By Blaine Davis, Contributing Editor
With the allure of fresh mountain air and the accompanying vistas, I find myself behind the wheel traversing northeastern New Mexico. Heading to the inaugural Angel Fire Food and Wine Roundup, I’m amazed at an uncommon roadside spectacle of grazing lands teeming with lush, green grass and waterholes that actually were filled with water.
Contrasting with the usual arid summer conditions and lack of sustainable water witnessed for most of the 20 years of my pilgrimages to the Land of Enchantment, this August, numerous herds of cattle were enjoying the power of water. With a close friend and former owner of a large ranch running upward of 700 calving cows in this very area insists that this was not the norm. He experienced most grazing seasons that could only support one cow per 60 plus acres.
As I approached my destination in the mountains, the car radio’s intermittent news breaks interrupted the bliss I was experiencing with another reminder of the power of water. Hurricane Harvey was wrecking the south Texas coast with its own power of water. With each mile, the radio reported Harvey was taking dead aim on Port Aransas.
In the country’s fourth largest city, Houston, two-day rainfalls approaching 50 inches submerged the homes and businesses of millions of Texans. But, missing from most of these news reports were the effects Harvey was inflicting on this country’s third-largest agricultural state.
According to David Anderson, livestock economist with Texas A&M University, Texas’ 54 disaster-declared counties are populated by 1.2 million cows and calves. Contrasting the serene grazing I witnessed in New Mexico, Anderson said, “People were able to move some animals to higher ground, but in a storm like this, higher ground might still be under water.”
Adding to the hardship for many cattle operations, Texas grows more hay on forage land than any other state, and huge swaths of that land were under water as well. The total hay loss is “going to be a big number and a hardship that’s going to hit ranchers long after the storm is gone,” Anderson stated.
Compounded with the damages directly experienced on the farms and ranches, commodity markets again dipped downward as Texas shipping ports were shut down.
Taking another hit on commodity prices makes me reach for a drink – particularly a straight bourbon whiskey, not just to bolster the corn market but for that of its perceived “medicinal” effects. While not quite yet a connoisseur, I do follow the protocol of the true aficionados and drink my whiskey “neat,” sans water or soda.
With further research, I discover a chemistry lesson of another power of water. Adding as little as one teaspoon of water to 1½ oz. of eighty-proof whiskey changes its look, smell and taste for the better. As written by Kris Wu in Food Hacks Daily, aroma molecules, similar in composition to alcohol molecules, tend to bind together; like attracts like. With a few drops of water, the aroma molecules are dislodged from the alcohol and are freed to the air – and the scent, once locked in the liquor, is now discernible to your nose.
Just a few drops of water affect what is detected on the tongue as it becomes more receptive to fruity and salty flavors, not just the usual sweet and spicy flavors of strong liquor. Adding “hard water,’” – ice or “on the rocks” – can take the edge off the liquor burn that can be associated with lesser expensive distillations without dilution of the alcohol content.
Back from my mountain respite of food and beverage, it was time to return to my normal routine of combining architecture, some farm management and of course writing “Beyond the Ranch Gate.” Added to this I have developed a new fitness regime with many miles of running on the streets and trails of my hometown. I brag to any listening ear that I’ve dropped 15-18 lbs. since the beginning of 2017. With yet another power of water, eight daily glasses of this liquid has become integral to this physical training philosophy. According Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, M.D., consuming water helps maintain the balance of body fluids and energizes muscles, not to mention curbing hunger while cleansing the body of toxins. As our friends in Texas recover from the evil powers of water experienced with Hurricane Harvey, let’s pray that only the beneficial powers of water are with us through the rest of this year and the times to come.