Sunday, June 7, 2009


“A prolonged period of dry weather, a lack of rain” as defined by Webster Dictionary.

If you could be here today walking the land as I am, you would see verdant hills and valleys. It’s still spring and we had a quarter inch of rain earlier this week. The native grasses respond within 48 hours, brown turns green. But looks can be deceiving as the following pictures show.

I was new to Texas in 1950 when a gas station attendant noticed my Ohio license plate and asked me how I liked Texas. My response was very positive. He replied, “Well, if you like it now, you’ll really like it when it rains.” This was my first experience of a drought. But fifty-nine years later, I’ve come to learn from experience the value of every drop of rain that falls and to appreciate conservation and land management principles that allow us to have water for ourselves, for livestock and wildlife . . . But even with all the land management practices we’ve implemented, there is a limit to how long our fragile “perched or local aquifer” can meet our needs. As the dictionary definition says, we are deeply into “a prolonged period of dry weather” and this has been exacerbated by above normal temperatures and high winds.

The creek that kept Madrone Lake at a fairly constant level stopped running in late July 2008. Photograph taken by Lois Sturm.

The lack of fresh water combined with high temperatures heats the remaining water which depletes oxygen and encourages bacteria growth which most likely caused the death of this three foot triploid carp. Photograph by J. David.

The Bromfield Trail is one of my favorite trails. We used to sit on the stone outcroppings with our feet in the water. It was our thinking spot with the limestone bottom and the sight and sound of the crystal clear water flowing through it. The water disappeared in September 2008. Photograph taken by J. David.

The Bridge to Nowhere. An unusual name! Justin and Poncho built this bridge for us when water was flowing under it. They were unaware that we are designing a trail to start there. As you can see the creek is bone dry and has been since October 2008. Photograph taken by J. David.

Carter Tank. This was originally built by a previous owner of the ranch whose last name was Carter. We have worked on it a number of times because it didn’t hold water. We’ve also enlarged it. Under normal rainfall years it is 25 feet deep and backs water up the draw. The tires are not trash! They are put there to protect fish spawn. The two cement cisterns store our drinking water. Each holds 5,000 gallons piped in from one of our spring boxes unseen further up the draw. They have float valves that divert the water into Carter Tank when the tanks are full. Photograph taken by J. David.

Dependable Clay. We’ve put no name on this small tank. This is a remarkable stock tank entirely dependent on runoff water from the surrounding hillside. Leroy has cut ditches 100 feet long that direct runoff water to the pond. What’s remarkable is the bed of clay that forms the bowl – this clay is impermeable. The only draw down is from livestock and surface evaporation. Finding this kind of clay is somewhat rare. In spite of this good material, the pond will be dry if we don’t get some rain soon. Photograph taken by J. David.

Oryx Pasture. This pasture is set aside for the exclusive use of our herd of Scimitar horned Oryx. They are a sub Saharan antelope from Africa that can go as long as 90 days without water. This tank is normally kept full from runoff as well as spring water piped to it. You can tell by the green vegetation and the cracks in the earth that there hasn’t been water here for months. Not to worry. We do have a number of watering troughs throughout this pasture. Photograph taken by J. David.

Four Cypress. Once again we haven’t named this small cattle and wildlife drinking spot. There was a small seep that we discovered above it 35 years ago, as well as, a small swale in the land above that would direct water to the pond. It worked so well until this drought. As you can see, there is not more than a week’s water left. The four cypress trees might not survive the summer. These were “planted” 14 years ago by throwing the seeds on the water! Photograph taken by J. David.


These pictures are but a few that show how critical our water problem has become. Wildlife, cattle and even we who live here are threatened. I believe this to be the worst drought of the century. Our Texas Forest Service agent, Robert Edmonson, stated that we have lost over 1,000 Spanish Oaks so far and other species are showing stress. Is the current condition a harbinger of the future? Is this our first sign of climate change?

Tune in next week to see some of the unique and innovative methods we are doing to sustain all life here at Selah.


Charles said...

Sounds like a bad year for production by your honeybees also. Hopefully, the bees can find enough nectar to survive until the rains return.


Huisache said...

Great to see pictures by J.David! Sad to see so little water. Most of the cityfolk in San Antonio have yet to behave appropriately for the drought...