About Me

I'm a ranch wife of 27 years and loving every day. We have three grown sons and have one son home to continue our ranching heritage. My husbands family has owned this ground for over 62 years and my family has been in ranching for over 70 years. I love my heritage in ranching and the strong Christian values I have been raised with and have passed to our sons. ENJOY!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I was left home one weekend while my guys went snowmobiling.  Now I had commitments that I couldn't miss or I would have been along for the ride!!!  :)  Anyway, I got to thinking about how important water is to the ranchers way of life.  We not only need water for ourselves but nearly 800 animal units depend on us for their supply of water.  The only task given to me by the 'guys' was to keep the water open for all the cattle and horses.    I noticed the 'thepioneerwoman' has a post on breaking ice which was accurate for her location but mine is quite a bit different.  The Sand Hills of Nebraska actually lay on top of the largest underground water aquifer in the Northern Hemisphere, the Ogallala Aquifer.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer Our water is pumped out of the ground by windmills.  Now these are a bit different than the windmills we are seeing that are generating electricity.  Now ours aren't nearly as tall as an electricity windmill and the top part, the head, on our ranch is usually between 6 to 8 feet across. http://www.awwasc.com/
This was the first mill I checked that day and when I drove up I noticed that the ice was melted under the lead pipe.  (That's the pipe that the water runs into the tank by)  Water that comes out of the ground because it's insulated by the ground is warmer than the air temperature.  If we have a steady breeze or a full blown gale, our water in the tank has a portion of it that stays open.    Some ranches will even put a smaller tank inside the larger tank so they have a better chance of keeping the smaller tank open.  I've had another rancher comment that then the larger outside tank freezes up solid and is much harder to open back up.  It a preference thing.  When we break ice in a tank, we use an ice bar, not an ax.  Again, that's probably a preference thing.  It's a very heavy long metal stick with a wedge on the bottom of it.  We crack the ice with the bar and then pitch the ice out with a pitch fork.  It's also important to throw the ice far away from the tank so the cattle and horses don't have to step around it.  If you've noticed my verbiage of heavy and pitch, I hope you can gather that 'breaking ice' is a very physical thing we do.  When you multiply this by several mills, it's a pretty good workout.  This weekend I had really pretty good weather, nights weren't quite as cold and the wind blew most of the time and kept things open.
  Our water in the Sand Hills is vitally important to our business, just as it is to farmers who are irrigating and growing food for all of us in America.  Anytime we put in a post for a fence most anywhere on the ranch we hit the static water table.   I am acutely aware of caring for this precious resource.  We are extremely careful about what goes back into this resource,  After all, not only does it affect the animals we raise but it is also the water we drink.   Yes, there are a few in our industry who have abused this resource and its availability, but not in our neck of the woods (I guess I should say sand :)  ).  I took this last photo at our brood mare pasture - I really like it because of the broken mill in the background.  Not all mills on our place are in working condition.  This one sets in a bad spot that has a tendency to open up and blow, allowing the sand to sift.  We have since shut this mill off and not used it for about 15 years.  the pasture has started to heal but it will be a long process.  Just one of the many ways we work to maintain and protect the land we are blessed to steward.


  1. GREAT POST!!!
    The BEST water I have ever tasted was at a ranch we worked on briefly after college in Tryon NE. It was from a windmill just like yours & was THE BEST SPRING water I have ever tasted!!!

    The blowouts are awful to heal, but with great stewards of the land (like your crew) it will heal & be better for it.

    Stay warm!

  2. Water is so important. It is amazing how much time a rancher can spend in one day making sure our stock has fresh, clean water.