Monthly Archives: May 2013

Ravage Her, Ravage Her, Leave Her in Heaps: Links

Photo by David T. Hanson from the The Design Observer Group.  "Strip mine and abandoned farm, 1985"

Photo by David T. Hanson
from the The Design Observer Group. “Strip mine and abandoned farm, 1985”

Warren Buffet’s Coal Problem

Photo Gallery: David T. Hanson

Arch Coal Posts $70 Million Loss

Arch Coal, Inc. (ACI) stock chart

Arch Coal Laying Off 750 Workers in Appalachia

In Montana, Ranchers Line Up Against Coal

Federal Court Backs EPA Regulation of Mountaintop Removal

H. Paul Moon Video of Wallace McRae: ‘Things of Intrinsic Worth’

Mother Nature’s Pruning Process

As we complete Week 4 of weaning calves, the poetic muse becomes more illusive. Matters of the mind give in to the fatigue of the flesh and center almost completely now on cattle. Summer is seldom a productive writing season for me as temperatures heat up, having to rise earlier to get the work done when it’s cool that takes time away from my word play. Furthermore, calves in the weaning pen need feed everyday, and those already weaned need supplement while on the irrigated pasture where water also needs to be moved to keep the grass green. Meanwhile we gather our mountain pastures, cull cows and haul calves, working around the daily chores. It’s what we do this time of year, albeit three weeks earlier than usual due to our dry spring. We lean forward, putting one foot ahead of the other, that slow momentum that Wendell Berry calls plodding.

Naturally, the calves are lighter, the market a little weaker, we’ll take a hit but carry on. But what has become evident this year as we palpate (preg-check) our second-calf heifers, always difficult to get to breed back, our 60% normal rainfall was not enough to get much more than 55% of them to conceive. Ouch, we’ll take another hit.

We know going-in that the first-calf heifers, our Wagyu X mamas, need supplemental feeding to stay in shape to cycle and breed back. But as I’ve learned from previous dry years, alfalfa hay will not replace strong native feed to get a cow to cycle. Hence, we have a lot invested in these heifers that will not have a calf this fall. However, their Wagyu X calf offset some of those expenses, but we’re looking two years away before these three year-old heifers pay us with another calf.

To replace them with the yearling heifers we are currently weaning will take two years to wean a calf as well, however they are not proven breeders or mothers yet, 20-30% will not be mature enough to cycle and breed this winter. And that’s the dilemma: either keep the proven mothers that will hold their value with the cost of pasture or sell them now and hope the yearlings will pick up the slack in 2015.

Going into calving time this fall, we know our dry feed will be thin, that we’ll have to buy more hay, our only reprieve would be some early rains to start next year’s native grass. We would have better odds in Las Vegas.

With three more weeks of weaning yet to go, we’ve already taken the lighter end of our calves to town, sold our late calvers and the older cows we’ve gathered that might have difficulty making it through another winter trying to raise one more calf. We’ve opted to go with youth and early calvers, deciding to give our open second-calf heifers another chance, believing that the genetics we’ve worked years to develop are worth taking a chance on.

Right or wrong, we understand that Mother Nature is in charge.





The old trees have eyes
and gaping mouths
that try to speak
of what they’ve seen
before I came.

The granite grins
and looks inside my mind
to imagine everything
that has never been, yet.
The Red Tail follows

from oak to oak. Quail
run on invisible wheels
ahead of the tittering
of little birds scattering
the news as they go.

Without his shadow,
the coyote can’t see
his silhouette from the shade,
does not know that I can
act as obvious as he.

A doe and fawn freeze.
A bobcat lopes off
as I arrive. Everyone becomes
a messenger, even me,
packing salt to cows.

For The Birds





Juvenile Blue Heron

Juvenile Blue Heron




The dead and early leaves of Buckeyes cling
to great arms of flesh broken under low snows
look much the same in May as those rooted
in the earth, all shades of brown—yet severed.

Live Oaks on their sides like dominos collapsed
in the middle of a green thicket. Blue Oaks
stand like statues to disfigured soldiers after
war—all casualties of time—time will repair.

But a man steps lightly, carries a chain saw,
clears the way to mend his fences, rebuilds
surveyed lines through the downfall,
over rocks and rills you can’t feel on paper.

It is beyond us, always going on and on,
sometimes growing wilder in the process
when man’s dreams weaken with his flesh.
And therein the hope for new beginnings:

fresh spring starts and stems to learn again—
the great nature of things going on without
attention, without notice that still pumps
within us yet. We just don’t know it.

Early Morning Count


Pogue Canyon in the background.

One Day Bloom



from Garden Journal<May Flowers 2013

Weaning Calves


We weaned the calves above from Section 17 in the Greasy Creek watershed yesterday. We will haul them down the hill this morning after we preg-check our second-calf heifers, this year’s Wagyu X mothers. We will haul the bred cows up the hill, calves down.

Our thoughts about fenceline weaning have changed somewhat in the past couple of years. With the stress on both cow and calf our primary consideration, we’ve noticed that both cow and calf become more frustrated and fret more with just a fence between them. Completely separated from one another, they seem to get over the process in about four or five days, as opposed to a week. So we’re tweaking our program accordingly. The sooner we can get them down the hill where we can control the dust with sprinklers, the sooner we can reduce potential respiratory and eye problems.

The calves look 50-100 lbs. lighter this year, but we’re also weaning two or three weeks earlier than normal due to the dry spring.


Tree House