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petunias in hanging basket
WELCOME SIGHT: One of the sights that home gardeners love to see is volunteers from last year’s seed, springing to early life in planters and baskets. Looks like I’ll get a break from planting petunias this year, thanks to last year’s harvest.

After long winter drought, rain finally falls across Kansas

Much of the state finally gets good rain, and hope springs up almost as fast as chilly corn seedlings.

It’s amazing how much mood elevation there is an a timely, badly needed rain.

Much of Kansas got that rain Friday night and Saturday. In Wichita, the total rainfall was well over an inch. In southern Sumner County, it was just over two inches.

It was certainly just what most farmers were hoping for. Planters were running non-stop by Monday, getting corn and cotton seed into the ground in the hopes that the warmer temperatures needed to germinate those seed are also just around the corner.

The rain ended a run of brutally dry weather over the southern half of the state, which has seen conditions grow steadily worse during an early-October to mid-March drought.

Goodness knows, there are still plenty of things to worry about in farm country as the bluster over tariffs continues to spur concern among farmers that they will be hit hard as government officials try to punish China for a ledger sheet of issues, such as intellectual property theft and dishonest reporting of grain in storage.

However, the increase in optimism based on something so simple as water falling from the sky is refreshing to experience. I doubt that I am the only Kansan who braved the 50-degree temperatures and the howling wind just to stand out there and feel the raindrops hit my face.

People often talk about “million dollar rain” when discussing events such as this one, where the moisture will likely make the difference in whether or not thousands of acres of wheat are actually harvested come July. I say July because as late as this crop is, we’ll be lucky if we get it out of the field by then.

As of the Monday crop progress report, only a little more than a third (35%) of the wheat crop was jointed, compared to 80% last year and 65% as a five-year average. The condition of the crop also reflected the long, bitter drought, with almost half of the crop, 49%, rated as either poor or very poor and only 12% rated good to excellent.

Corn was only 15% planted, and there was plenty to worry about in those seeds that were planted in late March and early April only to see temperatures plunge into the teens well after what would normally be frost-free conditions.

Still, even as the worst of conditions prevailed last week, the farmers I talked to were still saying, “if we get rain soon,” and, “if it warms up soon,” everything will be looking better. And this week — in the wake of 2 inches of slow rain and temperatures warming into daytime 70s, that ever-present Kansas farmer optimism is shining through.

It could be that is why I am feeling optimistic. Or, it could be that I just noticed that all my hanging pots of petunias are full of volunteers coming up from last fall’s dropped seeds. It could be that I have a whole carload of household junk loaded and ready to haul the neighborhood “free dumpster” event on Saturday. It could be that the annual Wheat Quality Tour is coming up fast and it’s one of my favorite times to meet new people and catch up with old friends.

As a general rule, spring and the season of new baby calves, lambs, kittens and chicks, not to mention the promise of fresh peppers and tomatoes from the garden, is enough reason for optimism on its own. This year, in the face of challenges and worries beyond the normal realm, the promise of better things is finally here, one raindrop at a time.

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