Written by ranch broker Woody Beardsley as he discusses moving water on his ranch this summer.
It’s the middle of July and in our neck of the woods that means it’s time to put the water back in the creek. A relative luxury in a wet year….any other summer you’re lucky to still have water. But the grass is high, the meadows are green and lush, which makes for a beautiful time of year in our part of Colorado (lower Blue River) and marks the end of my involvement in our family hay crop. From now on, the grass is too far along for my allergies, (proteins in the pollens I’m told), a formidable disability that as a kid drew little sympathy and jeers (“big wus”) from the crew. But that’s ok. I like irrigating better anyway.
Our ranch manager’s riding accident this spring (he’s doing fine, thanks) was my own good fortune as I got to cover a week of irrigating while his ribs healed. There are some who find it a menial, monotonous, chore, but not I. I really like moving water. Up early, and out late (best time for seeing wildlife), in hip boots and long sleeves, it’s good work pulling and setting tarps, cleaning screens, and walking ditches. There’s not a time I don’t see something different or learn something new. And even though I first walked them more than thirty years ago, I’m still coming to understand the nuances of our system: the various head-gates, ditches, down pipes and laterals; as well as which hillside is always soggy regardless the flow, and which are dry no matter what you throw at them. I’ve come to see it almost like a meditation and only wish I had more time at it.
But the season is over. From here on out we’ll hope for a monsoon pattern; warm sunny days and afternoon rains. Otherwise, above 8,000 feet, we’re glad for a couple of weeks of heat to help mature and cure the grass. With any luck, we’ll get a dry spell in early/mid August that will let the crew put it up; cut, rake, and bail with no additional moisture while it’s down. Dry quality bails we’ll call horse hay, the wet bleach stuff sold for cows. All of which is subject to seasonal commodity economics…you take what you can get. We only get one cut, so it’s not a big money maker, but it helps pay the bills and keeps us in our water. And how lucky is that?