Rooting out distractions
I spent the summer between my junior and senior year of college working on a cattle and hay operation in Salida, Colorado.
Imagining that most of my time would be spent rounding up cattle on horseback, I was surprised to learn that the majority of my time would be spent fixing fence and ensuring that fields were sufficiently watered.
Colorado has a unique system of water rights called the “Prior Appropriation System”. In times when there is short supply, water is diverted to those with the oldest historical claim — if there is a claim from 1852 and one from 1890, the one from 1852 would take priority.
As water is generally channeled from the source to the respective property it travels through a series of ditches. Since the area I was in historically received less than 10 inches of rainfall a year, it was incredibly important to ensure the ditches were always flowing without resistance.
“Walking ditch” became my new pastime. I’d start from one end and walk for miles with a chainsaw clearing trees, breaking up beaver dams and clearing undergrowth. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference as I was working, but the change was huge after walking and clearing an entire section. The water would be flowing far better and there would be plenty of water for the hay.
Takeaway? Sometimes you’ve got to walk a ditch if you want to grow your fields.