Friday, September 28, 2007

With the Seniors to Bryce Canyon

Yesterday was a long day. I went with the Senior Citizens from the Enterprise Senior Center to Bryce Canyon National Park.

It was about 170 miles each way and took nearly three hours to get there.

We had lunch at Ruby's Inn a delightful destination resort. They've been open since before Bryce Canyon was declared a National Park.

All told, there were seven of us including Bev (my roommmate) and myself. She drove us to all the major "points" so we could get out and explore the sites. I'll get pictures posted within the week.

Having left the house shortly after sunrise (before 8AM) we didn't arrive home again until shortly before sunset (7:30 PM).

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 9:55 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Water rights... stop the abuse of power

This post is a personal opinion by a resident of Escalante Valley. It is also posted in conjuction with Bloggers' Unite, and effort to bring world-wide attention to abuse of all kinds.

I've done a little research on this issue of suddenly needing to restrict the use of water in Escalante Valley, Utah.

In the state of Utah, water is public property, and to use it personally, you must purchase "water rights". Typically, they are sold by the acre-foot (325.8 thousand gallons). You purchase that right for a lifetime, to use annually.

Over the years, the State Water Engineer has established water usage "duties" as well as the formulas determining how much water it takes to do certain activities, like irrigation. The duty for irrigation water in this valley is four acre-feet of water per acre of crop, no matter the crop, or the irrigation method.

In our valley, the most prevalent crop is alfalfa. Corn and potatoes comprise less than 20% of total crop production. Also, of all the water used, less than 10% of the water rights are dedicated to domestic or culinary use.

The State Water Engineer has been tasked with the requirement to establish Ground Water Management Plans for various regions in Utah. The Beryl-Escalante Aquifer has been singled out as an example of "water mining". That is the unique situation where far more water appears to be removed annually that is re-charged by natural runoff.

Here's what I find interesting.

Water users, including the large irrigation users do not meter their water. Home users don't meter their water. So just exactly how do you really know how much is being used?

The State Water Engineer bases his figures on how many "water rights" have been sold and recorded with the state. It shows there are approximately 83,000 acre-feet of water rights issued in the Beryl-Escalante Valley Basin.

Best "guesstimates" are an annual re-charge rate of some 33,000 acre feet.

Unfortunately, there is no credit for conservation of water. The State Water Engineer's office makes no distinction for the difference of using a "corn gun" vs using drip irrigation, or even calculation the savings generated by simply lowering the sprinkler heads on the large pivot wheels.

Their water usage tables are way out of whack when it comes to how much water is used for watering farm animals. We water three horses, nine sheep, and just under two dozen chickens. We control the water we use by always putting the water into measured containers.

Our horses rarely drink more than 15 gallons per horse per day, and yet the calculations say we are using 75 gallons per day.

Our entire herd of sheep rarely drink more than 20 gallons per day and yet, the State Water Engineer declares the sheep drink 45 gallons per day.

Our chickens rarely collectively consume more than 4 gallons of water per day, and yet the forumlas say our chickens consume nearly 18 gallons per day.

So, if we use about half or so of what we're allowed, what happens when that figure is multiplied across the valley population?

The large water users have formed a group called the Escalante Valley Water Users Association. They have come up with a plan that is unprecedented in Utah history. In addition to actively working to conserve water usage, they are willing to participate 50/50 with the state to repurchase and retire up to 20% of the existing water rights.

That is a much more palatable solution than the one proposed by the State Water Engineer. His solution is to cut off water rights for anyone who's rights are dated more recently than 1941. That solution would take away virtually all the domestic water rights. With no domestic rights, homes become unfit for occupancy and millions of dollars worth of property become worthless overnight.

The State Water Engineer has been routinely rejecting any plan offered by the Escalante Valley Water Users Association. I personally believe that after the meeting this last Monday night, at which almost all the local legislators pledged their whole-hearted support... things may change.

If in fact, the State Water Engineer is being short-sighted and heavy-handed to the point of abusing the valley... things could get very exciting.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 8:00 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Results of the Local Water Users Meeting

We (along with about 300 other local residents) attended a meeting presented by the Escalante Water Users Board. This is a group of large agricultural users who have been diligently working on a plan to stimulate water conservation and also to assist the state by developing a plan to re-purchase and retire "water rights"

Seems that the largest issue surrounding the plan offered by the Water Users is that the Utah State Engineer, who is personally and solely in charge of administering Ground Water Management Plans, feels the plan is "woefully short" of goals set forth by the State Legislature.

Basically, the state passed a Ground Water Management Law that says "The State Engineer may establish Ground Water Management Plans where necessary for conservation to reach a "safe usage level"... and that he shall consider any and all economic impact to the local water users.

The Escalante Desert Valley sits atop an aquifer who's size has yet to be fully determined. We know that in the 1950's average well water levels were around 46 feet. Today, the average well level (as determined by 11 monitored wells out of thousands) the water level is closer to 90 feet.

Since most wells are drilled to about 200 feet, no one really knows for sure how deep the aquifer really runs. No one knows for sure how long it takes for the mountain snow to re-charge this underground lake either.

Now the State Engineer would love to exercise the "easy solution" quite soon. That would be to come to "safe usage" within a matter of a few years. After all, he could say this is what he was directed to do, and he did it.

Utah law provides that water rights and the restrictions of their usage is based on "first priority" by date. For all practical purposes, to return to "safe usage" in the near future, anyone who owned water rights dated any more recently than the end of 1941 would lose the right to use water... even if it meant they'd have no domestic (culinary) water right.

That means a person's home would become immediately unfit for occupancy, and financially worthless. That would affect hundreds of homeowners throughout the valley.

For further information on this "abuse" of power by the State Engineer, check the latest article, written by Mitch Cole a resident of Beryl Junction and member of The Spectrum and Daily News Writers Group.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 3:46 PM :: (0) comments

Monday, September 24, 2007

Water rights issues... stop the abuse

Living here in the Escalante Desert Valley, we're always concerned about water, and "water rights". For the record, we officially have 1 acre-foot of water for our use. That means we can use up to 325851.428571 gallons of water per year.

When I do the math, it figures out this way. Each day we can use up to 892.745 gallons of water. For the four of us and all our animals... that seems like a lot of water.

Don't get me wrong, we're not the least bit interested in giving up any of our water rights. In fact, we'd like to purchase one additional acre-foot, but at a minimum asking price of over $5,000, it's not likely to happen in the near future.

Now, I've done a little investigating (anyone can do this with access to the right links), and personally believe someone needs to really think through the formulas.

For example here are the basic allowances for different kinds of livestock.

cow or horse 0.028 acre-foot
sheep, goat, swine, moose, or elk 0.0056 acre-foot
ostrich or emu 0.0036 acre-foot
llama 0.0022 acre-foot
deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, or mt. goat 0.0014 acre-foot
chicken, turkey, chukar, sagehen, or pheasant 0.00084 acre-foot
mink or fox (caged) 0.00005 acre-foot

When I calculate this on a daily basis, it tells me that our horses are expected to consume an average of 25 gallons per day, per horse. Our sheep are expected to consume just shy of 5 gallons per day per sheep. Our chickens are exptected to consume 3 quarts per chicken per day.

Folks, that's a lot of water per animal, and since we control our water through the use of measured containers, these figures are excessive.

For domestic use, we're allowed a full 100 gallons per person as there are four of us in the family and we get 401 gallons per day. Again, the allowance is very generous.

Now, here's the problem.

The State of Utah believes the water table in this valley is being depleted by overuse, and they are setting about changing how things are done... and that includes the distinct possibility that "water rights" which have been purchased could be disallowed. And that would be done without compensation.

We're going to a valley-wide meeting tonight where we will learn a whole lot more about what's happening. There are some huge farmers in this valley who have the rights to 1000's of acre-feet of water who are most unhappy. They've formed a "Conservation District" and are laying plans to fight any action by the state.

This could get interesting. I'll be blogging more about this over the next two days leading up to a world wide "blog-a-thon" sponsored by Bloggers Unitie, entitled "Stop the Abuse".

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 1:21 PM :: (0) comments

Ate the 1st dozen eggs... sold the 2nd dozen eggs


Saturday morning breakfast was a full dozen over easy eggs, fresh from our chickens. Our of the first dozen, we even had two "double yolkers". Haven't seen those since I was a kid.

Add to the eggs, a big pile of hashbrown potatoes topped with homemade salsa verde and thick sliced bacon, toast with butter, and fresh ground "Creme Brulee" flavored coffee... and we were stoked for the day.

Good thing, even though most of the day was rainy, as soon as it quit, we were out at the horse stable fixing up the new corral. It took us until just before dark to get the corral finished... way too late to move horses.

Sunday, we put all three horses into the corral and showed them their own stalls. We locked Dakota (the yearling) into her stall just in case our gelding "Dusty" got a little too frisky. We gave Neche (four-year-old filly) the run of both her stall and the corral. She also had access to Dusty's stall if she dared.

There was a little ear-pinning and teeth showing, but other than that, they got along pretty well.

After finding an additional three eggs, Mom said it's time to sell the first dozen to a neighbor who's been patiently waiting for farm fresh eggs. She got $1.75 for the ungraded box containing beautiful brown eggs ranging from peewee to large.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 12:27 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Shari's learnin' things about blogging...

Ok, so I've been around for a long time... old dogs CAN learn new tricks, when the information is presented properly.

I'm studying an e-book I got by way of a theme designer. Over at Four Country Gals, I chose to go with the WordPress script and upload it to my own server, rather than stay here at blogger. Besides looking for personal growth, I had an intuition I'd be able to drive traffic and attract attention more successfully with a unique domain, and hosting.

First, here's a link to the book I found, complements of SK Design Studio. It's called WordPress Complete Book

I've been learning about Technorati, and have now filled in my Technorati Profile. I know... I'm a little slow on the uptake... but hey... at least I'm learning and gaining an understanding.

Posted by Shari Thomas @ 1:40 PM :: (2) comments

Monday, September 17, 2007

When you want info... where do you go?

Living here in the desert with a three other "city gals"... well, actually "island gals" from Put In Bay, Ohio, I often have to search for information either to support something I'm trying to explain to them, or to get my "thinking cap" cranked up.

So, where do I go for information?

One of the places I go is to a forum I found earlier this summer. It's a new forum, but is comprised of several very knowledgeable and helpful women around the world. We have members from several regions of the USA as well as Canada, and NZ.

We all share a profound joy for life, and living simply, in harmony with our surroundings. Most of us have at least a garden to enjoy, and some of us have small farms. A few of us actually have enough land and produce to have market stores, or participate in Farmer's Markets.

One of the things I really appreciate about this forum is the complete lack of "swaps, and barters", as well as no politics or talk of religion. There are plenty of forums for these activities, and I do read them, also.

I've discovered several really great ideas from the gals here that haven't been discussed elsewhere.

Here's the one idea I'll be implementing that will save us hundreds of dollars this next spring.

Another new member had asked for specifics on starting a compost pile, like the proper ratios of "greens to browns" and moisture, as well as the use of a "barrel composter". I followed up with the fact that here in the desert, our challenges are somewhat unique.

We have a lack of moisture, wide temperature swings and persistent winds.

Lucy from Boulder Belt Blog suggested I use landscaping fabric to cover the fully built pile. It will let the pile breath, while helping conserve the moisture (something a blue plastic tarp won't do). It will also allow any moisture we receive (mostly snow) seep into it . By weighing down the edges, it won't blow away in the wind.

Here's why I said it will save us hundreds of dollars... we need at least 100 cubic yards of garden-ready "dirt" this next spring to go into our new raised beds (all boxed in with 2x12's). To purchase that much dirt would cost me over $800.

Ladies of Women Who Farm... I really appreciate all your help, and I love being of service to y'all, too.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 10:58 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, September 14, 2007

Around here, life is never dull

After taking time yesterday to "recover" from a very late night, it's now Friday... and it looks like we'll be working on "indoor" projects most of the weekend. The weather forecast is calling for high winds today and tomorrow, with thunderstorms on Sunday. Can you tell our season is changing?

Yesterday, I took the time to modify the chicken nest boxes a bit... just like in marketing, gotta find a need and fill it. In this case... I'm asking the pullets what they want for their nest boxes. I thought a nice fluffy warm sheep's wool lining would be comfy. Cindy says they're using shredded paper out at the farm and those girls love it.

Well, this batch of hay we're using to feed the sheep is really ratty... It has rye heads and alfalfa roots, as well as pretty good-sized stems. They're really wasting a lot of it. Since straw isn't something readily available, I'm trying this hay in one box.

Wouldn't ya know it... so far the first and only egg to land in a nest box, has landed in the one with the hay.

Oh, we've also added a couple of antique glass eggs to give them the idea.

Wednesday afternoon, when we returned from the Senior Center, Bev noticed Dakota, our yearling wasn't in her usual pen. It looked like she was in one of the new stalls.

Closer inspection revealed she was actually standing in the back walkway area where we'll be feeding from... not a place for horses.

Now, the big question... How the hell did she get out of her securely closed pen? It's only 16x16x12x14 feet, so she didn't have room to run around and then leap over the standard height horse railing.

There's no sign she went under the fence either as it's only 15 inches distance. Also, the panels hadn't been moved around... What a mystery!

We're pretty sure she'll do well with Dusty now, as she was standing nose-to-nose with him for some time. She left more than enough evidence of time spent in our walkway.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 10:49 AM :: (1) comments

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Wednesday, and I'm at the Senior Center

Today is lunch at the Senior Center... Shredded Beef Enchilada, so Bev figured I'd might as well come spend the morning and stay for lunch.

Tonight, we're going on the Senior Citizen bus to St. George... to Tuachan, the big outdoor theater. Tonight's show is My Fair Lady, something I've never seen on stage.

There are 13 of us going, and the Enterprise Senior Center Recreation Fund pays our way. That's the group I volunteer for (did the hamburgers in August). I'm sure we'll have loads of fun.

Yesterday I got the picture gallery working at FourCountryGals.com, so you'll have to stop by. I'm loading virtually all the early pictures Bev and Cindy took as they moved from Ohio to Utah. Only a few make it into the main part of the book, but I've linked the actually gallery, so you can grab a lot more pictorial detail.

UPDATE: At lunch, I was awarded the "Volunteer of the Month" Award for Washington County Council on Aging for my work on the "Corn Fest" fund raiser... cooking all the hamburgers and hotdogs in the extreme heat... and never falling behind. Believe me, I was totally surprised. They gave me a nice certificate and rose.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 9:39 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Another weekend of building projects... and a really scary crash

The horse stable is taking shape. This weekend, we used virtually all the lumber we had left. Got the rest of the north and east walls up, as well as a "sag beam". That will allow the 12 foot span to have a resting point at about 8 1/2 foot.

It'll be after the first of the month before we can buy the joists... 13 2x6x12 footers and a truck load of 8 foot 2x4s for the cross pieces. Then we'll have our work cut out for us! We're covering with both "obs" plywood and roof tin.

While we were working on the stable, I heard a car coming east on the road bordering our south property line. I quickly determined things didn't sound quite right. My eyes confirmed what I heard as I saw an older Saturn approaching at a high rate of speed (close to 60 mph) and begin fish-tailing.

Within just a second, it had slid off the shoulder and rolled over sideways, then end over end three more times.

As it was airborne, I was hollering for Bev to head for the house and call 911. Cindy and I immediately jumped into our truck and headed for the accident scene about 1/2 mile away. Imagine our surprise to find the driver, a teenage girl scrambling out of the upside down car and very quickly running up onto the road.

We quickly checked her over. She was begging us to take her home... down the road about a mile to tell her folks what had happened. After a quick chat, we agreed, Cindy would run her home. I would stay at the scene.

About that time, Bev was trying to find out if we needed an ambulance... well that got canceled when the kid left the scene. Our neighbors all showed up within minutes, as did Cindy, the young girl and her parents.

Almost an hour later (told you we live in the middle of nowhere) the sheriffs got there to do their investigation. Mom took the young gal into the hospital, some 40 miles away, promising to let us know how she was when they got back home.

Poor kid, she totaled Mom's car, is getting a citation at least for speeding (almost 60 in a 40 mph zone), and also slightly separated her shoulder. That was a seat belt injury. Thankfully she was wearing it. She's also bruised and had a few small cuts and abrasions, and probably hurt like the dickens today.

Oh, we did get the horse stable finished as far as we can before getting chased into the house by the ever-present afternoon thunderstorms.

Today (Sunday) we re-located the chicken's nest boxes to the outside of the coop. With a nice slanted lid, Mom can reach in to get the eggs. Also, the chickens have a lot more room to play in the pine chips.



No more eggs today, as we really upset their routine... In and out, banging on stuff, running the saws and drills.

Our girls have cushy digs... their nest boxes are lined with sheep wool that has been saved from skirting several fleeces. Our Merino/Suffolk cross sheep really do triple duty.



We gave them a special ramp to get from the roost to their boxes. While they've had lots of parades, we've yet to see anyone go into the nest boxes. I was able to pick up a couple of hens and place them into the boxes, so we know they'll fit ok... they weren't ready to stay, though.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 8:15 PM :: (0) comments

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Yahoo!! It's a brown egg!

Yeppers! One of our pullets has laid her first egg.

Only two disappointments... the egg wasn't laid in the nice wool lined nest boxes and Mom (these are her chickens) didn't find it. I did.

That's ok, 'cause we went and got both her and the camera, leaving the egg in it's place for her to see, and then handing it carefully to her.

Now you, too can see our first little pullet egg.

These gals were born on April 23, so that makes them just a couple days shy of 19 weeks. Now, what we don't know is "who done it".

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 6:33 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dakota starts her training...

Or is that Shari starts her training to train Dakota.

It's important I get this right. With Dakota being a yearling, she needs to learn respect and grow out of her "pocket pet" attitude.

Now, I'll be the first to admit losing 80 or so pounds would be good for me. You should see me huff and puff my way around the farm.

Actually, I'm getting better. At least I don't completely run out of air before I get the daily chores done.

But, working a horse in our round pen, is a lot more work. The ground is very soft sand, and is quite uneven as the horses sink halfway up their hooves. That leaves big divots to navigate... that and the road apples they drop.

Dakota's first lesson yesterday was to accept the "stick and string". She'd been trained to voice and whistle. However, I prefer to point, "cluck", and then hit the ground with the stick and string. That's the method taught by Clinton Anderson of Downunder Horsemanship.

She did very well, letting me rub her all over with the stick and string. Also, the stick and string extend my reach, effectively moving her out of my face... can you spell "pushy filly"?

Her response to "get going" in that direction was satisfactory, even if I couldn't keep up with her. She had been used to a smaller round pen, so she kept tightening her circles around me. That's not acceptable, even though I was glad not to have to jog around a larger circle.

When it came to changing directions, coming to me... let's just say "operator error". I've got some serious work to do. I'm supposed to step in front of her "drive line", get her eye, move the stick to my outside (towards the pen rail) hand, point with me free hand (the direction I want her to go) and cluck.

I keep visualizing it... but the body has yet to clearly internalize the entire process.

Time out to watch more video... this time on "gaining respect".

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 12:59 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Holiday? What holiday!

Whew! Now things can get back to a more leisurely pace. You see, this last holiday weekend, was really one big "work party".

Thursday afternoon, Bev, Mom and I made a trip into Cedar City for lumber, chicken feed, and a few groceries. By the time we were done... the first paycheck was history. The lumber we bought cost just over $400 and that is about half what we need.

A couple weeks ago, Clyde, another neighbor of ours had come over and spent some "tractor time". The first day, he leveled the new corral area and we removed the east wall from Dusty's stable/stall area.

A few days later, he returned with a great big auger (12 inches). So much for Bev and I continuing to dig post holes by hand. The only trick with his big auger on the tractor was that we had to really lean hard on it to get it to dig a hole straight down. Ya' don't want no crooked posts when you're building stuff, ya' know.

So, now we have all the posts we need, and enough lumber to frame in the roof line (we think).

Michael, the guy Cindy works with at the farm has a lot of construction experience and offered his help for the weekend. Mom offered to feed him, and that sealed the deal.

Bev and Cindy both had to work Friday, and I took time to get as much writing done as possible, as well as install some additional software. Aside from chores, we really didn't do much outside.

Saturday morning, we did chores at Clyde's (they had gone out of town and asked if we'd feed). I took care of all the chores here... that's about an hour's work now, with the three horses, sheep, and chickens.

We set about backfilling posts. With nearly 20 posts, that was a lot of shovel work, and leveling and plumb bobbing. We had to pull and swap one set of posts for more height, and move a couple other posts so they'd line up straight.

Once Michael was here, we were able to frame most of the roof line. Bev headed for town to get still more lumber... an additional 10 2x6x12 footers. The rest of us worked until we got chased to the house by a thunderstorm/windstorm.

Sunday afternoon was more of the same. Bev and Cindy had things to do in Enterprise in the morning, so I "chored" at Clyde's as well as here before Michael got here.

We finished the side boards and part of the back wall before once again getting chased in by thunderstorms. It was just one of those weekends for weather.

Monday was a bit more relaxed with chores, and only a little outside work before enjoying dinner with neighbors.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 12:56 PM :: (1) comments