Our kids made up a rain song with hand motions. (Bible School will do that to a kid.)
They created and practiced the rain-welcoming song in the van as we drove past corn fields with browning, burnt leaves on a July day. Any green leaves were rolled in defense against the scorching sun. The kids’ performance earned smiles and hugs from Grandma, who spent the previous hour watching rain showers form and fizzle on the radar. The precipitation pattern had dampened our spirits rather than our crops, but the kids made it seem better.
As I write this, much of the Corn Belt is in a drought, and it worsens each day without rain. We need gentle, soaking rains. The kind the kids like to run through with the water sprinkler.
In mid-June, our corn and soybean crops looked great in our west/northwest spot in Illinois. By mid-July, we needed rain more often and weren’t getting enough to adequately deal with the 100-degree temps. Then, the 90-degree days followed. That heat wave mimicked the sub-zero cold of winter to our kids: Uncomfortable and unsafe to play outside for long periods. We pulled out the board games and played in the basement. All the while our crops, garden and Grandpa’s pastures baked like a juicy, medium-well steak approaching overdone with no moisture. So did our yard, but I don’t miss mowing.
The kids were singing for rain, our church friend forwarded an e-mail praying for rain, and the need for rain molded small talk with business acquaintances. Any acquaintances, really. Signs of a darkening horizon prompted a dash to the computer to watch a light shower pop up and fade away like slow-motion fireworks. Farmers practically memorized the date, quantity and field location of any rainfall.
The crop, as I’m writing this, doesn’t appear that it will reach its full potential and likely will vary from poor to good. It’s disheartening to helplessly watch your crops decline. Yet, we are thankful for what we have because it seems far more than our fellow family farmers in the southern two-thirds of Illinois and other states. Corn needs around 20 inches from rains and stored moisture. Our business friend in Indiana by mid-July had seen less than 2 inches of rain since their corn was planted. I’ve heard worse from southern Illinois at less than a half inch.
I’m too young to have grown my own crops in a devastating drought. The last widespread drought was in 1988, when my family had to haul water to the cattle and house wells and when crops burnt up and yielded half their potential. Some areas in Illinois and the Midwest say that dreadful season has repeated.
Crop values rose sharply higher in July in anticipation of a shortage of corn and soybeans, crops found in vehicle fuel, livestock feed, cereal, soda, diapers and batteries. We could pre-sell more crops at these high prices, yet we don’t know what amount we will harvest. You just try not to let the weather situation sour your mood.
And ask the kids for an encore.