Friday, December 19, 2008

Our prairies

High Prairie Farming William Notter There's never enough of the right kind of rain, and always too much of what we get. e've got no need for casinos-- keeping the farm is enough to gamble on. If the seed doesn't blow out of the ground in December, the wheat gets laid down flat in the fields by hail come summer. Spring blizzards get the calves, and one year my corn was nothing but rows of stalks from softball-size hail a month before harvest. That storm ruined my shingles and beat the siding right off the neighbour's house. A little hail and wind can't run me off, though, and I'll keep dropping the well until the aquifer dries up like they've said it would for years. We may not know what it's going to leave us with, but we can see our weather coming. When those fronts blow across the fields, trailing dust and rain, we've got time to get the cars in the shed, and ourselves into the basement if the clouds are green. Next morning I go out to see where the dice fell. Everything's glazed and bright with the dust knocked off and the sun barely up. The gravel on the roads is clean-washed pink, and water still hangs on the fence wires and the pasture grass. Sometimes I need to call the county about a washed-out road, or the insurance man about a field stripped clean. When I'm lucky I can shut the irrigation pumps down for a day or two and give the well a rest. I l ike to drive right into it sometimes when a storm comes up, lightning arcing all directions over the hills, and the slate-blue edge of the front clean as a section line. There's an instant in that border where it's not quite clear but not the storm when everything seems to stop, like my wheels have left the road. The light turns spooky, dust just hangs, the grass glows like it's ready to spark and catch on fire. Then the motor strains, fat raindrops whack the tin and glass like the racket from a flock of blackbirds, hundreds of them scattering off a stubblefield.

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