Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Life that come with the rain

Minnie Hatz headshotI call my blog, Nature and Gardening on the Edge because I live in that area between the mountains and the high plains where there is irrigation water from the mountains. To the west are the mountains. The higher elevation has thinner cooler air. The mountains catch moisture as weather systems rise to go over them and the moisture condenses into rain or snow. Those of us on the east side of the mountains are in the rain shadow as many storms that come through have already deposited their moisture and leave this area a semi-desert. The average moisture per year, including snow melt, is 15 inches. However, since we are not too far from the mountains, many reservoirs, canals, ditches and sprinklers keep some areas green and growing with water from the mountains. Further to the east, past this edge, on the true high plains, the irrigation is more limited. 

This summer has been really dry and pastures and other non-irrigated places are brown. This past week the monsoons came through. These are not true monsoons as most people would define them but that is the local name for the soaking rains that we often get in July. One of these in the past was the memorable Big Thompson flood. Another brought record sized hail some years ago. This year my area got two back to back good rains. In a few days the pastures will be green. Right now everything is muddy and the clouds are hanging over keeping the moisture in. If you live in an area with ample rainfall, you can hardly imagine how people in this area really LIKE rain. It saves crops, lawns, gardens and money. 

Walking about between rains I found some unusual life for my area. I suppose these life forms are always present but mainly visible only after rains or near ditches or reservoirs. 

I found lichens growing on the ground in the usually dry pasture. Studying these, I realized that they are always present but are normally a dry black scale on the ground and hardly distinguishable as life. If I noticed them, I perhaps thought that they were some long dead plant. After the rain they were plump and moist.  

I also found "brownie caps" mushrooms in my lawn. These and puffballs are occasionally found after over watering but more often after the big rains. Again, the spores must remain somewhere ready to grow when sufficient moisture occurs. I also found some now green moss growing. Like the lichens, when the rains don’t come, it is brown and dead appearing. 

The most amazing life form that I found was a salamander on my lawn trying to escape mowing. I have seen salamanders in this area before but not often. Of course they tend to be nocturnal so perhaps they are about at night when the sprinkler system is running and I am sleeping.  

From time to time I have toads in my lawn and garden. Sometimes after the monsoons, there are lots of little toads about. Apparently the life cycle is accelerated and the population is replenished after big rains. I’ll be watching for these in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, gratitude for rain and lots of interesting life forms that I rarely see or see and hardly recognize during the dry season! 

Black lichens growing among the still dried grassesSalamander at base of tree