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Posts Tagged ‘drought’

Texas Water Levels

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Graphic from

With the drought conditions of the past years, Texans have been concerned with the water conditions in their state. We saw firsthand ponds and creeks completely dry up. Fish were dying from lack of oxygen in frightfully low conditions in other lakes and ponds.

These were conditions we could see, but we had to ask, “What about the water tables underground?” Were the aquifers and underwater water tables also drying up? And if that becomes the case, what then?

Well fortunately that has not become an issue. It could well be one in the future, but with all the rain throughout the winter, it should not be an issue in the near future.

I did see this interesting graphic from in their post, “The Good, Bad, Dried Out Realities of Texas’ Water Supply: A One Year Comparision of Lake Levels.” It is a self-explanatory graphic showing the levels of some of our most popular lakes throughout the state.

Most of the Texas lakes are down compared to a year ago. However in our area, only one lake is lower than last year. It is Lake Somerville. Even though it is lower, it along with all the other lakes in our area are over 80% full. Some are at full capacity.

You can really tell which parts of Texas have received the rainfall. Luckily for us, Cross Creek Cattle Company lies on the “rainy” side. Fort that and so many other things, we have been greatly blessed.

Basking in Our Blessings

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Many firsts have happened in the last few weeks. We had our first light freeze, which resulted in our first fire of the winter season in our fireplace. We also had the first flood of any kind last week.

For years, we have been in some stage of a drought condition. Last winter was relatively wet and I believe the moisture we received then enabled us to weather the very dry summer of this year. We just haven’t had to time to recover from the severe drought of the prior four years.

We have been so blessed as of late with rain that one night of steady rain caused enough run-off to rush down the once dry creek beds and flow over the roads. The county literally shut down our county road from traffic due to the minor flooding.

This rain changed things at Cross Creek Cattle Company. First, it illustrated that the soil is saturated, which has been thirsty for years now. Then it filled the ponds and lakes, which had not been up to full-capacity for some time. The level of the water in the lake behind my house rose to just under the overflow drain. That has not been achieved in so long I cannot remember the last time.

As I was reading earlier this week I came across a passage that really spoke to our circumstances.

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.
You water its furrows abundantly,
You settle its ridges,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
You have crowned the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths drip with fatness.
The pastures of the wilderness drip,
And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.
The meadows are clothed with flocks
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, yes, they sing. (Psalm 65:9-13)

We are not the only ones shouting for joy. The wild animals, our cattle and horses, the birds of the air, the trees and bushes, the grasses in the fields: everything is refreshed. There is a softness in our surroundings that is hard to describe, but it is tangible. It is as if we have all been bathed and and washed clean. Perhaps, this will be the end of the drought or maybe it is just a respite from the pattern of dryness and heat. Either way, we will enjoy it and bask in the blessings from above.

Excitement on the Ranch

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

We have had some excitement on the ranch in the past week. First we have gotten some much needed rain. Storm systems came through dropping good rain for a few days in a row. We have not had flooding like Houston or the tornadoes which occurred in northern Texas yesterday, for which we are very thankful. We still pray that God will continue to bless our land with rain throughout the summer.

Last Sunday a week ago, my youngest son, Andrew, grew ill. We thought he had contracted a stomach virus, but something about it seemed odd. In order to make a long story short as well as spare you the details, early Monday morning it became apparent that he needed medical attention. My husband and I drove to the nearest good medical hospital, which for us is in College Station.

Andrew received excellent care and had to endure an emergency appendectomy. After a total of three days in the hospital, we were released to come home. He is still recovering from the surgery, but is doing much better.

The challenging part will be to keep him from getting hurt for six whole weeks. Boys will be boys and we discussed no wooden sword fights, no trampoline, no wrestling, etc. Instead, we have been entertaining Andrew with playdough, Uno, Legos, go fish, puzzles, etc.

After dinner on one of our first nights home, we went on a slow walk through the pasture after a light rain. We ate our weight in dewberries for dessert. It was such a blissful evening. We delighted in the normal scenery. There were the horses grazing in green pastures. There were the cows in belly high grass. There are fish jumping in the lake. We were home!

We are so thankful for the rain and the health of Andrew. We caught the appendix in time before it ruptured. He is getting better each day. As I researched all there is to know about the appendix, I am also thankful that cows do not have them. That would really put a different spin on herd health management. It was hard enough to get a five-year old to articulate what he was feeling. I cannot even imagine having to monitor appendicitis in cattle.

Please pray for Andrew’s continued recovery and for rain to continue to replenish the soil in all the drought stricken areas of the United States. God does listen.

An Interesting Discovery

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Set back on a beautiful meadow covered at this time of year with colorful wildflowers on our new ranch is an old, red bunkhouse and a white outbuilding. Upon their discovery, we were initially hoping to repair the buildings, but termites, rot, and other reasons have changed our minds. Both are too far gone and need to be torn down.

Around the buildings stand a mixture of sprawling hardwoods and straight-backed pine trees. Their tops sway in the almost constant springtime breeze. It is quite picturesque; however, the drought has killed many of these trees and instead of green leaves, you only see bare limbs or the dusky red color of dried needles. The wind has already toppled several trees, but some still remain as standing corpses marring the view.

On one of the standing dead pines, an employee of Cross Creek Cattle Company was sawing away with a chainsaw to safely bring down the giant. Bits of sawdust kept hitting his arms and legs and the hum of the saw drowned out any other sounds. He kept attacking the trunk hoping to see signs of it falling when something diverted his attention.

Maybe it was the size of the “sawdust” hitting his limbs or maybe it was a sixth sense warning of danger. Whatever it was, he drew his eyes away from the tree and down to his legs. He was standing in the middle of a cloud of bees! They were swarming around his legs and body striking at his denim-clad legs. He did the only thing he could do–he ran!

Luckily, the bees were not aggressive. They did not follow him on his race out of the woods. In fact, he was not stung once, which is amazing considering the circumstances. We later found out that this employee is allergic to bees.
We are an awful long way from an emergency room, especially for anaphylactic shock. He is now required to have Benadryl or an epi-pen on hand.

Having seen the flight out of the woods with chainsaw in hand, my husband climbed down from the tractor to see what was happening. During the excitement, the bees had gone back to their undiscovered hive. Worried about the unfelled dead pine, my husband decided to knock it down with the help of a large tractor. On his way to the tree trunk, he looked over in the direction of the white outbuilding. From a hole in the side of the exterior wall, a mass of bees were forming a black cloud and moving toward him. Needless to say, he got out of there as fast as he could.

My husband called a local bee man, who comes out free of charge. He identified them as honey bees. He thought they were domesticated and had obviously been worked with before. As it it too early in the season, honey was not ready, but they had filled the wall with a hive.

They will have to find another place to call home as the outbuilding needs to come down, but until then caution and prevention will have to suffice. Nonetheless, it was an eventful day on the ranch.


Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Stacking logs on the ranch.

Stacking logs on the ranch.

After the exceptional drought last summer, one observable consequence of the lack of rain has been the numerous dead trees standing naked, stripped of their leaves, this spring. Stands of dead trees are visible throughout the wooded pastures on both properties of Cross Creek Cattle Company.

A timber company was scheduled to come early spring; however, ironically they were unable to do their job because of our heavy winter rains. Now it is dry enough for them to come in, take the timber, and get out without destroying the land.

As a mother of four boys, I have learned how excited a male can get over machinery. My sons get excited about a tractor or a bulldozer. Timber companies bring very cool machines onto the property. My husband is completely interested in watching the big machine stack the logs. His attention is pulled away only if the skid steer arrives dragging large logs behind.

We have yet to see the feller buncher at work, but I am sure that would be a safety concern. What your eyes cannot see, your ears can hear. The sound of saws slicing through wood followed by the loud crack and sound of splintering wood fills the air.

Even though they have only been here a few days, there is a noticeable difference in the landscape. Looking as deep as the eye can see, the woods are green again. The bare, brown sticks standing amongst the foliage have been removed. The timber company will continue to press into the heart of the woods until all the dead timber is removed.

Since my husband just finished repairing and building the perimeter and cross fences on the new ranch, he is especially pleased to know that the dead trees will not be falling onto them as they begin to rot. Removing the trees professionally will save our fences, but more importantly will be safer for human and animal alike.

Even though it is a blessing that the timber company can do their job based on our dry conditions, we are still praying for rain. We don’t want a repeat of the last few years. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, our area is no longer in a drought per se. Instead, we are categorized “Abnormally Dry.” At the same time climatologists are announcing the end of the La Nina cycle, which they blame for the drought conditions of the past two years.

Not being a climatologist, I cannot well explain the differences between La Nina or El Nino weather cycles. If they foresee more rain in our future, then I will rejoice in that news. Until more rain falls and we are completely off of the Drought Monitor, we will continue to pray for rain. While we wait for the rain, the sound we will hear for awhile is “Timber!”

Full of Hope

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Brimming with water, our pier looks at home now.

Brimming with water, our pier looks at home now.

Last week I wrote about the seemingly incessant rains that we have been receiving this winter. The ground is saturated. The ponds and lakes are full to the brim. The grasses are growing tall and green, dancing in the constant, gentle breezes. It is beautiful to see all so refreshed.

As I took a photograph of our new pier hovering over the water, I could not help but reflect on what a year we experienced. This lake came within three feet of drying up. It was a sad and unbelievable sight. We built this pier with the hope that one day the lake would fill up again. In constructing the pier, we put into practice making the proverbial lemonade from a whole bunch of lemons.

As green as it is and as full as the tanks are, I have to remind myself that we are still in the middle of a drought. The Drought Monitor has lowered the severity of our drought from the worst on the scale, exceptional, to the severe category. We still have quite a way to go in order to be normal for our climate.

I think that the level of the lake illustrates what we at Cross Creek Company feel. We are brimming full with our hope for the future. Just as we expected the waters to one day rise in this lake, we expect to one day soon be out of drought status. Until then, how peaceful it is to sit on the pier and hear the water lapping on the wooden posts!

When It Rains It Pours

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

God has heard our prayers and He has used this winter to replenish our land. Throughout December, January, and now February, we have received inches and inches of rain. We observed how the first rains soaked the parched earth and disappeared leaving little evidence of their momentary appearance on the soil. The earth drank deep trying to quench its thirst.

As the weeks passed and more rain fell, we observed how slowly puddles formed in the ruts of the dirt road. The sun quickly evaporated the water or it slowly soaked into the soil. To my bare feet (the winter has been quite mild), the ground felt saturated and replenished. The cracks in the soil were no longer.

The rains continued and the puddles formed pools of water trickling downhill. The dry creeks were filled with run-off and the ponds were once more brimming with water. For the first time in a long time, you had to consider the possibility of getting stuck as you drove across the pasture. The trees, bushes, plants, and grasses relished in the life-giving liquid sent from heaven. The land is healing. God has heard our prayers!

Even more rain falls in torrents. Creeks swell and water spills over some roadways. The water level in our lake climbs a foot. You cannot walk anywhere without sinking in gooey mud. No longer can you drive through the pasture unless you are riding on a tractor.

The kids are unhappy at the prospect of yet another day spent indoors. My garden plot longs to be tilled and sowed, but is currently only suitable for growing rice. How much rain will fall? I fight the temptation to complain. Mud and wet footprints spoil my tile floor. I fight harder.

Why do I think that I know better than God? To combat my temptation to complain, I search for something. Something for which to be grateful. Something to share with my children, who are also fighting their own temptations to wish all this rain away.

I say, “I love hearing the sound of rain falling on our metal roof.”

They look at me surprised and a bit puzzled. I press the oldest in the room, “What do you love about the rain?”

Kyla looks out the window. “I like watching the drops of rain fall into the puddles.”

“Ohhh, yes! It is beautiful to watch the circles dance across the surface. Thank you for sharing that with us.”

We continued to go around the room making ourselves find some reason to be grateful for the rain. I reminded them and myself that rain is a blessing. We need to be thankful and guard our hearts from discontent. We don’t know what the future has in store, but God does. We can trust in Him to give us what we need when we need it.

Answered Prayers

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

It is a tough time to be in the ranching business, especially when you are dependent on it for income.  Cross Creek Cattle Company is a working family-owned and operated ranch; we do not do this as a hobby.  This year has been especially tough because of the drought.  It is the worst drought in recorded history in Texas.

Because of the lack of pasture grass, we have been forced to find other sources of grass to continue our grass fed beef operation.  Hay, alfalfa cubes, and alfalfa pellets are all different forms of grass that we are using to keep up the condition of our herd.  Usually during the summer we do not have to purchase grass, we simply rotate our herds from green pasture to green pasture.  This year our costs have skyrocketed by having to buy forms of grass.

Now that winter is approaching, we are struggling to find enough hay to fill our needs.  The price for a roll of hay is going through the roof to unimaginable prices.  My dad used to buy round hay bales for $35.00 delivered.  This year they are asking over $100.00 a bale.  It is not a good time to be a rancher.

As we try to fill our hay needs for the winter, we also decided to plant winter grass in several pastures.  My husband spoke with an expert at Producer’s Co-op in Bryan, Texas, who suggested planting a week early because of the slight possibility of rain last weekend.  My husband decided to follow this man’s advice and with my father’s blessing purchased enough seed to sow between 20-30 acres on different pastures.

We brought the seed home late Thursday evening and began sowing the seed mid-morning on Friday.  Lane and I devised a system that we thought would be the most efficient.  He drove the big tractor pulling a disk with which he barely scratched the surface.  We were trying to decide if we should risk disking up the soil since it has been so dry and windy, but again we followed the advice of the seed salesman.  He suggested that we try to give the seed a head start by lightly disking the soil. I drove the small tractor over the lightly disked land while spreading the winter grass seeds.

If you have ever driven a tractor, then you know that the hum of the engine drowns out all other sound.  It leaves your brain isolated from your surroundings.  You are left with only your thoughts.  I get some of my best thinking done either mowing on a riding lawnmower or when driving a tractor.  For two days as I spread the winter grass seed, I was left to my own thoughts.

These are the facts.  We are 20 inches behind in our rain fall here.  We have been praying for rain everyday several times a day for months now.  Several times the wind has picked up and the sky grows dark, but no rain falls for us.  It has stormed literally a few miles away without even so much as sprinkle here.  I was growing discouraged.

As I watched the tiny seeds spray out of the implement and land on the incredibly dry soil, I prayed.  It was not your typical prayer; it was more a conversation between me and my Heavenly Father.  For two days I asked for rain.  I first began asking for one inch.  Then I thought if I am going to ask for anything I might as well ask for what I think we need.  I increased the amount to three inches.

I reminded myself, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).  Another verse from the book of James ran through my head.  It reads, “But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord…” (1:6-7).

When I finished sowing the last of the seed, I expectantly looked up to the sky waiting for any signs of rain.  There was not any.  I showered and enjoyed my evening confident that rain would come.  Sunday morning I turned on the weather and rejoiced when I saw the line of showers headed our way.  I encouraged my son to go milk earlier than usual on Sunday morning so as to not get caught in the rain before church.  His reply was, “What rain?”

The church we attend has huge walls of windows on the sides of the sanctuary.  It gives you a great view of the parking lot on one side and a green lawn on the other.  As we sat there listening to the sermon, the rain began to fall.  I immediately offered up a prayer of thanksgiving and one that the rain would continue.  Too many times it has started to rain that it has just as quickly stopped.  The rain did not stop.  Instead, it grew harder.

It was not a thunderstorm.  Lightning did not threaten to start a fire.  Thunder did not roll.  It simply poured.  It was such a beautiful scene that I could not help but just gaze out the windows.  A smile spread over my face and I delighted in my Father’s blessing.  The best thing was that the rain did not stop.  It continued to pour for hours.  Even late that afternoon it was still raining!

When the rain stopped right before darkness settled over the land, I walked out to check the rain gauge.  God had not given us the one inch I first asked for.  He had not given us the three I eventually asked for.  Instead he gave the perfect amount of 2 1/4 inches of beautiful, soaking rain.  I have no doubt that our winter grass will grow and nourish our cattle throughout the winter.  What a blessing!

If you know of any reasonably priced, good quality hay for sale, please let me know.  We could use any and all tips.  You could be a part of another answered prayer.

Drilling a Water Well

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
The drilling truck on site.  We were thrilled when they began drilling our new water well.

The drilling truck on site. We were thrilled when they began drilling our new water well.

If you are in a part of the world with adequate rainfall or in some place with too much precipitation, then you might get tired of hearing about how the drought is affecting Cross Creek Cattle Company.  For us, it is a reality.  Unfortunately we are reminded on a daily basis how badly our land thirsts for rain. You cannot walk across the pasture or look out your window without being reminded of the exceptional drought we find ourselves.   Believe me, I wish I was just reading about it too.

My family and I are reading through the Old Testament right now.  Today our reading was in Genesis about the Pharaoh’s dream, which was interpreted by God through Joseph.  The interpretation of the dream was that they would have seven years of drought and famine.  However, they had time to prepare for it with the prior seven years of bumper crops.

Now in the third consecutive year of a drought, I looked around trying to imagine four more years of it.  I cannot fathom the devastation that that would cause.  I simply cannot wrap my head around it.  Without the advance warning, I doubt the Egyptians could have withstood such a time.

If you read the article about us in the Bryan Eagle, then you know that we recently dug a water well.  We chose to in order to provide adequate fresh water to our herd.  We also want to begin the process of filling up our stock tanks for the health of our fish, family enjoyment, and to provide water for our livestock and wildlife.  You have to remember the wildlife are struggling in this heat and drought, too.

The temperatures in ponds are higher than normal.  Some people are trying to remedy the problem by running a water hose out to their small body of water and filling it like a swimming pool.  However, the water has to be aerated to be effective in keeping your fish population healthy and alive.  You can aerate two ways.  You can simply spray the water up into the air or it can dribble over rocks before reaching the main body of water.  Spraying the water seems the easiest way to ensure that plenty of oxygen is in your water.

You can see how low our biggest stock tank is.  Lack of rain and evaporation has caused this during the drought.  To give you an idea of how low it is, the drain is in the foreground and the pier is in the background.  Hopefully with our new well, it will be back up to a normal level soon.

You can see how low our biggest stock tank is. Lack of rain and evaporation has caused this during the drought. To give you an idea of how low it is, the drain is in the foreground and the pier is in the background. Hopefully with our new well, it will be back up to a normal level soon.

In the same above-mentioned article, I said of the drought, “You hope it is just a passing phase,” in regards to whether or not we were going to increase our prices.  Drilling a well is an additional expense that was not in our thoughts even a year ago.  However, it will benefit our ranching business for years to come.  Water is a necessary resource.

We also hope that the drought is a phase that will soon be broken.  We long for cooler temperatures and inches of precipitation.  We pray throughout the day that God will heal our land and bless us.

Regardless of the fact that it has still not rained, Cross Creek Cattle Company has many blessing to count.  One is the fact that our herd still looks good.  The cattle are in good condition and healthy.  Between the newspaper article and television show, we are enjoying the media attention.  Importantly, we are selling our grass fed beef, and getting great feedback from our customers.

We are a family owned and operated business struggling to overcome this drought.  We have had to employ different methods, which I have written about in the past.  Now we are proud owner of a new water well.  If success is measured by how hard you try and adapt, then we are a very successful.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Lane DeHaven, the ranch manager of Cross Creek Cattle Company, attended the 2011 Beef Cattle Short Course last week at Texas A&M University.  He had a great time and learned a lot.  Lane really enjoyed listening to Dr. Temple Grandin speak.  The audience must have enjoyed her speech as much as Lane since they gave her a standing ovation.

He also attended a session about the drought conditions in Texas.  Climatologists have been studying weather patterns for decades and recording the temperatures, rainfall, and other meteorological information.  I was astounded by their hypotheses for the future.  Personally, I knew that we were in the midst of a three year drought.  This year has been the worst.  Earlier this week I read an article from The Texas Tribune by Chris Hooks called, “State Climatologist: Drought Officially Worst on Record.”  It just states what is visible to the layman’s eye.  It is bad.

The unfortunate news is that it doesn’t look like it is going to get any better any time soon.  I kept looking for rain.  Thought like, “Maybe we would have a tropical storm to break the drought.  Maybe this fall would be cool and wet.  Next year would be better.  The drought could not continue, could it?” all circulated in my mind.  However according to these climatologists, this drought cycle will continue for 15 more years.

Are you still standing up or did you pass out?  The current drought cycle began in 1995.  I know that we have had rain since 1995, but we have also had some of our driest years.  Instead of this year being more wet since it is over the midway point, it has been the most severe in recorded history.  So the question is, have we hit the bottom or are we still on the downward slope?

No one seems to know.  Evelyn Browning-Garriss, the climatologist who spoke at the Short Course, writes The Browning Newsletter. You can download a sample copy at her website.  In her newsletter, she explains the climate change and its impact on Texas and the Southwest.  Colored diagrams, charts, and maps help you visualize the weather patterns.  If you are interested in trying to understand the why, then this newsletter would be valuable.

However if you are like myself, all you want to know is when is the drought going to be memory.  There is no answer except for a possible fifteen more years of dry conditions.

The forecast for this winter is unfortunate.  Climatologists are expecting an extremely cold and ironically wet winter in Texas.  Ms. Browning-Garriss was clear that the amount of rain would not come close to breaking the drought.  It would be just enough to make everyone miserable.

So what does a rancher do with this information?  Right now I do not have a definitive answer.  I am honestly still processing the information.  It is time to make hard decisions.  The one thing I do know is that Cross Creek Cattle Company is committed to ranching.  It is in our blood.  We cannot deny it regardless of the weather forecast.  However, we don’t know what the future holds.  At least we have expert opinions on what might be in store for us so we can plan accordingly.  I thought it was information worth sharing.

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