People like to worry about oil and things made from oil. I don’t worry much about it; I just try to buy as little as possible. The commodity that holds my attention has always been water. This week we renewed our source for water by digging a well and it is the topic of this week’s column.
No one likes to be hungry, however you can live for weeks without food, even poor quality food will keep you alive. Without water, you would soon dryly pass back to dust. This same truth extends to our cattle for whom this well was dug. I get a kick out of people who hope to put good weight on pasture cattle but allow those same cattle to drink from the same place they go to the bathroom. The cornerstone of good cattle health is making sure they eat and drink good things. A cow, who is producing milk, will drink about twenty gallons (160 pounds) per day while taking in about 50 pounds of forage. Using these amounts comparatively, you can affect cattle health three times as much by what they eat as what they drink.
Our current water system contains mechanical elements that are probably as old as the farm. A pump jack slowly pulls (two gallons per minute) water up into a tank which stores about 350 gallons at a time. I then have a pressure pump which draws from the tank and pressurizes that water through an underground pipeline. This system worked okay but so did bucking hay prior to the baler.
Jeff Davidson from Newfolden, MInnesota arrived the other day with his well-drilling rig. It sat for awhile so I looked it over at my leisure. It reminded me of the rig that Jeff’s dad used to drill a well at my parent’s farm about three decades ago. I remembered from that experience that my dad told me I could watch but to stay well out of the way when the work was being done. I tried to follow that advice but I am still curious and I believe I have gotten underfoot a couple of times in my curiosity.
A well is dug with a large derrick mounted on the back of Davidson’s Mack truck. The derrick seems to exist only to lift the drilling pipe high into the air in an effort to marry it to the end of the pipe that is already in the ground. The action of twisting the drill pipe and forcing it downward appears to be the job of a collar the sits about four feet above the ground and is driven by the truck engine. The drill bit on the business end free-wheels and is driven by the action of its contact with the ground. Jeff told me the bit was invented by the famous director/industrialist/professional womanizer Howard Hughes. Drilling a well is a slow process and although the point of this act is water, I believe an unintended side-effect must be increased patience. I don’t think I could do it.
In the end we will have a modern water-delivery system. It will probably be the last well I drill before I no longer need water. The cattle occasionally watch Jeff in his work but they have no idea the work being done for them. All they know is what we all know; there is nothing like cool, clear water.