Harsh Crispy Weather

Here at Daytona Beach Permaculture Guild headquarters, the summer rains have come to a rather abrupt stop as of about 2 weeks ago, and we are steering into the fall period of what I have come to refer to as “The Big Crispy.” I have identified two Big Crispy periods of the year here: spring and fall.

The spring Big Crispy is when the rains that should start in early May don’t come, and meanwhile the air temperatures are climbing. This past spring’s Big Crispy was particularly brutal at DBPG HQ; we got almost all the way through June before any real rains came. This was the year I vowed never again to buy new shrubs or other plants in spring. Watering them was an exhausting daily routine, and some still didn’t make it. (And I’m talking about Florida-adapted native plants not making it.)

The fall Big Crispy is the reverse: The summer rainy season comes to a halt while high temps are still in the mid to high 80s. The fall Big Crispy is usually a little less brutal than spring because temps are on at least a slight down-trend and we can start seeing some nighttime lows dip below 70. Still, I’ve been hauling lots of water, and many plants including hardy natives are wilting and not even fully recovering overnight.

We did have an extra rainy summer but it was not enough to bring us up to our normal year-to-date rainfall.

Normal year-to-date 41.07 inches; our year-to-date 34.17 inches. We are at 83% of our normal year-to-date. That doesn’t sound bad at all, and if it weren’t for the Big Crispy times and lopsided rainfall, probably we would not even notice.

Normal September here 6.92 inches; this past month 3.34 inches. We are at just 48% of our normal total September rainfall.

People in other parts of the state have it quite a bit worse; I’ve heard permies reporting from parts of Florida that have had no significant rain in two years.

And of course, many people have it far, far worse in other parts of the USA and worldwide. So much worse that climate-induced migration is becoming a frequently reported reality.

From permies.com, here’s a thread someone started back in August asking drought-stricken permie folk in the West how they are managing. (Here is the URL in case you prefer to copy-paste rather than click https://permies.com/t/165847/wanna-hear-Western-Drought-Stricken .) People from all different regions, not just the Western USA, have commented in the thread. Lots of good info from people who use no sprinklers, running water, or other mechanical irrigation systems, instead relying only on rainfall, rainbarrels, hand-watering from watering cans. There are more of us out there than I thought.

I’m pretty sure this thread is public so you can access it without being a member of permies.com . That said, I have found it very worth my while and minimal “techno/electronic noise burden” to be a member, which I have been for some years now.

Everything I’m reading and observing tells me we can only expect drier dry times and wetter wet times from now on. Also, even here in a coastal, semitropical, rainfall-abundant region, where people tend to worry about flooding and sea-level rise more than about any other aspect of climate change, all of my research tells me the biggest threat here, too, is heat, droughts, desertification, wildfires. (I would be perfectly happy to be wrong about this; I get no pay and no joy from being correct in my dire predictions.)

Humans can engineer for floods, and even, to a degree, for sea-level rise. And, my feeling is that most public-works departments haven’t even scratched the surface of how much stormwater mitigation can be achieved with green infrastructure helping to take the load off the conventional “gray infrastructure” (storm drains, pumps, seawalls etc.). If we enlist permaculture principles, we have a lot of untapped capacity for dealing with stormwater and flooding and even, in at least some places, sea-level rise.

Drought and heat, though — once we reach a certain point, there’s no mitigation; we will quite literally be toast. The reports from around the world this past summer were horrifying. From Siberia to Italy to the Pacific Northwest and more.

Of course we still have a lot of room to mitigate drought-flood extremes by encouraging widespread use of rainbarrels, and popularizing land-management practices that turn the ground into a water- and carbon-absorbing “sponge” covered with dense vegetation and teeming with beneficial microorganisms.

Our choice. The forked path stretches ahead. One fork leads to more heat and drought, another fork might lead to successful heat and drought mitigation, and at least some restoration of the broken water-cycle.

This is one permie’s on-the-ground experience coupled with reports from people all over. (In the mainstream media as well as via grassroots channels.) If you have any reports you’d like to share (whether hard data, or anecdotal, or both) from your household and/or community, please do! Every additional data point we can gather might help motivate one more person to wake up and join in the monumental task of climate mitigation/adaptation.

Speaking of climate action, I am getting ready to email some of my city officials, ask if they will meet with me to share ideas on climate mitigation/adaptation. One of the main ideas I want to suggest is “more trees; and in general a shift in our landscaping focus from ‘neatness’ to ‘heat mitigation’.”

We can absolutely do this without sacrificing a cared-for appearance. Things will be softer and puffier and spongier yet still look obviously cared-for. Our obsessive need to tidy up the great outdoors and make everything buzzcut square is jacking up the temperatures, killing us with noise and fumes, limiting landscaping career opportunities, and squandering resources.

Done properly, climate-mitigating “puffy landscaping” could significantly boost our local economic resilience, not to mention our appeal to tourists (the latter being a strong concern of many government officials and everyday citizens in my tourist-attracting region).