Dick Hunt's Blog

April 2, 2011

Water Where There Isn’t Any!

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 10:29 am

Water Where There Isn’t Any!
By Dick Hunt, April 2nd, 2011

Water is totally essential to life.  One of the first activities of pioneers in North America was to search for water.  When my Father was looking for a location to found a Cattle Ranch in Alberta in 1903, he hired a Meti chap to guide him to a suitable area in East Central Alberta.  There among the hills liberally covered with lush native grasses, a spring of water flowed from the base of a hill in great profusion.  That is where I was born, in a Ranch house on the top of that hill.  During the devastating drought of the 1930’s, that spring of water never faltered or diminished. It provided water for more than a thousand cattle, the year round.

Spring forth to 1958.  I have left the Ranch with Ruth and the family  and am now an Anglican Minister fifty miles away, in the Parish Church where my Parents were married in 1913.  My brother Bill now operates the Ranch, with Lee his wife and their family of four daughters and one son. Bill was a man with curiosity as to how things occur.  The spring water flowing from under the hill intrigued him.  He knew that there were at least three water wells to the east producing good flows at depths of little more than ten feet.  He also knew that those wells were on a line which pointed directly to the spring under the hill.

He decided to have another well drilled on that same line of sight and hired a driller to sink a ninety foot deep well. They struck a large flow of water which came nearly to the surface.  With steel casing in place, Bill installed a six inch pump in the well, powered by a diesel tractor and pumped for hours, without lowering the level of the water. It remained static.  He decided he might irrigate the field in which it was located.

He got in touch with the Water Resources Branch of the Provincial Government to ask them what action he needed to take to receive permission to irrigate. In due course (that is, eventually) he received a curt note saying that, since there is no water in that area, the matter is closed.  Bill pursued the matter with them and they responded briefly that their field team had surveyed the area in question and that there is no indication of water there. The matter was closed as far as they were concerned. Bill acquired some irrigation equipment and did irrigate a field for some time.  Never at any time was there any diminution of the flow from that well.  The well is still there, sealed and ready to supply water as needed.

Bill pioneered the raising of crops to be made into silage in that area, for  livestock.  He began by digging “silage pits” through little hills in the various fields where the crops were grown, with drainage assured to prevent flooding of the silage. He purchased harvesting equipment to cut green crops  and haul them to the pits. With his crew, he spread the fodder evenly the length of the pit. Where necessary  he added water with sprinklers to assure the correct fermentation process would occur.  They packed the silage firmly by running back and forth with rubber tired tractors.  The result was great feed for cattle with the advantage that it could be fed with power equipment in troughs with little physical work involved. A significant number of neighbours  followed suit.

An added advantage was that if the weather was wet in harvest season, the cutting could go on, as water was required for fermentation of the crop. When harvesting for hay, rain could stop the process for days or weeks and ruin the fodder completely. It was also found that many kinds of plant growth would make good silage with highly nutritious content.  Thus many kinds of weeds made good silage and helped keep harmful growth down.

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