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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

God directed Moses to call forth water from the rock.

ne Wotahakjse onn ne dräje Tiet

    For centuries, Amish Americans and Russländer Mennonites have attempted to establish homes in dry hostile environments and to survive draught in part by practicing the mysterious and controversial art of water dowsing.  In Montana, we refer to this as water witching – the practice of attempting to find water by noting reactions and vibrations in a wooden or metal stick.  My grandfather, Albert Wall, used a long metal rod and spent many an afternoon trying to determine water resources on his Montana farm.  According to his stories, his grandfather, J. C. Wall, had located at least three water wells using a willow wand – though at least one of these seems to me to a rather common sense location due to surface evidence of a high water table.

    In Nuevo Ideal, Mexico, distant cousins are currently attempting to deal with the consequences of a harsh drought.  A few are moving to Canada but others are attempting to either ride out the difference between the drought year and a promising recovery, or even to identify new water resources.  Apparently, Mexican Mennonite Peter Wall has inherited the knack for dowsing – though his method is described as that of using two metal wands – one in each hand, to determine the location, quantity and depth of the water table.  Who knows – there might be something to this.  While water dowsing is certainly not considered to be scientific, neither would Mennonites sanction the practice of magic – so the practice is seemingly more complicated than doubters would have us believe. 

  According to  INFORMADOR.COM.MX, Castiga la sequia a los menonitas, (09 Apr), large numbers of Nuevo Ideal’s Russian Mennonites are leaving the colonies in Mexico due to the high draught conditions.  Many of those leaving have dual citizenship between Mexico and Canada and are resettling in Ontario.
    The drought seems to be affecting farms and families in different manners.  According to the article, the Mennonites of Nuevo Ideal have had a good harvest with plenty of feed for the dairy cattle and families are seeking Federal assistance to aid in their recovery from the drought. 
    The article says of this region, “The streets, wide and unpaved but with a good grade, are an example of the order which governs the life of the settlement’s inhabitants.  From early morning stainless steel vessels containing milk from the dairies wait outside the homes of wood with their tin roofs.  The milk will be taken to the cooperative where it is made into cheese and cream.”
   Las calles, anchas y sin pavimentar pero con un buen trazo, son una muestra del orden que rige la vida da sus pobladores.  Desde temprano aguardan afuera de las casas de madera y de techos de lamina los recipients de acero inoxidable que contienen la leche que se logró de la ordeña de las vacas, la cual server para la elaboración de quesos y crema en la cooperativa del lugar.
    For those looking for alternatives, such as the Bernard Braun family, explain, “This year has been tough for us, many people have suffered from drought, livestock grazing is very expensive and there is no money to buy it.  We are in poverty but with the hope that we will do better.” 
    “Este año ha sido duro para nosotros, mucha gente ha sufrido por la sequía, la pastura para el ganado está muy cara y no se tiene dinero para comprarla; estamos en la pobreza, pero con la esperanza de que nos va a ir major.”
     Many are ambivalent about moving to Canada.  Those who make the move try to find jobs in agriculture but have to pay higher Canadian prices for rent and transportation – about US$2,000 per month.  And working hours are longer.
The Suderman's Dig Irrigation Ditches, courtesy EL UNIVERSAL
    Braun explains that he thinks it is better to stay in Durango where they have their own home and a normal working day.  Somewhat surprisingly, he is mentioned as pulling out a modern Blackberry to talk to his cousin about chores (ibid) – in the same way that we once used walkie-talkies and cb’s and have now turned to cell phones where service is available.

    In order to help those Mennonites who decide to stay, the government is issuing permits to dig wells for irrigation.

    The Aaron Guenther Suderman family has benefited from the new well permits.  A diesel generator runs a pump to bring groundwater to the surface where it is fed into radiating shallow ditches -- not dissimilar to the smaller, shallower ditches many American prairie farmwives use to water their extensive gardens.  Still, operating modern electrical equipment brings its own challenges.  Says Suderman, "This past year was dry, almost no rain, so I found I had to install an electric power substation as the diesel generator used to power the wells is very expensive to operate."
   “Este año que pasó fue muy seco, casi no llovió, por lo que tuve que buscar que me instalaran una subestación de energía eléctrica, pues el diesel que se utiliza para que funcionen los pozos es muy caro.”
    The article indicates that the Mennonite crops of oats and forage for dairy cattle are heavily dependent on irrigation and that right now, growing plots irrigated by modern equipment contrasts starkly with other barren fields which have been prepared but not planted for lack of moisture.
   That is where Peter Wall comes into the picture.  As a water dowser, he is able to practice his unique talent to help find water.  According to the article, a well capable of producing six inches of water is enough to irrigate 40 hectares or almost 100 acres.
    Because there has been no rainfall over the colony’s farms, they are hoping to locate sufficient ground water resources.  Wall does this by walking over the land while holding two slender metal wands with a crook for a handle in each hand.  Theoretically, the two wands will swing together and intersect above the location of ground water where a well might be dug.
    His rate of success is not reported.
    Regardless, his water dowsing both continues an old Mennonite tradition and demonstrates a quiet determination to survive on the Nuevo Ideal lands the Mennonites have farmed for over 80 years.
     As efforts to find water and dig wells to support the dairies go on, the cooperative dairy processing plant continues to process 80 tons of milk per day, producing 4,000 blocks of cheese (Queso Mennonita) and other products such as cream and as other articles have noted, increasingly cottage cheese.

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