lincoln has been without rain for 29 days so I've been watering more frequently. Trying to be conservative, I water in the evening or morning and lay the hose on the cucumbers. I use a drip hose to water tomatoes and basil plants. Now and then I put my Granddad's sprinkler in the herb garden. I learned about gardening from him so I enjoy using the small semi circular sprinkler with holes on the top. The sprinkler is so worn water runs through the seams along the bottom. Since it all soaks into the ground, I don't worry about the goofy looking spray. When I turn the water on or off, I place the hose near a plant in order to take advantage of the first and last drops of moisture. Whatever method I use, I minimize evaporation by making sure the water flows gently near the ground.

A few nights ago, I turned on the spigot before walking to the hose in the cucumbers. For a few minutes, no water appeared. After looking around, I straightened a kink in the hose and watched cold water disappear into large cracks in the ground. Those few minutes made me pause and wonder what life be like if I turned either the spigot or the inside faucet and no water was available. Then what?

The grass in our yard is brittle, brown, and going dormant while the large clump birch drops leaves. Mother Nature is conserving water for the trunk and root systems of these plants as there is no rain in the immediate forecast. Dear ones, known and unknown, take care in the heat and drink plenty of cool, clear water.  I'm heading to the basement with lemonade and my knitting for my last few days of summer vacation.