Enjoying autumn in Carson Valley
In the first few days of October if you looked out your window toward the mountains before you put on your glasses you might have thought there was snow. The sight could get your heart racing because you love snow sports or you raise grass for a living and were excited to think the snow was packing up, beginning the promise of water for next year. But as you put on your glasses you see the white is just low tufts of clouds looking for a place to rest like every thing else getting ready to go to bed for the winter around here.
Bears wanting thick blankets of flesh for winter leave signs, and I have scooped up a couple shovel fulls of it around the back of the house, that show me they are active. Out here they seem to prefer the little red apples more than the green ones. And peaches thick on high branches are reachable without a ladder because something pulled a 10-foot limb completely off the tree. Which makes me think bears ate the peaches, not voles, birds or squirrels.
Hard plums fallen from the trees, lying on the ground are more pit then flesh. But they too are disappearing, whether by bear, vole, or birds I am not sure. Nothing is ever around when I get to that side of the house to prove who might be collecting the fallen purple fruit. But there is a carpet of purple one day and hardly any visible the next. Something is having quite a snack, storing up for winter.
The garden is browning up, too. The fall cold pinches the plant leaves. Like the trees some leaves turn color like putting on colorful pajamas before they curl up to lay down looking forward to a good rest.
And the pastures are light brown where the long grass has not been eaten by the few cattle left. The pasture looks tired, dull. Only a few fresh green shoots emerge from the ground. Even the majestic purple thistles have dropped their color and are wisps of white. As are the milkweed, and dandelions.
The river is tired out, too, from its frantic spring flow of running over boulders and down hill. The hot summer wore it out. Now the river is low, looking for a place to rest between its banks rather than running out over them. It is so low and slow the ranch supplemented its pasture’s need for one last drink of water with a bit of reservoir water from up the valley. Oct. 1 in Carson Valley, irrigation is over. Stock water flows, but there is no longer flooding of the fields.
Interestingly the light gold grass out my back door is still up to a cow’s belly but a lot thinner than this spring. Now I can see the black shapes of the animals lying down between grazing. It is a pretty sight. It all means fall is here and winter coming. Soon hopefully, the white clouds will lay down swatches of snow on the mountains and the promise of water for next year will be given again.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher