Cedar boughs like layers of ferns
shield us beside a real Maple, broad
leaves drinking up seventy-two degree
Canadian sunshine, to insulate the outside
tensions of a busy world–home so far
south that we are too helpless to worry
about water and cows, escaping the dust
and heat, blinding sweat in our eyes–
already forgetting where we’ve come from,
but not why. The plodding mantra
of routine and urgency broken,
we are cut loose to weigh our sanity,
ask and answer free of responsibility
and its intimidations–like a corral gate
opened to more ground and endless sky.
The Red Tails lift and glide above me,
circling our gather within oak trees, chemise
and fractured granite that hasn’t moved
for centuries on this mountain. One of few
humans they know, I have wished
upon their wings and eye, like a falconer,
to inform, to lead me to what I can’t see
grazing peacefully. Someday, maybe—
or resort to drones to do my bidding,
watch the calving, check feed and water,
be on patrol for coyotes and bears,
instead of me. But who would we be,
streaming sci-fi cowboy poetry? Who
would ever know enough to welcome us
into this other world, their home?
From somewhere north
they arrive together
for the summer—lovin’ it.
Mid-San Joaquin summer,
you can set your watch
by cows coming off the pasture
to Valley Oaks at seven-thirty—
back out into the blazing sun
by noon, breezes off the green.
Not one gossipy complaint
among them, chewing cuds,
relishing the timeless shade.
When all that follows
begins with a kiss
that only lasts a moment.
For the Archives
End of day in the shade,
of everything we need.
During the past decade, the Great Blue Herons have become less tolerant of our presence, it seems, quicker to fly as we go about our normal routines of feeding and gathering cattle, or irrigating. In the 1950s, their rookery was in a stand of sycamores along Dry Creek, located a mile south of where we now live. It was not uncommon to ride beneath their rookery and not have them fly. The closest residence was three miles away.
Sometime in the 70s, they moved downstream two miles to another stand of sycamores along the creek between our irrigated pastures and closer to the recently abandoned gravel pits below Terminus Dam and Lake Kaweah. At that time, the Great Egrets began to appear on the ranch, but maintained their rookery elsewhere.
The Great Blues moved again in the mid-2000s to somewhere within the abandoned gravel pit area, about 100 acres of thick riparian at the confluence of Dry Creek and the Kaweah River, a ‘no-man’s land’ and home to deer and feral pigs, diverse raptors including Osprey, among other things.
I have encountered the heron above two or three times a week along the shore of our irrigation pond since spring. The comfortable space between us has decreased to about 100 yards now, down from 400 when our irrigating began. Whether thinking it was hidden in the cattails or getting used to me, this photograph with my Olympus point & shoot was closer longer.
Paramount on our minds these past two weeks has been the installation of three solar pumps to help keep our water troughs full. Each well is different, and subsequently each pump and solar panel is a little different, though the principle of utilizing the sun’s ultra violet rays to pump water is the same.
The old well at the Red Corrals was severely impacted by a rock and gravel operation upstream about 12 years ago. Only 26 feet deep, we have pumped 30 gpm with a gas driven centrifugal pump since I was a boy. As a shallow well, it has been supported by the Dry Creek acquifer where bedrock ranges between 10 and 30 feet. However, Dry Creek never got that far downstream this year while a pit in the abandoned rock and gravel operation collects most of the underground flow. We had to install a low volume solar pump and small panel to produce about 1.5 gpm or 90 gallons/hour or about 1,000 gallons/day. On a normal year, we ought to produce 3 gpm.
An inholding we lease near the Paregien Ranch already had a solar setup, though the pump had gone bad. When the hard rock well was drilled, the static water level stood at 55 feet in 400’ hole. When we pulled the pump, the static water level was about 90 feet and the pump set at around 125 feet. In the past, it produced 6 gpm, more than we necessary to keep the trough full, the excess went into a pond. With no tank to fill or float to shut the solar power off, it ran every daylight hour that probably contributed to the pump’s short life. Until a tank and float can be installed, I’ve reduced the voltage to where it is only producing about 2 gpm.
The abandoned hard rock well on the Top of the Paregien Ranch is 220 feet deep and when drilled ran 6 gpm over the wellhead. The tenant who preceded us over-pumped the well for his horticultural activities to the extent it no longer produced. In recent years, it has begun to artesian again, but only drops. We set the first pump at 30 feet, but could not maintain 3 gpm for more than 30 minutes. The second, low volume pump we set at 110 feet. Yesterday morning the pump had shut off when it ran out of water at 3 gpm. According to our calculations, it would take 5 hours to pump the volume of water in the well above the pump if nothing came into the well. Allowing 24 hour recovery time, I’m going back this morning to reduce the voltage to produce 2 gpm to see if the pump can maintain the storage tank and trough. Failing that, we’ll add more pipe, as the pump is designed for low volume at a greater depth.
With the extra water we have produced, the troughs at the Windmill Spring were all full at midday. To revisit past posts about the Windmill Spring see: June 29, 2014 and July 5, 2014
Glancing up at one of many windows
in a dream, and she preoccupied—
what was it then that hungered so
to be noticed, what little boy revisits
my mortality, what mother of us all
plants a seed that grows and grows
into the damnedest things, like poetry?
As for love and wisdom, what value
then if not gained first hand?
Posted in Poems 2014
Gooseneck and old corrals
to gather a watershed
to take to town.