Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Drought Continues

September brought some relief from the all time record hundred plus degree days and we finally received some good rain - 6.15 inches. Every bit of which soaked into the ground. This was very good for the range grasses. It always amazes me how grasses can respond so quickly. All the pastures were brown and with no growth at all, yet in four days everything was green again. Wildflowers were blooming and grasses were shooting up and producing seed heads . . . . but this doesn’t end the drought. Remember that up until September we received only 11.24 inches for the year and during the hot summer months of May, June, July and August we only had 1.69 inches!

Since there was basically no runoff, our lakes, tanks and creeks are still, with a few exceptions dry. I hesitate to say the drought has a benefit, but it did give us the opportunity to remove silt from the lakes.

This tank was built in the late 1970’s. It has never been dry before and it was still boggy as the one loader got stuck in the mud. Photograph taken by J. David.

This pile of silt is 270 feet long, 50 feet wide and 6 foot high! Removal increased the tank capacity by 30 percent. After a prolonged drying out, we will spread it on the ranch. Photograph taken by J. David.

Madrone Lake, our most used recreation lake, on May 31, 2009. The creek that feeds it stopped flowing on July 28, 2008. Photograph taken by J. David.

Madrone Lake on October 8, 2009. The September rains soaked into the very dry earth. There has been no runoff to the lake nor spring activity to fill the lake. Photograph taken by J. David.

My observation of the effects of this drought on trees is that the most affected were Spanish Oaks. A Texas Forest Service representative estimated that we’ve lost 1,000! It surprised me that we lost at least five Bur Oaks. They have a tap root which goes deep into the ground. On the entire 5,500 acres I found only one Bur Oak. It’s probably 150 years old and in my 40 years here, it has never produced an acorn. We have planted all the other Bur Oaks on the ranch. Those five that died from the drought were seven to ten years old. Lacey Oak, some call it Blue Oak, and Live Oak have survived without loss. There has been some loss of Native Pecan, Walnut, BigTooth Maple, and Bald Cypress. It’s important to withhold judgement on this until next spring as some of these may come back to life.

This nice Spanish Oak shut down in late August. Aesthetically, it is a real loss as it was positioned along the road for all to see. Notice on the right a dead Bald Cypress. Photograph taken by J. David.

These are just two of many Bald Cypress we’ve introduced. Naturally there weren’t any on the ranch. I knew it was a risk to plant them at higher elevations, but since the creek had begun to run it was a good gamble. These are 40 foot tall and I don’t expect them to spring back to life as they got severely stressed in 2008 as well as in 2009. Photograph taken by J. David.

We call this the Catfish Tank. It has never gone completely dry. It has one spring and a 500 acre watershed to feed it. Photograph taken by J. David.

Obviously this tank has been dry long enough for cracks to develop and grass to grow. Photograph taken by J. David.

Because of the recent rains, one may want to declare this current drought over. This is not true. Conservation practices one may have developed due to the drought should become part of one’s life. Water is the single most important issue facing all of us.


Lorilee said...

The Yoakum and Cuero area had enough rain to fill or nearly fill the stock tanks. We are so thankful.

Susan and Jerry said...

David, Jerry and I are in New England where everything is bursting with color or otherwise GREEN. I keep telling people about the drought in TX and now we here it is raining, a LOT. Hope to come out to the ranch and see the waters flowing soon.