We are having what weather.com says is a “storm typically seen in the fall in New England”. What this means, briefly, is that there is some cool front sliding across the area, and there is some low pressure zone off the coast, and these two things have combined to make days that are cool, damp, and very rainy. It’s makes for a great atmosphere. Get it? A pun! Atmosphere! hehehehehehe….
OK. Here are things I like about this kind of rain:
- cooling things off. That’s great because it had gotten bloody hot here for a good long while, and I say “bloody hot” as a Texan, not a local. We were scoring highs above 100. That’s nastier here than in Texas, because a lot of places don’t have air conditioning, and even more have, say, only one room of an entire house that is air conditioned. It’s also nastier here because no one is acclimated – we didn’t get weeks of sticky 80s, followed by a month of ugly 90s, before hitting the triple digits. Here it went right from a cool June, with highs in the 60s to blistering July, with heat indices well above 100. The last nasty thing about high temps in this area is that no one knows what heat exhaustion looks like or how to deal with it. Well, presumably the physicians do, but hardly anyone else does. My riding teacher, for example, was well into her 3rd or 4th day of bad heat exhaustion, and thought she’d contracted a stomach bug or was having a hot flash. People don’t recognize it. They also, even if they understand that the heat can cause problems, figure that it is sufficient to drink lots of water. I’m not going to argue with the idea that drinking lots of water is a good one, but at a certain point – and I know this from personal experience – it isn’t enough. Too much sweating and hydrating with nothing but water screws up your electrolytes or something. I don’t know the exact physiology of this, but I do know that it is possible to get a very nasty case of heat exhaustion even while being heavily hydrated with H2O. My personal rule after that very nasty experience was that if the heat exhaustion isn’t going away with water, or it’s going on for several days, you gotta switch to a sport drink. Or salty coconut water, according to the New York Times, but only salty coconut water. I think that educating people about heat exhaustion and heat stroke is why God kicks Texans out of Texas from time to time.
- the things that have been cooled off are probably going to stay that way. I remember every summer in Texas people would fall victim, en masse, to the delusional hypothesis of The Rain That Cools Things Off. It would be hotter than the pits of hell, and some cloud would make an effort to build up, and everyone would stare at it and start talking about how much they hoped for rain because it would Cool Things Off. It was almost a hypnotic response. And delusional, because I never met a summer rain in Texas that did anything other than make the pavement smell like iron and jack up the relative humidity by another 10%. The only Rain That Cools Things Off in Texas of which I am aware is the stinging, pelting, hail-infested rain that comes from supercells that are boiling up as the advance unit of a Blue Norther. Those things definitely Cool Things Off, probably a little too fast and a little too much…but Texas is SOL on that account for another 6 weeks, by my reckoning. And even then it won’t be a sure thing. Here, on the other hand, I am reasonably confident that this spell of rainy weather means the end of the blistering heat, at least until next July. It may get toasty warm again…for a day or two. But not more than that.
- the sound it makes on the roofline outside my window. I didn’t get to experience that this time because it’s just a little too humid for me this time – it’s not hot, but there is a Limit to my willingness to have my feet stick to the hardwood floors as I walk…and to have to peel my exercise ball off the back of my legs when I stand up from working at the computer. It does make a beautiful sound, and thanks to the bizarro Victorian rooflines of my house, I get to have that right outside the window instead of above my head. It’s easier to hear when it’s right next to you.
- it makes Buster spaz out. He doesn’t do this with the Garden Variety Summer Cloudburst (unless it’s a real doozy, the kind the weather service issues alerts over). But he reliably does it for big spring and autumn storm systems. This weather causes him, for some reason, to shoot around the house at high speeds while making a noise like a fog horn. The part I like the best is when he rockets full blast down the stairs from the third floor and tries to make a 90 degree turn into my study without slowing down. There’s a throw rug on that landing, and he (I think) has developed enough of an understanding of physics to use the rug to slow his velocity and to assist in his change in trajectory. This process leaves the rug wadded up in big ripples on the floor. It is easy to identify his point of impact, and to reconstruct whether he tried to shoot down the stairs and turn, or whether he tried to rocket straight along the landing and whip the hairpin turn up the stairs. Either way, it’s pretty funny.
- the green color everything gets. Except for the crabgrass, I don’t like it when the rain makes that turn green.
- free carwash. My wheels had become entirely filthy. My very best efforts nothwithstanding, I am unable to keep the stable out of the car. And I sure as heck am unable to keep the stable off of the car.
Here are the things that I do not like about the rain:
- it’s not in Texas. I hate it that my homeland is suffering in the grip of the worst drought this century. I remember the horrible drought we had in 1998 when the farmers couldn’t make hay, and the pastures died, and the ranchers tried to feed bought hay, but it ran out, and then we all got to watch the cattle starve in the pastures. I really, really hated that. That affected absolutely everyone, too, even if you weren’t a rancher. Forget trying to grow your own vegetables. Forget having any flowers. Forget cheap food. It was awful. And this year, I understand, it’s worse. We flew to Denver for a conference last week and changed planes in Dallas. It was a thoroughly depressing sight from the air – depressing enough that I hardly noticed getting smacked with temps over 106 on the jetbridge. Everything was brown. You could really see the lakes drying up. Even the golf courses were brown – and when those get brown, you really know things are bad! Getting rain here reminds me of the drought at home.
- what it does to the tomatoes. We had a minor drought of short duration this summer, which is one reason I will only get 6 tomatoes from my Green Zebra plant this year. The Sungolds have been going nuts (I almost shudder to think what those do when the weather is good for tomatoes…) even with the drought…which means that this sudden influx of rain (we had some last week while we were gone too) makes the tomatoes grow too fast and then they split open. Which means they don’t last for long, and have a tendency to manufacture fruit flies if I bring them in. I have dealt with this issue so far by simply eating them right off the plant as I find ripe ones. I know, poor pitiful me…
- it interrupts my Horse Time. Horse Time is my favorite time (until winter, when it fights for ascendancy with Ski Time). Since I don’t have my own horse yet, Horse Time for me involves cleaning up someone else’s horse really well, then riding it with my teacher on the ground providing feedback, and then cleaning it up and putting it away. I can’t do this when it’s too wet, because 1) it’s bad for the horse (slippery) and 2) it’s bad for the tack (leather). So lots of steady rain puts a cramp in that. If I had my own horse, I would probably go anyway and watch it eat. There is a surprisingly gratifying charm in being in a barn that is full of horses that are chomping their breakfast, with rain on the roof. Horses make an impressive amount of noise when they chew. I would not be pleased if, say, my husband made that quantity of noise chewing – or even relatively that quantity – but as with so many things like dirt, muck, farts, and bad behavior, it’s different when it’s a horse doing it. Fortunately for me, my teacher is a pretty flexible individual, so my Horse Time got moved to tomorrow afternoon, when this weather is supposed to be gone.
- it makes me want to go back to bed, but I have to put in some work. I’ve got a paper to review and some other administrivia to handle. School is going to be starting soon, boo-hoo. I like my students, I enjoy my job, but really, the main effect that taking time off has on me is to make me want more time off. I console myself with the knowledge that school starting means that I am only 3 1/2 months from getting to ski. And the knowledge that Horse Time in the fall is probably going to be superb. Also, I have the corn mazes and the peak farm stand action of the year awaiting me after school starts.
Here’s another terrific soup recipe to celebrate the peak of the tomato season, happening right now (however “peaky” it may be). As usual, the provenance of this recipe is lost in the mists of time:
Tomato and Basil Soup
2 T olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
a bunch of fresh thyme leaves (be very generous with this)
2 T minced garlic
1 bay leaf
3 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled (I used heirloom tomatoes from the market, red ones, yellow ones, green zebras, orange ones, it make a beautiful effect!)
1¾ C chicken stock
1 C light cream
at least 4 T chopped fresh basil (I’m growing lemon basil this year, and the soup was insanely good with it!)
The way to peel tomatoes is to boil a pot of water – make it a small pot and work in batches, it saves time – and cut an X in the bottom of the skin of each tomato. When the water boils, drop one or two tomatoes in the pot. Stand by with a bowl of cool water. When you can see the skin split up to the top of the tomato, use a slotted spoon to pull it out and drop it into the cool water. Rub it, just a little, with your fingers and the skin will float right off. Don’t cook the tomatoes too long or they will, well, cook. This process is just to get the skins off.
Also, I find it saves a ton of time all the way around if I send those veg through my Cuisinart with the slicing blade, then drop in the chopping blade and pulverize everything into bits. Takes less time to cook, and WAY less time to puree later, and you get a WAY better consistency with the final product.
Heat olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped vegetables; saute until beginning to soften (if you’ve pulverized things like I do, this is about 5 minutes worth of cooking). If you’ve chopped by hand and have bigger bits, it will take longer. Check the carrots to be sure. Mix in the thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Add tomatoes, basil, and stock; simmer 30 minutes or until all the tomatoes fall apart when you press them with your spoon. Working in batches, puree soup thoroughly in blender. Stir the cream into the pureed soup and season with salt and pepper (if you need any – a lot of time I don’t with this dish). Can serve this hot or cold.