Tom Clyde: A winter lacking in powder will lead to a summer lacking in water
Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend, giving millions of us the excuse we needed to stop going to church. It’s so embarrassing to walk in an hour late or early, or on the wrong day of the week, all because of the twice-annual time change. So to spare that embarrassment, I steer clear of the place entirely. That seems to agree with both me and the church, so everybody is happy. Except that the snow is pretty solid when you start skiing an hour earlier than normal.
I like Daylight time. Those long summer evenings are just great. I don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn for the most part, so other than a couple of days to adjust to the difference, it’s fine with me. Every year there are efforts made to change it. There was a proposal in the legislature to put Utah in the Central Time zone. There’s the issue of Colorado and a little bit of Kansas being in between us and the rest of the Central Time Zone, but to some Utah legislator who cannot figure out how to adjust the clock in his car, that is not a problem. Arizona has their own system. Maybe we could compromise and just move the clocks 30 minutes, so that when the rest of the country is on the hour, we are a half hour off. Hard to imagine how anybody could be confused by that when they change planes in Salt Lake. I suspect that Daylight Time is here to stay.
The season has turned. The clock adjustment is the most mechanical signal, but all you have to do is look around. There are baby calves in the fields of the few ranchers left who are raising their own calves. More and more, the local ranching economy is turning into a hobby instead of a business. Buying feeder steers is a lot less work than feeding hay to the mother cows all winter, and spending frigid nights out in the barn ready to help with the inevitable breech birth. There aren’t many left out there who are still doing it the “cowboy” way. Summit County wasn’t exactly a cooperative climate for agriculture, even before land values went nuts.
Area farmers and ranchers are using the light winter to get a jump on projects. I’ve been watching the progress of a barn remodel a few miles from me. I pass it all the time, and can see the Rube Goldberg system of jacks and braces that take the load off one decaying column at a time while it gets replaced. I saw the owner working the other day, and stopped to talk with him. In looking at the barn, it was clear that it had gone through this same treatment a generation ago. Some of the interior columns had been replaced with steel house jacks, and those were now rusty with age and getting replaced with new timbers standing on new footings.
He was taking the floor out of the hay loft. These great old barns were designed around the dimensions of livestock, and the ceilings are low. His barn must have had draft horses in mind, because the first floor ceiling is higher than a lot of barns. My big barn was designed around dairy cows, and the ceiling is too low to do make much practical use of the lower level. This guy said he needed a place to store machinery, which required a taller door and higher ceilings. The barn was built in the 1880’s, and has surely seen its share of remodels and adjustments as the needs and uses changed.
I suspect the primary motivation in the repair work is pure love of the relic. There are only a few barns from that era left around here. At 84, my barn is a comparative newcomer. His is a working farm, and you don’t go to that effort without having a functional reason for it. It would have been cheaper and easier to build a new equipment shed. Connecting with a building that was built and maintained by who knows how many generations of his family more than offsets the economics. With every weathered board he took off, he was shaking hands with generations he never knew.
This strange, snow-less winter will soon give way to a strange, water-less summer season. Last winter, I used 120 gallons of diesel fuel keeping the ranch plowed open. This week, I finally dipped into the bottom half of the first tank. It will surely snow some more before we are done, but the ground is unlikely to freeze again and anything we get will melt back quickly. I’m about to abandon the snow blower in favor of the road grader attachment on the tractor.
The redwing blackbirds are back. Spring is here.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.