Drought on the lake

Early Monday morning as I listened to the sounds around the cabin, I thought I heard falling rain hitting against the walls of the cabin and falling to the deck. It was not until I finally crawled out of bed and went outside, that I realized the sounds were from the yellow birch leaves falling to the ground. The birch trees on the island are always first to lose their leaves and normally that doesn’t happen until the first week of September.

We will have no blueberries this year from the island. There were flowers, but the dryness of the island had the plants shedding their berries before they were even green. This year’s young red squirrels have turned to the tender new juniper shoots as a food source, trimming the new growth.

It is much too early to see leaves changing colours. It is much too soon to have leaves falling. But everything is different this year. Neither the April, nor the May rains arrived to fill the Rainy Lake basin. It is harder to climb our of the water up the rock even using the “Old Man Rope”. The pine needles that fell last fall have been ground to dust on our walking trails. The leaves that fell last fall remain whole and dry. They have not decomposed. Underfoot, everything is dry and brittle.

We worry that a fire could ignite the whole island.

At home, lawns have become dry and brown. Boulevards have dried out.

As I make my weekly trips to Rainy River, hay is being cut and baled, but the number of round bales in the fields have decreased. The hay crop has diminished without rains.

Canola fields are showing their vibrant yellow colours. Other fields of grain crops appear to be struggling and some areas appear to not have grown at all.

We have awakened almost every day to the smells of smoke in the air. We hear water bombers in the air. We are in a drought and though we live in the Rainy River District, we are experiencing global warming as our traditional weather patterns are disappearing.

The lake is perfect for swimming and play. The water temperatures have been above 21 C for almost three weeks.

The extreme heat conditions accompanied by almost still winds reduce outdoor activities. We find ourselves indoors in the hottest part of the day. The dryness has one other benefit. We can sit out later until well after the sun sets unbothered by mosquitos.

We are in staycation mode, thankful to have our island cabin, to relax and enjoy family and grandchildren.

Jim Cumming
Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times