Welcome Weather

I woke up to the gentle melody of rain on the tin roof, just inches above my face. What a welcome, refreshing sound! We’re behind some 6 inches of rainfall this summer already, and everything has been scorching. The garden has been almost impossible to keep watered, ranchers’ hay production is significantly reduced, and the landscape has started to turn a withered brown. For weeks, the grass has been too dry to walk barefoot on it, and even the weeds in the garden have wilted. The 1,600-acre Crow Peak Fire near Spearfish has been blazing for a week and is only about 15% contained. The last thing anyone wanted was a thunderstorm without rain. But we got rain! Boy, did we get rain.
IMG_7189The clouds were low and heavy, hanging in the trees, and already the landscape looks richer, greener. The rain pitter-pattered on the tin roof for most of the morning. At times it would nearly quiet, but then the sound of larger drops would lead into another downpour, though never torrential. It was the slow kind of rain that soaks in deep and doesn’t turn to runoff. We got 1 inch total. The frogs are singing again now. It was a good day for reading, writing, and hot tea.
IMG_7191Trixie wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the rain. Unlike our other dog, Baby, who would retreat into her dog house for the whole day when it rained, Trixie was soaked and muddy from digging in the yard, undeterred by the wet. She didn’t seem to care at first, but at one point jumped up and peeked in the window over the kitchen sink. I think she was a little bored. She had dried off a little by noon, so she went with me to take Dad his lunch in Hermosa. She is such a puppy! She hasn’t experienced many car rides and tried to cuddle up initially, then went back to trying to chew on whatever was close enough to get her mouth on, whether it was me, or her leash, or the blanket she was sitting on. She was pretty happy to see Sarah, who got off early from work today.
IMG_7196We’re hoping for more rain tonight. It doesn’t look like there is much chance of precipitation over the next week, but we’ll take whatever we get and be glad of it!

Laura Elizabeth

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Sunday walks and spiderwebs

DSCN1167.1 Sundays always go too quickly–The fellowship, the family time, the blessed enjoyment of the outdoors. We live in such a fast-paced culture, but I’ve been discovering a peace that comes with a quieter life. Sometimes life gets busy and schedules get hectic, but coming home to a quiet life at the end of the day is unbelievably restful and calming. Regrettably, the last week sped by with hardly enough time to breathe deep of the clear, piney air or to ponder flowers in shady corners of the Hills. I tried to make up for it today.

DSCN1155.1A quiet, solitary walk to scout some good photography locations was restorative, even with temperatures in the 90s. I explored a beautiful little ravine branching off our jeep trail to Hole-in-the-Wall, and enjoyed the sight of birch trees glinting in the 5:00 sunlight. Deadfall and rocks, mossy soil and sandy creekbed–The ravine was like something straight out of a western novel. I love not being able to see what is around the corner–Where might it go? What is just out of sight, waiting to be discovered?

Another ravine, the grass bent from flooding, was scattered with ancient, sun-bleached bones. Some of them were mossy and green, all of them porous with time. Life is so short, so transient. Like the “flower of the grass”, the Bible says, life comes and life fades, just like that. Human life, animal life, plant life. But unlike the flower of the grass, we have a soul that will not die! And God is good to His children. So good.

DSCN1159.1On the way back through the corrals to get home, which are built with the bare rock as the fourth wall, I nearly walked right through this beauty’s web. I watched as she snagged herself a grasshopper, then scurried back to the center to watch and wait. Ants are examples of industry. Spiders are examples of vigilance.

DSCN1189.1We were graced with a little thundershower this afternoon, just enough to wet the deck and scare the Dog. She’s a bit of a coward. The clouds rolled up so gradually, they looked like smoke and haze, but soon took command of the whole horizon and the sky above. A little thunder, a little rain, a little wind in the whispering pines. The moisture was pleasant.

Tomorrow is the start of a new day, a new week, and a new job! Off to new adventures.

Laura Elizabeth

Beauty in the Badlands

DSCN0223.1The Badlands are rich with subtle life at this time of the year. The summer heat hasn’t scorched the region brown yet, and the moisture has coaxed flowers into bloom. Soon enough, the summer will arrive and the green with burn away, but for now there is a tenacious life that clings to the region.

DSCN0191.1This past Thursday, Sarah and I took an excursion to the Badlands with two church friends, Roy and Jessica, and made an afternoon of the Badlands loop, stopping at just about every scenic turnoff, and hiking when possible. Although my family has driven through the Badlands several times, never had we gone through at such a leisurely pace! A quick drive through really doesn’t do them justice.

DSCN0268.1Razor-sharp peaks and spires give way to rolling hills with impassible cliffs. Strata of bright orange and gold layer through one region, while tablelands dominate another. Viewpoints overlook cliffs, plummeting down hundreds of feet into the valley or canyon below.

DSCN0175.1And in such a hostile wasteland, a no-man’s land, there’s life–Creeping insects, scurrying chipmunks, burrowing prairie dogs. Prairie phlox and scarlet globemallow bloom in the rocky, dusty soil. There wasn’t any flowing water anymore, but the gumbo mud was still sticky in places, and little puddles of tepid water hadn’t yet sunk into the earth.

DSCN0220.1The rain in the Hills had opened into blue skies over the Badlands, but as the day wore on, we watched thunderstorms roll in. The sky grew bluer and bluer with storm, and the occasional rumble of thunder echoed quietly through the stony peaks and valleys. For hours, the storms seemed to crop up on the horizon and roll towards us, never reaching us.

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We scrambled around in the gumbo, climbing to the tops of the tablelands. As we scrambled up over the edge of one, a pair of doves startled from their ground nest. Two eggs were tucked inside. I should have gotten a picture of the location of the nest–The tableland rose a good thirty feet up, and then there was a little washed out spot and a slightly higher table, roughly the size of a dinner table. The nest was nestled in the grass on this second table. The perfect vantage point to watch for predators.

The storm broke as we were eating dinner. Probably a good thing, or we might have stayed out exploring a lot longer than we did!

Laura Elizabeth

A Little Rain

DSCN0022.1Every time I drive to work, whether to work in the foothills herding cattle or to work in the heart of the Hills cutting fabric, I’m thankful for being here. But today, the drive was really a joy. The wet and mist and the low hanging clouds cast a spell over the Hills. Familiar landscape was shrouded and obscured, and the breath of clouds was heavy in the trees.

DSCN0030.1Unfortunately, South Dakota sort of lives in a perpetual drought. Maybe there have been a few years of plentiful moisture (last year, for instance), but drought is nothing new to this region. You’ll know that if you’re familiar with Laura Ingalls and her family’s struggles in the eastern part of the state. Up until this weekend, we’d gotten very little moisture this year. My uncle said that Rapid City is currently about two inches short on precipitation. However, this weekend has brought at least enough moisture to green things up. Ranchers had been getting worried about hay production and summer pastures for their cattle–Hopefully this is putting us on the right track.

DSCN0023.1But regardless of how much precipitation we have gotten over the past few days, the scenery has been more brilliant, and the low-hanging clouds are mesmerizing, thanks to what little rain we’ve gotten. DSCN0027The damp brings out the richness of the greens and browns and greys, and the frogs were singing loudly in this little pond when I drove by today. I’ve always loved fog–this is simply haunting.

Laura Elizabeth