Trickle to torrent

The Ouachitas got a little bit of rain over the last couple of days. This morning, the clouds parted perhaps long enough for the Easter sunrise service down by the Arkansas River, but it wasn’t long before the dark  stormclouds were again in full throat.  The rain fell so hard at 8 a.m. Mass, the pastor said he could barely hear anything above the din of the drops battering the roof.

During yesterday’s walkabout, water was everywhere from tiny drip-drip-drips from the edge of a stone to white mini-rapids in the deepest part of the valley.


After the rain

Rain has returned to the Ouachitas, and even the trees look happier and plumper for the moisture that’s soaking into the soil. Arkansas is far from being out of danger, with rainfall for most of the state is running 12 to 16 inches below normal. However, the rain has given the state’s firefighters a much-needed break from wildfires and the rest of us a much-needed break from 100-degree temperatures.

STRING OF PEARLS — The white waterbirds in flight through the valley after the passage of a thunderstorm.  They were large and long-necked like herons, but am unsure whether herons flock in flight this way.
WATER! — Fog rises from the valley after a thunderstorm dropped about a quarter-inch of rain before sunset.

The rain was too late to stop this tree from shutting down and losing its crown. Compare the shot below to one from an earlier post on July 1.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE — This oak had begun its shutdown a couple of weeks ago and had completely shed its leaves by July 9. If the rain continues steadily, the tree may re-leaf. Some of the hickories have been shedding their nuts and persimmons have dropped unripe fruit to conserve as much water and energy as possible.

Really heating up

In Arkansas, it seems as if  everything is early this year. Corn planting began in February. The first strawberries, blackberries and raspberries showed up almost a month early in May. All of the row crops are growing two to three weeks ahead of the norm and in some cases, the (irrigated) crops reached key maturity stages so early there was no precedent.

The latest thing to come early is August. August actually showed up the last week of June and September is making a play now that it’s July.  How do we know? Right now, the thermometer is showing triple digits and tree leaves are changing color and falling.  Mercifully, no Halloween decorations or mention of football has yet appeared.

However, Arkansas is in a serious drought. Exhausted fire crews are battling dozens of wildfires every day in 100-110-degree heat. Ranchers with burnt pastures are selling off cattle they can’t feed. Utilities are restricting water usage and Arkansans are being asked to refrain from running tractors, mowers or other vehicles with hot engines through dried up hay meadows and yards, be extra cautious with the barbecue grill, and hardest of all this Independence Day week — not set off fireworks.

Those who do long-term forecasting say the state and much of the southeast may see some relief if El Nino strengthens in the Pacific.

NO FIREWORKS — Burn bans have been enacted in 70 of the state’s 75 counties, and some cities have cancelled their annual July Fourth fireworks displays. This sign is outside one of the Salem, Ark., fire stations.
FALL IN JULY — In an effort to conserve water, trees are shutting down their leaves. The view across the Ouachitas shows a significant bit of browning during a time when the canopy should be lush and green.

Ironically, on June 24th, the National Weather Service said that through the first 23 days of the month, June in Little Rock was the coolest in years. The average highs were the coolest since 2009 and the average low was the coolest since 2003.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Colorado where wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes. More than a dozen other states are also battling wildfires.

NEAR COLORADO SPRINGS — Friend and co-worker Margaret, who moved to near Colorado Springs, sent back some terrifying photos, including this one.
ASHES — The heartbreaking aftermath of a finger of one of Colorado’s wildfires. (Photo sent by Margaret)

The itsy bitsy spider

Tarantulas are beautiful creatures. Because of their round bodies, thick legs and hair, they almost seem cute, in an arachnoidal (is that a word?) way. This little one was on the sidewalk this morning as I made the rounds with the mower and weed whacker. He was about an inch and a quarter in diameter.

Jumping spiders are also cute, with their fuzz and their big eyes, but tarantulas take the cake.

Little tarantuly
FUZZY -- A small tarantula on the sidewalk.

All about the arc

Two random objects, a sprinkler and a wild grass seed panicle, united by two things: 1) they represent different facets of our current near-drought and 2) their graceful arc.

ALL WET -- The trajectory of the sprinkler's flow is backlit by the morning sun. The limited manual capabilities of the camera rendered the drops in short streaks.
Seed panicles
DRIED OUT -- These seed panicles reach over and down, offering a tempting meal for the avian population.