Rain or snow
Is there another year round profession that is more weather dependent than farmers? The 2 inches we received last week, when Deadwood got 2 feet of snow, was such a blessing. Rain is welcome and good, except when everything is already soggy or when the hay has been cut and is waiting to be stacked or baled. However few farmers would ever say, “I wish it would stop raining.”
It seems that statement could almost be asking for trouble. It might not rain again for months or sometimes years. Even in areas where irrigation is prevalent, rain is the preferred method of moisture and every rain is a miracle. It falls evenly and does more good for the soil than an equivalent amount of irrigation water. Center pivot irrigation systems run a close second to rain in that regard. For cattlemen a rain can change plans for branding day. Unless the crew is already gathered, an unintended consequence can be a lot of leftover food.
Science has attempted to create rain. I remember in the 1960s when conditions were right, clouds were seeded with silver iodide aerosols in attempts to induce rain. Various opinions were expressed on the success because hailstorms seemed to occur soon after seeding. But did the seeding cause the hail or in fact, did the seeding assist in breaking up larger hail into smaller particles? Was there even a correlation? It was never proven one way or another but there was a great deal of speculation.
Other difficulties occur when it rains. Depending on soil type even a couple of tenths of rain can make a road impassable, if it’s gumbo and that heavy ground holds the moisture for days. When our sons were in high school, we occasionally hosted their friends who could not get home due to rain or snow on gumbo roads. Their folks would call the high school and tell them not to try to get home that night and we’d have polite ranch boys as our guests.
Some of our fields are sandy. That soil changes so quickly that a good, solid rain might delay tilling only for a few hours. Yet every time it rains, I am simply in awe.
In 2021 the lack of rains has brought quandaries and problems/challenges. Then there is windy weather. The combination of dry and wind makes everyone especially watchful for fires as well as for careless behavior of those who may not have the sense to be cautious. Officially weather officials say we live in an arid region, which means we receive an average annual moisture amount of 13 inches moisture, which includes snow. It is not a lot to work with and it certainly makes us thankful for irrigation.
We are combining corn now. The hustle is on to get it done before the snow flies. As my mom used to say, “Farming is just one damn crisis after another.”
So along with challenges that any businessman faces, paying bills and keeping apprised of what needs to be accomplished next, farmers and ranchers have to contend with the weather. They are good at it too.
Peggy writes from southwestern South Dakota. She can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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