Renewable Farming

Rain lilies sensed today’s “survival shower” coming to Iowa

Our first-season experience with rain lilies foretold today’s showers across much of central and eastern Iowa.  Our lilies were a gift last fall from a friend, Hal Brown of Windy Lane Farms, Mulberry, Indiana.

June 20, 2021 By Jerry Carlson  The story of these lilies in America actually began in 1738 when the first of Hal Brown’s immigrant ancestors, then named Braun, arrived from Europe by ship. Mr. Braun landed on the east coast and bought 200 acres in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. He brought this variety of rain lilies with him.

Succeeding generations preserved the genetic line. This is the 64th crop season for Hal, who watches the potted lilies outside his door for a rain forecast. He says these lilies are at least as accurate on rain timing as the National Weather Service. Maybe more.

Our two rain lily blooms in the photo below opened just 30 hours before today’s general shower swirled over Iowa. Our favorite weather site,, predicted 0.7 inch of rain here today. As of noon it looks like we could get less than a half-inch.


Rainfall coverage in Iowa from this system reinforces a statistical pattern you can observe by watching an animation of USDA’s weekly U.S. drought maps for the past 20 years.  They’re played in rapid sequence. If you watch the animation a few times, you may note that severe drought seldom hits eastern Iowa and western Illinois. One exception is the terrible Midwest drought of 2012. 

We’ll keep an eye on our lily pots for further blooms into this week… supposedly there are more showers coming. And we’ll pray they refresh crops on your farm! 

Our son Erik and his wife Jeanene also have three settings of Hal’s rain lilies. Quite possibly, their three sons will keep some of these when they establish families of their own.  

What a legacy for Father’s Day!

Hal Brown says that eventually, our lily bulbs and blooms will multiply and look like his (shown in the small nearby photo). But then, his family’s heritage of American farmers has carefully cultured them since 1738.