The good, the bad of rainy days

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Umbrellas could be put back on the shelf this week, but for the most part, rain has been a nearly constant companion this year. 

It’s manifested itself in the form of mist, drizzle, light, steady, pouring, torrential, accompanied by thunder and lightning and blessedly inconsequential here when Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina. 

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And while the rain seems to have abated this week at least, the soggy weather has been a mixed bag, depending from what angle it is viewed — from planning a wedding to the problem of wet honey to a bumper soybean crop.

So far this year, the area is about 10-14 inches above normal precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“It’s driving us crazy. It’s testing our patience,” said Isle of Wight County farmer Cecil Byrum. 

While the corn was pretty much made by the time it started raining in July, the continued downpours are starting to hamper efforts to harvest cotton, said Byrum.

It’s making defoliating the cotton difficult, he said. 

However, Byrum said he’s never seen so much open cotton bolls, and if the soybeans don’t drown out, it will be a record year for the little beans generally grown for livestock feed.

And the peanuts, they’re the “prettiest” Byrum has ever seen.

“They look so good they scare you,” he joked.

The bumper crops, however, may be countered by the recent trade war with China, but that’s a story for another day. 

It will make a dent in the prices farmers can get for a lot of their crops, said Byrum.

Meanwhile, the abundant rainfall has cancelled or stalled a number of logging projects, said Forester Scott Bachman with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The rain doesn’t bother the trees, rather it’s the wet ground that puts off loggers, who must use heavy equipment to access the wood, he said. 

The loggers do not want to tear up the land of their clients, said Bachman, adding that trees can sit for another year, unlike corn or cotton.

“That’s the great beauty of forestry,” he said.

The main crop grown locally is southern yellow pine, which is used, among other things, to make pressure treated wood, said Bachman.

Other uses include fluff pulp and telephone poles, both of which are produced locally, he said. 

But whether or not the rain will make a good fall color display is not yet known, said Bachman. 

The good growing season has Bachman guessing that it will be good, but one early hard frost could change that, he said. 

The weather isn’t bothering honeybees, other than affecting honey production. 

The bees can’t forage when it’s raining, said David Mitchell, who owns Blackwater Honey Bee and Lavender Farm. 

The rain doesn’t hurt the bees’ health, but that, along with the elevated humidity that has been another feature the past few months, makes it hard for the bees to reduce the moisture in the honey.

“This year’s honey is wet,” said Mitchell, adding that honey is generally “cured” by this time of year, meaning that the moisture content has been reduced to 18.5 percent or less. 

The rain has been a boon — or not — for home gardeners, depending on the location of their plots, said Michel Lujan with the Western Tidewater Master Gardeners. 

While some gardeners are reporting happy, lush plants, others with low-lying gardens have plants that are struggling due to waterlogged soil, said Lujan. 

In other cases, rainfall amounts have been inconsistent, with some areas of the county receiving more than others, said Lujan.

Lujan said it’s important for gardeners to know what type of soil they are working with. 

Isle of Wight has a good deal of clay soil, which tends to hold water, she said. 

Lujan advises struggling gardeners to pick up a soil test kit from the Isle of Wight County Extension Office, which can point to amendments that may be needed. 

Those who tend a crop of grass rather than a vegetable garden have probably experienced a bumper crop of clippings this year — the browning, moldering clumps of which are a regular feature on otherwise robust, green lawns.

Emily Norton owns the Main Event by Emily in Smithfield. She always advises her brides to have a rain plan if they want an outdoor wedding. 

“When brides plan an outdoor wedding, you have to make sure your heart is settled on what ever the rain plan is. It can really upset them on that day,” said Norton, adding that if she had to pick one month that is likely most favorable for outdoor weddings, she picked April — despite the old rhyme — April showers bring May flowers. 

“But any month is good as long as they have a back-up for extreme heat or rain,” she said.  {/mprestriction}