Thursday, February 14, 2008

Water, R.I.P.

Tomorrow, the City of Raleigh will implement its most severe level of water restrictions, Stage 2. As far as I know, these harsh restrictions are unprecedented. Since the end of last summer, we've been at "Stage 1 and a half," which allowed irrigation and hand-watering one day a week. The new restrictions ban all outdoor watering, including watering potted plants or vegetables with a hose. These restrictions also apply to landscaping businesses and nurseries, so there will be a lot of plant funerals and pink slips in the coming weeks and months.

My feeling is that we'll be on this schedule for quite a while unless something changes markedly. That means no new perennials in the ground. And it means I won't be starting any seeds this month. Fortunately, most of the perennials and shrubs in my garden are pretty drought-tolerant.

Sixty-seven of North Carolina's 100 counties are currently in the most severe stage of drought, D-4 or "exceptional drought," according to the federal drought map.

We received about an inch of rain yesterday morning. Week before last we got 7/8-inch. Before that, the last rainfall we got was 2 inches on Jan. 1, according to my records. So if I didn't forget to record any, and if my math doesn't fail me, that's only about 4 inches this year.

Last summer, I attended a talk at our local library by one of the city's water department reps. Just a handful of people showed up to ask questions, all of us flower-and-vegetable gardeners. When someone asked how many of us had watered plants with bathwater and other gray water, every hand shot up. The rep said that we "were not the problem," that lawn sprinklers were. I say it's long overdue for many Americans to cure their addiction to turf grass. I would like to have just a little of that water to grow Granny Cantrell's German Red tomatoes, Purple Haze carrots and Easter Egg radishes.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"The cruellest month"

What T.S. Eliot said of April I believe is more true of February. In this part of the world anyway. It's my least favorite month. The light's all wrong, and it's just too cold and blah-y. Though Mother Nature sometimes produces a few nice, unseasonably warm days for us here in central N.C., she's a ruthless tease. It'll be 70F three days in a row, I let down my guard, and the cats claim my winter coat for a bed. Then the Old North Wind springs out from behind her and exhales. Pee-eeeeewwww.

I've always found it ironic that Hallmark chose this month for a romantic holiday—the month of chapped lips, dry skin and a coif besieged by static electricity.

One gift today, however, was the fully open flower of an Amaryllis my mom gave me for Christmas. At once, both a reminder and a promise.