With little creeks running either side of the dirt track to the Windmill Spring, we were surprised to see so much water flowing from the spring box to the trough, a full 3/4″ pipe full (click to enlarge). Quite a change from the weekly maintenance and a quarter-pipe full or less for the last four years. We’ll see how long it lasts.
At the top of the watershed, the Paregien Ranch feeds Ridenhour Creek on its way to Dry Creek. The higher ground is saturated with springs popping up out of cow trails that become small rivulets adding to the seeps to contribute to its flow. It’s not often that we see Ridenhour run this much water at about 25% of its flow, judging by the high-water mark, during the height of our storms of two weeks ago.
With her iPhone, Terri caught me measuring and ciphering 9.25” of rain since December 24th on the Paregien Ranch. That’s how long it’s been since we’ve seen our cattle, since the rains began in earnest at the 1st of the year. With 16.70” here on Dry Creek thus far, we have already surpassed our average annual rainfall for the season that generally ends on April 30th.
Unbelievably, only one wire is broken beneath the top of this Blue Oak, a victim of the drought and the high winds from the last storm on the Paregien Ranch. Kubota only, the roads are wet, water running in every crease. It will take at least a week without rain before we can get back in a pickup at about 2,400’, or before gathering horseback. The long-range forecast is for more rain at the end of next week.
Not a business to schedule by the calendar, the three major variables we must contend with are the weather, the market and politics. After four years of drought, we’ve found new extremes to our adaptability, thinking well outside the box of past-experience. Just how we will adapt will be interesting. Furthermore, the cattle market is off about a third of the prices received three years ago, and most producers have had to cull their cow herds so deeply that reduced calf-crops may not cover costs.
No one knows the impact of the current politics, other than markets for almost every commodity will probably not be stable. Additionally, much of the domestic beef business depends on exports, of late reduced by a stronger dollar. With existing global trade agreements under fire, there is perhaps less certainty about the market for beef since the fiasco of the first Dairy-Out Program nearly 40 years ago.
We have plenty of places to busy our hands and occupy our minds as we develop a near-term plan around all three variables of this business. Even though we are at the mercy of the weather, the market and politics, we do have job security, for a while.
a month’s work on the other side:
clearing roads of trees, fences
under limbs, slick black calves
waiting to be stretched for an iron
and I’m inside polishing poetry
instead of oiling my saddle
I’m almost too old to ride.
No one behind your desk
to report to for twenty years,
no one to argue how to spend
time and money improving
how to get the work done
when the creek subsides.
I’ve yet to learn
where the tree frogs go,
four years drought
I regret to report I’m tired
of the world beyond our fences
where there is no truth,
no beauty left in the storm
of news I’m addicted to
waiting for my daily fix,
each outrageous episode
is drama enough
to keep from thinking,
to keep from working
to keep from wanting
anything more than
where the tree frogs go.
We’ve been busy returning our replacement heifers to the Wagyu bulls after we could ford the creek, 40 or so scattered over our neighbors with no watergaps between us. Moving some cows and calves away from the creek this morning before the first of three storms arrives to linger through Tuesday, about 3 more inches of rain predicted, but the the bulk of the storms are aimed at the wet and icy Northwest. Here we go again.