From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Drought in Western Kentucky

Rain is desperately needed.



Parched river-bottom pasture

I haven't been taking many photos of Kentucky's beautiful scenery this summer. We are so dry here that the whole landscape has taken on a dead brown color. It is horrible to see, and I just don't feel like photographing it.

The pasture in the photo above is in a river valley. Ordinarily, it would be green with grass, even in August which is always a hot, dry month. The trees in the background grow on the river banks. They aren't losing their leaves too badly yet, but on upland sites, the trees are really suffering. Some have lost many of their leaves and others are turning brown.

We've been under a no-burn order for several weeks. They've had so many fires at Pennyrile State Forest that they've even prohibited campstoves. If we have any tobacco barn fires this year, they could burn up the surrounding countryside as well as the barn.

An article in today's newspaper ("Fires sprout in parched fields," Kentucky New Era, August 21, 2007) described several fires that happened yesterday. One was in a cornfield, and they don't know how it started. Another fire that burned part of a soybean field and some grass may have started from a cigarette butt tossed from a car window. Both those fires were in the Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department's area. A couple of other grass fires happened in Hopkinsville; one of them may have started from a cigarette butt.

The Hopkinsville Fire Department chief was interviewed for the article. He begged people to be careful with their cigarettes, and suggested that farmers have a plow or disk ready to create a firebreak when they enter a field to harvest it. The vegetation is so dry and temperatures are so hot that a spark or just the hot exhaust from a machine could easily ignite a field.

We're also under voluntary water conservation. So far, it's just a limitation on landscape watering. We're supposed to cut back and only water on certain days. Well, we haven't been watering much anyhow -- just the flower bed by the house and the one poor old maple tree nearby that I hope will live a few more years. My garden has been dried to a crisp for a long time, now.

I am thankful that we had county water put in last summer, because wells have been going dry. Supposedly, the well on this place doesn't go dry, according to various local people, but I'm glad we don't have to worry about that possibility.

The newspaper has had several articles about the local water supply. We'd be having much stricter water conservation mandates, but a pipeline that will bring in water from Lake Barkeley (the Cumberland River) is very near completion. It will be put into service before local water supplies are exhausted -- or at least, we're counting on that.

Christian County is on the borderline between "severe" and "extreme" on the drought map. Beyond extreme drought, there is "exceptional drought" like they are having south of us.

The wild deer are having an outbreak of a hemorrhagic fever. The drought and hot weather has dried up many of the smaller watering places; thus many animals are drinking out of the remaining water holes and this facilitates the spread of the disease by tiny flies.

The problem with dried-up streams and ponds isn't limited to wildlife. Many farmers are hauling water to their cattle. With a very limited hay crop, dried-up pastures, crops that withered in the field, and water worries, it's a very bleak year for farmers.

This week, we've had wind along with high temperatures, giving a blast-oven effect that parches every suffering plant even more. We have a small chance of rain this coming weekend. It's much too late for the crops, but any amount of precipitation would help our farm animals, wildlife, pastures, and trees.

Vivid sunset


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2 comments:

Mark said...

As you already know, it's "exceptionally" dry here in NE Alabama/NW Georgia and miserably hot. They say misery loves company, but it doesn't make me feel any better to know you're so dry up there, too. A friend from near Paducah talked about how dry it was when he visited up there last weekend. I certainly don't want another Katrina, but a nice, benign tropical depression would sure help.

Genevieve said...

I know that you folks down there have been really suffering with the heat and drought. I don't even want to think about how much worse it must be where you are! I have been wishing for some rain in connection with a tropical weather mass also. It seems that is our best chance.

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