Monthly Archives: July 2014




Pole barn full of relief
and distant hope
not to have to feed it all.







Clouds or plastic canisters—
Lord, we pray enough
to last a lifetime.






                                   I sing—to what listens—again.
                                        – Wendell Berry (“To What Listens”)


I cannot match the Canyon Wren’s sheer cascade
of octaves through brittle Manzanita, spilling over
granite boulders, each note searching for a home

or the strike, light and crack of a cold summer
thunderstorm in tall pines and damp cedar duff
beyond the fire—middle-of-nowhere—beyond

narrow roads and ‘lectric lights, the burnt scent
of moments mixed off to join the world in a gust.
I yearn for the source, map each in my mind

and like calling cattle to me: sing, awaken
canyons with old vocal chords turned free
and loose, a crackly a cappella of my own.

And they come out of chemise, off mountains
of oak trees, to the familiar, like good friends.
I sing—to what listens—again.





An easy balance of wills
at work, a dance
on uneven landscapes.






I often wondered
why some old men
liked college kids

around, leaking
basic adventures
that felt full

and familiar
despite the times—
ageless naïveté

seasoned with passion
to pump the blood
into guffaws

and unsolicited
windies with a moral
learned the hard way.

I look back
to see them now
and myself

as a diversion
for old wrecks
just like me.



JULY 2014



After early rounds, we retreat, you and I,
to outside shade as the sun bakes
the earth white, drink hot breaths

of monsoonal air as finches pant on the beam—
and then again to the inside of the house
until the canyon’s shadow is complete.

We retreat, you and I, from the outside
world of wars and treachery, the frenzied
feeding of a fire of fears out there—

an eternal flame to keep from being
afraid of the dark—an instant enlightenment
designed for growth and commerce.

We retreat, you and I, knowing seasons
change—and we endure the heat reaching
into the fuzzy edges of our delirium

watering cattle and garden. We retreat
to one another and wait for the fire
to burn itself out—start over again.




Out of wonder by wild design,
like greenheads rising, our ascension
from cattail ooze on a Sabbath

when I was a boy surprised
with my father—and all times since
shaking off the last glistening drops

to fly—no church or sermon necessary
to feel whole, to shed the nonessentials,
to become awestruck, he implied.

Even the shadow beneath the ridge
of a rattlesnake track teaches
by design, direction and urgency

left to fade within the long history
of earth. We cannot help building
fences in our minds to keep the wild

away and apart from our selfishness.
But only out of wonder may we remove
the barbed wire from our hearts.






Too soon to count the summer dawns
remaining, like cattle bunched before the gate,
yet these leftovers of a Gulf monsoon

that invade my sky like dark ships
over the Sierras from where a scattered flotilla
waits for orders, may cloud the day—

steam instead of bake the inhabitants
of this canyon—leave a little crunch,
like vegetables, life for tomorrow.



Homer Barn



Built to stand beyond
today’s demands, just
a landmark to photograph.




Greasy Creek Ranch Water 2


I went back up into Greasy yesterday to check the water situation in Section 17 and Sulphur, pastures we felt less critical when Robbin and I went up earlier in the week. We have left them open to one another to make what water we have available to the cattle from both.


I followed my neighbor Caleb Pennebaker up the hill, hauling water to his cattle. Each ranch has its unique attributes and deficiencies, and what works for one ranch doesn’t necessarily work for others. Furthermore, each cattleman develops his own unique perspective, and more often than not, shaped by the ranch he operates. Caleb’s cattle are not in dire straights, though his water is drying back, but he wants to stay ahead of real trouble and deal with the lack of water on his terms by augmenting his cattle early.


In Section 17, the shaded pool of water in Greasy Creek is holding remarkably well, water currently running at 1-2 gallons/minute for a couple of hundred feet to just above the fig trees.


And the water trough piped from Sulphur Spring near the corrals is full and not leaking


as is the trough in the Gathering Field that Robbin and I opened up to the cows in the Lower Field, about half of which have come through the gate.


In Sulphur, the Chimney Pond has been dry for three weeks, but


the pond at Ragle Springs is currently holding a few cows in the middle of the pasture. The cows have redistributed themselves through the open gate from 17 to Sulphur in the past couple of weeks, utilizing the Sycamore Spring that is keeping two troughs full, the overflow of which keeping another neighbor’s trough full.


We’ve had a long string of days over 100°, not unusual for this time of year, that’s impacting our stockwater already. With the balance of July, August and September to get through, we’ll use these photos as benchmarks as we go. Typically, our springs begin to recover by mid-September with shorter days and cooler nights, but as the second dry year in a row, there is no guarantee of that. This information may be valuable for those who follow us, like which springs held up and which ones didn’t in a drought, and though no two years are the same, help them make more informed decisions.