Our ancestors were gamblers! I mean serious gamblers. You see, they weren’t messing around with small pots. No nickel, dime and quarter games for them. Nope, they were all in!
Each fall, my grandparents would plant their wheat seed, hoping for a good crop to emerge in the spring, followed by a hearty harvest in mid-summer. Each and every year they gambled their livelihoods and future fortunes on good weather and favorable conditions. Here on the prairie they practiced dryland farming. No irrigation. Even now, my neighbors do the same. They plant in the fall, hope and pray for enough fall rain, winter snows and subsequent spring rain to make the wheat grow. They supplement their incomes with cattle, jobs in town and whatever else can be pieced together to make the mortgage.
It’s a gamble. For real.
One horrible hailstorm can obliterate and entire year’s crop. One bad blizzard can wipe out enough cattle to devastate a rancher. Such a storm occurred in the spring of 1968. This April blizzard killed enough of my father’s cattle to cause him to quit ranching and take a job in town. As a result, I did not grow up on the prairie. Instead, my childhood was filled with job transfers every couple of years, suburbs and 9 public schools before graduation.
I did not fully appreciate the risks until I planted a very, very large garden. I watched the thunderheads roll closer and saw the distant lightning. I saw the wall of rain and hail approach. There was nothing to be done. There was no time “farmer-fix-up” some solution that would protect our 1/2 acre of plants and veggies.
The hail came. I kid you not, it was the size of grapefruits. The garden was pretty well decimated. Fortunately the storm came early enough in the summer that we were able to replant some of the crops such as green beans. And fortunately, we didn’t have to rely solely on that garden to fill our pantry for the coming winter.
But it was then that I realized a portion of the anxiety of my fore-fathers and mothers, who relied upon weather and land for a living. They didn’t have office jobs with 401k’s and health insurance. They didn’t have a salary that was direct deposited each month like clockwork. They had to save and budget and hope.
It was then that I realized that small feeling, when you understand just how helpless and small we humans really are.
I’m glad August is over, ’cause it’s been a rough one. Let me tell ya:
Our 7 month old puppy got bit by a rattlesnake. He survived and is now just fine, but it was worrisome for sure.
One of our Irish Dexter steers got struck by lightening. He did not survive. We were gone for the weekend and came home to discover “Chili” was no longer destined to be chili and would become coyote lunch instead. The other three steers were just fine. No toxic weeds, no danger of bloat this late in the season, no evidence of sickness. The vet and I discussed the possibilities and given fact that we had several afternoons of severe thunderstorms, as well as the condition of the carcass, we concluded that lightning was the most likely cause of death. That stinks. Literally.
Dealing with a large dead animal also presents challenges, let me tell ya!
The garden got hailed. Thankfully, it was small, pea sized hail that was fairly soft. The plants are recovering, but we can definitely tell some of the tomatoes were damaged. This after the problem with the possible salt issue.
The garden got frost. No, I’m not kidding. We had a freaky, hard frost on the night of August 19th. That’s Wyoming for ya. Thankfully, I saw a Facebook post from the National Weather Service in Cheyenne announcing a frost warning. We had time to dig out nearly every single sheet we have and cover as much of the garden as possible.
Our craptastic electric range needed to be replaced. Like now… before garden harvest. This is both good and bad. I would much rather have a gas stove. It’s much easier to control the heat especially for canning. The challenge is plumbing the propane, setting up a tank, installing a new range and the unexpected expense. Thankfully, Pop (my dad) is really handy with projects such as this and is willing to come on over, on short notice, and help us out! So he and Will set a propane tank, dug a trench and installed my brand new stove! And 30 minutes after installation, I had the first batch of peaches headed to the water bath canner.
Although we certainly prefer to eat out of the pantry rather than the store, I’m thankful that we don’t necessarily have to rely upon our garden to supply everything we need. And even though lightning stuck our steer flat, ding-dong dead, we will have other sources to fill our freezer.
We are thankful for what we have, because we know it can be lost in an instant.