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"Rain dance, please" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, August 2011

"Uh-oh, you got a cold?" she asked.

I stuffed the rag of a handkerchief pack into my back pocket and shook my head with a chuckle.

"Nah, just too much dirt in my nose."

By which I mean to say: it's dusty out here. Proboscises aside, it's an unnerving feeling, to stick one's hand into the earth, and be greeted with a puff of powder.

Here at D Acres, we think of ourselves as growing soil as much as we are growing food. Our dirt is alive. It offers the fertility and nutrients that create lush and abundant food crops. Yet of late, our soil has been lacking a touch of its vivacious nature, its spongy quality, its soft, dark composition, its pungent earthy aroma. Rather our dirt, quite simply, is thirsty. Parched. Arid. Dry, dry, dry.

At least up here on the hill, the sun has been hitting us hot this summer, and the rain clouds rarely live up to the portends of moisture in their dark underbellies.

The absence of precipitation, surely, is the best means of understanding its fundamental importance. Water is Life. And it is a simple antidote to droopy leaves, wilty plants, yellowed bushes, and desiccated berries. So we've been busy maximizing the efficiency of two aspects of our work: water sequestration, and water delivery. Thanks to our ponds, gutters, and holding tanks - coupled with pumps and hoses, pipes and tubes - beauty and bounty dominate the property.

Indeed, a fair portion of our time has been dedicated to irrigation. We are lucky to have our ponds, and wise to have our rain barrels. It may not rain often, but when it does, most every available roof has a gutter hung at its edge and a barrel, tank, or can on the corner. These efforts have made quite the difference – our dinner plates are the evidence.

Nevertheless, it's a tenuous line. Despite the water we have caught from the sky and lifted from our ponds, the soil continues to be dusty. I'll admit, we've tried reverse psychology on the weather gods: refusing to wear rain jackets even when the occasional shower does become a downpour; watering plants intensely as prospective clouds gather on the horizon; yes, even the impromptu rain dance jig has been attempted. Writing this, in fact, has conveniently coincided with an afternoon thunderstorm.

Plants are remarkable in their tenacity for living, and their ability to pull through a scarcity of resources. We are certainly grateful for the plenitude of abundance that continues to flourish on these acres. Yet in our gratitude we are also humble, willing to Work for Life. And this summer, that means Working for Water.


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