Monthly Archives: May 2012

Better Shipping Days

We’ve had better days.

As Robbin, Zach and Clarence goosenecked their horses to gather our first-calf heifers and their Wagyu X calves, I grabbed a couple of bales from the hay barn on the way for chum, and for the extra calves that wouldn’t make the load that we’d be weaning. In the process of coming down the stack, I put a hay hook in my right hand.

Too much blood to contain with a tight handkerchief, I returned to the house for first aid supplies. Back on the road, I met Robbin and Clarence coming back when I didn’t show at the gate. 6:15 a.m.

I knew I needed stitches, but with truck and brand inspector coming at 8:00 a.m., calves to be sorted and weighed, I figured as long as I could keep the wound clean and blood contained, we needed to carry on. (We work all year for shipping day.) We had the heifers and steers weighed by 7:30. Jody Fuller arrived with her calves by gooseneck to fill-out the load at 8:00 a.m., having had a little trouble getting her cows in. We weighed them all, sorted, and then weighed back the heifers. 8:45 a.m.

4,500 lbs. over the truck’s legal weight limit with a 3% shrink, we then had to pull and weigh enough calves to load the truck to get by the scales on Donner on the way to Idaho. The truck left at 10:00 a.m., but not before many recalculations as to how to disperse the load by the truck driver who also let a calf escape. Not good, but easily recaptured by Robbin and Zach.

After irrigating and setting-up a feeder in the corrals for the extra calves we’d be weaning, Robbin and I left at 11:00 for the two week-old Health Clinic in nearby Woodlake, opting to forgo the usual insanity at Emergency in Visalia, where we waited and waited in a near-empty waiting room. Close to a tendon, the nurse practitioner cleaned-up the wound but didn’t want to do any sewing. We left for Kaweah Delta Hospital Emergency at 1:30 p.m., picked-up some antibiotics in Exeter and stopped to get something to eat at 4:00 p.m. on our way home.

I left to check on the calves we just weaned and to see how the mowing in the irrigated pasture was going. Home by 6:00 p.m., Robbin thought she heard water running and located a PVC pipe to the house that the cattle had cracked while we were gone. Plumbing done by 7:30 p.m., we sat down for a drink in the last of the gloaming.

Woke up this morning to a flat tire on the Kubota, but we’re laughing, glad not to be racing down the highway to punch someone else’s time clock.

Meeting the Bohemian

Jess & Jaro

A whirlwind visit with Jessica and her fiancee Jaro, from the Czech Republic, over Mother’s Day weekend. Quick tour of Greasy Creek and evening fun before heading back to Kauai. Sweet memories.

for the archives

Mother’s Day 2012

Mariposa Lily – May 12, 2012

…no other number I can dial to wish you well. Happy Mother’s Day!


Wheel off the wagon, mind running
through grasses turning brown around
little spots of color, eyes combing

the deep meander of yesterday’s cows
and calves in crooked furrows like earth
laid back in waves of stems and heavy

heads, parted in passing, brush of bellies
grazing—a mouthful left, here and there.
No man I knew as a boy would look

for flowers, would take or waste those times
when the sun raced days across the sky.
Some things were never true, never

considered, yet I am consumed, bending
closer to purple faces before they die,
stepping around happy families smiling

upwards, short-lived clusters beneath
a sea of grasses as my own looks down
at what’s become of their wild seed.

Kaweah Brodiaea Bloom

I’m attempting to document my unsubstantiated thesis that the bloom period for the Kaweah Brodiaea is extremely short, making it pretty tough to find and identify. Additionally, I’ve found it blooming in the canopy of other grasses. I could only find the wildflower in one place this morning, the number in bloom substantially decreased, none at all in the other three locations I’ve been visiting. Temperatures have been in the mid-90s. I suspect in a day or two, their bloom will be over. Meanwhile the Harvest Brodiaea is popping up everywhere.

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 11, 2012

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 11, 2012

See ‘ODDS & ENDS’ for more current photos.


                                                  Everything that slows us down and forces
                                                  patience, everything that sets us back
                                                  into the slow cycle of nature, is a help.
                                                  Gardening is an instrument of grace.

May Sarton – courtesy of Wikipedia

We could set our watches by poor dirt farmers
rising with the birds in the fields. The Orioles show
within Redbud leaves, sing gleefully to the Burr Oak,
then visit the Palo Verde for a new limb to hang

a nest above the ripening strawberries, appraising
the near apricot, early and late peach, apples and pears,
especially the cherries—the price of a summer song,
the colorful return of old adversaries, first hot day.

We become part of a slow dance of certain cogs
and wheels that coast or disappear, slip and spin
to reengage into a familiar forward gear, swept-up
by seasons, sun and all our near neighbors busy

raising families, making good livings around us.
Shiny black feathers a glint in the sun, his beak
agape, he pants with wings unfurled to an upcanyon
draft and waits until she arrives at the water trough

for an evening drink together, all-day gathering
eggs, dodging posses of flycatchers through oak trees.
We do the same, tip our glass in the gloaming glad
another day is done, making plans for another.


Bob Blesse of Black Rock Press left this soothing epigram from May Sarton on Facebook a few days ago.


We draw lines, sort
the good and bad
like fruit that won’t last
forever. It’s how we are
with new things
that don’t quite fit
what we remember
of the old ways
marked by seasons,
never one the same.

All the dust and dirt
in ’77, the leppy wanderings
when it could not rain,
hillsides solid gold
in the warm wet spring
of ’78—we survived them.

But hard to say, today
what resilient beauty waits—
how the bad fruit rots
and its seed takes hold
to make a generous tree.


Upon a rock,
or in the bare middle
of the trail or asphalt,
I make one more claim
on everything I see.
I need no deed

when you’re asleep
or awake, I own
your dreams, always
skulking at the edge
of the picture frame
in your living room—

or just outside
marking your doorstep
as part of the circle
I keep clean. I go where I want
and damn-sure don’t need
a permit to sing.

Kaweah Brodiaea

In the early 1980s, I got a call from Larry Norris who was conducting a Biological Assessment of the area below Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River for the US Army Corps of Engineers, in the early stages of exploring alternatives to increase storage of Kaweah River runoff. Over the phone, Larry was trying to obtain permission to access a flat area of about 300 acres in Section 26 that, according to the maps he was given, belonged to the USACE where he had found a large population of Kaweah Brodiaea, a species that had been presumed extinct since the 1920s. We agreed to meet and go to the site together.

In the late 1950s, my father and grandfather were embroiled in a condemnation action with the Feds over the initial construction of Terminus Dam in which they prevailed, requiring the USACE to revest some of the condemned property back to the family. Larry Norris had been given one of the old maps for his survey. As was typical of Corps projects in those days, the take was more than needed for the clay core of the dam.

Since Norris’ discovery, the Kaweah Brodiaea has been found elsewhere in the Kaweah River watershed, especially in the Three Rivers area, where it halted or slowed both private and public development and construction, even home remodeling. Though most people could not identify the wildflower, or distinguish it from the plentiful Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea Elegans, it was an unpopular species in the Kaweah River watershed nonetheless.

It was early summer when Larry and I went to the site and the Brodiaea had already gone to seed, which he identified for me, scratching through the dead debris of fillaree and foxtails, the details of an exercise I can no longer remember. But to have a large population of a rare and endangered plant listed by the California Native Plant Society and the State of California on the ranch, I thought it important to be able to identify it, but it wasn’t until the first of May in 2011 that I actually found and photographed it, aided by the memory of where Larry Norris had found its seeds. Though the Jepson manual cites livestock grazing as a threat to the Kaweah Brodiaea, its seeds survived the Drought of 1977 when Section 26 was grazed down to the dirt.

Part of the difficulty of finding the Kaweah Brodiaea is that it blooms prior to the Elegans or common Harvest Brodiaea and that its blooming period is much shorter, depending on temperatures in the first week in May. In 2011, the bloom period for the Insignis was ten days, where as the Elegans can last over a month, quite showy over dry grasses. Secondly, its on a much shorter stem and oftentimes difficult to find or see among all the other grasses.

I have included photographs below to help distinguish the Insignis from the Elegans. Noticeable differences are the flat petals and convex stamen of the Insignis. Also note the differences in the two species as the petals break into full bloom.

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2011

Kaweah Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

Harvest Brodiaea – May 4, 2012

May Cattle – Top

May 3, 2012

Some older cows and their calves on the Top.

May 3, 2012

One of three stray replacement heifers that have come back to the Top where they were raised.