Valley rancher cares for the land

The lush, green view residents and visitors of Carson Valley enjoy is the result of hardworking ranchers such as Arnold Settelmeyer, whose family has maintained the land for many generations.

Settelmeyer's day starts early. On Sept. 12, he was up just after 6 a.m., blowing out the dust in his John Deere tractor and hooking up the baler.

"It is darker so much later now," he said. "Right now, we have some heavy dews in the morning. It feels like fall and is actually cold this morning."

Settelmeyer's water rights to the Carson River were established in 1861. Nearly every day, water master Julian Larrouy indicates the river level and sorts out percentages allowed to rights holders.

Those figures give Settelmeyer the information on how much water to divert for his crops and cattle. He works on diversion spots near the Allerman Canal, regulating the right amount of water allowed this day.

As the sun starts to climb, Settelmeyer and son, James, start using machinery to sort and turn the hay to dry off the dew.

"If there is more than 13 percent moisture, the hay starts to mold," Settelmeyer said.

Later in the afternoon, they will make smaller bales for sale.

"There are two reasons for the smaller and lighter bales," he explains. "There is what we call the 'horse carriage market.'"

That's the small ranch owners who use the hay for horses.

"The ladies want to be able to lift it. It is a niche market for us."

Settelmeyer also sells 1-ton bales to dairies and commercial customers.

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That afternoon, the Settelmeyers start laser leveling a field on the east side of Highway 395 to seed garlic.

Equipment with a transmitter emits a plane of laser light invisible to the human eye. A receiver senses, or "receives," the laser signal. Monitor lights tell the operator whether to raise or lower the cutting edge. It allows precision work not possible with conventional grading methods.

Getting big and heavy ranch equipment to and from his property requires Settelmeyer to travel along Highway 395. The windrower, for instance, is 16 feet wide and travels at about 12 mph.

Settelmeyer said in the past, equipment movement was tolerated a lot better.

"The road rage has gone crazy," he said. "Driving down the highway with all those (traffic) cones is also a conflict.

"Of course, the rancher needs to be courteous and pull over when there are five cars behind. But in the past, people used to wave and be real friendly. Not anymore."

While his biggest product is cattle, 20 percent of his land is used for crops, such as hay and garlic.

Concern for the land is always on Settelmeyer's mind. As he travels along the pastures and river, he marvels in the beauty. After the 1997 flood, he built a wetlands pond and has made many improvements, including introducing new cottonwood and willow trees along the river banks that were destroyed by floods.

"A lot of things ranchers do help the environment," he said. "Not only for the balance of nature. But it's pretty."

Gazing out over his land, Settelmeyer can get choked up at the beauty.

"We have created a beautiful view," he said.


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