Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reflections on a Year Gone By

Reflections on a Year Gone By

I’m going to miss all the 1’s and 2’s we had this month. We won’t have quite another month (or year!) like it ever again. After all there aren’t 13 months in a year. I’m sorry I missed noting the preceding interesting number combinations because there won't be another like it until I’m (way!) gone. That’s a reality that I simply won’t get into here. It’s certainly a topic on everybody’s mind. Hopefully not constantly. After all, life is for the living and there is certainly a lot of life to live! So let’s get to it!

We’ve been on this ranch for 4 months. I think the water system has been the most interesting project for those 4 months. As a matter of fact the water system has been a source of endless amusement starting with the day we ran out. In the city ya’ll take it for granted. Water, that is. You go to your tap and you turn it on and, voila, there it is! The only evidence you have that it doesn’t appear by some miracle is that nasty little water bill you get every month. Remember, the water is free but you have to pay for the pipe it comes in.

Out here on the ranch water is anything but free and this fact is right in your face each and every day during the dry months. This is Northern California. Heck, this is California for crying out loud. We have two seasons. Wet and dry. Northern and southern together there is no difference. There’s just one big state and one big problem. As an aside, you realize that this is a western issue and California is just one of the states with this issue. At least California is not landlocked like some states. Yet, the truth remains is that we may as well be because that big beautiful Pacific Ocean is just something very nice to look at. You can’t stick a hose into it and start pumping.

So here we are at the ranch with our wonky water system. The ranch’s problem is a microcosm of the state’s problem. It’s not a supply problem. It’s a delivery and storage problem. So the amusement we found last dry season was that even with the rainfall and snow pack melt of last wet season we found our storage system going dry. We have 3 wells, 1 lake, 2 ponds and 2 creeks on the ranch. Watson and Grindstone are the creeks. Both are raging torrents in the wet season. The lake and 2 ponds are so full right now that they are running over the roads and spillways and draining into Watson Creek. Last dry season the two creeks were completely dry. The beavers in Grindstone Creek were the only ones who had any water. There was talk of killing the beavers and blowing up their dam. Fortunately no one actually did such a terrible deed. It would have been futile anyway since the water behind the beaver dam wouldn’t have lasted a minute once it flowed through and onward to Stony Creek.

Our lake and ponds that supply our animals were so low I thought maybe one day I might be walking by and see The Creature from the Black Lagoon slithering out of one of them. Tad risked his life wading into the stock pond once to try to reposition the intake. He got stuck in the muck and had to lie down and “swim” out of the muck. He said he was pretty terrified. And he stunk to high heaven. Learning from Tad’s experience I got in the kayak the next time to move the intake to a better position. Marty dragged me around from the bank. Paddling was not effective. Eventually the intake was not taking in anymore and we had to buy a tanker truck load of water at an outrageous price. Everyday we would drive up the hill to the main house water tank and peer down into to it wondering when we would actually see the bottom. We would stick the measuring tape down the mouth of the tank and pronounce in our best Mark Twain “4 feet! Less than yesterday! Better go shut off the pump and let the ground water replenish itself.”

The day Willa and 15 friends came up for the weekend will not be forgotten. Labor Day weekend to be exact. That was the day we ran out of water entirely and had to hand the kids buckets with the advice “pour it down the toilet when you want to flush”. Nobody was washing clothes or dishes and the drinking water we buy in town was the only water to be had.  We had to go into Elk Creek and get 500 gallons of Stony Gorge Reservoir water and drive it back in the back of the pick up truck. In a 500 gallon tank we'd found in the barn. In the dwindling daylight we cleaned our stinky selves off with a garden hose.

We’re glad those days are over. We have so much water now we don’t know what to do with it. And we’re thinking ahead to what we might do next dry season to not have to go through that again. I wanted to get some rain barrels. Maybe we can find a way to get water out of the lake more reliably. A person gets caught up in the project but if one settles and reflects what it all means you come up with a closer connection to the natural world and your place in it. It turns out to be a good feeling.

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