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  • Kristin Ramey

I Shouldn't Complain About the Rain

I KNOW! I'm a farmer in Colorado, we should never complain about free water from the sky. Folks out east of the MIssissippi don't understand our water laws here, and how restrictive they are. As well as the cost of water, and the lack thereof.

Look, people, we are going to have a huge issue regarding water, and we are already fighting it on the Colorado River. It's not a battle, just yet. But water will become a bigger issue than oil could ever dream of. So when we get good snow, like we did this year - that melts and fills out reservoirs, it's a win. And rain - after the years of droughts we have had. Thank you!

I expect May to be a wet month. It has been in past years, just seems to be the cycle, sometimes some good spring rains to kick us off. I call spring "schlocky season" because "schlock" is the sound your boot makes when you are pulling it out of the muck. Spring is a worse schlocky season than fall, if we get good rain in September or October. Mostly because the pasture and other paddocks are still growing grass from winter - and they are way more prone to becoming mud pits. There are some locations on the farm that are JUST usually dirt/clay. When they are dry, they are fine. But this winter just saturated all this clay. As it continues to rain, that clay can't absorb any more water, so it just turns to muck.

For the first time this year, I had to buy straw for the barn. Typically, during the winter, we throw in hay on the coldest days. The sheep eat some, waste a bunch, but it does make nice bedding. This year, we did our spring barn clean out - right down to the dirt. We did provide some hay in there during some of the heavier rain days, so no one had to go out in it. But I couldn't take it. So much rain left us with standing water for the first time in our barn. Worse than the 2013 flood, even! I couldn't take it and filled the barn with straw.

The ONLY BIRDS that love the rain are the DUCKS!!! (This picture is actually from the 2013 flood)

It might be the end of the rain - but it continued well into June, which is unheard of. So let me tell you why all this rain is so hard on our farm. And YES, I know folks raise animals in the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Coast, Scotland, Ireland, etc. But this is different for us.

First, I already explained - our soil is clay. It can absorb a LOT of liquid. But when it hits capacity, it's done. Yes, I will be complaining likely in a month that our pasture looks like a desert with huge cracks in the clay after it has all dried up. But right now, there are patches around the barn that haven't been dry since before winter. Those spots on the north side that get little to no sun. I swear, the glacier of ice from this winter just recently finished melting there.

Second, this clay soil can get really damaged when large animals walk on it when saturated. It doesn't bounce back like a loamy soil might. So some of the sacrifice paths we create for our rotational grazing get really damaged when the animals walk back and forth on it when it is super saturated.

Third, we don't want to drive vehicles around when it is wet. This also damages the pasture and leaves tire tracks that are hard to get rid of. This means, our chicken tractor has been stuck in the same spot for some time. We usually move it every 3 weeks. It's due to move. We can't put the sheep back in that section until we do move it. It's also standing water in the grass where the truck is parked. The chicken truck has moved twice since the rain started, but it's due to move again.

Fourth, the birds really struggle. Especially the meat birds. These guys aren't the brightest. We've spent hours in the rain trying to herd them all under their tent. It's big enough! But they are not bright. They huddle under their feeders and anything else they can find, including cramming three times as many birds as they should into a dog house. So we had to add extra tarps this year. It's usually not an issue. A rain storm here and there isn't a big deal. But remember when I said our soil is clay, and is saturated from the rain? It means their runs turn into mud. Cold, wet feet is what kills birds. We had to move everything to convince them to go move to a grassier area so their feet wouldn't be sinking into mud.

Fifth, the wet and cold is just bad for the birds. It has delayed us putting more birds outside from the brooder. Our second batch of meat birds graduated to the turkey shed, instead of outside. The turkey shed has a floor up off the ground, and a roof. More square footage than the brooder tower, so they could spread their wings. I'm glad we had an alternate location for them to adjust to outdoor temps, have more space to move, but not have to make the choice to stand in the rain, or seek shelter under their tent. We know darn well meat birds don't make the best choices.

Sixth, our truck gets stuck. Can I tell you how tired I am about my steep, dirt driveway? This was an issue this winter, but at least sometimes the snow/ice would freeze and we could drive on it. Now it's just wet and muddy. Yeah, I know, just put some gravel on it. But Larry always has an excuse as to why we can't. He needs to reshape it. He needs to get more dirt for it first. And of course - we can't even get anything delivered because it's too muddy!! I know, when I want something done, I need to just do it myself. Larry seems incapable of making a phone call. I SWEAR I will get some gravel on it soon!!

It's July. I think we are through the worst of it. Some of the land has dried out and the pasture sure is growing well. The temps are warming up, but occasional afternoon storms have kept the temps down, but have encouraged the mosquitos... so many mosquitos! It's going to be an interesting summer!

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