Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Coping with the heat on the ranch

Hard physical work in the heat is most difficult

This morning, as I sat down to prepare this column, my wife, who noticed a post on social media that said there was a small forest fire burning in the woods where we have a grazing licence for cattle.

Needless to say, there was no easy answer as to how the fire was being managed. I had no choice but to venture up there to see if it might be a concern and would require that we move the cattle out of the area.

As it turned out, it appeared that the fire was somewhat contained and probably the result of a lightning strike a few days ago. A chopper was bucketing water to the fires and the fuel was being managed somehow with chainsaws.

Nevertheless, the forest licensees operating in the area were ready to dispatch heavy machinery to build a guard if needed.

I checked around but there were no cattle to be seen in the immediate area. I asked that we be contacted if the situation changed.

Returning home, I would spend the rest of the day ensuring water was available for the livestock at home, the garden and as a source of pumping for protecting the farmstead.

When running out to the range, riding cattle to where they should be, and rotating pastures for the home livestock to keep them gaining weight until the right time to market are all tasks in which I am engaging the grandchildren. I counsel them to keep track of the skills they learn and have them ready for prospective employers.

My goal is to have some activity each day that they can report on to parents with some pride and excitement. Patience, which has not been my long suit, is slowly coming to me. I harken back to times when some older person took the time to teach me a thing or two.

Hard physical work in the heat is most difficult. I remember coming home from university in Vancouver—a moderate climate—and being posted by the telephone company construction boss to hand dig post holes in the blazing heat near the Fraser River.

I had experienced my introduction to “work” as a clerk in my dad’s general store which was a cool place to be in the summer heat what with refrigeration running full blast. Needless to say, I was a soft worker and physical activity in the heat took some getting used to.

I am sorry to say that the rising temperature of the world will challenge the next generations in a way only those living in desert environments (often of their own making) have experienced.

Plant trees if you don’t have enough to shade your place. Learn to conserve water. But above all consume less CO2 producing goods. Vote with your feet as they say.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher, member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake.

Read More: Ranch Musings: Drought and the perilous bounty



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