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Winter’s storms imperative for summer’s grasses

After the New Yearís freeze, it is nice to get some sunny days and a bit of warmer weather. The snow for the holidays was appreciated for a chance to enjoy a white Christmas, but as we approach the end of January, we are beginning to see the signs of another dry and short winter. While I do look forward to spring, it is enjoyable only if we have the winter snowpack to carry us through the summerís water needs.

As I surf the Web and look into the current status of the Colorado snowpack, I find that most of the state has only about 66 percent of its normal mountain snow (even less than last year).

If you want to look at a quick source for our local snowpack information, check out the Weather Watch section of The Durango Herald. The Heraldís San Juan Basin graph gives you a quick idea of just how far in the hole we are currently and a nice comparison with the last four years.

This yearís storms got started late and have been struggling to give us much moisture in the mountains for our spring runoff. The ground may be snow-covered, but the moisture present is very little compared to what we need to fill our soil for the grasses and trees to use next summer. Around Thanksgiving, I needed to dig a trench to install a new propane line for Pamís new gas stove. As I ran the excavator, the soil that fell from the bucket was as dry and dusty as late summer. Last winterís limited snow, last summerís heat and the lack of rain this fall have all resulted in bone-dry soils throughout the area.

These soils are the farmerís bank account. We store the fall and winter moisture and then finish it off with a good spring drink so that our fields and forests can get through the long, dry summers. During the summer, the grass and trees use up far more water than falls during that time. Without our ďwater in the bankĒ to draw on, the grass will become stressed and we will have a difficult time growing enough grass for our livestock.

As I wonder what the future will bring, I search for additional information across the Internet. The most detailed information about the current state of the droughts and future forecasts can be found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration drought monitoring website, http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu. As for any relief from our drought, none is foreseen in the months to come, with a prediction of the next three months being warmer and drier than average.

As we look to the skies this weekend, letís hope that the coming storms will be beneficial to our area and give us some moisture for everyone to enjoy this spring and summer.

Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.