Yesterday, I delivered two of our livestock guardian puppies to Jeanne McCormack, a fellow sheep rancher from Rio Vista. We met in a parking lot in Dixon under cloudy skies, commiserating that it was not yet raining (the Weather Service had predicted the rain would start by 10 a.m.). Jeanne told me that her father had weather records on their ranch dating back to 1892, and that we'd just experienced the driest December and half of January in that 120 year period. Jeanne and her husband Al Medvitz also grow grain - they rely on fall and winter rains to germinate the crop and keep it going - so the lack of moisture was a double hit for them.
As the day went on, the weather remained cloudy and cold - and dry. I wondered if this storm was going to fizzle like the "storms" we had in November and December. Finally, as I hauled water to the ewes (which is an unusual task in January), I started to feel a few sprinkles. Driving home from the ranch, I finally got to turn on my windshield wipers!
Every time I awoke last night, I'd listen for rain (and was pleasantly reassured to hear it). This morning, we had a half-inch of rain in our rain gauge - not enough to get us caught up, but enough to get us started. There were no puddles - the ground had absorbed every drop. We'll need much more rain before we start to see any run off.
As I've written before, weather makes farming and ranching enjoyable and challenging - often all at the same time. The last 60 days have been mentally challenging for me - seeing the grass dry up and having to purchase extra feed for the sheep certainly impacts our bottom line. Seeing dust while I'm moving sheep in January is downright depressing. On the other hand, a long awaited rain feels like Christmas morning and my birthday all wrapped into one. As my friend Pat Shanley (who has seen lots of rain and lots of dry spells in his 92 years in Auburn) said yesterday - "Mother Nature doesn't consult with us about when we need the rain - we're on her schedule." Let's hope she has more rain on her calendar!