The Ballad of Dry Betty

Calhoun_20100124_23985 Dry Betty is a tough gal, a little yellowed from years spent in the sun, but stoic about her position in life—which is affixed to a tree stake waiting for rain. Dry Betty is the name I have given my rain gauge because where I live, dry is her most frequent condition. Although she is usually moisture free, she endures brown strata of rotted mesquite leaves in her apex that I have been unable to dislodge even with a pipe cleaner.

Yes, I am a little obsessed with rain. A casual observer watching my behavior during a rainstorm might conclude that Dry Betty and I have something going on. I lurk at the kitchen window, watching my big pulque agaves (Agave salmaniana) funnel water toward their roots. I look out past my mesquite trees to watch Dry Betty filling up. Although Betty has a face like a splitting wedge, she is beautiful to me in her own way. Because I cannot gauge her watery countenance from indoors, I slip into a pair of flip-flops and run out in the storm after her.

In three days last week, Dry Betty filled up to three-quarters full–3.25 inches–after three juicy Pacific storms rolled through like sloppy wet kisses. Be still my heart! To put this in perspective, we only average 9-14 inches of rain annually.

My daughter says that if I had a Native American name, it would be “Rainwatcher”. Can I help it if I get excited about the prospect of wildflowers, or if I thrill at the thought of rainwater soaking deep into tree root zones!?

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10 Responses to The Ballad of Dry Betty

  1. Lisa at Greenbow February 6, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    I don’t think rain gauge gauking is abnormal. Even though we get lots more rain than you do there is plenty of RGG goes on around here. What with all the posts about weather I believe most gardeners are of the same ilk.

  2. Darla February 6, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    We have has plenty of rain as of late…2 more inches yesterday…..cute story!

  3. Pam/Digging February 6, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    We track rain pretty obsessively in Austin too, Scott. You’re the first person I’ve heard of who named their rain gauge though.

  4. Sweet Bay February 6, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    What gardener isn’t obsessed with their rain gauge? :)

  5. Natalie February 6, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    Since you’re such a fan of your rain gauge, you might be interested in the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network found at – you can be a part of a national network of rain gauge enthusiasts!

  6. Scott Calhoun February 6, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I can’t believe this, but just after I filed this blog post, someone stole Dry Betty! I’ve had her for nearly a decade. What kind of deviant would do such a thing?

    Lisa: It appears we are of the same ilk.
    Darla: Glad you are getting more rain. This winter is looking good for a lot of the country.

    Pam: You should name your rain gauge–it make the relationship a little more personal.

    Sweet Bay: good point. At least it’s a healthy obsession.


  7. Loree/danger garden February 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    Someone stole your rain gauge!? That is just plain horrible. I am so sorry!

    Here in Portland I would have to empty a gauge daily…but I guess I’d rather not know how much rain we are getting.

  8. Jess February 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Ha! I am obsessed with rain for the very opposite of reasons: we get too much! My rain gauge and my weather station are some of my favorite gadgets!

  9. Debra Lee Baldwin February 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    Buy two new, mesquite-free rain gauges. Put one where Dry Betty was and the other where you can see it from your house—and name that one Dry Scott.

  10. Chookie February 10, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    I am sure no rain will come to anyone with a stolen rain gauge.

    We’ve just received 1.5 times our average rainfall for February… in less than a week!