Relationship With Rain
Half the icons added to my smartphone’s home screen pertain to precipitation.
Two provide one-touch access to my favorite radar and the extended weather forecast. A third requires just two touches for a map that exhibits rainfall totals for our region.
And I’m a farm mom, not your meteorologist on your local TV or radio station.
Yet in many ways, my farm family’s relationship with rain resembles that with our children. Rain sometimes wakes us in the night. We express disappointment in its misbehavior. We praise its good deeds. Family and friends talk about what it’s been up to. We check in while on vacation. And often my family notes its activities on the calendar.
I thought little of our interest in rainfall until my British brother-in-law called us on it. The fascination became evident on a family trip with my in-laws. We had traveled 365 miles from the farm and still obsessed over rainfall reports from home. I doubt he can label this an American obsession, but he can call it a farm one.
Newspapers, TV and radio station headline floods and drought. My farm family also discusses every spitting rain, nice shower and downpour in between. A rainfall event initiates brief phone calls, emails or texts to relatives and farm friends. It frames face-to-face farm conversations. We talk about the rainfall total at our house, the difference at the farm to the west and retell reports from the north. On a drive, we observe moisture changes on the roadways or fields we pass.
More importantly, we discuss its impacts to particular corn and soybean fields.
On the farm, our relationship with rain extends beyond a supply of well water for an evening bath. Rain sustains life for our crops and our livelihood. We become in tune with our space on earth and its moisture needs.
At an early age, my parents taught us to respect rain and its uncontrollable nature. Mom discussed its development on the horizon. Over time, we learned to read radar images and understand rain’s behavior. We also absorbed rain-name terminology: a good soaker or nice shower, a beater or gully washer. Sometimes spit or “enough to wet the sidewalk.”
Just as a beating rain cancels spring baseball games, it can damage or kill recently planted seedlings. Yet at the right time and amount, a much-needed rain can boost the yields from the crops we plant. The farm community calls this summertime shower a “million-dollar rain.”
Rain maintains creek flows for Grandpa’s grazing cattle to drink. A fraction of an inch settles the dust on our gravel road. A similar amount can add moisture to over-dried soybeans waiting in pods ready for harvest.
We know an inch will turn the lane in a local field to mud. The same precipitation draws the kids to puddles and adults to rainy-day jobs indoors.
In the night, I sometimes wake to watch how desperately needed rain falls on our crops stressed by excessive heat. Gentle rains can break the crust after a beating rain hardened the soil. By fall, we swiftly harvest ahead of any storms that approach.
Expect a few smartphones to aid the observation of our rain gauges perched on fenceposts.
Our writer, Joanie Stiers, offers up some one-touch links to her favorite weather information and web radars:
- I have a localized (zip code area) forecast readily available from weather.gov. From that same link, I access storm total precipitation maps.
- My favorite radar image is from our local grain elevator’s web page, so it’s a regional map: akronservices.com
- When I want down-to-the-road radar images, I use my localized link to weather.com.