Forty days and forty nights, and then some

Richard Schmidt Living and Learning
Posted 8/27/13

“Think it’ll rain?” The question was posed to me by another customer as I was waiting to pay for 25 bales of pine straw. It was meant as a joke since it had rained in Baldwin County every day since Easter, give or take a day or …

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Forty days and forty nights, and then some


“Think it’ll rain?” The question was posed to me by another customer as I was waiting to pay for 25 bales of pine straw. It was meant as a joke since it had rained in Baldwin County every day since Easter, give or take a day or two.

“Yes,” I said, “It’s going to rain on every third block.” Much of our rain this year as been of that sort — blustery little storms inundating areas measured not in square miles, but in acres, or possibly square feet.

If you like rain, this is the place to be, but we’re not famous for our rain. (We’re not famous for much of anything, and I like it that way because it limits tourism to a manageable flow.)

Asked what’s the rainiest city in the U.S., most people say Seattle. But no. A recent study ranked 195 cities in the contiguous 48 states for annual average rainfall over the past 30 years. Seattle wasn’t even in the top 50. The rainiest city in the contiguous 48 states was — get ready for this — Mobile! (No Baldwin County towns were included in the study.)

We receive 67 inches of rain in an average year. Second on the list was Pensacola with 65 inches. The ten rainiest cities were all on or near the Gulf coast. (Seattle receives a puny 37 inches of rain per year.)

No one will be surprised to learn that rainfall around here is ahead of schedule this year. Normally, as of last Wednesday, the Mobile area has received 44 inches of rain. But we’ve already received 51.31 inches this year. And it’s still raining.

I like rain. Few things are more pleasurable than sitting on my porch and listening to raindrops fall on the magnolia leaves just a few feet away.

Another thing I like about rain is that it helps maintain the humidity, one of our area’s most endearing features. High humidity keeps my skin from flaking and my sinuses from drying out. Arid places like Arizona and Utah give me a headache.

Some folks don’t like rain and humidity because their clothing sticks to them like plastic sheeting when they step out of doors. I’ll grant that’s unpleasant, but after a shower and change of clothes, you feel great again. The secret to dealing with humidity is to walk slowly and take a lot of showers.

Then there are the weeds. They like the rain, too.

When my wife and I built our house a couple of years ago, we told our builder to leave the lot as nearly as possible the way Mother Nature had designed it. Cut as few trees as possible, we told him. We wanted a low-maintenance yard — no grass to mow, with minimal pruning and weeding. I suppose that’s what we got, but I’ve learned there’s a huge difference between minimal weeding and no weeding, especially when it rains for 40 days and 40 nights.

So how do you hold back the weeds in south Alabama’s rainy climate? Those who should know suggest Roundup. I’ve tried that, and I think it helped a bit, but a few days after I douse the weeds in my yard with Roundup, they’re still there, looking irritated but hardly done in.

Others suggest fighting weeds the old fashioned way — pull them up by the roots. I’ve tried that, too. Some weeds are easily pulled up, but other have tenacious roots that won’t budge. I obliterate the part of the weed I can see, but it’s back within a week. And besides, I don’t like stooping over and crawling around in the yard on a summer day with 90 percent humidity.

I could cover my yard with Astroturf. But Astroturf can get scaldingly hot, is expensive, and has an unnatural, uniform, Kelly green color that looks more like a fuzzy tarpaulin than grass.

So as a last resort, I went to the garden store and bought those 25 bales of pine straw and spread it over my yard. It will eventually degrade, but maybe for a few months at least, it will suffocate my weeds. Then it can rain all day, every day, and I’ll count it as a total blessing.

Richard H. Schmidt is a retired Episcopal priest, editor and author who lives in Fairhope. He can be reached at