The drought keeps getting worse. NOAA’s National Weather Service Forecast Office has upgraded it to the category of “severe drought (D2).” They define severe drought in the following terms:
Crop or pasture losses likely; fire risk very high; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed.
Yesterday the air was dry, the easterly breeze we’ve had since mid-week continued, and the temperatures stayed in the eighties — a perfect summer day. I decided to walk to Batavia using the paved bike path along the river.
Walking down Hamilton St. to the river, I saw the leaves on some trees were beginning to wither with the dryness. Some shrubs and smaller plants were in even worse shape. One patch of Coneflowers appeared dead.
But once down by the river, everything was still amazingly green. Even the grass was green along the river, although everywhere else it has dried to a crisp brown. Duckweed is out now, and when I squatted down to look at some, I noticed all kinds of insect activity along the surface of the mud and of the river. I realized that I have seen almost no insects anywhere for weeks, not even mosquitoes. But there are insects close to the water, which must be why the swallows are flying so low recently.
The river remains low, and you can see it flowing over rocks that are usually well underwater. The surface of the water looked bright and cheerful beside me. I walked through a stand of trees, and could feel the coolness coming up off the river, and into the shade of the trees.
About halfway to Batavia, I passed an area of grass that had not been mowed. The higher stalks, which bore the seed heads, were dry and brown, but up to about eighteen inches the grass and the lower plants growing among it were green — not exactly lush, but green.
I passed two bicyclists who had stopped to pick mulberries, which are growing prolifically alongside the river, and still bearing heavily. “Good year for mulberries,” I said.
One of the cyclists,”Oh they are so good,” with an accent that sounded eastern European. He picked another handful. “Very sweet.”
On the walk back, I picked some. The plentiful juice stained my fingers (and presumably my mouth) a bright deep purple-red. They tasted extraordinarily good, although that may be because I was getting thirsty by that point. Or because the mulberries from trees growing up away from the river are small and wizened, and taste eldery.
As I walked up State Street, climbing up out of the river valley, I noticed the trees started looking bedraggled starting at about 30 feet above the surface of the river. Our house sits beyond the height of land that marks the edge of the valley, and we are about sixty feet above the river. The house was built in the 1850’s, and still has the old water pump out front, sticking up out of the concrete cap someone put over the well. I wonder how deep that well goes, and what kinds of droughts it has seen in the past.