Extreme/exceptional drought continues

Forecasts that painted a rosy picture for the prospects of a strong monsoon season never materialized this summer. That means the region continues with its “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest rating. One indicator of just how dry its been is the fact that Grand Junction is currently on track to record its driest summer ever, in over 100 years of record keeping. Between June 1 and the time of this writing (Aug. 20), the city has recorded a scant 0.22″ of precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. We’ve had more rain than that, of course, but if Grand Junction has had record dryness, one can safely assume that the near-desert-like conditions are no different here in the San Miguel Basin.

Finally, an article published this morning in The Guardian newspaper shed light on why conditions haven’t changed over the past year or so, when this severe drought actually began. The monsoonal flow is basically being steered away from N. America by a resilient high pressure airmass that is wobbling between the Ohio River Valley and the Great Basin. This is the same pheomenon we experienced all last winter. The jet stream is being shunted to our north and the normal air flows have been disrupted to the point that we’re seeing very little sub-tropical moisture in this neck of the woods. The reason for this is, believe it or not, due to the warmth and the ice melt clear up in the Arctic, which is resulting in mostly static conditions in the entire northern hemisphere. You can read more by clicking here.

The good news? The Predicition Center has just updated their forecast for the months of August/September/October, and again put us in the high likelihood that we’ll see wetter than normal conditions. At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it!

Nevertheless, the modus operandi here at the farm this summer has been “The Glass is Half-Full.” We’re still farming! We’re still producing amazingly nutritious food! We’re still healthy! Our customers are happy! The landscape is still beautiful! We haven’t run out of water! (You get the point. Gratuity for what we have, not wishing for what we don’t.)

Yes, the wildfires have been awful, affecting our air quality to the point where it’s unhealthy to breathe too deeply (i.e. exercising in this smoky haze); the pastures are mostly brown; the rain gauges are mostly empty, day after day; the national political scene continues on a self-mutilating downward spiral; and the prospects for the future — is this the new normal? — can appear bleak. But that’s not going to let us down! Remember, the glass is still half-full.

In that vein, we wanted to share a few photos of life on the farm during this epic drought.

 

First off, we’ve had the joy of working with our niece Lucia for the month. This hard-working and focused 16-year old lives on an island off the Portland, Me. coast.

 

This is the time of year when the harvest is in full swing: pasture raised chickens, turkeys, eggs, goat milk, produce from the garden, including tomatoes, Palisade peaches, Olathe sweet corn. Do I hear that the glass is half-full? You get it!

 

 

All the ingredients needed for a delicious roasted chicken dinner about to go into the oven. Voila! It’s a snap.

 

 

The hoop houses are full of ripening tomatoes, eggplant, basil and peppers.

Eggplant blossoms.

 

 

Anne has the garden fully planted, producing nutrient-dense veggies. In spite of the drought, we’ve amended our water schedule so that the garden, with its fertile soil and plentiful organic matter, only gets watered every three days for two hours at a time.

 

Beautiful garden in the foreground; a dry pasture in the background. This pasture is normally hayed in early July and then pastured off in the fall. Neighboring ranchers are not putting up hay this summer and winter feed supplies look scarce for the livestock that will soon be coming down from the high country.

 

Normally 2′ high in tall grasses, the intensive rotational grazing pasture is still showing some signs of green grass! You can thank the soil’s fertility for that, and little help from Mother Nature’s rains in July.

 

 

This is the regional fire — the so-called Bull Draw Faire — responsible for most of the smoke in the San Miguel Basin. The fire is located 12 miles from Nucla and gas grown to almost 30,000 acres in size.

 

The smoke cleared for a day last weekend, and the views were magnificent again! This is looking west at sunset time, toward the La Sal Mountains. The glass is definitely half full!

 

The clear skies provided a beautiful view of the Lone Cone from the house. Those are the bee colonies in the foreground.

 

 

Meanwhile, up in the high country, fall is knocking on the door already!

 

 

 

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