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 noteA Teacher Notes: "Thoughts on an Extraordinary Summer"

It’s been an extraordinary summer, punctuated by a wild storm this weekend that knocked out power to 700 000 homes, ours included, and marked by a drought that only recently ended. Trees, already stressed, fell by the hundreds, taking out power lines along the way, punching into bedrooms, crushing cars.

My rain barrels are now full to the brim, but the lawns are still brown and the leaves on many trees near me are yellowed from heat and drought. It was a summer of watering and being aware of my habits. I learned a lot.

I have a low flow toilet already but, even it takes a surprising amount of water to flush. I could collect enough to flush it once by saving the water from heating up my shower and shaving water. It took about half a bucket. My other two toilets are old school and use twice that much. I plan to replace them both this winter. We flush away 30% of our water in homes, and it is the largest amount of any category.

Watering gardens by hand is hard work I discovered. Twice this summer, I used only rain barrel water on the thirstiest plants, those that were in flower. The bees came often, their happy buzzing relieving the boredom of standing with a watering can. Water went directly to the roots that way, making the best use of a precious resource. It took half a day to do the yard, both front and back, and, by the end, my shoulders ached with fatigue.

Washing my car has been forbidden for most of the summer, so I had used only a small amount of water to clean the windshield. On the weekend, I had fun finally cleaning my car, in the rain, using a bucket and soap; mother nature did the rinsing that night!

It’s been a real wake up call. I’ve heard it called our first “climate change” summer. As our meteorologist commented recently, he expects these kinds of windstorms in October and to see one in August was unusual, not to mention devastating to our trees that were in full leaf and exhausted after a long and hot dry summer.

When I visited Montreal in July, the trees were fully green and the lawns lush and soft. Rain came every few days. It was a relief to be there. I jokingly referred to myself as a guy from the west coast “desert.” I have lived on the coast for 52 years and have never missed rain so much as I did this summer. When it came one day in late July as I rode my bicycle home on the seawall, I was overjoyed. It stopped just as I got home but my spirits were raised for days.

I allowed myself a real shower this weekend after we’d recorded 100 mm of rain in my back yard. That meant two full minutes under the water and no turning off the water to soap up. Luxury! But the thought remains: what if next year continues the trend?

—September 3, 2015; by Brad Hyde