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Beat the Heat With Some Cool Fun in Ellicottville

Though not as dire as those faced by farmers, problems have arisen from the drought for gardeners as well.

Pow Wow, Jazz and Blues Fest, and the County Fair Offer Some Time to Chill by Jeff Cole A sunny day typically allows for countless forms of enjoyable outdoor activities, whether it’s a nice stroll in the park or a simple game of catch. A rainy day, on the other hand, usually plays the villain to the sunny day’s hero, forcing people to stay inside and battle boredom, while their beloved trails and ball fields soak up water. But countless Americans who toil in the dirt, either as a hobby or out of necessity, would undoubtedly welcome some rain after weeks of overbearing heat and little precipitation. According to the Palmer Drought Index, the drought currently plaguing plants and fields all across the nation covers 55 percent of the contiguous United States, the largest such percentage since December 1956, when a drought covered 58 percent of the same area. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday issued its June 2012 State of the Climate Report, which, based on the Palmer Drought Index, revealed that about 33 percent of the contiguous United States was affected by severe to extreme drought as of the end of June. This represents a 10 percent increase from May. As of 7 a.m. July 10, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor drought map released July 12, Cattaraugus County fell within the abnormally dry category, which is the lowest of the five listed classifications, with moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional being higher. Still, farmers and gardeners in Cattaraugus County are undeniably feeling the effects of little rainfall and are trying to beat the heat. Dan Brown, who owns Snowbrook Organics in Great Valley and grows clover grasses for hay and corn for silage and grain, said his hay output is “going to be short this year. “The second cutting was compromised by the drought. There’s a much lower yield than what we anticipated getting. We normally do three to four (cuttings) a year. I don’t know if we’ll get four, and the third is not looking the best,” he said. Because his farm is organic, Brown said he is also affected by the drought in another way. “We have to meet pasture requirements for the cattle to graze on. So, we run into another issue when the pastures are not growing. What we’ll probably do if the drought continues like this is grow alternative crops, such as turnips and oats and those kind of items. We can plant them in September, and then we are able to continue to graze our cows through October and even November if the snow stays away, so, we’re having to feed the cows indoors right now just to give them something to eat,” he said. As with Brown, Scott Kalinowski, a West Valley hay field farmer, said the drought has diminished the amount of hay his fields have yielded so far. “We used to get at least 80 round bales, and this year I’ve put away only 30. That’s quite a percentage difference. When it rains all the time, it makes a big difference,” he said. Though not as dire as those faced by farmers, problems have arisen from the drought for gardeners as well. Barbara Kozlowski, a master gardener from Ellicottville, said she has a small, diverse vegetable garden that is easy to manage and therefore hasn’t had many difficulties with it this year. The scarce availability of water does pose some concern for her, however. “I go out and water them (the plants) as often as I can. Having a well makes it a little more difficult, because I don’t want to use up too much water,” she said. Flowers comprise about 80 percent of Salamanca master gardener Nan Miller’s garden, while the other 20 percent is devoted to vegetables. Though this allows her to supply water to most of her garden through various means, such as rain barrels and a pump that transports water from her pond, it doesn’t enable her to water all of it. “My ferns are all dead. They just died because where they are, I can’t water them,” she said of how the drought has affected her garden. Miller offered some helpful tips for growers, explaining the benefits of utilizing rain barrels and de-emphasizing the need to water your lawn during a drought. She noted that a drought creates serious consequences for not only farmers and gardeners, but for consumers, too, as food prices rise while food production falls. “If you’re a big farmer, that’s your livelihood and that’s going to (affect) the grocery list for all of us,” she said. “People just assume they go to the grocery store and get stuff, but, you know what? There might be stuff there, but people are going to pay a fortune for it.”

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