Dry creek bed
Definition of DROUGHT: [noun] a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crop. Dictionary.com
Last month the governor declared California officially in drought condition. For those of us involved in farming and ranching, we did not need the governor’s declaration to realize we are in trouble. We have felt the effects of this drought for the past 18 months. We are seeing it in our ranches, our animals, our water sources and feeling it in our pocket books. Many of you are likely feeling its effects when you head to the grocery store and see the increase in grocery costs.
For those of us out West, drought is an all too familiar condition. If you grew up in a city you have likely experienced water rationing, if you grew up in a farming community you have felt its effect on your operations or seen it effect your neighbors.
I grew up in a city in Southern California with parents who were hippies (Not your free love, pot smoking type, just love the earth, conserve it for the next generation type!), so water rationing/conservation was a part of our lives, even in non-drought years. My dad used to time our showers so that we weren’t wasting water, my mom always washed full loads of laundry, using cold water only and then hung them on the line to dry. We only watered when necessary outside and never left the water running while brushing our teeth! It was only natural that after I graduated from college I went on to work as an irrigation engineer at a county water district, where the primary focus of my job was working with farmers on water conservation…now that I am a rancher’s wife, drought has become even more personal!
You may ask why this water situation so important to us. All of our cattle spend their life roaming on pasture we have in the hills of Mariposa County. This pasture is native and consequently the only source of irrigation is rain. We’ve received 1.25” of rain this season, compared to the 9” we’re supposed to have by now. Without this rain, the grass can’t grow and the cattle can’t eat. But don’t worry, we aren’t letting our cattle starve, instead we’re at the ranch feeding grass hay every day or so. We’ve had three semi-truck loads of hay delivered to the ranch this season…which is a lot of hay. We believe in the primary reason we raise grass fed beef, which is to allow our cattle to behave as they should, out on pasture and never in a feedlot; consequently, our cows are still roaming the open range on one of our ranches. We have another ranch down the road, but there aren’t any cows there, because although there is feed, there is not a water source this year, the creek dried up!
Early morning feeding
As you read this post, as you cook Open Space Meats beef, as you go about your daily business, please think of the choices you are making and how they are affecting the water supply we all have. And if it strikes your fancy, send up a prayer for some serious rain, do a rain dance, take a shower that’s 5-minutes shorter. It all helps! In the meantime, we’re going to keep doing the best we can with the little water and resources we have…and we’re going to keep on praying for moisture.