Adventures from Back of Beyond

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Miracle in the Desert

Rain in the desert is a miracle, in more ways than one.

Rain is literally an answer to our prayers. To those that live in rainy, damp, overcast areas and pray for sun, that we pray for rain probably seems crazy. But if you went day after day of bright clear skies, with intense sun, and single digit humidity -- believe me, you'd do the same -- if for no other reason than it's a change.

Our stressed-out native flora are loving it. Cactus especially are superbly suited to quickly soak up even the tiniest precipitation. Yesterday the prickly pear were looking dried out and shriveled. Green and alive, yes, but just hanging on. Within a few hours of a ground-moistening rain, their shallow roots quickly absorb and bring the needed moisture up into the pads for long-term storage. Today their pads are plump and full and healthy looking.

They, like all the native flora, are masters of desert survival. They have evolved to compensate for the weeks or months before the next rain, so they soak up quickly and store as much as possible.

In the past week we've received close to an inch of rain. By definition, where I live at about 3,800 feet, we're not in a true desert, which is often defined as 8 or less inches of annual precipitation. We receive about 50% more than that, closer to 12 inches annually on average, and the two wettest months, surprisingly, are July and August.

Close to an inch the first week of July now, and the ground has been wet the entire time. We're seeing delicate fresh new little seedlings start to sprout everywhere. They seem to know just when the conditions are right, and don't seem to mind lieing dormant for months or even years, waiting for just the right moment.

Each seedling is a little miracle in itself.

Friday, July 07, 2006

100% humidity

OK, now we've gone to the other extreme. Though it's rare for us to get this moist, today we hit totally saturated air -- just after midnight the air temp was 69 degrees with a matching dewpoint.

Our monsoon seasonal wind shift began early this year, thankfully. By the end of June moist air began to replace our bone dry atmosphere, with almost daily showers and thunderstorms beginning in earnest by the start of July.

Today is an unusual day for us. Started completely overcast, temps in the low 60s, and a steady, slow rain. A soaking rain, penetrating the topsoil -- and that's just what the doctor ordered for our stressed native flora.

Now, as I write at about 10:00 a.m., it's still in the lower 60s, and completely clouded over. Visibility is just a few miles, instead of our usual "severe clear" conditions where 50 miles seems like the distant you could throw a rock.