LAST LOAD TO IDAHO

Photo by Terri Blanke

 

Say good-bye to your mothers

for the long ride

all you children—

the truck is clean

shavings on the floor.

Driver said it snowed

before he left,

needed chains on Donner

rolling empty here in May.

 

We shake our heads

about the weather,

damn little rain,

the creek’s gone dry.

With a week of winds

the oaks have come alive,

tree limbs dancing

like separate tongues

trying to lick the sky.

 

 

We shipped our last load of Wagyu X calves to Snake River Farms on Tuesday as we continue to gather and wean our Angus calves.  Both cows and calves have done well despite the extremely dry spring, in part because of our heavy culling that cut our cow herd by a third after only six inches of rain the year before. With drought across the Western US, cow numbers are down everywhere resulting in a stronger market than we’ve seen in years. With unpredictable weather, higher costs for grain and inflation, we may be raising beef we can’t afford to eat.

AFTER TAO TE CHING

                        What calamity is greater than no contentment,

                        And what flaw greater than the passion for gain?

                                    Tao Te Ching (“46”) Book of Songs)  

 

Following ten years drought,

gusty evenings under gray clouds

add depth to blond hillsides—

contrasting tomorrow’s summer feed

 

that begs embracing,

that begs old flesh to awaken,

 

but begs no mention but to look

with an empty mind.

 

 

MOWING

 

After I mowed the lawn, I opened the gate for the cows and their Wagyu X calves to the horse pasture to eat the grass and weeds horses don’t like to lessen the fire danger and make it easier to spot a rattlesnake at a distance.  A treat for the cattle as we wait to process their calves on Tuesday and a treat for us to see them in the evenings. 

 

We let our big dog Buster, a Great Pyrenees/German Shepard X that was part of the litter dumped on Dry Creek Road several years ago, loose to work at night keeping the coyotes, feral pigs, raccoons, skunks, etc. out of the yard.  We don’t want him to make a mistake while we’re sleeping, so we move the cattle out before dark.

 

Last night, Robbin walked and worked our Border Collie Tessa on commands to gently ease them toward and out the open gate—a great exercise and confidence builder for them both.  Tessa has been with us enough around the cows to know how we work them (old people slow) and plenty of herd in her breeding.  I’m guessing they’ll do it again tonight, it’s been good watching.

 

BECKONING

 

Yesteryear calls out of the blue

in these piebald canyons turning brown

yawning across a shrinking creek

 

to leave a confidential message—

not in words, but deeds.  Faces,

always faces.  Big George Hubble

 

in grade school who loaned me a dime

for a lemon bar popsicle

I never paid back. Some call

 

from out of the ground

that I never knew had gone on

to find their relief.

 

Some faces leave no names,

or none I can remember,

to console me as I did them

 

during the paisley days of a jungle war

I missed for a football knee

trying to be a hero.

 

 

OUT OF HIBERNATION

 

Stealing the warmth of gravel

an inch at a time, famished

after winter’s long dream

 

of what’s on the menu:

blind hatch appetizers

or a full-grown squeeze.

 

https://drycrikjournal.com/2021/09/04/tight-squeeze/

 

READY FOR PROCESSING

iPhone Photo by Terri Blanke

 

We’ve begun processing our Wagyu calves with a second round of vaccinations for Snake River Farms that we plan to ship in the first week of May. Each calf gets an Electronic Identification (EID) button and a tag to match at the same time. These calves are from our first-calf heifers that we poured the hay to from last July into December because of the short feed and to keep our first-calf heifers in shape to cycle and breed back. We don’t have to run the numbers to know that these calves won’t bring enough to pay for the hay we fed.

 

Every feed season is different, even in a drought.  The Christmas rains saved our bacon, over 3 inches or nearly a third of our rainfall to date. And again, in the nick of time, two storm at the end of February and beginning of March that offered nearly 1 ½ inches.  The three events made pretty decent feed in the corrals above and elsewhere as we approach the end our rainy season—nothing forecast for the next two weeks—proving once again that it’s not the quantity of rain, but the timing that’s most important in the cattle business. 

 

With a shortage of water to irrigate alfalfa in California, hay will be expensive.  Having cut our herd by a third last year (6 inches total), we hope there will be enough old feed to carry us through until November without feeding much hay in our upper country. However, we’ll have to help our younger cows in our lower country where the south and west slopes have already turned brown.  How many will be the question. 

 

We couldn’t keep any replacement heifers last year, and may not this year as the market gets stronger.  We’ll be making lots of decisions in the coming thirty days as we begin to harvest this year’s crop and plan for the next.

 

LANDMARKS

Wuknaw, Yokuts Creation Place

 

As children in the mountains

we learned to walk in the dark

on the uneven ground we knew

sometimes shadowed by starlight

or an occasional moon.

 

It was a wonder watching it rise

behind the far pines

as we lay on our backs

supposing excitedly about something

long since resolved,

 

but such a luxury to feel the hair

on familiar cedars, puzzle

over the sap of sugar pines,

fish the river for adventure

in the old days.

 

Time has simplified my map

to safe and basic trails

with many landmarks,

each with a story

to remind me where I am.

 

AWAKENING

 

The hollow sounds before daylight,

hillside Roadrunners awakening in the black,

their plaintive solos, reverberating notes

 

awaiting an answer, a location, a place

to be filled in the future, a pile of twigs

within the spines of cactus

 

beneath this soft comforter of clouds,

days trailing a meager rain to shield us

and the dew upon the grass.

 

The day is yet empty, moments awaiting

purpose and order. In my mind, I see

the tools I’ll need to be useful.

 

 

BATTLE LINES

 

Always a hole in the law,

in the black sky where the March moon

bores into your mind,

 

along the borders

between you and Nature

tirelessly encroaching.

 

She lives in town, the nurse

taking my blood pressure,

wants to know about the moths

 

driving her inside the house

with her kids

on the block of last night’s shooting.

 

I can’t imagine trying to sleep in a city.

First 80-degree day,

surrounded by colorful pastures

 

of wildflowers, thigh-high,

we can feel the snakes

crawling out of hibernation—

 

even the dogs are cautious,

as they check last year’s beds

dug in the shade of the deck.

 

The ebb and flow of skirmishes,

prey and predator, man and beast

until the end of time.

 

 

WOBBLY WORLD

 

I wake to a full moonlit room,

a cyclops train bearing down on me

from over the black ridge—

 

            clackity-clack,

            there is no going back

            to find my dreams.

 

Still steady at a distance

killing things, I would have been

a good soldier, gorilla-style—

 

I know the place to go

to lift the pain away, to become

an instrument of peace

 

for the suffering, for the enemy

forever an ugly man

obsessed with efficiency.

 

The madman’s war and refugees—

what peace has he

within his hollow bunker

 

extinguishing what he wants

just to flaunt his power

for a wobbly world to see?