by Charlene Burgi
We have heard that history repeats itself, and yet we tend to forget the past or put historical events on the back burner of our minds and only remember when similar events rear up. “Oh yeah,” we say and go our merry way. But how wise are we to neglect what we know will occur over and over again?
Recently it was recommended I read a book entitled The Cattle King by Edward F. Treadwell. The book was published in 1931 and recorded the history of a German immigrant by the name of Henry Kreiser Miller who, after settling in California, amassed over one million acres of land with an equal number of cattle spread over five western states.
Mr. Miller started acquiring his property in California during the gold rush days—not for the purpose of accruing precious metal, but with the intention of feeding the people. Even before his land acquisitions, he recognized that California experienced dry periods that would be detrimental to livestock if food and water were not saved. During the good years, he conserved and stored excess feed and water for his cattle to keep afloat during the lean years.
This book reminded me of another, much older story that tells of seven lean years that followed seven “fattened” years. In the book of Genesis, Joseph takes precautions to prepare for dry years in Egypt by directing that 20 percent of all that grew during the good years be stored to sustain the people during the lean ones.
Both books spoke to me about the wealth these wise men acquired. They were respected for their wisdom to recognize historical patterns. Wealth and wisdom? Wealth means more than amassing fortunes. The wealth I acquired this morning came in the form of intermittent showers that provided just enough rain to muddy the paws of the pups as they frolicked outside and to provide much-needed sustenance to the parched landscape. But was I wise?
Some of my planters remained under the roof of the covered deck and stayed dry. We don’t have gutters due to the weight of snow that can accumulate on the roof, but I had always envisioned collecting the water falling along the drip line of the roof in a perforated pipe. During storms, the runoff could be directed to a tank at a lower elevation and stored for use in a time of need. The water would be good enough for watering the garden! But that didn’t get done either. Graywater systems would be a task to plumb now as the poly-steel construction of the house designed for R50 insulation makes it near impossible to drill through a foot of concrete. The saying “A penny wise and a pound foolish” takes on a whole new meaning for me.
How about you? Are you wise by saving the wealth that comes from storm clouds? Can you save 20 percent of the average amount of water that you use? How about saving just 10 percent? It isn’t too late to start conserving. Find tips and resources on our website to get started. Be like Mr. Miller and Joseph—proactively prepare for what we all know happens in California. Dry years happen with regularity. It is part of our California history!