This year’s precious gift: Water
August is summer’s twilight. You have been working and playing hard in the summer sun grabbing all you can until dark. Then August comes. Evenings come closer and you start to calm down because it’s hot. Real hot. But finally this year, there is enough water.
Irrigation ditches run every which way across our pastures delivering water to animals and grass. Plentiful water for here anyway. Enough water that if one sits, stands or lies still on the grass you can feel the moisture in the air. For sure we are not in the tropics. But for an area considered a high desert valley this moisture feels real good.
The cows even know this and seek shelter in the heat of the day. In fields with no trees offering shade they lie in the tall grass. Letting the summer heat fall down on them as they lie down feeling the cool of the moist ground under them. They get comfortable when it’s too hot to eat.
This year the moistness is wonderful. Not only was there still snow on the top of Jobs Peak at the 4th of July, the standard of a good snow year for generations, there was still snow on Job’s as well as Silver and Raymond peak on Aug. 1. Making this water year a great one in my book. But all good things come to an end. The ranch is now on rotation because of decreased river flow.
Meaning it is multiple movements of shifting irrigation boxes open and closed to keep the water moving where it needs to be before we have to release the water at the end of our rotation allotment. The grass around here is doing fine with the water we had. Complimented with a few shots of rain showing up at random times supplementing irrigation water.
With the start of rotation there is a trip up Hope Valley’s mountains to check the water level at Scott Lake. Last year the mountain lake reservoir was almost bare. We took no water from the lake. Not enough could reach the release valve to make a difference for us. Causing me anxiety thinking this is a bad sign of things to come, how the climate’s change is going to affect this area, this ranch. I took a picture for prosperity being shocked at the lake’s water level. The lowest I had ever seen it in the more than three decades I have opened the lake’s water release valve.
This year it was a pleasant gift to be told by the dam-inspecting spouse the mountain lake’s water was gently crossing over the spillway, indicating the lake level was overflowing. Felt an actual physical release of tension knowing water was back even if the ranch only gets an eighth of it. And thought what can be done now to keep water on the ranch in the future.
It has been a cool comfort these last four months to have the West Fork’s water flow hold out leaving only the next two months to shuffle limited water around. And for that I offer a refreshing drink (of water).
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.