I’m between that proverbial rock and a hard place. Buffeted by a blustering wind that is sucking up any moisture that we have, I could write about our on-going drought, or I could up the ante and write about this week’s protests against stay-in-place orders.
So many choices. Life is full.
I’ll start with drought and maybe save my rant for another day. Monday, perhaps.
To begin, I’m posting a photo of our seriously dry, over-grazed 180 acres up on Promontory Divide. At an elevation of 8,606 ft. and with no trees to break the wind, it is harsh place best suited for cattle. People not so much.
See that dark circle towards the bottom of the photo? That used to be a sizeable pond – it was a large pond – big enough that when we bought the land in the mid-90s, we imagined floating on the water under the summer sun and swimming in the late fall. After which we would run to our Russian banya (sauna) to warm up. Mark would have heated the stove in the banya, and I would have the birch branches soaking in water. Dashing from the freezing water to the hut, we would take turns lying on one of the benches while the other rhythmically (with increasing force) tapped/beat our backs with the pliable branches. (Thank you, thank you, Luda and our Valdai friends, for all the winter banya trips.)
That first winter of property ownership, we climbed up through hip-deep snow to delight in the expansive landscape, the Crestone Needles in the distance, and our very own large pond.
We haven’t had a pond in years! Last year we have somewhat of a bog, but no standing water. Every year has been drier. Yes, I am older and my memory isn’t what it was, but I am most certainly not romanticizing about the past. Science backs me up.
Colorado didn’t make the map but is in mostly in a moderate drought. In this week’s Wet Mountain Tribune, the headline read “SNOTEL AT 73% after record-breaking cold weather.” Statistics by the USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service for April through July of this year predicts that moisture will be only 66% of average.
Yesterday, April 16, I read “Climate Change: US mega drought already underway.” In the article by Matt McGrath, I read that the drought started in 2000. (See https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment.) Based on tree ring records which reveal soil moisture, scientists say that we have experienced four mega-droughts in the late 800s, the mid 1100s, the 1200s, and the late 1500s. And… we are on track for another.
Thanks to La Nina and global warming, temperatures have climbed dramatically since 2000, plus forest fires are ten times more frequent than they were 40 years ago. A constellation of factors play into the issue of forest fires, but much of Colorado is at-risk.
If there is any good news, I have my first dandelion (yes, those pesky weeds that most gardeners curse). It is exciting on several fronts. First, the flowering weed is a touch of color – a sign of an emerging spring. Second, do you have my recipe for dandelion wine?
In the past I have harvested dandelion’s at the Abbey in Canon City and more recently out at Beckwith Ranch. Wait until the field is flush with dandelions. You want to sit for five or ten minutes picking in one place before moving a foot or so for more picking.
Pour one gallon of boiling water over 1 gallon of dandelion blossoms. Let stand in a cool place for three days. Pour the liquid in a large kettle and add the rind of two lemons and two oranges grated fine. Boil for 1/2 hour. Add 3 pounds of sugar and the pulp and juice of the fruit. Allow the mixture to cool and then add 1/2 cake of yeast. Strain and allow the liquid to stand for a week in a warm place. Strain again. When it stops fermenting, bottle the wine in Mason jars.
This wine is fine to drink the first year, but it improves over time. If you think that you might live another 10 years, save it. Otherwise, based on your general health and the health of our nation, drink it before you die.