LOCAL VIEW –The Drumbeats Of Drought In New Hampshire–(With Postscript)

In the past I have posted about (or perhaps bragged) about how people in New England do not know what a drought is, nowadays, because, when I was a boy, we had a drought that went on year after year, until Boston was talking about the need for a second reservoir to supplement Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts, because Quabbin was nearly dry, and vanished towns had reappeared on its dry edges. (I’ll skip repeating tales from my boyhood, of illegally fishing and swimming in the Stony Brook Reservoir, except to say they are fond memories.)

I may have to eat my words, for this summer’s drought is becoming the worst single-year drought I can remember, here in Southern New Hampshire. Even the hurricane milling about to our south last week only gave us east winds with a mist in it, and when a front came through and dropped the temperature from 82°F to 72°F with only the slightest sprinkle of rain, I began to wonder if this might be an autumn of fires. They are rare in New England, but have happened.

New England is a fairly wet place, and there are not that many species that are adapted to fires, as there are out west. However I have noticed even the larger lakes are lower. Here is a picture of the shore of Lake Massabesic, which supplies the City of Manchester its water.drought2-6-img_3824

That is about an hour east of my Farm-childcare. Twenty minutes west in Peterborough is Noone Falls on the Contoocook River, with a bare trickle flowing over it.


At the Weatherbell Site Joseph D’Aleo has been keeping an eye on the drought, and I lifted these maps from two of his posts.



In actual fact I think there should be a small spot of red further west on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border to mark my Farm-childcare, because it seems every passing shower has missed us. I have a customer with a rain gauge, and though he only lives a mile and a half away, on several occasions he has received a half inch from a thunder shower, as I got only a trace. This is a bit unusual, as I’m on the east slopes of a hill, and usually get more.

As a consequence a mountain stream that tumbles down from the hill has been reduced to a tiny trickle. I have never seen the likes of it. Here is the amount of water flowing from the flood-control reservoir that blocks that stream. drought2-5-img_3825


(The sticks at the bottom right of the picture are cut by beavers, who are at war with the State Of New Hampshire and constantly attempt to block the pipe.  A man from the State constantly clears it.  My tax dollars at work.)

I worry about the native brook trout that live in the stream. There cannot be much oxygen in the water, with such a slight trickle flowing, and the water is likely getting warm, in the few remaining pools.


What impresses me most is the farm pond, which was bulldozed eight feet deep in clay back in 1967 (before laws about wetlands) so my stepmother’s cows could get their own water even when the hand-dug well went dry. It is spring-fed, and even on dry summers, when the intermittent stream that feeds into the pond goes dry, there usually is a trickle flowing out. The water was clear and clean, and we swum in it. Not this year. drought2-8-img_3925

A heron has grown fat, stalking around the shore, for the frogs have no place to hide.  But now children can see what became of their fish hooks, when they ignored me and cast out on the east side. (Those trees came down in the 2008 ice storm, which doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but was before they were born.) (Water usually completely covers the snags.)


This drought has been going on a long time, locally. It even showed in last winter’s precipitation maps. One month the rain would be north of us, and the next south of us. Or east of us, and then west of us. The lawns have gotten crunchy, and last week’s mist only nourished the crabgrass, which sucked up the surface damp and already is dry.

When I scuff through the crispy woods I wonder if this might be the year we see what people in New England saw in 1947, when entire towns burned in southern Maine.



I should have mentioned there is one thing that is relishing the drought. It is a small sort of ant that builds nests in impractical places (even the handlebars of bikes) and likely loses a lot of colonies each time it rains, due to floods. This year they have thrived, and last week sudden swarms appeared in all sorts of unlikely places, as some unknown trigger, perhaps the length of the day, brought them out to perform their mating flights.

They have absurdly oversized wings, three times as long as their small bodies, and are rather lousy fliers. It seems to me that rather than attempting to avoid preditors their strategy is to overwhelm with their sheer numbers. They seem to float about, rather than fly, and I can’t say having a cloud of them in your face makes a drought any better. Within an hour or two they are all gone, with only some anthills of dirt remaining to show they were more than an odd dream.


(The last two ant pictures by Marlowe Gautreau).

                 DROUGHT SONNET

Flowers turn their faces from their old friend
And bluest skies seem soured by broken trust.
Balmy breezes fail to heal; What’s mild won’t mend
And even crabgrass yellows in the dust.

The dewless dawn comes begging for a cloud
But once again what’s fair does not seem fair.
What swelled our pride no longer seems so proud
And carefree sunbeams stress our noons with care.

And so it seems all things upon our earth:
Our wealth; our fame; our friends; and our powers
Are dry, and soon are deemed of little worth
If You don’t spill Your mercy on our flowers.

Only the busy ants buzz, and don’t complain,
So come again to thirsty earth, and reign.

15 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW –The Drumbeats Of Drought In New Hampshire–(With Postscript)

  1. Even tho the news on your wonderful blog may be worrisome in some respects it always reads like a favorite story book to relax me, just being reminded that SOME folks still have great appreciation for what is true, right and worthwhile considering. Such wonderful pictures too. Thank you very much.

  2. I wouldn’t worry as just like in Texas the drought will break and break hard. Every time I read about historical droughts they always seem to break with a deluge and floods. We’ve been quite dry (not drought) with even the thunderstorms missing out – until the cracker last night – and it looks to continue dry but by November no doubt the rains will return. I’ll be watching our sleepy star closely.

  3. Caleb,
    another absorbing article. Here in Limousin it has been an interesting year, up until August it was windy, since then it has reverted back to normal. Winter was long and dull, starting early in 2015 and not particularly wet. Spring was very wet (with severe flooding in the Loire Valley and elsewhere in early June) thereafter it has been very dry with only a few millimetres of rain until a few days ago when we had a bit of a storm. From late July we have little bursts of hot weather with temperatures in the high 30s.What has been noticeable has been the lack of thunderstorms during the summer, although in the last couple weeks some storms have rumbled round in the distance we have not had one yet.

    • I heard about your spring floods.

      Maybe I’m just getting a little deaf, but to me it also seems they just don’t make thunderstorms like they used to. I found myself wondering, this summer, if there is any connection between the amount of local lightning and whether the sun is “quiet” or not.

      To make it rain what I really need is a Carnyx from Limousin. Send one along, if you happen to find one digging in the garden.

  4. Most of us old fogies are already aware of ways to get it to rain, but just to refresh memories:

    * Wash the car.
    * Wash the exposed sides of house windows.
    * Freshly poured concrete is a known attractor of rain clouds, even it the sky is perfectly clear when the pouring starts.
    * Have a family picnic.
    * Give away all your umbrellas.
    * Pay big bucks to dig a deep water well.


    (Seriously Caleb, great write-up, and I hope you get plenty to rain, soon!)

  5. Your ants are a sort of a concern to me. We had an old barn behind the house, when I was younger back in Maine. It had an infestation of carpenter ants, and they were busy doing their best to bring it down. One day, as I came home walking on the railroad tracks that ran behind the house, I saw ants streaming across the tracks. When I got home and went out back, there was an amazing number of ants, many carrying eggs and other things, streaming away from the buildings and up across the tracks. I don’t think any of them where left at the end of the day, and we wondered what caused the sudden move. Two weeks later, after heavy storms, the river overflowed its banks, crossed the road, and surrounded our buildings with flood water – never had been that high before. Needless to say, had the ants not left, they mostly would have perished in the flood. Hope your ants aren’t pointing at heavy storms and floods.

    Nice poem by the way. I used to like to write poetry myself, but had to have everything in rhyme and meter. Always thought poetry was intended that way – to force you to learn to express yourself in its form, not as if you were writing a story arranged like a poem. Thoughts are supposed to be completed by the end of the line. Things like that. Too many “poems” there days only are laid out like poems, but are just plain writing. Open verse was the downfall of classical poetry, probably because kids today aren’t taught enough in school to actually write in the classical style. (end of grump)

    • Thanks. A good grump.

      Interesting about the carpenter ants sensing the flood. The ants in my pictures don’t seem so smart, and are only about an eighth of an inch long, though the wings are about a third of an inch. They overwhelm with numbers, not intelligence, (though I suppose they likely do know a thing or two I don’t.)

    • Thanks Stewart. I like those forecasters, especially their focus on the “Typhoon Teleconnection”, which isn’t the actions of someone just gazing dumbly at what computer models produce. It suggests they listen to Joe Bastardi, who listened to the late Norm McDonald, who rubbed elbows with those nuts-and-bolts meteorologists who had the grave responsibility of guiding the Pacific Fleet in World War Two (though of course the admirals actually held the tillers).

      Somehow it does me me good to see some young blood paying attention to stuff other than what the computers produce, (which sometimes is good, but other times is barfed bilge.)

      Looks like the cold weather hits the west before the east, this year. My sympathies, until you report you are skiing…. while I rake leaves….

  6. Welcome to climate change! Well, actually the drought of 1962-1967 in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic was much more widespread and severe. When something goes on for five years like that one did, you think it will never break. But it did.

    I agree with what you said about weak thunderstorms. I never saw such rinky dink thunderstorms as the ones we had this summer.

    Hoping for a rainy Autumn and a snowy winter to come!

    • It is handy to have the history, for if the drought persists and we have forest fires you just know the media will forget all about the forest fires of 1947 and the drought of 1962-1967, and blather about climate change and the current situation being “unprecedented.” (yawn).

      That 1962-1967 drought was the best days of my boyhood. I’d love to write a tale of that time. Sigh.

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