Monthly Archives: August 2013

The New First Calf


Checking on our first Wagyu X calf Tuesday morning, I could see from the gate a considerable flapping of black wings beneath the hillside oak tree where I left our new pair with a couple of flakes of hay the day before. My heart sank, then rose again as the calf seemed to come alive beneath a dozen Ravens hopping, vying for position over the lifeless black lump with an empty hole in its abdomen, the heifer standing off to one side.

The Ravens had either badgered the calf to death early that morning or late the evening before while the heifer was away getting a drink or it died while its new mother was off with the other heifers grazing socially. In either event, the new mothered suffered from what I have recently acronymed as IMI, insufficient maternal instincts.

Looking back, I had sensed it from the beginning. Beyond the monetary loss, the two-year investment to get a live calf on the ground, it’s always terribly sad and disappointing to lose a calf, but its part of the cow and calf business. The heifer passed the fertility test but failed as a mother, for whatever reasons. In our selection process for replacing older cows, we strive for genetics that can raise a calf and make a living on our native feed. She’ll go to town this spring when she is fat.

As part of the Age & Source verification process, we keep track of the birthdays of our first and last calves. Yesterday’s number 2 heifer (Tag # 2068 above) is now number 1, August 28, 2013.


When in town I say
“Cool” a lot hoping
my age doesn’t show

too much. After a lifetime
of progress, being hip
is not near as urgent

as being ignorant
of instant-everything
that is insulting.

First-Calf Heifers 2013



As in past years, we keep our first-calf heifers in two bunches on either side of the road near the house where we can watch them. Bred to Wagyu bulls, these coming two year-olds are due to begin calving tomorrow. First Wagyu X calf arrived yesterday to #2153 below.



It takes concentration
to write poetry and shoot
woodpeckers at the same time—
glass of red beside a young
Valley Oak loaded with acorns.
They slip in when your head is down
to yellow paper—yackety-yak
and stir the leaves as kittens wait
for something good to fall from the sky.
The bushtits believe there is a god
when we turn the misters on at six,
come flitting in a bunch to bathe


We have almost all of the equipment, all the gadgetry
we need to freeze and hold a moment, to contain
and carry with us, to taste and drink from like a canteen

when we are sad or lonely, when we are too tired
to find the chords and turn it to song—too deaf
to hear the Muse beg for her release. Your father’s

Martin has a history before hanging in a pawnshop
we’ll not know, but since it sings beneath your fingers
come the evening of light. We turn songs loose

to find new homes between trees sighing from the heat,
to rest among the shadows of oaks and sycamores—
imperfect melodies of humans, of natives here again.

Weather Update

Moonstone Beach

Moonstone Beach

For a break from the heat, Robbin and I took off for Paso Robles Saturday to catch Wiilie Nelson’s 80th Birthday Celebration tour at the Pozo Saloon on Sunday. We stayed at the historic Paso Robles Inn both nights before driving 30 minutes over the Coast Range to fogbound Cambria for a temperature change from 100+° to 60°. Paso Robles was just as hot as home, though cooling down substantially by evening where we had a wonderful dinner with Steve and Jody Fuller at Villa Creek and where we also stumbled onto a great Cabernet from Vina Robles . About 15 miles southeast of Santa Margarita, the opening acts to Willie’s concert were likewise very warm.



Well-fed gals in too small clothes, white flesh
turned loose with wafts of weed, dreadlocks
and colorful tattoos blistering on a Sabbath
August afternoon waiting to celebrate his 80th —
sunburnt mass of humanity on the move
like milling cattle from too few shade trees
to tented misters, beer booths and tri-tip piled high
with nothing in common but perspiration and Willie Nelson.


With most kids already in school, Moonstone Beach was a quiet change with lots of senior citizens about, many of who walk their dogs on the boardwalk—just our speed. Moonstone’s draw for us is the fresh seafood at The Sea Chest that takes no reservations or credit cards. Over the years we’ve come to know the chefs behind the Oyster Bar where we always seem to make new acquaintances while we gorge ourselves. Strategically, we stayed next door at the Little Sur Inn, a weak stone’s throw or short walk across the parking lot away.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the monsoonal flow began building thunderheads over the Sierras Saturday afternoon accompanied by lightening. Yosemite’s Rim Fire has grown to 54,000 acres or 84 square miles since Saturday with only 2% containment. Monday’s high was 109° before the thunderstorms built into horrific winds and light rain here, taking limbs from trees and the roof off our neighbor’s barn. Good to get home, but it’s still HOT!

Coolin’ Down



Changing Totems



I have mentioned that Wy-lee, the Roadrunner with droopy wing that essentially lived in our garden this summer, disappeared about the time the Cooper’s Hawk arrived, inferring that Cooper’s Hawk ate Wy-lee. We don’t know, but Wy-lee has been replaced by another Roadrunner, though not near as tame. In any case, the Cooper’s Hawk, a female I believe, has taken center stage on an evening when we are sprinkling the lawn, after a daytime high of 103°.



It’s a fairly common practice when feeding alone to put the pickup in gear, preferably low-low range 4×4, climb on the back and begin flaking the alfalfa off in pieces small enough so that all the cattle get equal chances at the hay. The first prerequisite is flat ground, occasionally looking up to see where you’re heading, conscious of rocks, holes and trees. The ‘on and off’ the back of truck gets trickier with age, flatbeds much safer than pickup boxes, in my estimation.

Just out of college, I was feeding out of the back of a standard pickup in ‘autopilot’ on rough ground. Hit a bump and fell over the wheel well, but fortunately my boot toes were stuck under the remaining hay bales with my heels wedged against the inside fenders, leaving me upside down, head hanging inches from the ground and no way to get loose. Arms flailing and bouncing towards rougher terrain and the creek, I managed one great sit up to get upright, get off and get the pickup stopped.

A man takes pride in the damnedest things: I like to have my flakes well-spaced and even in size with no gaps in the design that they and the cattle make on the ground. Though I aim the truck initially, no two designs come out the same. Then quickly disappear.


Near Wuknaw