The gift of rain

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Every week we have watched the statewide drought report. The parameters have grown and shrunk over the months as rains moved across the state, but Benton County has consistently been in the center as one of the driest areas in the state. It is a year reminiscent of our first year of farming during the drought of 1988. We survived that one, and we will survive this one as well because we know we can.

I don’t know if I can entirely blame climate change, greenhouse gas emissions or El Niño as the cause for our dry conditions. I can put a little bit of the blame on the German and Polish immigrants who settled in central Minnesota. They built these big, beautiful churches on the highest peak in the area. Then they finished off the buildings with the tallest steeples to “tickle God’s toes” so he wouldn’t forget them down on earth. Sometimes I blame those tall steeples for splitting apart the rain clouds heading our way, sending rains to the north and south of us.

We had only received .9 inch of rain since the first seeds went in the ground in May. Seventy days later, we were able to double our total rainfall amount. I was feeding calves as I watched the clouds dip down and touch the Bowlus, Minnesota, area with much-needed rain. It appeared the church steeples were going to split the clouds again, but I realized I was starting to get wet. The clouds had slipped past the steeples, and the rains were starting to reach our farm.

I never had so much fun feeding calves as the soft gentle rain rolled off the calf domes. I didn’t even realize how wet I was getting because it just felt so fresh and clean as the rain cleared the smoky air. As I started back to the barn with a wagon full of empty bottles, the winds started to pick up. Suddenly the clouds opened up, and the rains came down in sheets with pea-sized hail. It was coming down so hard I couldn’t even see across the yard to the far end of the heifer shed. And as quickly as the winds came, they stopped, and the rains were done. In 30 minutes, we doubled our rain total for the year.

I was wet from the tip of my ball cap to the bottom of my tennis shoes and everywhere in between, but I didn’t care. I splashed and giggled through every puddle on my way to the house. Mark just laughed and said the grandkids were missing out. The rains seemed to bring a sense of restoration and relief to our souls. We realized it could still rain. We just needed to be patient.

Soon after, our crop insurance agent called to see if we had any damage. We were good. The crops were stretching out, trying to capture every last drop of moisture. The hail was too small to cause much damage. He was driving behind the storm on his way home, surveying damage left in the wake of the high winds and baseball-sized hail in the Albany area. Good thing the strawberry season had wrapped up at my favorite strawberry patch. The storm which brought us joy and comfort also brought destruction and dismay to many others.

Mark said the cornfields would be completely tasseled out after the rain. Even though we have been irrigating our crops since late May, they much prefer the fresh rain water. Sure enough, by Monday, all the fields were tasseled out. My yard is even starting to green up again. I may actually have to get the mower out for the third time this year.

Of course, the wildest thing about the timing of this storm has to do with a special heifer. Two years ago, we had a heifer calf get spooked out of her dome during a wild and wicked storm. She was only a few days old and ended up wandering lost in the cornfield surrounding our yard. We finally found her the next day a mile north and on the opposite side of the road in Al’s yard. We named her Freebird. 

I should have known it was going to storm because Freebird calved the morning of the rain with her own heifer calf. Luckily, this one hasn’t had the wandering gene like her mother and is content in her dome, even during a storm.

Mark has been through several dry years on the sands of central Minnesota in his lifetime. Before irrigation was installed, his family had to completely rely on their faith for the gift of rain. His mother taught him the rain prayer, and Mark has taught it to his children. Austin and Mark have been reciting this prayer several times a day as they travel between irrigation pivots providing water to the crops. 

 “Almighty God, we are in need of rain. We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky above, what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is. To think that so much water can fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear. We place our trust in you. We are sure that you know our needs, but you want us to ask you anyway, to show you that we know we are dependent on you. Look on our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and the rivers will sing your praises and hearts of men will be glad. Amen.”

A gentle reminder that even though we pride ourselves on being independent and self-sufficient, we need to trust in God’s perfect timing for the gift of rain.

    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.


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