We are suffering from what the “experts” describe as “severe drought.” The last rains came the end of June, with one inch over a week and nothing since. We watch each day as clouds build, threaten, and move on. Scattered thunder storms have brought some relief around us, along with hazardous lightning which starts grass fires that have burned in all directions. Most recently a fire started just a half mile away and fortunately the highway served as a barrier to keep it from moving toward us.
Tilly’s paddock will usually support 1-2 horses throughout the summer with grasses so tall and coarse that I try to mow some sections so she will graze the shorter, finer grass. This summer she is subsisting on hay and while we have creek bottoms with grass up to my chin, she won’t partake when I turn her out. But that is another story.
After a very wet early spring (March/April) grass in some areas took off. Now it stands waiting to burn and is fueling the fires all around. The volunteer crews working the blazes are nearing exhaustion as they try to put up hay and keep up with the routine operations of managing their ranches. The more serious fires have required planes to drop fire retardant but persistent winds have made it difficult to put out the flames. One has to wonder what lies ahead for fall and winter weather.
We planted cottonwood trees on the west border of Tilly’s paddock. These, along with others we have planted, are surviving on drip systems which use very little water and keep the trees alive through the drought. A fast-growing tree, these will bring shade and shelter in the coming years.
These cottonwood trees (right) were planted several years ago and suffered many disasters: the local deer population eating the leaves and smaller branches; Feed Lot, the longhorn steer tearing up fences and breaking branches just for fun; and grasshoppers stripping them bare, robbing them of nutrients for the winter. The drip system we installed needs annual maintenance and new emitters because any extended loss of water to these trees in a drought means losing them and starting all over again. But I won’t give up. My family began this shelter belt 60 years ago and many trees were lost in dry years. Russian Olive trees (not pictured) made it through, barely, but they are now quite old and I want to be rid of them. They are invasive and no longer desirable.
Twenty new chokecherry trees are slowly putting on growth and will need new fencing to protect them from the deer in spring. The older chokecherry trees in the background were part of the shelter belt we planted back in the 1960’s but many have died off due to little rain and too many deer foraging for the new growth each year. They have been included in the drip system and hopefully will continue to flourish. Growing trees in Wyoming isn’t for the faint of heart.
After flooding and then running continuously from February to June 1, Dry Creek has all but dried up. Lots of flood debris waits to be cleaned up when we can safely get vehicles into the area without sinking in the mud.
The last remaining section of the creek that holds water is now ripe with algae and not a very pleasant sight. It too will likely be dry by the end of August. Good-bye to the mosquitoes that have plagued us all summer. That is the only positive development that will come with the current drought.