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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Lead, follow or get out of the way

Brad Nelson Published on 04 March 2014

Right now outside my house in central Washington state, we are experiencing a freezing drizzle. The forecast is for up to a 0.1 inch of ice covering everything by morning.

By afternoon tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to be 46ºF. The weather will have changed and will melt off the ice, and life can go on as usual.

We end up with what they call weather inversions here a number of times each winter. What happens is: A mass of cold air settles in low spots and stays. Often after a cold spell, the winds that move warm air in to push out the cold rise up and blow over the low spots.

The fact that cold air is denser, and therefore heavier, adds to this. The warm air naturally rises and moves over the top.

We then get stagnant air advisories that suggest anyone with a respiratory distress stay inside. These come with an estimate of when the air will clear.

Most times, the stagnant air stays longer than forecast, usually because the strong winds needed to blow the foul air away don’t show up as scheduled. The weather changes at least daily.

Weather patterns are going to change
This means there is going to be a disruption in the cycles of weather we expect wherever we live. Events like the “El Niño” phenomenon are not a change in weather patterns but are a longer-term weather pattern.

El Niño gets the blame when rain follows the first cutting of alfalfa hay from southern California all the way up the coast, catching hay in the windrow from the Imperial Valley in California to the Columbia Basin in Washington state and all points in between.

If not the El Niño, then it must be starting the engines on swathers that cause the rain. I once advised a hay grower to start all his swathers and drive them around the farm each day two weeks before he intended to cut hay to get the rain to fall before it could harm hay laying in the windrow. He seriously considered it.

In the Arco, Howe, Terreton and Mud Lake area of eastern Idaho there had been enough rainfall for farming until the early 1920s, when the weather patterns changed. The area reverted to sagebrush, antelope, jackrabbits and coyotes until irrigation projects provided water decades later.

When I moved from Idaho to central Washington in 1992, I discovered the same thing had happened in the Columbia Basin. The same change in weather patterns that also caused the infamous Dust Bowl era in the Midwest caused farmers to give up farming the land here.

When the Dust Bowl regions again had rain, eastern Idaho and central Washington did not. With the building of the Grand Coulee Dam, that was started just before World War II began, water became available, and in the late 1950s the first water flowed into the Columbia Basin reclamation project.

One of the points of history the global warming crowd has never been able to fit into their agenda is the vineyards the Vikings were cultivating in Greenland 900 to 1,000 years ago.

Of interest, in the same time frame, is a study scientists made of ancient tree rings in what is now California. They found that the region suffered a 250-year drought starting about the year 850 A.D.

They went on to state that historically, an average drought cycle for that region is several decades to a century in duration.

If weather and other patterns change, are we as a people going to have the ability to change and do what it takes to survive? If we can no longer feed our family where we are located, the options are simple: Move to where there are adequate resources. If not, we must adapt to the new weather patterns or whatever it is that has changed.

The final option will be to follow the example of those who refused to evacuate from New Orleans as hurricane Katrina was bearing down on them – to stay and die.

Two constants remain
If the weather patterns are in fact changing, it will do no good to sit and blame it on George Bush, and it won’t work to sit and wait for the government to come and feed us. The government has no food, nor does it know how to grow food, nor does it want to feed us.

As has been the case in agriculture for 200 years, we must feed ourselves and our nation despite the government.

Back in my hay-trucking days, in a tight situation we would say, “We’re hay haulers. We bring our own TP and we know how to use it. Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

The hay growers I know personally are all made of the same stuff as the old hay haulers.  FG