It’s an unusual thing, a drought in Florida. With average rainfall for the state somewhere around 60 inches, we’re not exactly what you call a “dry’ region. Every few years, though, it’ll catch Sunshine State ag operators off-guard; the rain stops coming. Or rather, it never shows up in the first place. January kicked off with a few gray skies and afternoon thunderstorms. That was promising. Within a few weeks, however, we were well into a streak of clear skies and scorching sun.
The nervous threshold “oh it’s only been two weeks really,” that quickly flipped into outright frustration. My riding instructor, who relies on her pastures for feeding the horses, threw her hands up “We’re not getting any moisture, so, if this keeps up the grass will just be gone. Totally gone.” That sentiment was a light echo of what the cattle producers in North Florida were feeling. Then finally, just before I closed on the farm in April, the sky broke open again. We had a deluge – tornado warnings and the whole nine yards.
And. That. Was. It. For. 40. More. Days.
Like a reverse Noah’s Ark, the landscape has appeared to shrink back. At a time of year when new growth is likely exploding out of every inch of ground, instead, mature plants are wilting and dying. Heat-hardy grass has lightened, then yellowed, and now browned over. Blossoms fell from berry bushes and pear trees; the Santa Fe River thinned drastically and continues to draw back from the cypress roots every day.