State of the Farm

As my wise older sister says when we complain about our personal circumstance, Life Happens! Her way of reminding us that Life is taking care of the big picture and we might not be included in its moment. So in some months, it treats us well and Life makes our life easy. Mostly, it requires that we adjust to it. No reason to be gloomy about that - we are all in the same boat with the grasses, the bugs, the flowers, the birds - all of nature adjusts individually to what is happening in the whole.
 
This year, Life tells us that averages are just that. For 20 years, we have kept rain records in an effort to stay up with our soil saturation levels and detect patterns which help us manage our farm and stay ahead of drouty, just right, or too-wet weather. We look at whether we are on course, ahead or behind. But depending on how we judge the rainfall records, we might take false comfort in the numbers.
 
This year, Life tells us why “averages” can be misleading. In Washington County, Texas and specifically at a farm known as Jolie Vue, the average annual rainfall is around 45 inches annually. When that amount of rain has fallen in a fairly well distributed pattern, the farm blooms and the creatures, flora and fauna smile.  As I write, those recorded averages tell us we are on target. In fact, we are behind, getting behinder.
 
We entered April with a 12 inch deficit dating back to October 1st of ‘08. At the end of April, we were 2 inches ahead of our average. Big change in 1 month. Except for some highly unusual flooding rains in April, totaling over 14 inches coming in 2 storms and lasting only 51 hours in all, we would be in stress. So, we are in stress, because flooding rains roll downhill when the soil cannot absorb it quickly enough and ends up in the ponds rather than the pastures’ water warehouse, the root system. Good for the ponds, not so good for the pastures. If we are grass farmers, our crop just got smaller.
 
How do we get by as Life Happens? We rotate the cattle more quickly through the less dense forage than we hoped to have, then we move them to our reserve pastures while the irrigated lanes are recovering. We take the pigs down pig lane to the shadier, cooler side of the lake forest and turn on the pig spa so they can wallow in their mud while a nice cool shower comes down from above, supplied artificially by a man-made lawn sprinkler attached to a well pump 350 feet below the surface. 
 
That gets us by today, but has consequences for tomorrow. Those reserve pastures will be consumed by the time we reach winter, and the standing hay that we graze our cattle on in an “average” year will not be there. We’ll buy hay to cover the gap, and our cost of farming will go up. So today, we start looking for hay that is priced right so we are not left short in 6 months. 
 
Life happens. Meet it, greet it, deal with it. We can whine if we must, but Life doesn’t listen. It just happens. 
 
That’s Life.

JVF