Friday, August 10, 2012

Drought and consequences

"Grieve it and leave it" seems to be my mantra for this dustbowl summer.

We are down from 20+ goats and cheesemaking to two milkers and milk for my coffee. We are down from 50+ sheep grazing pastorally in our yard to 21 and counting down. I've sold animals that I counted as friends because with no pasture, hay at $8  a square bale and corn at $22 a hundred weight, they needed to go to somebody who could afford to feed them. I have friends in their 80's who are lifetime cattlemen who've just sold out.

For me, drought is the most devastating of the types of catastrophic weather. Other weather events are  more violent, but they are generally over quickly and what's left is to bury the dead and clean up the mess. Drought goes on and on, sucking the life out of your pastures, your garden and your dreams.

We are blessed to live in a big, bountiful country. Usually, it's big enough that areas of crop surplus balance areas of crop deficit. This year, the drought is so severe and so wide spread, I'm worried. How far are we away from real famine? I'm thinking maybe three years... this year the cattle herds sell down, and beef is cheap. But next year, there are few calves. Corn doesn't grow this year, and price supports send our surplus to fuel... three years of drought and we'll all be a whole lot leaner (meaner? that's a scary thought).

Maybe so, maybe not - but how long will the drought continue and what will the consequences of this extreme weather really be?

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