Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Drought Continues

Before you begin this post, you may want to look at my postings of June 7 and June 14th concerning the drought.

Water transfer. Phototgraph taken by J. David.

The seriousness of this drought cannot be overstated. Four households on the ranch now depend on a spring that is now producing slightly less than a gallon per minute. At best, that’s 1,440 gallons or 360 gallons per household per day. We can easily get along with this, but the dry, hot weather continues with no end in sight and the spring flow weakens daily. Last week all livestock, principally cattle, were removed from the corrals and traps around the pens. Would you believe that one cow can consume 25 gallons of water per day? Here is the method we developed to transport 500 gallons of water per trip. We were transporting water from the west side of the ranch where we had only one household to the east side where we have four. This task required 8 hours each day. Scott Grote, Ranch Manager, solved this by moving all the cattle to the west side, but herein lies another problem: because of the drought there isn’t much forage available over there for them. Well, that’s ranching! You can only hold out so long and then the cattle must be sold. Buying feed for cattle in July, August, September – this early in the season is a guaranteed prescription for financial failure. Selling cattle in a drought also hurts because the market is flooded with cattle experiencing the same conditions.

Watering trough. Photograph taken by J. David.

I’ve bragged for years that because of the restoration here, we had no functioning water wells. This was true, but not now. An old inoperative well that delivers small amounts of gipwater - non potable water – has been explored and equipped with a submersible pump. While it’s only good for a few gallons per minute, we’re using it in watering troughs and carrying it into waterless pastures for wildlife. It’s a bit ironic that we’re struggling to keep deer, turkey, raccoons and other critters alive so that we can shoot them during hunting season!

Math Camp – Photograph taken by Justin Duke.

Fortunately, our “people ranching” is over until September. These large groups of young people were challenged by Colleen Gardner, Executive Director, to use our solar toilet as it requires no water. She’s been making the challenge all summer, but I think this group of Math Camp kids from Texas State University broke the record - 283 uses saving the ranch 1,132 gallons of water. There were 68 kids.

There is a long spoken phrase “everyone talks about the weather, but no one can do anything about it.” If you believe as I do that global warming – climate change – is for real then the statement is not totally true. Our actions as a society are the cause and we can do something about it. Time is running out though, so we need to act. What an opportunity this nation has to provide the model, the leadership to the world. Let’s quit wasting lives and resources on war and lead the world by example.

Spanish Oak. Photograph taken by J. David.

Bald Cypress. Photograph taken by J. David.

Pecan. Photograph taken by J. David.

Bigtooth Maple. Photograph taken by J. David.

Carolina Buckthorn. Photograph taken by J. David.

Wafer Ash. Photograph taken by J. David.

Escarpment Cherry. Photograph taken by J. David.

Fig. Photograph taken by J. David.

The Spanish Oaks (Texas Oaks) have taken the worst beating of the drought. I counted 113 dead from the Wildlife Preserve to the Chiroptorium. That’s a small area when you consider 5,500 acres. Robert Edmonson of the Texas Forest Service said we’d probably lost 1,000!

I looked closely at these trees. It may be, that some have “shut down” to save themselves – we won’t know until next spring although I’m not encouraged. There are 47 Bald Cypress suffering. A lot of these shut down last year and came back, but with basically no water this year I don’t see how they can survive. I have pushed the Cypress to the limit by planting at higher elevations than nature did. The Pecan is a surprise. This is probably a 50 year old tree. Only three of the Bigtooth Maples look this way. I’m surprised at the Carolina Buckthorn and the Wafer Ash as they are naturals. I didn’t plant them. The Cherry and Fig I planted and they have been watered, but the extreme heat seems to have won.

Last year I stuck stubbornly by my preaching and refused to water trees I planted after their first summer. I lost a beautiful Monterrey Oak. It was 18 foot tall with an 8 inch diameter trunk. This was in the “forest” across from the Country Store. While I still teach this principle, I now agree that if it’s one or two trees in your yard or some strategic place then go ahead and water it.

1 comment:

Carol at Lost Valley Gardens said...

One of my mature escarpment cherry trees (approx 30' tall) lost many of its leaves during August, and I was afraid it was going to die, but in the past week, after several heavy rains and more moderate temperatures, it is sprouting new leaves and branches just as though it was springtime. I do not know if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. It seems very strange though.