So what’s new!!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.