My Thoughts · Ranching

Is a Windmill Important to a Rancher?

Windmills dot the southwest landscape. Their massive structure stands sentinel on the plains where I grew up. Dad and Granddad often spent hours fixing them, but I really had no idea of their value. How important are windmills to ranchers anyway?

My brother and I own a ranch in southeastern Colorado, and we have four windmills on the ranch. Three are operative, but last week in a furious wind storm, our main windmill in our summer pasture broke—the fan broke off and was hanging on the platform by the blades. It felt ominous for sure. With our raging drought, this windmill is a vital water source for part of the herd of cattle on the ranch.


Most windmills used in the Great Plains were of self-governing design. This means that they automatically turned to face changing wind directions and automatically controlled their own speeds of operation to avoid destruction from centrifugal force during high winds. 


http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.ii.062

I’ve seen this happen–facing one direction, then another; however, the wind storm that broke this windmill must have been a mighty one then!

Within a couple days, the windmill fixit man came from Folsom, New Mexico, and I had the treat of my life. My brother and I witnessed the crew of three fix the windmill.

We stood to the side, wrapped up in our coats and hoodies with a cold breeze cooling the February morning. Every phase of the work fascinated me. I grabbed my iPhone and captured as many pictures as I could.

They had a boom on their truck to lift the broken fan off of the tower. This magical operation took three men: one agile small guy up on the platform standing below the fan who hooked a chain around the fan, two men on the ground with one running the boom and the other ready to handle the fan as it came down.

The Agile Man Up on the Platform

Here’s a diagram of the parts of a windmill:

Then the work began. The young man on top took off the broken piece that the fan attached to, dropped it down unceremoniously, and they hoisted a new one up to him. The two men on the ground fixed any break to the fan, using lots of oil and elbow grease. After the two below fixed the fan, they sent it up the tower with the boom, and attached it to the new piece.

The Boom That Made the Fix Much Easier

Then they pulled out the sucker rod and the pipe it goes through. They measured the depth of the water, and the results were really sad to us. We’ve experienced a horrible drought the last couple years. We’ve received sufficient water to grow grass, but not enough to fill reservoirs and not enough deep water for the aquifer to fill the wells. A couple years ago, this well measure 17 feet deep; now it is 8.5!

Look at the size of the fan!

My brother had witnessed windmill repair as a youngster, so this was not new to him. I stepped in closer to see the work. While they had the working parts apart, the young man offered to show me the workings of the guts of the mill and how a windmill works—I had no ideas.

The Inner Workings of a Windmill

We also wanted to see how many gallons the well pumped a minute, but there’s a strange quirk with this well—it’s not straight down, so the pump they tried to put down the pipe wouldn’t go.

I’ve always had an unusual attraction to windmills and taken lots of pictures. To me, a windmill silhouetted in a sunset makes a beautiful, peaceful photograph. For us on the plains and high desert, we depend on the successful operation of a windmill. We have no rivers or live water on our ranch—a windmill provides that much needed water for the livestock. My respect for these giant wonders has grown in leaps and bounds and the maintenance of them.

Have you ever been attracted to photograph a windmill? Have you ever wonder about how they work?

Here’s how a windmill works:

  1. The wind turns the fan at the top of the windmill.
  2. The fan turns a set of gears called the motor.
  3. The motor pulls a pump rod up and down.
  4. The pump rod operates a piston in a cylinder pump located in the well.  This piston contains one o more valves.
  5. As the piston descends, its valve opens to allow the piston to pass through a water column held in check by another, lower valve.
  6. When the piston ascends again, the piston valve closes to prevent the water from flowing backward as the piston pulls the column up the pipe.
  7. At the same time, the lower valve opens to allow water to enter the pump and fill the vacuum created by the upward motion of the piston.  This is the new water column.
  8. The cycle repeats over and over again, working the water up the pipe until it overflows into a tank. https://homesteadontherange.com/2013/08/27/the-old-fashioned-windmill/

If you’d like a visual of how a windmill works, go to https://web.archive.org/web/20121028095740/http://www.aermotorwindmill.com/how-a-windmill-works.html

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

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My Thoughts · Ranching

Who is the Biggest Gambler in the World?

ace achievement banknote blackjack
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What’s your guess?

  • Their livelihood depends on Mother Nature
  • They have no control over what they need to prosper
  • They watch the skies, hoping and praying for rain!
  • They go about their daily business while their hearts ache for a reprieve!

photography of a person riding horse
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

My dad said repeatedly, “Ranchers and farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world–always depending on Mother Nature for the precious rain they need for crops, for reservoir water, and to grow grass.

Could you handle the stress? the strain? the not knowing? If you have a predictable payday, then you have no idea what these men and women face every day.

My brother and I inherited our family ranch five years ago, and the droughty years stress me out. This year we have gotten rain for grass but many of our reservoirs were empty all summer and finally have gotten a little in the last couple weeks.

We had a storm on Wednesday in the town I grew up in which is just 4 – 6 miles from where we need our ponds filled. We got almost two inches in town, but the storm lightened up the further east you went, so the reservoirs that need it right now preparing for the winter didn’t get it.

I agree with my Dad, a rancher his whole life, “Yes, they are the biggest gamblers, but the perks are worth it.”

Let it rain!


Could you be a rancher, a farmer?

 


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