Rain!

Dear Friends,

            So what’s new!! 

Rain in the desert!            The most wonderful thing has happened here in the desert – it’s raining!   Those of you living in climates such as Denmark or Germany or England, or anywhere else in the world where it rains as a matter of course (and the trees are always green and the daffodils bloom) can’t possibly imagine the excitement of us desert rats when the wet stuff comes down.  So far, at the ranch it has rained a bit over four inches, and the weather man is predicting a bit more of the goodies yet to come.  The best thing about it is that it’s early in the season yet – in recent years we hadn’t been getting our rains until much later in July and then a little bit about every tenth day.  To have it so early means early grass, which is, in fact, greening up already, and will result in fatter calves and happier trees.  All good things come with rain, here in the desert!

            Naturally though, as everything, this particular rain had its shadow side also, in the form of the not-yet-installed downspouts.  As you know, following the fire, our Cook Shack building is newly rebuilt, and the installation of downspouts didn’t strike us as something of the utmost importance. When morning after morning you look on endless blue skies with not a shadow of a cloud, and your average annual rainfall is somewhere around 12 inches, you tend not to worry about mundane things like downspouts.  To make matters more complicated, we now have a nice, new, steep metal roof – and all that lovely rain is coming down, much magnified, right where you don’t want it, in this case, in front of the doors to the washrooms on one side of the building, and on top of the patio  in front of the dining room doors on the other side.

            The other day the south side was so flooded that Adam and I tried, in the worst of one downpour, to channel the water away from the doors to the washrooms.  I took a step off the cement to move away an ornamental piece of wood that I thought was blocking the flow of the water, and disappeared past my knees into a treacherous muddy hole which looked like swallowing me whole. It was a most disconcerting feeling – I thought I was going down to China.  It turned out to be a part of the ditch that had been dug for the new electric line after the fire burnt up the old one.  After Adam dragged me out I had to be hosed off from above the knees down, shoes and all,  and spent a happy time sloshing around in wet feet until I could get home to change.  But I will gladly fall into a hole a day if it means lots and lots of rain!!

            And now, two days later, the country east of us, which includes some of our pastures, got an unbelievable four inches of rain in 24 hours, three inches of it within about two hours. Needless to say, this kind of rain wreaks havoc on us desert dwellers.  The photo herewith shows the road past the house of ranch employee Danny and his wife Bonnie, who spent a busy day mucking out their garage, which had 2 inches of water and mud in it, and doing their best, with the help of the ranch tractor, to clear up their yard, which looks like a war zone.

mesquite pods. Come see the majestic mesquites during your horse riding vacation at Grapevine Canyon Ranch            But the rewards are many – already, in this amazing country, the grass, which was nonexistent only two weeks ago, is a good three inches high and the mesquite trees, laden with ripening beans,  are almost ignored by the cows, so happy are they with the fresh greenery.  

            There are many ranchers, in Texas, I believe, who spend unholy amounts of money tearing out the mesquites, with the idea of obtaining more grassland, but for us, the mesquites can be a heaven sent boon.    Many’s the year that the ripening beans are the only feed on the range until the summer rains finally arrive, once coming as late as the end of August.  And the mesquites have another wonderful characteristic – when the year is particularly dry, they put on  more beans than normal, thus providing ample cattle feed when you most need it.  Danny says that that’s because they know it’s dry and they are making sure of the survival of their species – clever mesquites!!  Any way it is, I’m happy for them, and for us!

            The old timers used to grind the mesquite beans and make flour, from which they presumably baked bread.  I have always wanted to try that, but the labor of picking the dry beans, grinding them and then making the bread, somehow made it less appealing – until, the other day, poking around on the Web, I came across a store that actually sells mesquite flour, already ground up and ready for the cooking.   Happily I ordered a couple of packets and brought them to the kitchen with the wish that they would try it.  There wasn’t enough for bread, and the darn stuff was too expensive for that anyway, but our kitchen manager, Ed, said he would try it in some gravy or other.  And it was a success – the gravy acquired a richer, exotic sort of taste, and we all enjoyed it, but yet I doubt it was worth the purchase price, especially with the unholy cost of the shipping.  So – I love the mesquite trees, but they can keep their beans for the cows!

            And a final word on the rain. Last night we had another thunderstorm with one inch of rain, and this morning when I came into my kitchen, I saw something small and wiggly on the floor. I got to it just ahead of dog Tuffy and found it was a tiny baby frog!  I scooped it up from under Tuff’s nose and carried it out into the flower bed – but how did it get in!! I keep the doors closed at all times, and there are no holes or openings into the house!  One of the mysteries of nature.


            Games on Horseback.  And so are there any among you out there who are interested in gymkhana type horseback games??  We play those here on Sunday mornings in a huge grassy arena behind the cattle corrals, and it’s loads of fun.   I think the most challenging game is the one where riders are divided into teams, and one by one, each rider has to nudge his or her horse to a bucket hanging on the fence, dip out a cupful of water, and then hoof it across the arena to another bucket placed on the ground, into which the water is poured. At the end, the team with the most water in the shortest time  wins.  As the event is timed, you see that you are in a quandary – if you trot, you’ll get there faster, but likely with not too much water.  If you walk, it’s endless – and then there is still the trick of pouring the water into a small bucket from a height of some 5 ft. or more, made more difficult  by the fact that your equine partner doesn’t see why he should be sidling up to a bucket in the first place.   It’s a fun game – and can be frustrating. I remember one team some time back, handily winning, until the last horse kicked the bucket over!

            Grapevine Competition.  We have had many entries and I’m sorry we have been so tardy with the results.  It’s not easy to read a dozen or more essays, all of which are good and enthusiastic, and come up with the best!!  I pity teachers who have to grade scholastic efforts!  However, we have finally argued and deliberated, and we will announce – and publish the winner – and subsequent second and third places, in the next edition of this blog.   Thank you all!!

            So this is it for this edition of Grapevine News – and remember – we welcome contributions, whether articles or photographs!!  Just send them in to me, at eve@gcranch.com.

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5 Responses to Rain!

  1. cathy burger says:

    Eve and all her staff were wonderful photographers and such documentation of sudden rain events!

    We all enjoy the desert thunderstorms and flashes of history in the making on the Grapevine…

    CB

  2. Marilyn says:

    We’ve had way more rain than usual here in the east as well. But be thankful you don’t have too much lush grass. My older horse, Honey has been border line laminitic the last few years and it’s so hard to find a stable without pasture. My barefoot trimmer has been lecturing me on the evils of too many carbs for years and I’ve finally seen the light. There was an article in the QHJ a few months ago about EPSM in quarter horses – they’ve actually discovered the genetic mutation for it. When I read the symptoms I thought – that sure sounds like HOney! This disorder causes horses to store too much glycogen in their muscles, resulting in tying up and stiffness. Horses evolved eating scrubby grass on the range and so when you move them east with the rich grass and sugary grains the problem becomes very noticeable. So I’ve been changing Honey’s diet to low carb, high fat, but eliminating pasture isn’t easy. So, maybe she should move to Arizona! If you’d like a nice fat quarter horse mare who loafs around all day let me know! And the next time you feel sorry for your horses eating that parched dry stuff you can be thankful … it’s really the best thing for them.

  3. Gail Perason says:

    Thats good news for the drier climates – I look out of my office window into the garden and see rain and then more rain on what is supposed to be a sunny summers day here in the UK – ah but its nice to share.

    Now I shall be dreaming about ranch life all day – thank you its a much better place to be in my thoughts than working.

    Gail xx

  4. Michael Edwards says:

    As a veteran submariner, and an Englishman exiled in the west of Scotland where we get plenty of sun, which lives permanently behind the clouds; I have developed webs between my toes! It seems that just a few weeks ago I got to the ranch before the rain, and I’m not unhappy about that. Glad for our hostess Eve that the cattle will get fat on the grass and weigh heavier at market!
    Oh, by the way Eve, frogs taste great in hot curry sauce!
    Michael edwards.

  5. Eve says:

    Hi you all, out there!! Thanks for writing – and Michael, never mind that you were glad to be here before the rains – you should see it now! Grass is almost up to your knees in places, and the wildflowers are starting to bloom – it’s spectacular! And with all that, it actually doesn’t rain all THAT often, anyway – today I got in a great ride, went to lunch and it began to rain in the afternoon, just right. Stopped now, too bad- in my perfect world, it would rain only at night, but I guess that’s what happnens when you get beyond the pearly gates! Good to hear from all of you!! Take care and have a great August – I have my step daughter from Australia coming with a friend, and am looking forward to some fun relax time. Also, Steve – thanks for the great recipes – I’m glad that that bottle washed up on your beach. Some may wash up here, I see it’s dark grey at the top of the Dragoons, right over South Fork Tank – whoopee!!

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