The great drought of 2012

The poor wilty flowers at the Manse. Not a drop of rain from the sky for ever so long.

I think our friend and neighbour John Barry is getting discouraged. John loves mowing grass. He’s the one who does the mowing at the Manse, as well as at various other places in Queensborough. His trusty riding mower is normally very busy. But it has been so dry in the area for the past few weeks that the grass is, as John says, burning up, and there’s nothing to mow.

Looking down to the bottom of our rain barrel at the Manse. One key thing is missing from that rain barrel: rain.

(The folks doing the restoration of a lovely old stone house in neighbouring Prince Edward County who blog at Gorsline House [] did a post yesterday about the drought, noting that ” … the once-lush green swamp grasses behind the house are now brown and flattened, and the algae covered bedrock is sun-bleached white. Obviously two months without substantial rain have severely cut back on the water supply…” If you read the post you’ll see that they also had a run-in with a well that ran dry. More on our own possible close call on that front in a bit.)

Except for a part that’s always in the shade of an ash tree, the Manse lawn is downright crispy to walk on. And what should be a nice expanse of green is instead a mix of yellow and brown.

But hey, it’s grass, and grass is resilient. It’ll be green once more, if it ever rains again – which people are beginning to wonder about.

The perennial garden at the front of the Manse looks as least as peaky (to quote Molly Weasley). The poor plants are trying their best to grow and bloom, but they’re having a pretty rough go of it.

Raymond watering the patch where the big old maple-tree stump was taken out a couple of months ago.

So last weekend Raymond hooked up the hose, we bought a spray nozzle, and we gave both the garden and the mostly bare patch of lawn where a big old tree stump was recently removed a nice drink. Everything was going swimmingly (so to speak) for 15 minutes or so, but then the stream of water from the hose turned decidedly weak. “Uh-oh,” thought I, putting on my thinking cap at last. Drought not only means no rain from the sky; it means the groundwater levels are probably very low too. The level of water in the well was doubtless way down. “Better stop,” I told Raymond. “We don’t want the well to run dry.”

That was when he betrayed his urban upbringing. “What happens when a well runs dry?” he asked.

Raymond, you don’t want to know.

6 thoughts on “The great drought of 2012

  1. An exciting post – not only did it connect me with another great blog to follow, that of the (to me) van Blaricom brick house in PEC, but it connected me to that sinking feeling when the well-water stops running. I grew up with that constraint on our farm in North Marysburgh twp, PEC. Our most recent experience was in our former home, a log house near North Bay. Denis’ family from UK, fresh from adventures in steamy NYC, had arrived, all 4 with pressing laundry and shower requirements….uh-oh. Didn’t take long for us to realign our domestic routines to include daily evening swims down at the lake just before bedtime, to give the well time to recover. Only in later years did we accept defeat each August and invite the ‘water truck’ to come by. Well testing, well shocking…things of the past thanks to Belleville PUC.
    It’s going to rain next week – we’re going camping! (and that will be just fine with us).

    • And you’ve reminded me, Lindi, of how important daily swims were back then, in the interest of not overtaxing the well! When we used to spend every July at the family farm, where the well perpetually threatened to run dry, we always bathed in the river and didn’t think there was anything unusual about that at all. It was only when we moved to Campbellford, Ont., in 1975 that we had the luxury of living in a house whose water was supplied by the public utility and was, essentially, endless. Such luxury!

  2. Well, as of this coming weekend, I haven’t mowed the lawn in 4 weeks! I like to keep the grass a little taller than most so that it can tolerate dry conditions for a little longer. However, eventually even taller lawns become brown during a prolonged drought such as this year’s. Fortunately, the life of grass is in the roots and it will quickly bounce back with a bit of rain [perhaps this Sunday].

    The level of the millpond remains ideal…I guess Quinte Conservation retained more water than usual in Lingham Lake…and a wet April helped. But, surprisingly, not a super abundance of swimmers in the millpond the past few weeks. I suppose many instead stayed inside with their air conditioners

    As for wells, many in Queensborough went to drilled wells in the early 1980s…the water table for surface wells had dropped too much when the little dam on the millpond broke in 1979 and wasn’t fixed until 1981.

    • Graham, sometime you’ll have to tell me about the dam breaking and being replaced, and the effect on the local water table. That’s a chapter in Queensborough lore that I totally missed.
      Speaking of people swimming (or not) in the millpond: does anyone still swim at the sand bar on the other side of the river?
      And finally, I sure hope you’re right about rain on Sunday!

      • No, the sandbar at Don & Eileen Declair’s place is no longer used. Perhaps a decade or so ago, Eileen closed it down as she was having too much trouble with non-locals littering and staying past dusk…

        The volunteers worked some more on the river western shoreline today [Sat]. This time, from 6:15 am to 3:30 pm, Kevin Ramsay employed his very large backhoe to move rocks [aka “boulders”] to the water edge. Once the surface has been raked smooth and [if?] grass grows on it, it should be easily maintainable with a lawnmower

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