Jill Zirnhelt paddle boards on a flooded field in Beaver Valley as water levels continue to saturate the Central Cariboo. (Sam Zirnhelt photo)

Jill Zirnhelt paddle boards on a flooded field in Beaver Valley as water levels continue to saturate the Central Cariboo. (Sam Zirnhelt photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Dare I complain about the weather? I am Canadian, eh

Recently, I was comparing observations with family and neighbours about the progress of the latest wet season — fall — and its impact on the fall pasture and winter cow (and horse) feeding prospects.

We need suitable high, dry ground to carry the many feet of the herd(s).

Our plan had been simple: graze all the ground we didn’t hay — too wet to hay in the late summer and early fall — but it was now flooded with as much as three feet of water and therefore not suitable for grazing.

One can’t stockpile intentionally or otherwise on wet meadows if there is not enough drying time. Will it freeze up sufficiently so we can get to these pastures or will we just feed hay early and hope for a “good year” next year?

As I write this, the sump pump in the crawl space of the house is coming on periodically to drain the seepage of ground water into the space. I don’t recall this amount of water ever late in the fall.

Dare I say “better too wet than too dry?” I do believe too much is better as long as we don’t have landslides and field and road washouts. Our driveway is long and we needed to put in several more culverts to try to drain the road and keep it somewhat smooth and drained for next spring.

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Alas, the weather did not give us a break so we had to dig up the road in spots to bury culverts and improve the drainage ditches to the culverts. At this point the road will not dry out, and having been disturbed by digging it, it is soft and will remain this way until the next dry period.

We hope for some freeze-drying and continuing runoff before freeze up. Will we be able to drive on the ice? That doesn’t help us get the cow herd to the winter feeding grounds which might be dry enough to withstand the many feet of animals.

It takes the trials of weather extremes to test our land base to see if we can still operate without incurring additional costs which could put us into the red on operating costs.

I know many ranchers and homeowners are experiencing similar problems of differing scales.

We are challenged to think of the positives and count our blessings.

Our situation is better than the fire season of 2017 and politically we are better off without the culture wars we are seeing across our southern border.

My ask, after expressing this little bit of gratitude, is that the hurricanes stay away and that the ocean doesn’t rise too quickly forcing urban refugees into our backyards. Spare us trade embargoes (particularly lumber and agriculture) with or without countervailing trade measures, by the next administration down south.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


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