Family Friendly Farm

Farms and Droughts

I am thinking this week about farming and droughts. The Dust Bowl that we have all heard about seems to becoming our reality. So I went to studying it. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about it:

The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands in the 1930s, particularly in 1934 and 1936. The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent wind erosion.[1] Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had displaced the natural deep-rooted grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds.

During the drought of the 1930s, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times, the clouds blackened the sky, reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds, which were in part created by the dry and bare soil conditions. These immense dust storms—given names such as “black blizzards” and “black rollers”—often reduced visibility to a few feet (a meter or less). The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2), centered on the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl

So I’m thinking our drought isn’t as severe, as long lasting but it does seem to be wide spread according to the USGS. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Drought conditions are widespread throughout the country and especially severe in our area.

How are the cattle going to survive?

What will become of us? Ack!

Slow down, things are not that disastrous yet. To be honest I am not a worry wart. Neither is Matthew.We prefer to think through our ideas and implement the best ones.

First things first, we need to keep them cool.

During the heat of the day, the cattle have free access to a wooded area to loaf in while they chew their cud. This food digestion also heats them up quite a bit so staying cool helps them eat more which keep them providing milk.

Shady area for loafing during the heat of the day. You can see they have munched on the underbrush and cleared it as well.


Second
, we need to provide food for them to graze.

So here are a few things I have learned. Remember the comment from Wikipedia about the destruction of the grasses? Well, the kind of GRASS FARMING that we do helps the soil hang onto water in drought conditions. It isn’t quite as fragile because we have spent nine years building up the SOIL so it will hold onto moisture! So it holds water better than it “should”.

If you have water, the grass can grow! We planted some Sorghum Sudan grass earlier this spring when it was threatening to rain. However, it only have us a tenth of an inch if that. Although we’ve barely had a drop since, the grass came up and is doing well! By the way, this is the first field I tilled with the tractor! I liked it. Relaxing job.

Sorgum sudan grasses are still living and waiting for the rain..

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When I compare the annual grasses with the perennials though it is a bit discouraging that the perennials are not doing better.

Perennials on the left and annuals on the right.

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But on closer inspection, I can see the grasses are still there just stunted in their growth.

Close up of the perennial fields. The grass is still there. Just stunted.

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So there is hope. If we can hold out for rain, I think we will make it. The perennial grass has well established roots and is ready to shoot up the moment the rain starts falling. I’m just sure it coming. Maybe today.

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More thoughts

It really is amazing, the Dust Bowl, that is. A drought for nearly SIX YEARS! The photos of the dust storms and the devastation are so . . . sad. What would we do in that case? Only the Lord knows… So I don’t have to worry about it. But I do think we need to learn from the lessons.

While typing this up a customer came to the store. She talked about the years they farmed and why they had to quit–a drought.

Hmmm. Feeling contemplative now…

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Update: 2 days later

We have had rain now last two days. Just under an inch both days. Hope is on the horizon.

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