I WAS READY FOR RAIN, long prayed for, with the requisite equipment: two sets of foul-weather gear, rubbery bib pants with hooded jackets and all (two because…surprise…the first one gets wet by lunchtime, and wants replacing). Rubber boots, of course, were also at the ready. Far more important, I had three of the most delightfully cheap plastic rain gauges hard at work outside. But why?

Each of the $5.55 (!!!) devices (the price I paid in 2008; now $6.95) can measure up to 5.5 (!!!) inches of rain. (That charming number sequence assigned to them by the folks at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, where I buy my gauges, is enough to make me love the things.) Using the gauges prevents me from have any mistaken impressions about how much moisture the garden, which has been so very dry this month, actually gets. Does a good inch or more fall each week, as I’d like? Or did the latest storm skip me? The gauges don’t lie. “It rained all day,” is not an accredited form of measurement on any continent. Nor is, “It was cats and dogs out,” or “It rained buckets.”

They are always in place in several open spots around the yard, to note what’s fallen. Weekenders will love the fact that they can tell come Friday what’s happened all week; make it a ritual of Friday arrival time to check the gauges.

I move the great but cheapo devices into place when I’m doing the watering of a specific area, to see what coverage I’m getting: three gauges spread around the watering zone, whose collected droplets I will average, so I can see what’s been done right and not. Did I really soak things properly, and evenly, before moving the sprinkler? No sense wasting water unless you do a thorough job, meaning at least an inch of water fell, whether from the heavens or (less spectacularly) from the sprinkler.

Once this much-hoped-for rain is done, I’ll quickly divide perennials that need it, move what needs to move, then set about mulching beds before the Dust Bowl revisits, hoping every moment it never does again.

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