The Rain Paradox

The pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof sounds just the way my inner voices would if they could dance for joy at the fact that it is raining. My imagination thinks up little fairies distributing water to every blade of grass, seedling, and tree, showering them with the promise of life, and growth. It’s raining!

But I am getting ahead of myself.

When we got to Portugal for the first time in May 2016, we were told that one of the wettest winters was only just giving way to sunshine. A year later, we were back in Portugal for good and by August the country declared a drought, with villages rationing water use to an hour a day per household and cities such as Viseu relying on cistern trucks to refill their water stores! Not good.

As we’re planning to stay in Central Portugal and set up our own farm and eco-tourism project, we were really hoping the drought was a glitch rather than a sign of climate change affecting the region in a way indicative of what the future would be like.

Throughout our volunteer gigs over the summer at Vinha da Manta and Sense Camping and in our search for a property we could call home, we prayed for rain.

Then the fires – hungry, fierce, and at times seemingly unstoppable – ravaged the country and left swathes of the center region barren of trees. Trees are essential in moving moisture from the coast inland and giving nature a tool to keep moisture so full ecosystems can benefit from it.

So, when storms were announced in the fall, promising a day or two of rain, we prayed for slow rain. Not the kind of water that gathers on the surface of the landscape, turns into rivulets and torrents and rushes downhill washing precious, fertile topsoil away. No. We hoped for slow, soft rain that would penetrate down as many layers of soil as possible so as to truly replenish water stores. What we got was a bit of both, but nowhere near enough.

By February, while enjoying the 16C sunny days, we were worried. Francois and I regularly got into intense conversations about whether we should be rethinking our whole plan and looking at Ireland or somewhere farther North where rainfall was a given and climate change might bring a bit more sunshine into the picture.

The trouble was, we had put in so much time, effort, and love into Portugal – and selfishly, I could not bring myself to tackle a decade of mostly rainy days to mitigate the risk of drought.

Then mid-February came about, and with it arrived rain. The glorious pitter patter above our heads, a promise of a green spring.

So far, we have had two weeks of non-stop water falling from the sky, with no end in sight* if weather predictions are to be trusted. There has been some sun here and there, dry minutes or hours as the clouds took a breather, gathering their next wave of droplets to pick up where the previous regiments of them had left things off.

The pitter patter of fairy feet sounded more like the drums of war.

So.much.rain!

Do not get me wrong, I am THRILLED.

But – there had to be a but – at the same time I realize that I have taken sunshine, and everything that comes with it, for granted. Drying freshly washed clothes, hanging up your coat without a second thought as to whether it is dry enough to go in the closet, cutting wood, going horse-riding – even taking food scraps out to the compost. Any task involving the outdoors now requires gumboots, a rain jacket, and preparation. If you don’t have to bypass the activity all together!

I tried going to feed the horses in sneakers: bad idea. Almost face-planted 3x and had to roll up my jeans to avoid a trail of mud. Rookie mistake, I know. Gumboots are the way to go!

Of the average 1200mm rainfall Central Portugal gets every year, the past few weeks have delivered half.

This makes my rational self want to go out and dance for joy in the rain. My irrational self, however, wishes rainy days would mingle with sunny days a bit more fairly so I could get more done. Clearly, my aspirations to be a badass farmer slash outdoorsy gal are a work in progress, with me doing my best to stay on the bronco that is the learning curve.

And while that inner battle continues, so does the pitter patter of little feet, dancing to the rhythm of drums.

 

*Of course, the day I am posting this was beautiful and sunny! But the rain should be back tomorrow, so I stand by my post. Mostly.